Photos by Michael Anschuetz
When you hear “Mossberg,” the image of a shotgun is likely the first thing that comes to mind. Or, in recent years, perhaps a rifle. For all of their gun designs, Mossberg has never built a reputation for handguns, but that’s about to change with the new MC1sc 9mm.
O.F. Mossberg & Sons is, and always has been, located in North Haven, Connecticut. However, prior to starting Mossberg, its founder, Oscar Frederick (O.F.) worked for several then-familiar brands including Iver Johnson Arms, Shattuck Arms, J. Stevens Arms and Marlin-Rockwell. Working on a variety of firearm designs for others provided O.F. with knowledge and experience to create a company of his own name. Not long after starting his company, O.F. produced his first and only handgun — the Brownie.
O.F. produced and sold the collectible pocket pistol between 1919 and 1932. Only 37,000 were made and they sold for $5. The Brownie was a pepperbox of sorts, having four fixed barrels and a rotating firing pin. Some regard it as a four-shot Derringer-like firearm due to its break-open design. It was chambered in .22LR and marketed toward hunters who worked trap lines. These odd little pocket pistols can still be found for sale if you’re looking for one and are patient. At the time of this writing, I found one for sale with no reserve on gunbroker.com for $185 with a buy-it-now price of $500.
More than 100 patents and a century later, Mossberg has re-entered the business of making handguns. They quietly announced this news during a private invite of gunwriters at Gunsite (gunsite.com) in Paulden, Arizona.
Not knowing what to expect from a company that hasn’t made a handgun since Woodrow Wilson was president, I was skeptical. Gunsite can be a taxing environment for any gun, but it’s also an excellent locale to evaluate functionality and practicality. Samples of Mossberg’s pistols were passed out and after opening the box I was delightfully surprised.
Its full name is the Mossberg Carry 1 subcompact (MC1sc). It is a pleasant looking single-stack 9mm made of polymer and steel that was designed specifically with concealed carry in mind. Operationally, it is a recoil-operated, striker-fired pistol. Looking at the MC1sc, I thought, Could this be a market contender? We will see.
The MC1sc isn’t placed in fancy packaging. Rather, the pistol ships in a heavy-duty cardboard container with the gun secured under clear plastic. Mossberg chose to save money on packaging, which is something they assume most of us will likely never use anyways. Included in the box are the manual and necessary paperwork, two magazines and a cable lock. It’s interesting to note that the cable lock included is also one of Mossberg’s many patents.
The pistol is aesthetically pleasing, but I was not initially a fan of the magazines. Though I like getting two mags (one a flat-based, flush-fit six-rounder and the other a seven-rounder with a finger extension), disappointment swept through me while I inspected them. Coined as “Clear-Count” polymer, the magazines are translucent and appear fragile. Later, however, they would impress me.
Assuming the magazines would be the pistol’s weak link, I was unusually hard on the pair. I tossed them into the air while full and empty, and across the rough sand, gravel and stone landscape of the shooting range. I even stepped on the magazines. When I examined them for wear, I couldn’t find a scratch. There was no damage whatsoever.
Mossberg’s engineers educated me on their unique polymer and why the clear polymer formula is stronger than if it had been created opaque or in color. According to the engineers, polymer loses its integrity when color is added because impurities are introduced, which weakens the material.
These see-through mags did afford me a quick reference as to how many rounds were loaded. During a tactical reload, as Gunsite teaches it, a shooter can either drop the mag to the ground or stow it in a pocket and retain any remaining rounds for use later. With the MC1sc magazines, condition checks and loading were simple because I could instantly see the bright orange follower providing me with a quick round count.
The gun felt good in my large hands, which is unusual for a subcompact. It was even better when I was using the extended magazine, which is true for most subcompact pistols.
The grip is lightly textured, but done so in strategic areas that enable good traction. There are no interchangeable backstraps, which means fewer parts and a more affordable pistol. However, many small striker-fired, single-stack 9mm pistols that the MC1sc competes with don’t feature optional backstraps either, including the Glock 43, Ruger LC9, SIG Sauer P365, Smith & Wesson Shield and Springfield Armory’s XD-S. The only one that does is the Walther PPS.
There is an intentionally engineered hump on the back of the grip that does seem to fill most any sized palm swell. In the end, not having interchangeable backstraps wasn’t a detractor for me as the hump made Mossberg’s little gun feel right.
The slide is machined from stainless steel and coated with diamond-like carbon (DLC). It looks nice, but by the end of 500-plus rounds fired and three days drawn repeatedly from a Kydex holster, evidence of wear near the muzzle appeared. Though I know DLC is popular with some brands, I prefer black nitride or Melonite for durability. Being first-run guns at this event, Mossberg representatives were able to observe the hard-use results from our evaluation. I predict that some improvements to these details will occur.
There are single-direction serrations on the slide, both at the front and rear. They’re as functional as they are good looking. They provided a superb grip when pulling the slide back, but the directional machining made them feel smooth when you slide your fingers from rear to front.
Mossberg opted for a common three, white-dot sight system that’s dovetail cut and drift adjustable. I find three-dot sights busy to the eyes, but Mossberg’s engineers also entertained my recommendation of an all-black rear sight. Many new guns are installing blacked-out rear sights with a bright dot up front to draw the eye. In my opinion, a black rear sight is not a cost cut — it’s the future. No matter, the dovetail cuts are a SIG Sauer #8 profile. Finding preferred replacement sights shouldn’t be a problem.
