The Mossberg Model 500 Shotgun

By Chuck Hawks

Mossberg Model 500
Illustration courtesy of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.

The Mossberg Model 500 pump shotgun has been on the market for several decades and has sold in the millions. This versatile gun is available in something like 17 hunting and special purpose models, even including a 12 gauge/.50 caliber, fully rifled muzzleloading combination model. Other popular variations include the standard field models plus slug (including fully rifled), Bantam (youth), turkey, waterfowl, security, and combination models supplied with more than one barrel.

The 500 action is simple, durable, and inexpensive to produce. When I first encountered the Model 500 in the early 1960's the gun operated with one action bar, but later the pump mechanism was redesigned for two action bars to prevent binding (and, no doubt, to keep up with the smooth Remington 870).

Along with the Remington 870, the Mossberg Model 500 came to dominate the pump gun market after Winchester discontinued their famous Model 12. The Model 500 was originally a blued steel and walnut shotgun, but it is now available in a variety of metal finishes including blue, parkerized, camo, and Marinecote (silver). Stock materials include walnut, hardwood, black or camo synthetics, and a synthetic pistol grip!

The current Mossberg 500 has a streamlined aluminum receiver that ejects spent shells to the right. Its design incorporates dual extractors, an anti-jam shell elevator, dual action bars, interchangeable barrels, a receiver drilled and tapped for scope bases, one pin field stripping, and a rubber recoil pad. The bolt locks into a barrel extension by means of a top lug. The trigger guard and triggerplate assembly is mounded from a tough black plastic.

Available gauges include 12 and 20 plus .410 bore. Barrel lengths range from 28" down to 18.5" depending on model and purpose. There are ventilated rib as well as plain barrels, and even fully rifled barrels, with various sorts of sights. Barrels are user interchangeable. Open the action and unscrew the magazine cap to remove the barrel.

The 500's stock dimensions should fit the majority of shooters. The grip is much too thick at the wrist for my taste, but I am used to shooting high quality double guns. Empty, the gun has a clumsy, muzzle heavy balance with a 26" or 28" barrel, as is generally typical of pump and autoloading shotguns. This weight forward bias is increased when the magazine is loaded. Even an empty Mariner model, with its short 18.5" barrel, balances at the front of the receiver.

The Model 500 specifically reviewed in this article is a 12 gauge Mariner model with the standard length 5-shell magazine. This allows it to accept all standard Model 500 replacement barrels. The Mariner comes with a silver Marinecote 18.5" (cylinder bored) barrel. I ordered an extra 28" VR, blued barrel bored modified when I ordered the gun. I prefer barrels with bored chokes when I can get them.

This makes the Mariner a dual purpose gun. It serves nicely as a boat (or home) defense gun, yet can be converted into a normal field gun merely by changing barrels. In the field I use the 500 mostly for hunting waterfowl, since it can digest steel shot. And its muzzle heavy swing and considerable weight work to its advantage for that purpose.

Here are the specifications for Model 500 Mariner, taken from the 2006 Mossberg catalog: Gauge 12; Chamber 3"; Capacity 5+1 (furnished with a 3-shot plug); Barrel length 18.5"; Barrel type plain, cylinder bore; Sights front bead; Metal finish Marinecote; Overall length 41"; Stock material black synthetic; Length of pull 13"; drop at comb 1 1/2"; Drop at heel 2 1/8"; Average weight 7 pounds.

The Mariner also comes with bases for detachable sling swivels and an accessory black plastic pistol grip that can replace the conventional buttstock. This is a handy device in the cramped confines of a small cabin cruiser. I found that the Mossberg pistol grip was pretty hard on my right hand and wrist, so I replaced both it and the stock plastic forearm (pump handle) with Pachmayr black rubber parts. These come with molded checkering, are much more comfortable to shoot, and even look better than the stock parts.

Fit and finish of the gun are adequate, about what you should expect from an inexpensive pump gun with a plastic buttstock. The dull silver metal parts of the Mariner contrast nicely with the black synthetic stock, which in my opinion looks better than an all black gun.

The 500's plastic sliding safety is located on the top rear of the receiver, the most convenient location for both right and left handed users. The release that allows the action to be opened without first pulling the trigger is located at the left rear of the trigger guard. The trigger pull is typical of mass produced repeating shotguns, which is to say too heavy and not particularly clean. About the best I can say about the trigger is that it works.

This gun shoots to point of aim with either barrel. Patterns from the 28" VR Modified barrel average around 60% and are reasonably uniform with target loads containing 1 ounce of #8 lead shot. This barrel is a good choice for informal clay target shooting. It is also quite possible to break clay targets with the cylinder barrel as long as you stand close to the trap.

One day, just for fun, three of us shot some informal clays using the pistol grip (with the 18.5" barrel) instead of the regular buttstock, and together we still broke about 75% of them. The trick is to fully extend the arm holding the forearm and look down the barrel as you would if the gun had a buttstock. Then lead and fire as usual. Shooting from the hip only works in the movies.

I have used the Model 500 to hunt waterfowl and to shoot an occasional round of trap. It does a swell job of killing ducks over decoys and, of course, the Mariner action is unlikely to rust in the rain.

The Mossberg has always been a reliable gun, and the specific example reviewed here is no exception. No malfunctions have occurred.

To conclude, the Model 500 is a popular, versatile, economical and dependable pump gun that features twin action bars. It is not a fancy gun, but it works and it will keep on working.

Back to the Product Review Page

Copyright 2004, 2006 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.