Today’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.
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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.