The Mossberg 500 is an American gun made by an American company. It comes in a dizzying array of configurations. It offers up a quality shotgun at a pricepoint that most anyone needing a gun for self-defense or hunting can afford. It is such a quality design that the US military uses it to breech doors, and the US navy keeps it ready to go on it’s ships in case of an enemy boarding action. The Mossberg 500 is a great gun at a great price. The Model I am reviewing today is my 18.5 inch barreled Synthetic stocked Mossberg 500.
Fit, Finish, and Handling
The Fit, finish and handling on this gun, by which I mean this specific gun can be summed up in one word: Simple. Other models, like the "chainsaw" or bayonet mounted 590's or scope having slug guns have a little more going on, but this synthetic stocked, 18.5 inch barreled gun doesn't have much that's complicated about it.
It's not a pretty gun by any standard, at least not in this configuration, some wood stocked models are quite attractive. This one is simple, utilitarian, hard to abuse! I mean really, there isn't much you can do to it to make it stop working, the receiver is rock solid and takes 3" magnums, the "furniture" isn't going to rust, rot, or break from impact; the trigger and safety are plastic and therefore both highly impact resistant and impervious to rust.
The gun handles well. It's short and handy and easy enough to maneuver inside of a small building like a house. It's no skeet gun, that's for sure, but for home defense I would have to say you'de be hard pressed to find a better option: it's light and easy to maneuver inside the home, it's so simple to operate that even folks with no interest in guns will figure it out in a minute or two; but most of all: it's powerful and versatile enough to get the job done. Standard buckshot loads will be more than enough to put down any human attacker.
This shotgun has a role in more than just home defense though. It's small and light enough to be easily carried afield and it can fire everything from light birdshot loads for small game to 500 grain magnum slugs made for taking out grizzlies. It's light weight, quick handling and easy portability make it an ideal weapon for both hunting and self-defense while afield.
It is also more or less ambidextrous, with a tang safety; you might want to watch for spent shells if shooting left handed, but I have done it before with no problems.
The only additions I have felt were necessary were a heat shield, to keep my hands from getting burned when shooting a lot, and a shotshell holder on the buttstock, in order to carry more ammo around. This gun is incredibly easy to handle and shoot.
Now, I will say this: you may notice some rattling. You may then think to yourself that this means there is a problem with the gun, but just the opposite is : loose tolerances mean a machine that is not easily bogged down by dirt and grime, and a shotgun is muc more forgiving to loose tolerances than a rifle or pistol too.
So let's talk about performance: The Mossberg performs within acceptable standards. It's a 18.5 inch barreled shotgun and it does about as well as it can be expected to do. This is my only shotgun at the moment, and so I often shoot clays with my dad using this gun. Almost needless to say this gun does a poor job at shooting clay pigeons (I average about 70% overall, with some rounds as high as 90% and others as low as 0% .) It tends to pattern loose and high, which is a bad combo when shooting clays. I will often find unbroken clays that have one small hole or a nick in the side because the pattern isn't very tight. So it isn't the best for this function. However, I did not buy this gun to be a clays guns, I would have been crazy to do so. I purchased this gun for the same reason I purchased a fire extinguisher: in case I ever have an emergency in which I need to use it to safe my life, in this case the emergency prepared for is a home invader who is determined to do me harm.
Now I don't plan to go into details about my emergency plan for such an occasion nor do I wish to discuss this topic here. However, the Mossberg 500 makes an excellent HD (Home Defense) gun. It is simple enough that my wife can remember how to use it, just in case; it is powerful enough to stop even someone heavily influenced by narcotics (read up on Physiological vs. Psychological "stop," links below.)
Like I said, the gun patterns high and wide. At about seven yards 9 pellet OO Buckshot will spread to about the width of an adult man. This is great, because it means that within my home, the gun will spread enough to ensure a good hit in a vital area but not so much that it misses the target.
You can see in the above photo the result of one round of Winchester 00 2 3/4 buckshot fired at a standard target at seven yards, the target is about as wide as an adult man. See how the pattern is spread wide enough to hit all over the target but tight enough to not actually miss at this distance? It's the perfect Compromise, more hits on target means a greater chance at stopping the attacker. Contrary to popular belief, you do in fact have to aim a shotgun, and carefully too if there is anyone you care about in your home. More pellets off target mean a greater chance of hurting a loved one.
