Mossberg 500 Review

Last updated July 2nd 2024

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Mossberg 500 Persuader shotgun chambered in 20 gauge.

Mossberg 500 Review

  • Price: $340-$600
  • Gauge: 12 Gauge/20 Gauge/410 Gauge
  • Action: Pump Action shotgun
  • Barrel length: 18.5-28 inch

Pros and Cons


  • ✓ Completely customizable
  • ✓ Sensational value
  • ✓ Reliable as the sun rising


  • ✗ Forend wobble
  • ✗ Not the sexiest looking gun
  • ✗ Jack of all trades, master of none


This might be the most American thing ever, short of a Ford Mustang welded to a bald eagle. The Mossberg 500, with its reputation for reliability, durability, and versatility, is a national treasure.

The Mossberg 500 12 gauge is the everyman’s shotgun. It’s the kind of tool you’d expect to see not just in the hands of law enforcement or in the rack of a farmer’s pickup, but also in the hands of a suburban dad who heard a noise out back.

The Mossberg 500’s design philosophy can be summarized as follows: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but maybe add another variant just for fun.”

With enough models and configurations to make even the most decisive person hesitate, choosing a Mossberg 500 12 gauge is like trying to pick a favorite child. You know you shouldn’t, but you secretly have one. Whether it’s the Cruiser, the Tactical, or the classic Hunting model, there’s a Mossberg 500 that perfectly suits the personality of every shooter. There’s the no-nonsense protector of the homestead to the weekend warrior seeking the thrill of the hunt, or the inexplicable joy of blasting watermelons into oblivion.

Our Hands On Test

Now, onto its performance. The Mossberg 500 is about as reliable as a sunrise. It will function in conditions that would make lesser firearms weep in their gun safes. Mud, snow, rain – the 500 looks at these and laughs, a deep, hearty chuckle that resonates with the sound of freedom and the Second Amendment. Its pump-action delivers round after round with the kind of consistency that’s boringly dependable. It’s the Toyota Camry of shotguns – not the most exciting choice, but it’ll never let you down.

Its versatility is legendary. With a quick barrel swap, the Mossberg 500 can transition from a home defense weapon capable of stopping a bear in its tracks to a fine bird-hunting tool. It’s like having both a sports car and a minivan, except it’s neither and both at the same time. This shotgun doesn’t just bridge the gap between utility and leisure; it obliterates it with 12-gauge authority.

Mossberg 500 in its short and compact shotgun form with a pistol grip rather than a stock.

Let’s not forget the safety located conveniently atop the receiver, making it ambidextrous. This placement is so sensible, you wonder why it isn’t the standard. It’s as if Mossberg actually considered that people might want to use the shotgun without having to perform a minor contortion act to ensure they don’t accidentally redecorate their living room walls in a most unfortunate manner.

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The Mossberg 500’s aesthetic appeal lies somewhere between industrial chic and bargain basement military surplus. It just isn’t the prettiest thing to look at. Most shotgun review write ups say the same, and this is not a controversial take.

The recoil can be likened to being affectionately punched by a particularly enthusiastic and muscular toddler. It’s not unbearable, but it’s enough to remind you that you’re alive, and possibly questioning your decision to spend the day firing hundreds of rounds for the sake of testing a gun. It’s no soft shooting Benelli M4, that’s for sure.

Mossberg Safety Selector.

Test Scores

Price: 4/5

The Mossberg 500 is a solid low budget shotgun. There are cheaper options, but this as good as it gets in terms of value for money and all the gun reviews pretty much agree.

Accuracy: 4/5

Accuracy is almost a moot point with a tactical shotgun, but loaded with slugs you can count on this pump action shotgun up to 75 yards, which is more than most of us ever need. If you’re a serious hunter then you can switch out for a rifled slug barrel, or a longer barrel up to 28 inches in length. Obviously that will give you a more precise experience.

Reliability: 5/5

The Mossberg 500 built its reputation on reliability and there’s almost nothing you can do to this pump gun to jam it up. It will eat trash shells, both 2.75 inch and 3″ Magnum shells. We couldn’t defeat it, you probably can’t to. You have to seriously neglect your Mossberg 500 and literally break stuff for that famous pump action to let you down.

