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Personal Defense Pump Action Shotguns

G&A Perspective: Why the Mossberg 500 is the Best Home Defense Shotgun of All Time

by Brad Fitzpatrick   |  October 21st, 2013 72

Mossberg 500 Flex Home Defense ShotgunToday’s consumer has a wide variety of choices when selecting a defensive shotgun, but which of these guns earns the title as the best home defense shotgun ever? In my opinion, the Mossberg 500 stands out from the crowd for a number of reasons.

First, Mossberg has been building the 500 for 52 years. During that time, more than 10 million of these pump guns have rolled off the assembly line in North Haven, Conn., and Eagle Pass, Texas. For the last 30 years, the 590  has been the shotgun of choice for the U.S. military, and more than 100,000 units have been supplied to the armed forces. The 500 and 590 lines also have the distinction of being the only shotguns ever to pass the rigorous Mil-Spec 3443 torture test, proving what generations of shooters already knew: Mossberg guns are tough.

Pump-action shotguns are favored by police and military for two primary reasons: They are fast and reliable. The Mossberg 500 series has earned a reputation for dependability, which is paramount when selecting a home defense shotgun. Manually cycling the action simplifies the reloading process and reduces the odds of a malfunction. In experienced hands, a pump shotgun is almost as fast as a semi-auto, and sliding the fore end forward helps to shooter return to the target and stabilizes the gun. All of these qualities make pump guns a logical choice for home defense, and Mossberg makes more pump guns than any company in the world.

Within the Mossberg family, the 500, 590 and 590A1 all share the same action, but there are slight differences. The 500 has a bolt on the barrel that threads into the magazine tube, while the 590 has a threaded nut similar in design to the Remington 870. This design facilitates cleaning and makes it possible to add aftermarket magazine tube extensions. The 590A1 has an aluminum safety and trigger guard, and a heavier barrel—but in all other respects it is the same as the standard 590. All members of the 500 Series have twin action bars, dual extractors and a top of the receiver-mounted safety.

Mossberg is the largest manufacturer of shotguns in the U.S. by over 40 percent, thanks in large part to the success of the 500, 590 and the 590A1. With over 20 different defensive and tactical offerings, Mossberg most likely has a shotgun that meets your needs. They offer versions with extended magazine tubes, heat shields, integral lights, accessory rails, tactical sights and a host of other accessories. There are versions with pistol grips and tactical stocks as well. There’s even a .410 version with a short stock, vertical fore end grip, 18 ½-inch barrel and a choke is specially designed to accommodate .410 buckshot loads. Needless to say, the Mossberg lineup of shotguns offers a variety of options.

From a practical standpoint, Mossberg shotguns have several design elements that make them a superb choice for home defense. First of all, the top of the receiver-mounted safety is easy to find and manipulate and doesn’t require adjusting the position of your shooting hand. In addition, left-handed shooters will find the safety position as easy to use as right-handed shooters will, and the large, notched safety button is easy to locate even in total darkness. The action release is located at the rear left of the trigger guard, making it easy to find and eliminating the need to reach around the front of the trigger guard. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the shell lifters on the Mossberg pumps remain in the up position when a shell is in the chamber. This allows for faster reloads without the possibility of pinched fingers.

Mechanically, the Mossberg has some very real advantages over rivals like the Remington 870 and the Winchester SXP. For starters, the Mossberg’s dual extractors provide a sturdy and secure grip on the shell. If the 870’s single extractor fails, you’ve got a major problem. Additionally, the Mossberg’s design makes it easy to fix any parts that wear out or break. Simply tap out a single pin, pull out the trigger assembly, squeeze the sides of the shell lifter to drop it out and pull back on the fore end to drop the bolt into your hand. The fixed ejector is held in place with a single screw, so it can be changed easily and quickly. The Mossberg bolt locks directly to the barrel via a locking lug, and this direct bolt-to-barrel lockup is stronger that a bolt-receiver lockup.

Additionally, the Mossberg has a steel bolt lock that attaches to a lug in the barrel, which is also made of steel, so the argument that the alloy receiver is somehow weaker than the Remington 870’s steel receiver doesn’t hold water. Arguments can be made both ways regarding the tang-mounted safety versus the trigger guard safety, but to my mind the ambidextrous tang-mounted safety is an advantage.

