Mossberg 500 and Mossberg 590 – Versatility, Reliability, and Tradition

At Dirty Bird Guns & Ammo, we frequently encounter California customers seeking reliable, California-compliant long guns for home defense, and depending on budget constraints, we often recommend the Mossberg 500 or Mossberg 590 as top choices. These shotguns exemplify why the shotgun remains “America’s gun” in many ways, a staple in households across the nation.

Whether you’re in rural farmlands, suburban neighborhoods, or even urban areas, chances are you’ll encounter someone who owns a shotgun. This widespread adoption isn’t just about tradition; it’s a testament to the shotgun’s incredible versatility and practicality.

The Beauty of the Shotgun: A Jack of All Trades

The shotgun’s appeal lies in its multi-purpose nature. From hunting and sport shooting to home defense, a shotgun can do it all – with the exception of precision long-distance shooting. This versatility makes it an ideal choice for those who want a single firearm that can adapt to various situations.
For hunters, a shotgun is indispensable, capable of taking down birds in flight or larger game with the right load. Sport shooters find endless enjoyment in trap, skeet, and sporting clays, honing their skills with every pulled trigger. And for home defense, many argue that a shotgun’s stopping power and spread pattern make it an optimal choice in close quarters.

Mossberg 500 Field/Security Combo 12 Gauge 28″,18.50″ 5rd 3″ Pump-Action Shotgun


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Social and Legal Acceptance

Unlike some firearms that face increasing scrutiny and regulation, shotguns remain largely “socially acceptable” across all 50 states. They’re not typically the focus of gun control debates, allowing them to maintain a lower profile in political discussions. However, it’s important to note that certain shotgun configurations may still fall under restrictions in some states, so always check local laws.
This relative acceptability, combined with their versatility, has cemented shotguns as a go-to option for many Americans, whether they’re seasoned gun enthusiasts or first-time firearm owners.

The Pump-Action Advantage

Among shotgun designs, the pump-action stands out for several reasons. Let’s explore why this mechanism has remained popular, especially in models like the Mossberg 500 and 590 series.

  • Reliability: Pump-action shotguns are renowned for their dependability. The manual cycling action means less reliance on the power of the shell to cycle the action, allowing these shotguns to function consistently with a wide range of ammunition types and loads.Simplicity: With fewer moving parts than semi-automatic shotguns, pump-actions are easier to maintain and less prone to malfunction. This simplicity translates to longevity and ease of use, even in adverse conditions.
  • Versatility: Pump-actions can typically handle a broader range of shell lengths and power levels without adjustment, from light target loads to powerful buckshot or slugs.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Generally, pump-action shotguns are less expensive than their semi-automatic counterparts, offering excellent value for money.
  • User Control: The manual action gives the shooter more control over the cycling process. This can be particularly advantageous in high-stress situations or when using specialized techniques like short-stroking for quicker follow-up shots.
  • Durability: The robust design of pump-action shotguns often allows them to withstand rough handling and continue functioning reliably.
  • Legal Considerations: In some jurisdictions, pump-action shotguns may face fewer legal restrictions than semi-automatic firearms.

While semi-automatic shotguns offer faster cycling and reduced recoil, the tried-and-true pump-action design continues to be a favorite among law enforcement, military personnel, and civilian users alike. The Mossberg 500 and 590 series exemplify the enduring appeal of the pump-action shotgun, combining these inherent advantages with decades of refinement and proven performance.

Mossberg 500 Special Purpose 18″ 12GA 5+1 3″ Pump-Action Shotgun


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The Mossberg 500: A Time-Tested Classic

Designed by Carl Bensen in 1961, the Mossberg 500 was created with a clear objective: to offer an affordable pump-action shotgun that could rival its contemporaries. This goal was not only met but exceeded, as the Mossberg 500 quickly proved its worth across a wide range of applications.

Key Features:

  • Aluminum receiver for reduced weight and cost
  • Tang safety at the rear of the receiver
  • Compatibility with various furniture and accessories
  • Dual extractors and anti-jam elevator
  • Top-mounted safety
  • Twin action bars
  • Positive steel-to-steel lockup

The Mossberg 500’s layout draws inspiration from the classic American pump-action shotgun, the Model 12. However, its aluminum receiver sets it apart, offering a lighter and more cost-effective solution. The tang safety, positioned at the receiver’s rear, became a signature feature, distinguishing it from competitors like the Remington 870.

Typically equipped with bead sights, Mossberg 500 shotguns provide adequate targeting capabilities for most users. The shotgun’s versatility allows it to excel in various roles, from hunting to home defense. Its reliability and ease of use have made it a popular choice for both novice and experienced shooters.

Mossberg 590: Taking It Up a Notch

While the Mossberg 500 serves as an excellent all-purpose shotgun, the 590 series caters to those seeking a more tactical edge. The 590 shares many features with its 500 counterpart but offers some key differences that make it a preferred choice for military and law enforcement use.
Distinguishing Features of the 590:

  • Clean-out cap on the magazine tube for easier maintenance
  • Often higher shell capacity
  • Sturdier construction for demanding tactical applications
  • Options for ghost ring sights on some models
  • Available in the 590A1 variant with a heavier barrel and metal trigger unit

The primary distinction between the 590 and 500 lies in their magazine and barrel designs. The 590’s clean-out cap simplifies maintenance and debris removal, while the 500 relies on a magazine cap to connect the barrel to the magazine tube. This difference results in a slightly altered assembly process.
The 590 series often comes equipped with modern tactical accessories, including M-LOK pump systems for attaching accessories, adjustable stocks, and AR-15 style pistol grips. These features make the 590 an ideal choice for those seeking a purpose-built combat shotgun.

