The typically American Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun is a functional and reliable tool.
Recently we took a look at the Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun – something that would probably be regarded with little more than contempt by a dedicated game shooter. Hardly worthy of a place on the shooting field. The pump-action shotgun is still regarded as something of an oddity in the UK, where so many shooters’ aspirations revolve around owning a double-barrelled ejector gun.
In contrast, some roughshooters and wildfowlers have a more appreciative view of the pump gun, as they simply require a tool to do a job reliably in a harsh environment. The virtue of the pump-action is its simplicity of operation, and its relatively uncomplicated design usually translates into long-term reliability.
The downside for many shooters is its unfamiliarity and the noisy operation, though it is actually little different from a semi auto, but, because manual operation is slower, the noise generated is more noticeable.
A delightful word from my part of the country is ‘chackly’, which accurately describes the sound and slightly sloppy operation of most pump-action guns.
Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun – USA made
The Mossberg 500 has been around, in various guises and barrel lengths, for many years. While other makes and designs have fallen out of production, the Mossberg has survived. As the years have passed, there has been no revolution in its design, but small, subtle improvements – some unseen – to aid the efficiency of its manufacture.
The Mossberg 500 on test is fairly typical of a modern pump-action, with its black finish, aluminium alloy receiver and synthetic butt-stock and fore-end. Fresh out of the box it was plastered with stickers proclaiming ‘Made in the USA’ and ‘Buy American’, which will at least make it stand out in shops.
Mossberg, it would seem, is proud of its American heritage and not afraid to say so – perhaps British manufacturers could learn something from this.
The Mossberg 500’s specifications, recommended ammunition and other details were highlighted on the stickers, and a comprehensive handbook was also included.
One concession to modernity is the ported barrel, which, it is claimed, reduces felt recoil and muzzle jump, potentially useful characteristics in a shotgun weighing slightly less than 7lb and capable of chambering 3in Magnum cartridges.
The chokes are Mossberg’s Accu-Choke system and each gun is supplied as standard with improved, modified and full chokes, which, in the British system, translates as quarter, half and full.
The ones for this gun are flush-fitting but extended chokes are also available. As the US does not have a legal requirement for proofing, each gun is subject to proofing at one of the UK proof houses.
This Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun was proofed in Birmingham to the superior proof standard and is, therefore, suitable for the heavier steel shot loads.
The styling is quite old-fashioned – a familiar profile dressed in a charcoal finish.
Some of the Mossberg 500 detail is worthy of closer examination, such as the 3⁄8in-wide (9mm) ventilated rib with its unusual sight beads.
The brass midbead is like a miniature barleycorn shape and the large, milky-white foresight bead suggests it is for competition rather than field use, though I believed it could be useful on the foreshore in half-light. Intrigued by this idea, I tried it out at dusk and found that, with my slight left-eye dominance, the brass mid-bead tended to be a bit of an optical distraction.
With a piece of black insulation tape over it, the foresight bead was excellent in poor light, a bit like the ‘moon sight’ on double rifles.
Another neat feature is the combined trigger guard and lockplate made from a synthetic material, and this is also easily dropped out of the receiver to allow for limited but useful trigger adjustments.
It came set at 6.1⁄2lb with almost a two-stage pull, but this can be improved upon. For the shooter who needs to keep their hands free, sling fittings and a practical and comfortable padded nylon sling came as part of the package.
The other useful detail is the safety, which is mounted at the rear of the receiver.
It is non-automatic, of course, and a bit of a reach compared with a conventional tang-mounted safety, but it is big, positive in operation and practical.
There are even blanking screws in the receiver if you want to fit a barrel for use with rifled slugs.
The use of twin operating rails is always a good idea in order to improve strength and reliability, and to aid smooth operation.
Also testing indicated that the barrel porting worked as an aid to smoothing recoil and reducing muzzle jump. However, with Magnum loads, recoil was still noticeable on the Mossberg 500.
Considering this is a fairly light gun for its type, the handling is a little unusual, being distinctly front-heavy. Much of this is due to the hollow synthetic butt-stock, which causes the point of balance to be around three inches in front of the receiver.
This aids the operation of the sliding fore-end and, with practice, it is possible to get used to bringing back the fore-end under recoil and dropping back on to the target as it is pushed forward to chamber another cartridge.
The action of pumping the fore-end can be executed quickly, and the twin rails that form the link with the breech mechanism aid the smoothness of operation.
In fact, the more one uses it, the more its virtues become apparent.
In the field
On the barrel it states ‘chambered for 2.3⁄4in and 3in cartridges’, but I found it will handle 2.1⁄2in cartridges without a hitch. This is one of the advantages of the pump-action over the semi-automatic: it will usually feed a greater variety of cartridges of different loadings without problems.
Ejection proved to be positive, though this depends on the speed with which the mechanism is operated. So, if necessary, an empty cartridge case can be just dropped into the hand or flung some six to eight feet away.
Cartridges on test included some from Eley, Lyalvale Express, Fiocchi and Gamebore, with loads varying from 28g to 50g both lead and steel.
The effectiveness of the barrel porting was hard to judge without an identical unported barrel for comparison, but recoil seemed modest with the lighter loads, indicating that the porting is beneficial.
As for the larger loads, they were a bit of a handful unless the gun was mounted firmly into the shoulder, when felt recoil became manageable, if still moderately exciting.
Of the steel cartridges, the reduced load Eley Grand Prix gave the best patterns in this gun, while most of the lead loads performed well.
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Something like this Mossberg 500 was never intended to compete with a sidelock or Best boxlock, but, like comparing a 4×4 with a limousine, it has its uses.
It is very much a case of practicality over posing because, while it may not have much ‘field cred’, it is both functional and reliable.
In the great scheme of things, the world would be a poorer place without the humble but honest pump-action shotgun.