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Survival Firearms Battery: The Mossberg 500

by Paul-Martin Foss

If someone owns a pump shotgun, the odds are that it’s either a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500. With over 12 million Remington 870s produced and over 10 million Mossberg 500s, they’re the two most popular shotguns in existence today.

Produced since 1960, the Mossberg 500 takes some of its design cues from Remington’s venerable Model 31. It has been produced in 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, and .410 bore. In addition to having served with the US military, the Mossberg 500 has been used by dozens of other militaries around the world.

One of the design features of the Mossberg 500 is its ability to quickly remove and change barrels. The barrel is bolted into a threaded hole at the end of the magazine tube. Unscrewing that bolt underneath the barrel allows the barrel to be removed and replaced. In that way a shotgun could be equipped with a 28” barrel for shotgun sports, an 18.5” barrel for home defense, a 24” barrel for turkey hunting, or a rifled slug barrel for hunting with commercial rifled slugs or heavy hardcast lead slugs.

The Mossberg 500 has also spawned a series of popular offshoots. While the 12 gauge Mossberg 500 comes standard nowadays with a 3” chamber, Mossberg has also developed the Mossberg 535, which features a 3.5” chamber, allowing it to fire heavy waterfowl and turkey loads. The Mossberg 590 is another offshoot of the 500, featuring a different method of barrel attachment that allows for extending the magazine tube to gain capacity for extra shells.

Finally, Mossberg manufactures the Maverick 88 shotgun, a cheaper version of the Mossberg 500 that uses some Mexican-made parts to keep costs down. The Maverick features a cross-bolt safety in the trigger guard, rather than the tang safety of the Mossberg 500, and the forearms are not interchangeable between the two guns. The Maverick 88 is most often found in a field model which features a 28” barrel and a 5+1 shell capacity, and a security model which features a 20” barrel and a 7+1 shell capacity.

Retail prices for the Maverick 88 are around $200-225, versus $270-300 for the Mossberg 500. Given how many of these guns have been produced, used guns can be found online, at pawn shops, or at gun stores even cheaper.


1. Low Cost

Unless you’re buying a cheap Chinese clone or Turkish import, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper shotgun on the market today. And compared to similar models of the Remington 870, the Mossbergs and Mavericks will almost always be cheaper

2. Wide Array of Aftermarket Accessories

Just like the Remington 870, the ubiquity of the Mossberg 500 means that dozens of manufacturers have made aftermarket accessories for it. From recoil-reducing stocks to heat shields to side-saddle ammo carriers, there are numerous ways for you to customize your Mossberg.

3. Reliability

Mossberg claims that the Mossberg 500 is the only shotgun to have passed the US Army’s Mil-Spec 3443E test, a torture test featuring 3,000 rounds of full power buckshot being fired, with malfunctions not to exceed 0.1%.


1. Newer Models May Exhibit Rougher Finishing

If you’re familiar with the cycling of older pump shotguns machined from steel, particularly the glass-smooth Remington 31, modern shotguns will be disappointing. That’s particularly true with the Maverick 88, which due to its lower cost of construction just isn’t finished as smoothly as more expensive shotguns. But after a few thousand rounds put through your shotgun the action should cycle a lot smoother.

2. Older Models Prone to Action Bar Breakage

Mossberg 500s produced prior to 1970 and Maverick 88s produced prior to 1990 featured only a single action bar, which had a tendency to bind or even break, rendering the shotgun inoperable. Newer models feature two action bars to eliminate that problem.

Whether you choose to go with the Remington 870 or the Mossberg 500, or both, no survival firearms battery would be complete without a shotgun. The ability to fit a shotgun with a variety of barrels and shoot everything from birdshot to buckshot to heavy slugs through it makes a shotgun the most versatile firearm in any armory.

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