Many models feature extended magazine tubes, accommodating up to 8 rounds of 2.75-inch buckshot, with the option to further extend capacity. This increased ammunition capacity can be crucial in high-stress situations where reloading might be difficult.

Mossberg 590A1 12GA 20″ 8+1 3″ Pump-Action Shotgun w/ Ghost Ring Sights


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The Mossberg 590A1: The Ultimate Combat Shotgun

For the ultimate in ruggedness, the 590A1 variant offers a heavier barrel and metal trigger unit. While this adds some weight, it provides benefits such as improved recoil management and reduced muzzle rise during rapid firing. The 590A1 stands out as the top-tier combat pump-action shotgun, designed to withstand the harshest conditions and most demanding use.
Additional features of the 590A1 may include:

  • Bayonet lug for military applications
  • Heat shield for extended firing sessions
  • Parkerized finish for enhanced corrosion resistance

The added durability and features of the 590A1 make it a favorite among those who demand the utmost reliability from their firearms, whether for professional use or personal defense.

Choosing Between the 500 and 590

Both the Mossberg 500 and 590 are renowned for their reliability and versatility. The choice between them often comes down to specific needs:

  • For general-purpose use, including hunting and home defense, the 500 is an excellent choice. Its lighter weight and versatility make it well-suited for a wide range of applications.
  • If you require a dedicated tactical shotgun with increased shell capacity and faster reloading, the 590 is the way to go. Its robust construction and additional features make it ideal for more demanding scenarios.
  • For the utmost in durability and combat-readiness, consider the 590A1. While heavier, it offers unparalleled reliability and strength, making it suitable for the most challenging environments and uses.

Beyond the Mossberg 500 and Mossberg 590

Mossberg Shockwave: Compact Power

For those with specific needs or space constraints, Mossberg offers the unique Shockwave model. This compact shotgun features a bird’s-head grip designed to minimize felt recoil, making it manageable in tight spaces.

Key Points about the Shockwave:

  • Ideal for confined spaces like small apartments, boats, or RVs
  • Retains essential Mossberg pump-action features
  • Surprisingly accurate with proper training
  • Available in 12-gauge and 20-gauge options

Mossberg 590S Shockwave Pump Action 12 Gauge 3″ Chamber 18.5″


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The Shockwave retains the essential features that have made Mossberg pump-actions popular worldwide, including an ambidextrous safety, dual extractors, positive steel-to-steel lockup, twin action bars, and a smooth operating anti-jam elevator.

While the Shockwave offers a unique shooting experience and compact size, it does have limitations. The lack of a traditional stock means it requires more practice to master. Compared to shotguns with traditional stocks, it lacks the third point of contact, which can affect control and stability.
However, for those willing to invest time in training, it can serve as a viable home defense option in specific situations. Its compact size makes it particularly suitable for use in tight quarters where a full-sized shotgun might be unwieldy.

Mossberg 500

Maverick 88: Affordability Meets Quality

For budget-conscious buyers who don’t want to compromise on quality, the Maverick 88 presents an outstanding option. This Mossberg-produced shotgun offers exceptional value without sacrificing performance.

Standout Features of the Maverick 88:

  • Impressive compatibility with Mossberg 500 components
  • Surprisingly good trigger
  • Cross-bolt safety
  • Exceptional affordability (typically around $200)
  • Made in Mexico under Mossberg’s quality control

The Maverick 88 is more than just an entry-level shotgun; it’s a testament to Mossberg’s commitment to quality across all price points. Its compatibility with Mossberg 500 parts (except the trigger guard) means customization options are plentiful, and replacement parts are readily available.

One standout feature of the Maverick 88 is its surprisingly good trigger, offering a level of crispness and reliability that defies its budget-friendly price tag. The inclusion of a cross-bolt safety adds an extra layer of security, ensuring safe handling and operation.

For those new to shotguns or looking for an ultra-reliable pump-action at an unbeatable price, the Maverick 88 is hard to beat. It offers the core Mossberg experience at a fraction of the cost, making it an excellent choice for home defense or as a first pump-action shotgun.

Mossberg Maverick 88


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The shotgun’s place in American culture is undeniable, and Mossberg’s lineup exemplifies why these firearms remain so popular. Whether you opt for the classic Mossberg 500, the tactical-oriented 590, the rugged 590A1, the compact Shockwave, or the budget-friendly Maverick 88, you’re investing in a legacy of reliability and performance. Mossberg’s pump-action shotguns have stood the test of time, serving faithfully in diverse roles from military and law enforcement to hunting and home defense.
The pump-action design offers numerous advantages, including reliability, simplicity, and versatility. Mossberg has refined this design over decades, creating a range of shotguns that cater to various needs and preferences.

When choosing your Mossberg, consider your specific needs, budget, and intended use. Each model offers unique advantages, but all share the core Mossberg DNA of dependability and quality. With proper care and training, a Mossberg shotgun can serve as a trustworthy companion for years to come, ready to perform when it matters most.

Remember, regardless of which model you choose, the key to proficiency lies in proper training and practice. Familiarize yourself with your shotgun’s operation, practice safe handling, and seek professional instruction if needed. With the right approach, your Mossberg shotgun will be a reliable tool for whatever purpose you’ve chosen, from sport shooting to home defense.

In the end, the enduring popularity of shotguns like the Mossberg 500 and 590 series is a testament to their versatility, reliability, and the deep-rooted tradition of shotgun ownership in America. As long as there are fields to hunt, clays to shoot, and homes to protect, the shotgun will remain an integral part of the American firearms landscape.

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