Mossberg 500 Series: A Complete Analysis

Boomsticks. Scatterguns. Shotguns.

We’ve all seen one. We all know how they work.

Shotguns have been around since the 19th Century. Back in those days, rifling was unheard of. The typical long gun’s barrel had a smooth bore that could fire a single solid lead ball, multiple lead projectiles collectively called “shot”, or a combination of both.

These long guns were made for the military, law enforcement and hunting. They were so effective that up to the present, they’re still being used.

Several companies have manufactured shotguns in the last century, one of them having the distinction of being the oldest family-owned firearms manufacturer in the US: Mossberg.

Since 1919, Mossberg has been designing and manufacturing inexpensive quality firearms: from handguns in .22 LR, to several shotguns in different bore diameters and hunting rifles, all marketed towards civilians and the military.

Their pump-action shotguns are particularly known for reliability that these are the only shotguns purchased by the US government that succeeded in either meeting or exceeding military standards, i.e. the Mil-S-3443 specifications for shotguns. It’s because of this success that Mossberg shotguns have become very popular over the years. It’s also why they’re largest shotgun manufacturer in the country.


The Mossberg 500

a picture of the mossberg 500Introduced in 1960, the legendary Mossberg 500 is a mid-tier pump-action shotgun marketed towards civilians, hunters and law enforcement. Originally designed for hunting and combat in all but the harshest of conditions, these shotguns are reliable, easy to clean and maintain.

Barrel 

a picture of mossberg 500 with two additional barrelsToday, the Mossberg 500 consists of an entire family of shotguns in 55 different factory configurations. As of this writing, Mossberg lists three different Model 500 series of shotguns, each with varying configurations on their website: the Tactical series (with 16 different configurations), the Hunting series (with 30 different configurations) and the FLEX series (with 9 different configurations).

All three can be purchased with thee different bore diameter (caliber) measurements:

 

  • a picture of different shotgun shellsThe 12-gauge, which is the most commonly used and the most powerful of the three;
  • The 20-gauge, which might be a bit underpowered compared to the 12-gauge but has a softer recoil, making it a viable option for recoil-shy users who want an inexpensive pump-action shotgun for home defense;
  • And the .410 bore, the weakest of the three but also the least expensive — and because there are a ton of revolvers that can accept .410 bore (e.g. Taurus Judge series, S&W Governor series and all other singe/double-action revolvers chambered for the .45 Long Colt), for owners of such revolvers it makes more financial sense to get a shotgun chambered for the .410 bore.

Rifling

a picture of rifled and smooth bore barrelsWhile the majority of shotguns on the market have smooth bore barrels, all 500 Hunting in Combo Field Deer, Combo Turkey/Deer and Slugster configurations have rifling for accurate long-range shots using slugs.

To note, all 500 Tactical configurations have smooth bore. The same is true for 500 FLEX configurations, with the FLEX 500 Combo Deer/Security (Item #55131) having two different barrels — a smooth cylinder bore and a rifled bore — being the only exception.

Barrel Lengths

a picture of different shotgun barrel lengths

Several barrel lengths are available for all Mossberg 500s. And because of how easy it is to switch between different barrels, it’s possible for a Mossberg 500 owner to have an all-in-one shotgun configured in many different barrel types and lengths using only one receiver.

The Tactical series come in two barrel length options of 18.5 inches and 20 inches, with a heat shield installed on the 12-gauge (to dissipate heat), 20-inch Tactical 8 Shot model’s barrel (Item# 50567), and a stand-off/breacher integrated with the 18.5-inch barrel of the 12-gauge Tactical Thunder Ranch model (Item# #52133) for breaching doors (for law enforcement and military use).

The Hunting series of Model 500s come in four barrel length options: 18.5 inches, 20 inches, 24 inches and 28 inches. A vent rib, which allows for faster cooling of the barrel, is installed on all 26-inch barrel configurations for Items #54183 and #54282, the 28-inch barrel configurations for Items #54243, #54264 and #54169, and on all Turkey, Waterfowl and All-Purpose configurations.

The 12-gauge Slugster in 24-inch barrel (Item #55244), especially designed for use with sabot slugs, is the only Model 500 Hunting configuration that comes fluted (to reduce weight for ease of carrying).

Like the Hunting series, the FLEX series also come in four barrel length options: 18.5 inches, 20 inches, 24 inches and 28 inches. With the exception of the FLEX 500 Combo Deer/Security (Item #55131), all FLEX configurations have a vent rib installed on their barrels.

Barrel Finish

a picture of a mossberg marinecoat barrel

The 500 Tactical Series barrels are available in three types of finish: Blued, Marinecoat (Mossberg’s proprietary weatherproof finish), and Matte-Blued.

