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Reviews : Arsenal

Mossberg: The 'Other' Shotgun

This venerable line of police scatterguns offers affordable firepower and a highly adaptable platform

August 01, 2002  |  by Roy Huntington

That icon of the American police officer-the 12-gauge shotgun-has seen many guises over the decades. From serious side-by-side doubles in the hands of Stetson-topped lawmen, to ultra-high-tech, full-auto versions, the classic "dozen gauge" can handle most situations with aplomb.

With the advent of today's innovative roundup of specialty munitions, including high-velocity sabot slugs, less-lethal rounds, and the new generations of low-recoiling buckshot, the smoothbore has a new lease on life.


Rather than take a Police-type close look at a specific model, we chose this month to give you a breakdown on the entire Mossberg police line. The fact Mossberg offers so many different models is what's important here.

For some hands-on fun, we did, however, lay hands on a bare-bones Model 500A, the workhorse of the Mossberg police line. Afterall, we wanted to see just what an entry-level Mossberg might deliver.

The 500A is what started all the fuss and what keeps it going today. About 20 years ago, the military tested a wide variety of shotguns, looking for a tough model that could hold up in a battle or on police duty on-base. When the dust settled, Mossberg won after having successfully completed the 3,000-round torture test.

The tang-mounted thumb safety is easy to check. Red means the gun is off-safe.

This test was conducted with full-power buckshot-not today's low-recoil stuff-and the Mossberg chugged along, proving this "other" shotgun had what it took to win the military's approval.

As in many things, as the military goes, so goes law enforcement and the public sector. Due to military contracts, Mossberg's police and private sales grew and remain solid today. All for a good reason. When a company delivers value and performance, people notice.

Street Options

My own career as a street cop often found me with a pump shotgun in my hands. During robbery calls, vehicle hot stops, and a hundred other situations, that pump gun lent an air of authority and I know it helped to keep things calm on occasion. They call a close-range shotgun wound a "rathole" wound for good reasons. They can be devastating and bad guys know it.

Although the Remington 870 series has been the mainstay of American law enforcement for many years, the Mossberg line-up is a significant player, especially with the introduction of the 590DA (double action only) model. The DA builds on the 590 model line, which is Mossberg's dedicated police duty shotgun design, by implementing the first DAO trigger system on a shotgun.

With the move to double-action autopistols, many officers are simply used to the action, and the transition from DAO handgun to "single action" shotgun trigger may cause problems for some. Many of today's young officers do not have a heritage of shooting or hunting, so the "keep it simple" principle makes very good sense for a rangemaster swamped with training issues.

There are very clear reasons why the shotgun is held in such high esteem with cops across the country. It's simple to operate and stone-cold reliable. When the chips are down, a shotgun can often mean the difference between winning-or the alternative.

Rifles for police have a very real use today, and smart agencies are combining both shotguns and rifles in a patrol car. Why limit an officer's options for no reason? If there is time to plan and a shotgun is a better choice than a rifle, why not give them that vital tool?

The Mossberg Line

If, indeed, variety leads to spice in life then things can be pretty spicy with Mossberg. Frankly, we forgot how many different models were available until we took a serious look. In retrospect, I think we wished we might have gotten our hands on one or two more models.

The basic 500A has a 20-inch barrel and holds nine rounds in law enforcement guise. It has dual-action bars to provide smooth pumping action, a bolt release at the rear of the trigger guard, and a safety on the tang at the rear of the receiver. This falls under the thumb naturally, and you can tell at a glance if the safety is on or off. A red drop of paint helps matters along in that department.

The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount or for installing a nifty aperture sight that Mossberg offers. Called the GRS, the ghost ring application on a duty shotgun has become all the rage, but we remain unconvinced it's necessary on a close-quarters shotgun. Keep it simple, remember? Most of these features are common to all the 500 and 590 series.

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