Robust design, a variety of options and a 50-plus year history of excellence make the Mossberg 500 line a logical choice for home defense. In addition, this gun is still made in the U.S. and is still sold for a reasonable price. There are plenty of defensive shotguns in the world, but in my mind, the Mossberg 500 is still the best.

  • Sherrill Philip

    I have a Mossberg 500AT that I bought in 1978. It’s horrible for trap (my teeth still hurt), but it is great for deer hunting and putting shot down range.

  • Kraziken

    The trigger mount safety on a 870 is an advantage over the top mount safety. Unless you are a lefty.
    This is especially the case when it comes to pistol grip configurations. Install a Vang Comp safety bump, and the 870 can be taken off safety with out repositioning your index finger.

    The extractor argument. Not sure I’ve heard of failures on either weapon to be honest. The 870 is a larger extractor I believe.
    The one difference you didn’t list was the lifter piece to load the 870 versus the Mossberg. While I’m a Remington fan, it would not proper to not this difference. Some folks feel the Mossberg is easier to load as you don’t have to push a lifter out of the way.

  • Engine driver

    Not sure I can go along …..I have had the firing pin retaining pin break and let everything come out of the bolt to cause a catstrophic jam and have replaced two safeties due to broken or worn parts. As far as pump guns go, the 870 hands down. Have fired thousands of rounds hunting and on the trap range without breakage.

    • GetFactsBeforeFormingOpinions

      I’m a NRA Trap Coach, and coach a 34 member youth trap team. I’m almost at the point where I won’t allow Mossbergs for my members unless it’s the youth model and that is just temporary. They just don’t hold up to the rigors of high volume shooting. Broken firing pins, broken springs, barrel wear at the receiver lock up, broken sears, etc. The 870 does hold up – I’ve seen one totally worn out, but that was after many thousands of rounds. I still feel confident trading my nice O/U for an 870 on the trap range on occasion. I still hunt with a plain 870, an 870 sits by my bedroom window, and another 870 is under the back seat of my truck. They are pretty much the same price, and I have nothing against Mossberg other than what I’ve seen under heavy use. I’m not a huge Remington fan, and I don’t dislike Mossberg in general – I just think for a few extra dollars an 870 is the way to go.

  • Mav88

    Mossberg’s 500 series are excellent shotguns, but what’s the deal with Mossberg’s Maverick 88 12 gauge pump shotgun with 18-1/2 inch barrel? It is said to be essentially the same as the 500 except for its trigger and safety button but it sells for much less — about $180. I can’t believe Mossberg would risk their fine reputation on junk, so why do they treat their 88 like a stepchild and the gun magazine writers ignore it? After buying a Maverick 88 for home defense (I like it very much), I inquired about it at the Mossberg booth at the 2012 NRA Show at St Louis. None were on display and the rep practically ignored me. What’s up with that? Why is the Maverick 88 back-burnered, ignored, and not even advertised except by the sporting goods stores that sell them as fast as they hit the shelf. It took me three weeks to get mine! Please explain the “88 Mystery!”

    • USPatriotOne

      A great Tactical Shot gun is the Steve Tactical for $180. I have put 400 shells through mine and not had single issue. Also has a picatenne rail to mount a shot gun scope on and holds 5+1 shells.

    • k2ue

      Actually the Maverick 88 works BETTER with a pistol grip, as the safety can be released without repositioning your hand.

  • peelawig

    Nope your all wrong mossy is the best!!

    • Rooftop Voter

      I hear that. 2 Mossy 500s in my collection.

      • grunt6970

        Don’t be so biased. Try others as well, and you will see that they to are fine systems to own and use. I have nothing bad to say about any of them.

        • rootvg

          I looked at Benelli. NOT cheap.

    • grunt6970

      ya ok says you.

  • will

    I have one of each, a Mossberg 500 and a Remington 870. I really don’t think you can go wrong with either one.

  • David Darbyshire

    I’m happy with my Saiga and a 12 rd mag.