The 500 Hunter Series barrels are available in three different types of blued finish: Blued, Matte-Blued and High Polish Blue; and three more types of finish, all under Mossberg’s proprietary camo design for hunting called Mossy Oak: Break-Up Country, Obsession and Shadow Grass Blades.

For the 500 FLEX Series barrels there are four different types of finish: Blued, Marinecoat, Matte-Blued and Tan.

Takedown Screw

a picture of a shotgun with takedown screw encircled

All Mossberg 500 configurations have a barrel-captive takedown screw threaded to the end cap of the magazine tube. This locks the barrel and the magazine together.

To remove the barrel, the screw can simply be loosened by hand — as it’s loosened, the barrel slides slowly away from the magazine tube. When it’s completely loose, the slide/fore-end can be pushed, and with a little twist and a pull, the barrel will come off.

Because of how easy it is to switch between different barrel lengths, it’s possible for the owner to have an all-in-one shotgun configured in many different barrel lengths using only one receiver.

Choke Options

a picture of different shotgun chokes

Those new to shotguns might have never heard of the word “choke” used in any firearms-related context before. A choke is a metal constriction in the muzzle used to control the pattern of the shot spread.

A tighter choke allows for a tighter shot pattern which is great for hunting when accuracy in long-range shots is called for, while a wider choke would be great for close quarters combat (CQB) when lining up sights comes as an afterthought (especially in high-stress situations when people tend to just point and shoot).

Chokes can be either fully integrated or attachable and in general can be categorized into four main types: a cylinder choke (has no restriction), an improved cylinder (IC) choke (gives a bit of restriction), a modified choke (gives moderate constriction) and a full choke (gives the maximum constriction for distances of 40 yards and more).

For the Tactical series, except for the HS410 Home Security configuration (Item #50359) which utilizes a spreader choke (a.k.a. diffusion choke — which opens up the shot spread over shorter distances more than conventional barrels do), all barrel configurations have a cylinder bore with a fixed choke which does not allow for replacement choke tubes. Since the Tactical series is marketed towards buyers looking for a home defense piece, chokes won’t be useful.

For the Hunting and FLEX series of shotguns, there are a ton of choke and rifling options for all imaginable hunting scenarios:

  • ACCU-Set, Mossberg’s proprietary choke system, comes as a set of different types of chokes for different types of game (deer, turkey, waterfowl, etc). Of the 30 different Mossberg 500 Hunting configurations, 15 come with the ACCU-set (Items #52282, #54183, #54243, #54264, #54282, #54169, #50120, #50136, #56420, #56436, #50126, #59810, #59821, #59814, #55128).
  • Five out of nine Mossberg 500 FLEX configurations also come with the same ACCU-set: two are for the Flex 500 All-purpose configurations (Items #50121, #50125), one for the Flex 500 Combo Waterfowl/Security (Item #55117) and the remaining two for the Flex 500 Hunting configurations (Items #50124 and #54316).
  • XX-Full, Mossberg’s proprietary full choke system, is mostly used for turkey. The traditional way of hunting turkey is with a shotgun, and since these birds are tough (they are relatively big and bulky), a head shot over distances of 40 yards or more is the only way to take them down. Five Mossberg 500 Hunting series shotguns for turkey come with XX-Full chokes (Items #53270 #59826 #54566 #55115 #55215).
  • X-Factor, Mossberg’s proprietary ported full choke system, works like most full chokes. The only difference is a supposedly lower muzzle rise, which allows for quicker target re-acquisition and faster follow-up shots, at the price of louder shots in ported chokes. Different people have different opinions on porting, some like it while others don’t (I personally don’t care too much about it). Three Mossberg 500 Hunting series shotguns for turkey come with X-Factor chokes (Items #53265, #54339, #52280), and the only FLEX 500 Hunting configuration (Item #54319) comes with it too.

Sights

Except for a few configurations, the majority of Mossberg 500s use either a bead or a twin-bead sight. Unlike rifles and handguns that come with front and rear iron sights and shoot one bullet at a time, shotguns don’t have to be aimed — the numerous little lead projectiles in a single shot will make sure the target will be hit anyway, so shotguns don’t really need sights.

a picture of shotgun bead sights

A few Mossberg 500 configurations come in a variety of different sights though, mostly for hunting (to help hunters place well-aimed slug shots to vital organs of the animal they’re hunting over longer distances), and for military/law enforcement use.

For these purposes, there are Tactical, Hunting and FLEX shotgun configurations that include rifle sights, fiber optic front/ghost ring rear, adjustable or fixed fiber optic sights, and scope mounts.

Magazine Capacity

Except for six Mossberg 500 Tactical Series configurations (Items #50567, #50577, #50579, #54300, #54301, #50589) that come with an 8-shot mag capacity out of the box, all factory Mossberg 500s come with a 6-shot mag.

