Let's take a step back. We don’t need to spend a lot of money to own a firearm, to enjoy sport shooting or to hunt. A number of guns fill my safe, but in this job, unfortunately, I end up becoming more of a collector. Once I take on a new assignment, I tend to forget to enjoy what I last acquired. I’ll purchase something that I think I can’t live without, and then it sits.
Where I live, dove season kicks off the fall hunting season, and every year I find myself scrambling to dig out a shotgun that’s up to the immediate task. At other times, I’m looking for a gun to take on an early morning deer hunt or chase after pheasant. Unfortunately, I seem to have no trouble locating a trap gun or one that’s short barreled and tactical. Many years, I end up falling back to my trustworthy 12-gauge Mossberg 500 pump when it’s time to hunt.
I like the Remington 870 design just as much, but I bought my first 500 because of an impulse to spend something on a gun one day. Poised on the dealer’s rack was a 500 that caught my eye with its high-gloss walnut possessing an unusual tiger-stripe, light-and-dark pattern typical of more expensive wood. The blue was deep and had the luster of a well-kept vintage model. It was complete with a classic-looking recoil pad and spacer that brought memories of my dad bringing one up to his shoulder.
Today, that model is Mossberg’s 500 Hunting All Purpose Field Classic. It still comes with a 28-inch vent-rib barrel with a 3-inch chamber, Accu-Set chokes and a dual-bead sight. The magazine carries five for a total of six with one in the chamber, but more often, I keep mine plugged for a total of three since I take it to the field more than anything else. It handles lighter than its 7½ pounds, but I’ve grown comfortable with its presentation and shoot it well.
Price sealed the deal that day as it was significantly less than a similar 870 on the same rack. Today, this model retails for $496, while a comparable 870 Wingmaster demands $847. Deals exist on used gun racks where depreciated examples of each can lose a few hundred dollars. And that’s where I found my addiction.
I can’t buy a new gun every time I visit the gun store, but I can afford a barrel. The Mossberg 500’s ability to change barrels in seconds makes it one of the most versatile and valuable guns on the market. Prices vary with new barrels offered by Mossberg between $112 and $237, but I never have a problem finding a spare for $50 that was broken up from a combo set by a dealer. There are 22 12-gauge barrel configurations that work with my 500, including a short, 18½-inch security barrel with heat shield that I sometimes stage at home for defense. I use an All-Purpose smoothbore for pheasant and a rifled slug barrel with a cantilever mount to hunt whitetails on our family farm. However, I often go back to using the 28-inch barrel that it came with it for spring turkey, skeet and sporting clays; I just change out chokes as necessary.
It’s difficult to say how many barrels I own, both blued and Parkerized, but versatility is the reason I keep digging out the 500 when I need a gun. It doesn’t get the attention that it did after the first Model 500 came off the line on August 21, 1961, but it shouldn’t be overlooked today. It really qualifies that “one gun” moniker.