    • Stathi

      Good thing you got one

  • John Harris

    I have a Mossy 500 and 2 870 Supermags. I prefer the 870. My mossberg 500 is a loaner. My mossy 835 got traded because it frequently malfunctioned with 3.5 inch shells, both my 870 supermags digest anything.The US Marines gave up the Mossy 590 and now use a Benelli as do the British Armed Forces.. When I was Marine in Vietnam I had a Winchester model 12, VERY effective at night.

    • grunt6970

      Rodger your last friend and welcome home. I completely forgot about the Model 12′s. I don’t own one yet. They are hard to find I think because they are a fine weapon.

      SEMPER FI

  • BJC

    I have a 590 Special purpose for home defense it holds 9 in the tube and came with a heat shield and bayonet lug, don’t know if I’ll ever need the bayonet on it but it’s there in case I do. I put the Hogue Tamer pistol grip set on it I like the rubber much better than the hard composite. My first shotgun was a 500 combo it has killed a lot of birds and game, still have it after 25 plus years and would never sell it cause my Mom bought it for me after I got out of the service.

  • Moon

    Best home defense 12 gauge shouldn’t be one that makes you take your hand off the pistol grip to disengage the safety.

    Do this, Take your mossy tactical 12 gauge with pistol grip, grab your kid with your support hand as you back them out of harms way and try and disengage that safety with your strong hand only… while keeping your muzzle trained on the bad guy.

    • MossbergOfficialSite

      Thanks for your comment–and we would like to kindly note, as the author states,
      “There are versions with pistol grips and tactical stocks as well..Needless to say, the Mossberg lineup of shotguns offers a variety of options.”

      So although the photo shows a pistol grip stock, it is not the only type of stock offered….

      • L.S. Anderson

        I own a Mossberg 590 and it is equipped with the heat shield.I would like to know what weapons light set-up you would recommend for home defense.Thanks.

        • MossbergOfficialSite

          We don’t as a rule recommend brand-specific accessories. We leave it up to the consumer so as to keep all of all the manufacturers on an even playing field. With any accessory it’s worth mentioning to ensure it’s a proper fit for the Mossberg.
          Sorry to be vague, perhaps someone reading this can recommend what they use?
          Thank you for choosing Mossberg!

          • S.K.

            I have 590 with the heat shield too. I believe that the new forend with the picantiny rails gives unlimited options. I have the Streamlight TLR 2 G which is a combo light and green laser. I do not think it gets much better….

    • Len

      Bullshit, I got the safety off already!

  • Dan

    Personally had bad experiences with 2 out of 3 Mossbergs (both were feeding problems with Mossberg 500s). Have switched exclusively to Remington 870s since and haven’t had any issues.

    • Matthew Smith

      Strange that we keep hearing anecdotal stories from some 870 fans about reliability issues on the Mossbergs, yet the Mil-Spec torture tests done by the military showed the Mossbergs to be superior ? I don’t know the reason for this, but I’d deffer to the military tests, rather than anecdotal stories, for determining overall issues of reliability. I have no problem with 870 (except for a costly ejector repair), butwhen one also takes into account price, not to mention cost of the 88′s, Mossberg seems the better choice.

      • Ron

        Many years ago I owned a 500 20ga. While hunting doves had the barrel bracket break off of the barrel. The silver solder gave way. It was brazed back on but never should have happened.

        • Ron

          Almost forgot, the safety also as lost when the screw came out during a hunt.. Locktite prevented the replacement from doing it again. I love my Maverick 88 and my 870 and my 1100. The 1100 was purchased new over 50 years ago. Never a problem thousands of shots later.

          • Matthew Smith

            Again, an anecdotal story among thousands sold, no offense but there are stories like that for the 870 and for every gun …

      • Ron

        As for the military test you speak of, Mossberg 500 was the only gun tested on a pass or fail basis. no one else entered gun because of price.

      • shrewdaxter

        Obviously you aren’t aware that mil-spec means the best thing at the lowest possible cost. Spent four years in the infantry–just because it’s mil-spec doesn’t mean it’s the best thing out there. Justifying the quality of equipment by the sole fact that the military uses it is very common for people who don’t know the actual capabilities and limitations of the equipment they’re talking about.
        On a side note, the ergonomics of the Mossberg 500 series is superior. The magazine tube can be removed without special gunsmithing–unlike the Rem870. Personally I like the way the Rem870 cycles shells more due to the one fact that you can do a slug change-over while the chamber is loaded and only lose one shell if you do it right. A loaded Mossberg loses two shells every time with the chamber loaded. And a Rem870 allows you rack the action back faster than most Mossbergs pump actions.