Aftermarket magazine extension kits that convert a 6-shot to an 8-shot mag are available everywhere and can be easily installed.

a picture of a magazine extension kit

In some states, a few Mossberg 500s might have a restricting plug (a.k.a. limiting plug) inside the magazine, which greatly limits the capacity from a 6-shot or an 8-shot to a 3-shot mag. To gain maximum capacity, that plug must be removed.

The barrel has to be removed first to remove the magazine end cap, so the magazine’s front is exposed. Then load three shells (or five shells, in the case of 8-shot mags) to push out the plug. After reassembly, the user can load the maximum allowable number of shells in the mag tube.

If for some reason, you find that 8 shells in the mag are not enough, a company called Adaptive Tactical manufactures conversion kits for any Mossberg Maverick 88, 500 or 590 to accept 5-shot box mags and 10-shot drum mags. The kit is called Sidewinder Venom.

a picture of a guy holding a shotgun with the sidewinder venom drum mag

Beware though, these kits can cost around ~$250, which probably wouldn’t make much sense if you bought your Mossberg 500 used for around the same price.

Fore-end

a mossberg 500 tri-rail fore-end

All Mossberg 500s come with a standard threaded tube nut which holds a standard shotgun fore-end. To change the fore-end to any type of aftermarket fore-end the user may want, the barrel, trigger group and bolt carrier have to be removed. A step-by-step guide can be viewed on this video.

The only configuration that comes with a fore-end that has a pistol grip is the 500 Tactical HS410 Home Security model (Item #50359).

Mossberg also offers a 500 Tactical Tri-Rail Fore-end configuration which, as the name suggests, already has a fore-end with rails on three sides for a number of attachment options, e.g. pistol grip, flashlight, or laser.

Receiver

All Mossberg 500 have the same anodized aluminum receiver. The bolt carrier is made of steel, which locks into the steel extension of the barrel. The trigger group housing is made of polymer. They’re made this way to reduce weight.

a picture of mossberg safety turned off

The safety tab is located on top of the receiver instead of on the trigger guard, which makes it intuitive, ergonomic, easily accessible and ambidextrous — left-hand shooters will appreciate the position of the safety.

It can be operated by the thumb — pulling it rearward will put it in the safe position, and pushing it forward puts the gun in ready mode (a red dot under the safety tab shows which means the shotgun can be fired with the pull of the trigger).

a picture of a shoten extended slide release

The slide release (a.k.a. action release) is located on the left underside of the action, just beside the trigger, and can also be operated with the user’s thumb. This makes it easy to operate, but the problem is it can be difficult for users to access it if a pistol-style grip is installed instead of the traditional shotgun stock.

The only fix for this is to either bolt on a traditional shotgun stock, or install an extended slide release lever from Shoten Arms.

In addition, all Mossberg 500 Tactical receivers are drilled and tapped from the factory, which allows for easy installation of aftermarket rails for mounting several different types of optics, scopes or reflex sights. Some of the 500 Hunting receivers already have a rail installed on top of the receiver. The Flex 500 Combo Deer/Security (Item #55131) already has a rail installed on the receiver as well.

a picture of a shotgun receiver drilled and tapped

The 500 Tactical Series receivers are available in three types of finish: Blued, Marinecoat (Mossberg’s proprietary weatherproof finish), and Matte-Blued.

The 500 Hunter Series receivers are available in three different types of blued finish: Blued, Matte-Blued and High Polish Blue; and three more types of finish, all under Mossberg’s proprietary camo design for hunting called Mossy Oak: Break-Up Country, Obsession and Shadow Grass Blades.

The 500 FLEX Series receivers are available in four different types of finish: Blued, Marinecoat, Matte-Blued and Tan.

Stock

There are literally a ton of stock options for all Mossberg 500s.

Mossberg 500 Tactical configurations all have synthetic black stock. Some have an optional Pistol Grip option: Items #59817, #59824, #50273, #50411, #50452 and #50579.

However, there are five 500 Tactical configurations that come with a more advanced 6-position adjustable synthetic black stock with pistol grip, Items #54301, #50589, #50420, #51523 and #50589, the last three of which have a side saddle with room for five spare shells. These adjustable black stocks work pretty much like an M4 stock, so for users who are accustomed to shooting M4s, these might work better than other types of shotgun stocks.

On the 500 Hunting configurations’ side, most models have a wood stock with synthetic recoil pad, the most notable of which being the All Purpose Field – Classic configuration (Item #50126) having a high-gloss walnut stock. Some wood stocks have a dual-comb, i.e. two cheek pieces with different heights for the perfect cheek weld which helps the shooter align sights with ease and comfort.

As for the 500 Flex configurations, most have a synthetic stock, the most notable being that of the Combo Deer/Security (Item #55131) which is a 4-position adjustable dual-comb synthetic stock.