Capacity: 3/5

You get five or six shells in the magazine tube depending on the model. Of course you can order magazine extension tubes and pretty much everything else from the Mossberg 500 parts & accessories store. But if you want serious capacity then look at the Mossberg 590M with a 20-round detachable box magazine…

Weight: 4/5

The Mossberg 500 Special Purpose weights in at 6.75lb, while barrel length plays a major part of the weight if you’re going for a longer shotgun. In each class the Mossberg 500 isn’t the lightest, but that additional heft adds to that feeling of dependability. It’s engineered to last, and you can feel that in the satisfying click-clack of the pump action shotgun.

Ergonomics: 4/5

The Mossberg 500 just feels right in the hands. It’s one of those designs that is just brilliantly designed for the purpose. It’s complete and though it could be better, with more functions, it doesn’t need them. Everything is the right length for you to shoot precise, or from the hip.,The Mossberg 500 Cruiser with the pistol grip isn’t as accurate, but then it is much smaller and works fantastically in its own way. You can go for wood furniture as well and get an adjustable length of pull.

Features: 4/5

Dual extractors and twin action bars keep the Mossberg 500 pump action straight and true, as does the steel-to-steel lockup. We’ve already mentioned the top mounted ambidextrous safety, which is pretty sweet, and there’s more. The Mossberg 500 is essentially an action you can dress up how you like. There’s a range of barrels, and a quick release stock and forend. So you can tailor the gun to your purpose, be it clay pigeon shooting or home defense.

Value: 5/5

Everybody should have a Mossberg 500, because with the right parts you can turn this pump action shotgun into whatever you want. Go hunting with it, defend your home with it and do everything in between.

Technical Highlights

The dual extractors, twin action bars and top tang safety are all well and good. But it’s the modularity of the Mossberg 500 that truly marks it apart from the shotgun world. Buy enough accessories and your shotgun turns into a truck gun, a field shotgun with wood furniture and a sport shooter for recreational fun. They come with interchangeable chokes so you can tailor your spread if you’re in the field.

Optional Versions and Specs

The Mossberg 500 is a true Transformer. It will always be a pump action shotgun, but that’s about the only limit. You can mount that action and magazine tube to any furniture you want. Go short and compact, with a tactical barrel and a pistol grip, or long for turkey hunting. You just need to buy more parts.

Of course, you can buy a gun online in any spec you want off the peg. So you don’t need to think about gunsmithing, unless you want to. The main versions you should look out for include:

  • Mossberg 500 Special Purpose – Tactical pump action shotgun, ideal for a home defense gun.
  • Mossberg 500 Retrograde – The Mossberg 500 Retrograde comes with a 20 inch barrel and wood furniture.
  • Mossberg 500 Combo Field/Security – Two shotguns in one, with a longer barrel and a pack of parts giving you the options of hunting, turkey shooting and dfenseive duties.
  • Mossberg 500 Turkey – The Mossy Oak Bottomland camo print is different, as is the ribbed barrel and purpose made turkey choke. You can go for a pistol grip too.
  • Mossberg 500 Tactical JIC – This is the shortest incarnation, with a simple pistol grip. The JI stands for Just In Case, and it’s a powerhouse to stash in your truck or boat.

Reasons to Buy

  • Versatility – This pump gun can be anything you want with the right barrel and accessories.
  • Value – This is an affordable shotgun, considering its range.
  • Customization – There are parts & accessories to turn your Mossberg into any variant.

Key Rivals

This is a cut-throat sector, with a number of serious rivals to consider. They include:

  1. Remington 870: Perhaps the most direct rival to the Mossberg 500, the Remington 870 is another iconic American pump-action shotgun. Known for its solid build and reliability, the 870 has been a favorite among hunters and law enforcement officers for decades. Its steel receiver contrasts with the Mossberg’s aluminum one, offering a different balance and feel.
  2. Winchester SXP (Super X Pump): The Winchester SXP is praised for its fast pump action, which is designed for quick follow-up shots. Its rotary bolt and inertia-assisted slide-action make it a formidable competitor, particularly in situations requiring rapid fire capability.
  3. Benelli Nova/SuperNova: The Benelli Nova and SuperNova models are innovative and use high-tech materials, making them extremely durable and resistant to harsh conditions. These shotguns also feature a unique one-piece receiver and stock made of polymer, offering a distinctive choice and a relatively cheap Benell shotgun.
  4. Beretta 1301 Tactical: For those prioritizing speed and ergonomics in a tactical shotgun, the Beretta 1301 Tactical stands out. It’s a semi-automatic that offers faster firing rates compared to the pump-action Mossberg 500, making it a preferred choice for competitive shooting and tactical applications. It is more expensive though.
  5. Browning BPS: The Browning BPS is known for its bottom-ejection and top-loading mechanism, making it truly ambidextrous. This feature, combined with its reputation for quality and reliability, makes the BPS a strong contender for hunters and shooters who value precision and versatility.