  • Alakar

    I’m a lefty and my preference has always been the Ithaca Model 37. The bottom eject is perfect for a lefty and the Ithaca is just a well made, smooth action gun.

    • rootvg

      Oh, if you’re a lefty you don’t belong here. Try Democratic Underground, Slate or Politico.

      (sorry – I couldn’t resist. Have a great day!)

      • Studebaker Hawk

        Pretty funny rootvg!
        I’m one of those seldom seen or heard of left leaning multi-gun owners.
        Your comment made my day.
        I’m out to add to my home defense/field collection and I’m thinking the mossy 500 is gonna get the nod this time.

        • rootvg

          I work IBM contracts nationwide and could have bought all I wanted at the Mesa gun show in Phoenix about a year and a half ago. I keep hearing about Benelli but damn, they’re not cheap.

  • Paul

    870 is the way to go.

  • Britpara

    I own a 590 have used it in Iraq and Afghanistan and it is my first choice grab at home if something goes bump in the night…Took off the shoulder stock and added a pistol grip and a 6 shot side saddle shell holder and a mini mag LED flashlight with push button cap, Add an M7 bayonet to that and neither intruder or insurgent wants to get too close especally when loaded with 00 buck shot…When mistakes may cost you and your family or team mates their lives I don’t compromise in 25 years of service in forward areas Mossberg is still my first choice for close encounters

    • grunt6970

      OO buck inside your house with your family near by? Are you aware of over penetration and collateral damage maybe to your family? That is why we use bird shot. It will put the hurt on a bad actor just as well as your use of OO buck, but with less over penetration of walls and the like where my family may be asleep. I’m just sayin. I too am a combat vet and I will not use OO buck or slugs in the house. #6 bird shot will cause a bird nest like wound on the bad guy that will be a surgeons night mare. Nuf said friend. Also, thanks for your service and welcome home. My war was 40 three years ago in Vietnam.

      • MrClean961

        I too pass 00 buck by, but choose Federal’s #4 buck home defense load instead.

        This load is tailored for home defense. The powder charge has been stroked down a skosh and the pellets are buffered. The load is designed to dump energy quickly and not overpenetrate. The pattern is both consistent and devastating.

      • BirdShotForHDisBad

        Bird shot for self defense is absolutely stupid, and your advice is dangerous. Why would I use a load that doesn’t always kill birds against a 200 LB mammal? That is insane.

        • grunt6970

          Looks to me as if you watch to many Hollywierd movies. You go right ahead and use your OO Buck in the house and good luck with the over penetration and threat to the safety of your family. Its obvious from your post that you have very little experience with this subject. You also are not aware of the effect called bird nesting which is what bird shot being used for self defense will do. That term is used to indicate the very large and nasty hole that bird shot will make in a bad guy at house hold range because the shot does not have the range to spread out a lot before hitting the bad guy.. Its also referred to as a surgeons nightmare because someone(a bad guy) can not in most cases be saved after being hit in this manner. The other reason for its use as an indoor self defense round is that it will not over penetrate as your use of OO Buck WILL indoors. I don’t know what TV programs you watch, but I know of no 200 lb. mammals ( I assume you are referring to the human specie) that would just shake off a 12ga, round full of #6 bird shot and just walk away laughing and scratching. If you do think that, then it is you who are truely insane and should sell your firearms so that you don’t inadvertently injure an innocent person because you been watching to many shootem ups on TV or who knows where. If you think that a load like that is unsafe and ineffective, then you go stand out in your yard and have someone shoot you with it and let us know what you think about it then. Dumbass. Like I said, sell your guns so the rest of us will be safer, because your mind set is very dangerous to all around you. Have a nice day.

        • Luke

          Have you considered that you’re not shooting at birds from around 10 yards, or if you are and cannot kill them at that distance you probably have no business using a shotgun. 10 yards is the longest you should ever have to fire upon an intruder, unless you live in a mansion, and that’s pushing it. It’s been field tested that shooting bird shot at ballistics gel at close range is devastating. I’ve seen a guy hand load his shells with steel wool and it can blow a good size hole in a cantaloupe from those distances. Steel wool for gods sake. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon of improbabilities just because you THINK something isn’t possible.