Same target with four more rounds fired at it of the same ammo; I fired these four as rapidly as possible. you can see that the gun stayed mostly on target, only straying a little high with some shots. That's ok really, all shots would have been on target firing at a silhouette anyway, which means all shots still would have landed in the bad guy. The gun is fairly precise within a very limited range.
Yikes! This is embarrassing. Just to up the ante a little, I moved out to ten yards and down to a smaller target. This is five shots of the same ammo at ten yards. Wow, I cannot believe how many pellets missed. 11 pellets hit out of 45 fired. Ouch. Or not for whoever you're shooting at. Just a few yards closer and you'll have almost as many pellets on target with one shot as this gun puts on target with five shots at ten yards. Pretty crazy; but good to know the limitations of the weapon. As a home defense weapon, this is hardly relevant, at least not for my house, which has no continuos 30 foot spaces, really, all shots inside my house (and I suspect most houses) would be well under even seven yards (this is 21 feet you know.) In any case, good to know.
Up three yards and we are back in business. Just a couple steps forward and the gun is right back on target.
Mossberg has made claim that the 500 series is the only shotgun to pass the US Army's Mil-Spec 3443E test. They claim this test involves firing over 3,000 full power buckshot loads. I have no idea if any of that is true, though I do know that only the 590 series actually passes the test since it requires a metal trigger housing, while the 500 standard has a plastic trigger housing.
So the 590 version at least, is good enough for the military, and I suspect the 500 series would be as well if it had a metal trigger. I can assure you that a plastic trigger will be more than sufficient for 99% of all civilian needs though, so I try not to worry to much about trigger materials. The fact is that this trigger is fine, people think of "plastic" and they think plastic bag, but there are 50,000 kinds of plastic in production from those bags to the kind of heavy duty plastic that guns are made of.
When it comes down to it, this gun's simplicity is what makes it so truly reliable. There aren't too many moving parts, it doesn't rely on gas to operate, but human muscle, and all the parts are well made out of tough material. It's a recipe for reliability even through mud, gunk and sand. It would probably be even better in stainless steel. If it can protect navy ships, breach doors for the marines and outlast the sandy conditions of places like and the hot-cold wasteland that is Afghanistan then it can certainly protect my home and blow some clays on the weekends.
Assembly / Disassembly
Assembly and disassembly of the Mossberg 500 is not terribly difficult. To remove the barrel, you cock the slide half-way back, and un-screw the bolt at the end. The barrel will then slip right out. To remove the trigger housing, knock out the trigger housing pin on the right side of the gun and the trigger housing will come out. Once you've removed the cartridge interrupter and cartridge stop (two long skinny black pieces of metal) you can slide the bolt back and remove the bolt slide. Now the slide will come right off the front of the gun; once this is done you can push the bolt out the front end of the receiver and the elevator will come out by simply squeezing it together. Re-assembly is the same process in reverse essentially.
Just to be clear, this is not meant as a guide to disassembly or re-assembly, but simply as an explanation of how this process is carried out. It is a fairly simple process. The only thing resembling a tool you will need is a brass punch of some kind to remove the trigger housing pin. Most of the gun is held together by different parts putting the appropriate pressure on the other parts at the right time. Anyone can take this gun apart for cleaning.
The Mossberg 500 is a rock solid dependable firearm. Really, for the price I would be very tempted to say that it is quite possibly the best deal in the world of firearms. For $250 you get a gun that will still be shooting long after you die, requires little maintenance, and can fire anything from birdshot to bear slugs. This gun is useful for hunting just about anything, birdshot for small animals and birds, buckshot for varmints and medium-to-large game and slugs for real heavy hitters like moose and bear (not that I would purposefully hunt moose or bear with a shotgun unless I had too, but it would stop them both dead in their tracks, literally.) It is cheap and easy to shoot, especially when firing birdshot, clays are a great way to train yourself to acquire a target easily, even if this gun isn't ideal for it a box of birdshot with 25 rounds can be had for about $7 and it is still a fun time. It is also great, loaded with buckshot or possibly slugs, for self-defense should the need arise. It's reliability is especially important here. This gun will go BANG! when you pull the trigger, it WILL load another round when you cycle the action, it is simply reliable: reliable enough to bet your life on in fact.
Overall, the Mossberg 500 is a great buy, if you aren't terribly recoil sensitive, this gun could easily be a first gun or an "only" gun. Just about the only thing you can't do with it is concealed carry :P For the money, the Mossberg 500 is a winner and then some.