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Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun: an American classic

To Sykes gets his hands on a Mossberg 500 and puts it to the test on the unforgiving foreshore, as well as doing a star turn on the clay ground

Mossberg 500

Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun

Manufacturer: Mossberg

Price as reviewed: £589

I have been a fan of pump actions all my life. There is something rugged about a pump, and that certainly applies to the Mossberg 500.

The Mossberg 500 is an American favourite that has been in production for over 50 years – that’s more than 10 million shotguns and counting. It is a popular gun across US law enforcement, military, home defence and with the hunting community.

I was keen to see how well the Mossberg would perform in my day-to-day life of wildfowling, clay shooting and pest control. The Hushpower modified version of the Mossberg is popular throughout the UK for a range of vermin shooters, but you don’t often see many standard guns in operation. I wanted to test it to see if we were underusing this gem of a gun. (Take a look at our pick of best jackets for wildfowling.)

The Mossberg 500 has been in production for 50 years and around 10 million have been made

Testing the Mossberg 500

I was super-excited when the call came from my local gunsmith that the Mossberg had landed. Gun collected, I assembled it and got an initial feel for its handling and features. Being a major pump fan, I have grown accustomed to the many different layouts of safety catches and bolt releases.

The Mossberg has a different take on the safety-catch placement compared with most other pumps and semi-autos. The safety is top mounted, located at the rear of the action above the grip, similar to an over-and-under and side-by-side. This is a fantastic feature and is the best placement for a safety.

The location means that it is operated by the thumb and does make the gun far more ambidextrous than most pumps. The bolt release catch is located at the rear of the trigger-guard, similar to my old Winchester pump action, and can easily be operated with the middle finger.

An overall inspection of the dismantled gun showed a rather simple mechanism with very little to go wrong. The overall simplicity makes general maintenance a breeze. Although pumps like the Mossberg are designed to withstand hard usage, I would always recommend taking care of your gear to the best of your ability to increase its longevity and reliability in the field. There are plenty of YouTube videos showing how to dismantle and reassemble for anyone new to pump actions.

Mossberg 500

All cartridges cycle smoothly through the Mossberg

The other key difference in design is the lack of a plate for the magazine loading port, but I found the magazine is easy to load without this.

After the initial play at home, it was straight to the clay ground to see how the gun performed. The Mossberg is right up my street because it is light and fast handling but still very pointable with its 28in barrel. It made light work of pairs and even triple clay targets.

The action is super-smooth and very fast cycling. I found it one of the nicest pumps to shoot for speed and ease of use and I was smitten after the first couple of stands.

But the real test for a pump in my eyes is if it can withstand foreshore life. I opted for the Mossberg 500 all-purpose field synthetic. The gun’s rugged synthetic material is perfect for the harsh elements of the foreshore. I went for the half-choke out of the three provided – quarter, half and full – as I believe it is the most versatile for the majority of situations.

The Mossberg performed really well with a range of steel shells. The gun took everything I threw at it in its stride, be it standard steel bio wads, high-performance duck loads or even 3in goose loads. I didn’t notice much in terms of recoil, despite it being a rather lightweight gun, when using the larger shells. Then again, I don’t usually feel much recoil as I’m a big bruiser. All the cartridges cycled smoothly and there were no stoppages nor malfunctions.

Mossberg 500

The synthetic all-purpose version is perfect for fowling

Flaring teal

The gun soon became an extension of me and the general mechanics felt like second nature. Duck flights were an absolute pleasure, with the fast action making the most of the opportunities and shots on offer when packs of teal flared after the first shot. Doubles seemed to be very much achievable and even the odd triple.

The goose loads teamed with the gun were a great combination. The large white bead with a smaller metal mid-barrel bead aided with getting shots on target. A great feature – and one that should be standard on wildfowling guns – is the low-profile built-in sling swivels. These are fantastic for adding a sling so the gun can be thrown on your back for the walk out or while organising gear.

The only real downside I could find for the Mossberg in terms of wildfowling is that I would love to have a 3.5in chamber for flighting geese. The addition of such a chamber would make this a perfect gun for all situations, excluding driven game.

One thing to cover is the aesthetics – I adore the look of this gun. The synthetic version especially looks mean and rugged and is something I believe suits my persona. It seemed to turn heads at the clay ground, especially when people saw how well it shot. I took it to our local wildfowling club clay shoot and it soon gathered a crowd as everyone wanted to have a go with it.

Mossberg 500

It’s the little things that add to the overall appeal of this gun


I have been immensely impressed with this gun and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a great workhorse or even a gun for a bit of fun. Having borrowed it from the team at Viking Arms, I will be buying this Mossberg to add to my arsenal. With its retail price of £589, it would be stupid not to buy a gun that I have had such much fun with. I am sure that it will last a lifetime, which makes it particularly good value for money. I can’t wait to try it for summer vermin control.

I believe I accomplished the main objective and discovered a gem of a gun that will not only do the job but will do it in style and, most importantly, won’t break the bank in the process. I do like some of the modern guns available, but there is a reason the Mossberg has been in production for so long and so many have been sold.


One of the nicest pumps to shoot for speed and ease of use