          • FF Grunt

            Treated a patient that was shot with birdshot in the chest with a 410, he died before we got him in the ambulance.

          • KevSco2

            Buckshot vs birdshot. A few years ago a friend and I tried that test on an old heavy wooden door dad had in the burn pile. tactical buckshot definitely over penetrated the door right trough without damaging the structure of the door (other than the straight through penetration). The birdshot bashed and splinted the door apart. I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that kind of energy at close range.

          • gregory

            A cantaloupe really does it have bone, tissue;muscle in it what a stupid comparison.

  • mike

    what about the soft metal firing pin I know about 6 that the firing pin needed replaced

  • grunt6970

    OK this whole pissin match is somewhat dumb in my humble opinion. I own a Benelli M-4, Two Remington 870′s, a Mossburg 500 and a 590 and a Cruiser in .410, and an Ithica. I have had no problems with any one of them, they are all used by or have been used by the military and law enforcement’ with the exception of the .410 which my wife likes as a hallway broom for home defense, with #6 shot or PDX1. Mossburg is not the only one to pass the military tests, with the Benelli M-4 being issued by the Marine Corps currently. I see no reason to say that this one is better than that one. They are all good from my standpoint and I would use anyone of them for defense or…… It is true that some are very much more pricey than others and that would be up to the purchaser as to what he/she wants to spend. Again they are ALL good and will get the job done in good fashion. It makes no difference to me who has been making defense/Tactical shotguns longer, with tecnology the way it is today. They all serve their purpose. So knock it off already. You guys sound like a Ford truck commercial saying they are the best and then ten minutes later Chevy/GMC come on and claim they are followed by Dodge. They all work, they get the job done, so NUF said.

    • MOG

      Main thing, it is great we have choices, so far.

  • firebert

    Might’ve been said before but I ain’t reading all that shit. The tang mounted safety dumb on pistol grip versions. But then again pistol grips on a shotgun is dumb period.

  • socialismisevil

    agree

  • DEANO

    I own 2 Mossy 500′s. My “Rat Gun” Which I’ve shot everything from, Deer to Rabbit to Duck’s to tree rats to Dove’s to Quail, and I’ve NEVER had One problem with it. I’ll agree that this is the BEST Shotgun EVER made! And I’ll keep mine till the day I die! THANKS MOSSBERG!

  • Kmurray96

    I used a Rem 870 for 25 years as a LEO for the NJDOC. But when I decided to buy one, there was no decision. Mossberg 590 Marinecote.

  • John ‘DOC’ Dodge

    Several years ago my wife woke me up at 0214 in the morning because there was noise at the back door. I took my M500 with me thru the side door and around the back of the house. I racked a round into the chamber when I was standing a dozen feet from 2 poorly trained burglars. There were no arguments and the pair went willing with the cops. Gosh, the sound of racking a shell into the chamber of a pumpgun instantly commands the attention of anyone within earshot.Heck, I carried a Mossberg 500 in the jungles of Panama 35 or so years back as a medic on a recon team. Love thay shotty.

    • CommonCents

      you really knowingly approached intruders with an empty chamber? I only thought the “racking” move was done in the movies. You are brave.

    • rootvg

      There is NO sound in the world like it. Others that are noteworthy include the startup of an F-16, the rumble of a radial engine and certain muscle car engine/exhaust combinations. With the last one, if you’re a normal male hearing that and you don’t feel a twitch between your legs, go to the doctor. Something’s wrong.

  • Spyderman

    Horrors! I just bought an 870. Is that perp gonna know the difference? I think not!

  • WolfNippleChips

    Is there a way to tell the factory of origin? I want to buy a Mossberg but prefer a Texas made model.
    Does the serial number give this info?

    • MOG

      The Mossberg Maverick 88 is assembled in Eagle Pass, Texas, from “some” foreign parts. Keeps cost down, basic shotgun, trick out as you like. I like mine plain and simple. Other Mossbergs are made entirely in USA. (last I heard).