Length of trigger pull for all types of stocks varies in all models. For the Tactical series, the only two configurations with adjustable length of pull are those that come with the 6-position adjustable synthetic stock. Typical length of pull for all other Tactical stock configurations are 12.5 inches,  13 inches and 14.25 inches.

For the Hunting series, the majority of stock configurations have a 13.875-inch length of trigger pull, the only exception being one of the Turkey configurations (Item #54566) with a length of pull from that can be adjusted from 10.75 inches to 14.625 inches using its 6-position adjustable synthetic stock.

As for the FLEX series, the only stock configuration with an adjustable length of trigger pull is that of the Combo Deer/Security (Item #55131). All FLEX stocks are configured with a 14.25-inch length of trigger pull.

Bullpup Conversion

a picture of a mossberg 500 bullpup fully pimped out

For those who are really looking to turn their shotgun into an uber-awesome tacticool piece that is easier to maneuver, easier to store, easier to carry and easier to aim, conversion kits that transform a conventional shotgun to a bullpup shotgun is available. These conversion kits have all the assembly tools required, and the conversions are fully reversible.

A company called Bullpup Unlimited manufactures these conversion kits. Very little is known about the company, except that it was founded by a law enforcement veteran who retired right after establishing his bullpup conversion business.

Conversion kits for the Mossberg Maverick 88 (Mossberg’s entry-level series of shotguns), Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 are available. For Mossberg 500s, the conversion kit can only be used for shotguns with barrel lengths of at least 20 inches and 8-shot mag tubes.

a picture of traditional and bullpup shotgunsThis is a great concept, the only real downsides to it are the limitations on barrel/mag tube lengths, the considerably high additional cost (the kit itself sells for around $350), and that it makes the shotgun around 2 lbs. heavier once converted.

If you happen to have bought a bullpup conversion kit for your Mossberg 500 and you need help with the conversion process, you can watch this video.

Pricing

Perhaps one of the best things about Mossberg 500s is their price.

These shotguns can be bought used for as low as $200, mostly in the ~$250 to ~$300 range. The higher-end FLEX combo configurations (i.e. those that come with two different barrel lengths/types) can be had for around ~$600 brand spanking new.

Note: Please be aware that pricing varies from time to time and from one merchant/gun dealer to another. Mossberg doesn’t have pricing info listed on their website, so we can only assume that these shotguns’ pricing at the time of this article’s writing will be up to date for just a few months. But I personally have a feeling that shotgun prices won’t see any drastic changes in the foreseeable future due to the following reasons:

  • Mossberg is one of the largest shotgun manufacturers in the US. They have the machinery and the manpower necessary to manufacture thousands of these shotguns every year.
  • There’s a whole plethora of competition for Mossberg, from their greatest rival Remington, to other firearms manufacturers like Benelli, Winchester, Weatherby, Stoeger, etc. Competition keeps quality up while driving prices down.

If you’re shopping around for shotguns and you don’t care too much about brands, you might want to check out our list of some of the best shotguns here.


Conclusion

The Mossberg 500 shotguns are rugged, reliable and easy to work with. With a simple barrel and mag tube swap, any Mossberg 500 can be a great multi-purpose shotgun platform for any possible scenario that requires lead shots and sabot slugs.

And if those reasons aren’t enough for you to buy one, shop around. These shotguns are cheap, and shotgun ammo can be even cheaper.

Whether you’re in the market for a good home defense shotgun, a great hunting rig for turkey/deer/waterfowl, a fully-pimped tacticool piece, an IDPA 3-Gun Competition setup, or all of the above, Mossberg has you covered with their 500 Series.

A firearms and ballistics enthusiast and an outdoorsman, Mike is one of Gun News Daily's best contributing authors. He's a researcher, data analyst and writer by trade and strongly adheres to conservatism—a stalwart of the right to keep and bear arms.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Mike,
    Thank you for your incredibly loaded review. This amount of information is usually not available in standard reviews. I was converted from Ithaca 37’s and the semi as well. But then in the US Army I got my hands on Mossberg 500 series. I was the Battalion Armorer…Twin slides, Twin extractors, Ejectors (user serviceable), yes and an Aluminum Receiver. The action is steel locking into steel and an ingenious placement and intuitive function of the safety. All in all I didn’t get many back for service, under extreme conditions they shine. I not only would trust my life to the reliable, powerful function of the Mossberg, but I would trust your life to the same. My only suggestion to Mossberg is to reconfigure the the Cartridge Stop, Studded, on the Elevator Assembly,. At least make its’ position drop proof. we get knocked down a lot and “take cover”, battlefield survival demands that we get thrown around and sometimes throw ourselves while hanging on tho our weapons. Great review.

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