Among the most proven types of firearms in the world, and the most popular shotgun type is the pump-action shotgun. The pump-action shotgun is widely perceived as a stout piece of equipment, reliable, and a problem solver unlike any other firearm. While formidable, if not properly understood, the shotgun will be underutilized.
Training is a must. That being said, there is no more effective home defense weapon. Among the most popular pump-action shotguns is the Mossberg 500. While everyone has their favorite, I have used both the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 most often. Each has good traits.
Mossberg 500 Thunder Ranch Features
With millions in service, I think the matter of durability and reliability is settled. The Mossberg 500 Thunder Ranch illustrated features several upgrades over the average tactical shotgun. These upgrades don’t make the shotgun much more expensive than other Mossberg 500 shotguns, but the upgrades make a good shotgun even more suitable for personal defense.
I don’t personally know Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch, but I have read enough of his work to realize he recommends service grade gear and advocates proper training. Mr. Smith has both police and military experience on top of his decades of training experience. In a world of novices writing on life and death subjects, Mr. Smith is the real thing.
The Thunder Ranch shotgun is built on his recommendations. The initial criterion for any shotgun is that it be reliable. The Mossberg 500’s police and military service record is unassailable. Ergonomics is important.
The Mossberg’s safety location on the top rear of the receiver is an advantage. This safety may be used quickly by left- or right-handed shooters. (Unless you fit a pistol grip.) The bolt release is positive in operation, the trigger is crisp, and the shotgun is easily loaded. This shotgun wears a matte black, low profile and non-reflective finish. The Thunder Ranch logo is a nice touch.
A relatively short barrel is needed to aid in movement in close quarters. The 18.5-inch barrel answers this need. You could still catch the barrel on a door jamb but not as easily as 28-inch barrel sporting guns. Like most personal defense or riot guns, the shotgun features an open cylinder choke. This makes for a fairly wide pattern at combat ranges, and an advantage against moving targets. That is what this shotgun is about combat ability.
The barrel features a non-removable door breacher-type muzzle. I doubt many of us will be using this muzzle as a standoff or door breaching device. If push literally comes to shove, the muzzle design would make for a good impact tool in a retention situation.
The barrel features a fiber-optic sight. This a considerable improvement over the common bead front sight. The receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting a sight rail if needed or desired.
The stocks are synthetic and seem durable. The rear stock is a bit shorter than most shotgun stocks. The length of pull is 13 inches. I find I am able to crunch up on the shotgun and exert more control with the short stock. If heavily bundled or wearing tactical gear, this stock is ideal.
At the Range
During testing, I confirmed the shorter stock makes for easier reach to the forend and greater leverage and speed. The forearm features three points for mounting lights or lasers. This is a good touch. I tested the Inforce combat light with good results. This light is a great aid in checking out territory and keeping the fox out of the henhouse — and more dangerous threats.
A slight drawback is that the light mounts may bump your hand on firing. A bit of adjustment is needed and not all shooters and grip styles will experience this bump. If you do simply remove one of the mounts.
An advantage over the other guy’s shotgun is that the Mossberg holds five 2 ¾-inch shells in the magazine instead of four. I don’t like magazine extensions or anything that may reduce reliability. Five shells are a good payload for this type of shotgun.
During the test, I burned up a good supply of buckshot. Shotguns are individuals and some prefer one load to the other as far as pattern goes. I used a number of inexpensive generic loads including some older Wolf brand, Rio, Jet brand, and a mix of shot sizes. The Mossberg never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.
A generous recoil pad helped take the sting out of recoil. Just the same, 12 gauge recoil was certainly there. These inexpensive loads are fine for practice, but the pattern is all over the target at 21 feet or so. I tested two top-notch buckshot loads for the pattern. The Federal Vital Shock load uses Federal’s famous flite wad technology. This load held a tight pattern at 21 feet. This is a long home defense distance.
You want to put a cohesive pattern on the target for best effect. Hornady’s American Gunner is affordable in 10-round boxes. This load was a good performer. Some may prefer a wider pattern if addressing running or moving targets. Either load would offer good effect at home defense distance — measured in feet, not yards.
Caliber: 12 gauge
Capacity: 5-shot, magazine
Mass weight: 6.8 pounds
Barrel: 18.5 inches
Overall length: 37.0 inches
Sights: Front fiber-optic
The Mossberg 500 Thunder Ranch shotgun handles well. The action is smooth and fast follow-up shots come easily. Lean into the shotgun, control the recoil, and practice follow-up shots. As the muzzle rises, work the action. As you bring the forend back in place, draw the muzzle back on target. The Mossberg 500 Thunder Ranch is a formidable shotgun with much to recommend.