  • Newbie

    Curious as to what situations folks have encountered regarding home defense? Are you armed in case of an intruder? Trying to make the case to my wife as to why home defense should be a priority…given that we live in a safe area and have never been broken into. I’ve already put the Mossberg in my “shopping cart” just waiting to get the green, or at least yellow light from her. Thanks.

    • CommonCents

      This almost never discussed and is very important. I have not seen home defense stats describing the scenario of a HD situation. In many online HD discussions its like the homeowner is up all night cradling their long guns waiting for an intruder. I would guess the most common scenario is that you are sound asleep and you wake up to thinking you heard a noise. You take several seconds to wake up and shake out the cobwebs and listen for another noise. You are still in bed, maybe sitting up. This scenario would best lend itself to a handgun. Even if a long gun was within grabbing range, handling while on your back or barely sitting up in bed is not real helpful.

      The scenario needs to be described when discussing particular HD solutions and it almost never is.

    • Harbinger’s Ghost

      There really is not a safe zone. Criminals go where the wealth, and least resistance is.

  • Thomas F. McDonald

    I have two Mav m-88′s in 20 guage. One with a full synthetic stock and one with a six position ATC stock. I have shot the hell out of both and they just come back for more. At $180 bucks why look for more.

  • MOG

    I like a good shotgun. Finally bought the Mossberg Maverick 88. Wiped it down out of box, looked it over good. Loaded up with Federal 00, sweet shooting, smooth action. There are other good shotguns, there are fancier shotguns, but this is my shotgun. I am left handed, the safety is awkward for that. I just replaced the stock with an adjustable one, with pistol grip, makes using safety easier for me.( I had been shooting quail with same safety set up on other shotguns for years, so the safety is not a real problem anyway).

  • Off Grid Alabama

    Hey Guys if you want some cheap low penetration 00Buck buy high vel. birdshot #7 and melt the pellets and a little more lead down and pour it up in .32 cal round black powder balls and make your own for a 1/10th of the price that’s all home defense 00 is. With low brass you still get the knock down but it want over penetrate.

  • Hwwqwe Zoioq

    ur all gun toting dopes! killing birds??? get a life losers!

    • David E

      remember those words when you and your family are brutalized victims….i hope it never happens because you are not prepared to defend your family

  • CapeandCowl

    i don’t see any comparison to the sxp here. you make a claim that the mossberg is better than the sxp but i don’t see any specific info.

  • Mikey

    Why do people get butt-hurt when someone gives their opinion about what they think,use whatever gun you think is best and which one you think you can count on.I personally happen to agree with his opinion but I have several weapons hidden in my home for self defense,I don’t buy overly expensive weapons and my first go to is my 3rd generation 9mm S&W Sigma,I hear all kinds of silly garbage about it that I know from personal experience is untrue and if I can’t hit someone in my home illegally from 10 feet away,I don’t need to own any guns.If I can’t get the job done with my first go to gun then I’m headed for my mossberg 500 with 00 buckshot,I don’t have any family in the house so I’m not particularly worried about hitting someone else.

  • Mike Fleming

    Open birdshot shell, pour wax in, recrimp shell……. Fires like a slug then frags like a mofo…… Close and personal… In house….

    • john

      yes sir explodes a melon and stops in a wall.i like #8 target loads(low brass),swapped out with large splitshot crimped to a 9″ steel leader like a bolo.gives you 6 sets of these nasty little suckers per bang

      • Mike Fleming

        Now that might be a round worth adding for home defense..hehe..

  • John C.

    Dear Guns&Ammo Forum,

    Ok a little new to the home defense scene, would like a little advise before i make a important purchase to thwart any potential threat to me, my home, or any family i hold dear.

    k so here’s what i need to know based on the criteria that I’ve set up IS THIS A great choice for a home defense shotgun

    {[ Mossberg 500 Home Defense Pump Action Shotgun 12 Gauge 18.5" Barrel 5 Rounds Synthetic Short Stock Matte Black Finish Bead Sight TALO ]}

    the site that you can view this on is cheaperthandirt

    here’s the link

    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/product/7-G52134

    anyway my critiria is simple

    needs to be affordable ($250-$500)
    reliable
    easy to use
    and short for cqb scenario’s
    adaptable to a host of attachments

    Anyway let me know what you guys think and if you have any suggestions let me know.

    Sincerely,

    John C.

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