You can see these and other shotguns on some of these related posts:

Known Issues and Problems

This is a solid and sturdy shotgun, and any reliability issues are generally due to extreme wear and tear. Here are things to watch out for.

  1. Extractor Wear: Some users have reported issues with the extractors wearing down over time, which can lead to extraction problems. This is more likely to occur with heavy use, and a lot of high-powered ammunition.
  2. Safety Button Issues: There have been instances where the tang safety button becomes either too stiff to operate smoothly or too loose. In some cases, the safety button may break or fail, requiring replacement.
  3. Forend Wobble: A common complaint among Mossberg 500 users is the forend (pump) having a degree of wobble. While this does not generally affect the shotgun’s functionality or accuracy, it can be a nuisance.
  4. Trigger Guard and Housing: Earlier models and certain variants of the Mossberg 500 come with a plastic trigger guard and housing. Under rough handling or extreme conditions, the plastic components may crack or break.
  5. Finish Wear: The finish on some Mossberg 500 shotguns, particularly on the blued models, may wear off quicker than expected. This is often a cosmetic issue but can lead to rust and corrosion.
  6. Magazine Tube Difficulty: On models where the magazine tube is closed at the end (non-removable), cleaning and maintenance can be more challenging. This design choice can also limit your upgrade choices.

Is the Mossberg 500 California Legal?

Yes. The shortest barrel is 18.5 inches, it doesn’t have a magazine and it’s a shotgun, which is easier with the California gun laws.

Mossberg Company Profile

Founded in 1919 by Oscar Frederick Mossberg and his sons Iver and Harold, this family-owned company started out with a simple four-barreled .22 caliber pistol.

Mossberg’s philosophy has always been to deliver reliable, high-quality firearms at an affordable price. That makes shooting sports accessible to a wider audience. This commitment to affordability and reliability over wild performance features has earned Mossberg a devout Blue Collar following among hunters, sports shooters, law enforcement agencies and the military.

Mossberg’s legacy is kinda defined by the Mossberg 500 series. Introduced in 1961, this pump-action shotgun has become synonymous with durability and versatility, offering configurations for civilian, law enforcement, and military applications. Its success paved the way for the Mossberg 590 and 590A1, further cementing the company’s reputation for producing shotguns that reliably perform in the harshest conditions.

Mossberg’s innovation extends beyond shotguns, with a diverse product line that includes rifles and handguns. With a century of experience, Mossberg has stuck true to that original ideal of providing dependable firearms at exactly the right price point.

The best shotguns, rifles and pistols in the line up include:

  • Mossberg 500: A versatile pump-action classic, renowned for its reliability in various roles, from hunting to a home defense gun.
  • Mossberg 590: Builds on the 500’s legacy with enhanced durability and features. The military and law enforcement love it.
  • Mossberg Patriot: The classic bolt action rifle for hunting that is cheap and available in almost every caliber.


In terms of customization, the Mossberg 500 is the Mr. Potato Head of the gun world. There’s a seemingly endless array of accessories, barrels, and stocks that can be swapped in and out with all the ease of changing socks. This allows every owner to claim that their Mossberg 500 is unique, a special snowflake in a blizzard of conformity.

Yet, at its heart, it remains a Mossberg 500 – reliable, versatile, and as subtly nuanced as a fireworks display in a library. All the gun reviews are glowing, and they absolutely should be.

In conclusion, the Mossberg 500 shotgun is a paradox wrapped in wood or synthetic furniture. It’s both every shotgun you’ll ever need and a testament to the American way of ‘more is more.’ It’s as sophisticated as a sledgehammer at an opera.. For those seeking a firearm that embodies reliability, adaptability, and the ability to instantly escalate any situation to “extremely loud,” the Mossberg 500 stands ready to answer the call, with a wry smile and a gentle, sarcastic nod to the notion that sometimes, more really is more.


  • Nick Hall

    Nick is a lifelong gun enthusiast who has a simple mission. He wants to find the best deals for guns online and help you make the best choices with weapons your life may depend on one day.Nick won a minor league shooting competition at the age of 11 and it all went from there. Now he runs one of the biggest firearms websites on the net and his work has featured in Playboy US, Tatler Asia, Forbes and a whole host of national magazines and websites.

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