When it comes to pump action shotguns there are really two choices- the Mossberg 500 and the other guy. Remington seems to be sidetracked for the time being.
The Mossberg 500, introduced in 1961, has been produced in the millions. A little over eleven million have been manufactured. These shotguns have seen use in every type of hunting. They are also a standard in personal defense. Quite a number are in military and police use, including the upgraded Mossberg 590, a version of the 500 with a different barrel fit and a heavy barrel. The Mossberg features dual extractors, dual action bars, a sturdy lockup and an aluminum receiver. The safety is a well designed lever on the top rear of the receiver. This is a well designed safety for left or right hand use. The Mossberg in its standard version holds five 2 ¾ inch shells in the magazine. There are 7 and 8 shot magazine versions as well. The defensive shotguns often have 18.5 inch barrels while some have 20 inch barrels.
Mossberg asked Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch, a high level training facility, for his thoughts on a defensive shotgun. He did not ask for frills or a folding stock or AR type furniture. He did recommend a shorter than average length of pull and a means of mounting a combat light. He also felt a high visibility bead front sight would be useful.
As Colonel Cooper said, “Blessed is he when his life is in danger who can think of only the front sight.”
The front sight of the Mossberg Thunder Ranch shotgun is a red fiber optic type. The forend features three light mounting rails. You will probably wish to remove one or the other depending on your grip style. They will give you a rap on the hand otherwise! The forend is also grooved for good control.
The finish is low key matte black and the barrel is a fast handling 18.5 inches long. The shotgun features an open cylinder choke in common with most personal defense shotguns with short barrels. The barrel, however, is quite different from most. The end of the barrel is a breacher type. I am not certain there is much application for this, but then it hurts nothing. If you were in a hand to hand fight or retention battle the barrel end would make a formidable weapon. The rear stock features a thirteen inch length of pull. This is a bit shorter than average. If you are wearing a vest or heavy clothing this is a good length of pull. For my average build- I am 5 10 and 190 pounds- I found leverage is better when rapidly firing and working the bolt. Recoil isn’t harsher and the stock design change seems profitable. I don’t personally know Clint Smith but he certainly made good recommendations.
Much of my testing was done with the Remington Ultimate Defense #4 load. The Remington Ultimate Defense #4 buck load is a good home defense load with light recoil. 21 pellets are loaded. This loading went into a ten by ten inch pattern at ten yards. Remington #1 buck put 16 pellets into a 8 x 9 inch pattern. While these loads offer modest recoil and would certainly be effective at home defense range the star of the show was the Remington Managed Recoil #00 buckshot loading. At 1100 fps recoil is modest. This is an 8 pellet loading. All eight went into an average of 2 x 2.2 inch at ten yards. This is the type of tight pattern that will anchor a threat with certainty. The #4 buckshot load would be ideal against moving predators such as coyote while the double ought load is a formidable loading for armed threats.
The Mossberg 500 Thunder Ranch sailed through the test without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Performance is good. The action is smooth and positive. The safety and bolt release are tight and work well. The trigger is crisp and consistent. This is a formidable shotgun well worth its price.
5 shot magazine
6.8 pounds weight
Barrel 18.5 in.
Overall Length 37.0 inches
Sights Front fiber optic