Frame & Trigger
Generally found only on carry guns subjected to the aftermarket, Mossberg’s factory trigger stands apart from conventional offerings with its flat-face trigger shoe and a blade safety lever built within. The pull was surprisingly good with my MC1sc sample and measured between 5 and 6 pounds. A very carryable trigger, it has some pretravel, a distinct pressure wall and a quick, tactile reset.
Although the pistol featured a one-direction, push-button magazine release, it is user configurable for right- or left-handed shooters. However, there isn’t an ambidextrous slide-lock lever. I would have thought that an ambi slide-lock lever would be part of a ground-up design, but not here. Left handers may not dominate sales, but ambidextrous controls are becoming industry standard.
Internally, the Mossberg MC1sc looks like a combination of other striker-fired guns including those from Glock and Smith & Wesson. There appears to be influence, but Mossberg didn’t commit design plagiarism. It’s a simple striker-fired design with a captured recoil spring and guide rod, a one-piece trigger bar and sear with a basic fire-control system. The big difference is how the MC1sc disassembles for maintenance.
Missing is the common takedown lever. Thankfully, disassembly doesn’t require any special tools. Until now, many manufacturers have considered removal of the striker cover plate and striker assembly to be an armorer-level skill. Not Mossberg. It’s Safe Takedown System (STS) provides a safer disassembly process by taking trigger press and flipping levers out of the procedure.
You’ll see the striker cover has a button in its center. Lock the gun open, press the button in and slip the cover out of the slide to expose the striker. After removing the striker, simply let the slide forward to remove it from the frame. This disassembly provides us the ability to swab out the striker channel when cleaning. (Just don’t put oil in there.)
Finding holsters for a new gun is usually difficult, but Mossberg thought ahead. At the Gunsite event, gunwriters were afforded two choices of holster and magazine pouches in leather or Kydex made by DeSantis and BlackPoint Tactical. DeSantis’ leather is nice for carry, but Kydex is my preference for training and carry.
On the range, the MC1sc was very pleasant to shoot. It’s easy to manipulate, has a very manageable recoil impulse that’s quick to recover from, but the sights held me back. It was nothing that a black marker couldn’t fix. By the end, the rear sights of several shooters’ guns were blacked out to help crisp up the sight picture under the sun.
Not accustomed to running a full training course with small guns, Gunsite instructors were also pleased with our ability to run the pistol, despite its shorter and smaller profile. The polymer magazines dropped freely to the ground during training for emergency reloads as long as we did our part. With short grips on small pistols, it’s important to know how to keep your palms from interfering with the free movement of an ejecting magazine.
The pistol is +P rated, but none of us wanted to shoot +P ammo through it for three days. Instead, two very different loads were on hand for testing: Federal’s 124-grain FMJ and Hornady’s 135-grain Critical Defense. I opted to fire one type of ammunition on each day while others mixed and matched. Both loads were more than combat accurate and performed flawlessly.
Some chose to clean and lubricate each day, but I never did (all in the name of science, of course). Fifteen different shooters firing 15 different MC1sc pistols all experienced success. Not one malfunction was experienced that wasn’t obviously shooter induced. As a group, we had less than a half dozen user-induced malfunctions over three days.
Two of those user malfunctions were on me. One was caused by not seating the magazine after a tactical reload. The other was caused by accidentally hitting the magazine release due to a poor grip during a speedy draw. I even picked up dirty and mismatched live rounds off of the range floor and fired them through the gun. So long as they weren’t misshapen or pushed into the case, I used them. They all functioned without issue.
Plenty of dust, jungle runs, scenario-based training and live-fire shoot-house drills proved to us that Mossberg’s engineers did their homework. Frangible, 100-grain 9mm ammunition in the shoot house performed perfectly. At one point, I asked to take the 3.4-inch-barreled pistol to the 35- and 50-yard line. Firing offhand at the 8-inch Gunsite target’s vital area, all of us were able to put hits on target at 35 yards. At 50 yards, some struggled, but most of us got hits. I took another shooter’s gun and rang steel just to prove it wasn’t the gun. Offered a challenge, I hit five of six rounds with my pistol at 50 yards, only missing the sixth.
Back home with my loaner in hand, I continued experimenting with gear. The MC1sc fits in a Glock 43 holster almost perfectly. Also, I found G43 magazines worked without a hitch in the MC1sc. (Awesome!) That’s a nice way to supplement training days and get extra magazines in our kit without having to buy more unique mags.
Mossberg indicated that they will accommodate a wide variety of tastes with the MC1sc. That means optional night sights, a purpose-built Viridian laser and a manual cross-bolt safety model. Additional mags will also be available for purchase, and I know that a few manufacturers are already developing holsters.
Not one of us appeared disappointed by the MC1sc at the Gunsite event. If they were, they didn’t voice it. At home, the pistol has been impressive. It’s a viable option to train with and carry. Well-built, dependable and good ergonomics are encouraging reasons to give the Mossberg MC1sc an open-minded consideration for your next purchase.
Type: Striker fired, recoil operated, semiautomatic
Barrel Length: 3.4 in., 1:16-in. twist
Overall Length: 6.45 in.
Height: 4.25 in.
Width: 1.06 in.
Weight: 1 lb., 3 oz.
Safety: Firing-pin block; trigger; cross bolt, manual (optional)
Sights: 3-Dot, white; drift adj. (front and rear)
Trigger: 5 lbs., 8 oz. (tested)
Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons,