(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details – enter by December 26th!)
By Nicholas Oetken
When I buy a new gun, it has to fulfill a specific purpose that is not yet fulfilled by a gun I already own. This is purely for cost reasons since I’m not exactly made out of money; otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d have several, overflowing gun safes. Previously, the only shotgun I owned was an antique double barreled 12-gauge that I inherited, but it’s so beat up and rusty I’m still afraid to shoot it. I needed something reliable to be my home defense cannon and something else with a longer barrel for bird hunting and skeet shooting. So . . .
Rather than purchase two different shotguns to fulfill these roles, I elected to go with a one shotgun and two barrels. I admit part of this decision was based on cost, but a larger part of it was because I wanted a shotgun that would be as truly versatile and multi-purpose as I could ask for.
I’ve been skeet and trap shooting, bird hunting and blasting pumpkins apart for as long as I can remember. I’ve handled and fired nearly every kind of shotgun there is under the sun: pump actions, semi-autos, double barrels and breech loaders from several manufacturers. Based on these experiences, I knew I wanted a 12-gauge pump action, and something that was of good reputation with aftermarket parts and accessories widely available. As you may have guessed, things narrowed down to a Mossberg 500 and a Remington 870.
I agonized for a month, religiously on the lookout for sales in local sporting goods stores and online, patiently waiting for the right deal. Finally, one of the stores had a sale going on for a Mossberg 500 Field Combo, with an 18.5-inch and a 28-inch vented rib barrel, for a price I simply couldn’t pass up. It was a good thing I got it when I did, since I was told by the manager behind the counter that I’d picked up the last one in stock.
I’m not here to start another fight in the undying Mossberg vs. Remington war. I’ve had many opportunities to shoot and familiarize myself with the two pieces of Americana throughout my life, and I respect them both. But considering the immense popularity they both hold and the fact that my uncle privileged me with handling his own 870 Express next to my 500 this past fall, it’s going to be impossible for me to write a review without mentioning at least some of the differences between the two. Moving on….
Opening the Box
I took the Mossberg 500 Field Combo home in its factory cardboard box, which I honestly found to be rather cheap. Couldn’t Mossberg at least pack their guns with Styrofoam sheets or some form of padding? Regardless, I was quickly filled with joy when opening the box revealed the shotgun, both barrels, a safety lock, a magazine stopper (unfortunately it’s illegal to hunt with more than three shells loaded at a time in some states), and the manual.
The first thing I noticed pulling the 500 out of the box was how light it was. This gun weighs just over seven pounds, which immediately made me think about how it would handle on the range. I was already eying the rubber recoil pad at the butt of the gun, figuring I’d appreciate it when the time came to shoot the next day.
Typical of most Mossbergs, this 500 has an aluminum alloy receiver, contrasting heavily with the steel of an 870. This is the area where many Mossy and Remmy fans draw the line. Both hold their share of pros and cons; while the alloy frame supposedly isn’t as durable, but more resistant to rust, the steel is supposed to be more durable, but more prone to rusting.
Even though all 500s have interchangeable barrels, given they have the same magazine capacity, without this kit I would have had to buy one of the barrels separate. By going with the Field Combo, I basically got a barrel for free. That said, both of the barrels have a smooth, blued finish. The vented rib barrel in particular is double beaded and choked, which for me is a must with any shotgun I’m going to be using for hunting and clay shooting.
A notable feature of this 500 is something that not all 500’s come equipped with: a silver trigger made out of a stainless protection that Mossberg calls marinecoat. Mossberg makes a 500/590 variant called the Mariner where nearly everything on the outside except the pump, trigger guard and stock is made out of this material.
One reason I ended up choosing the Mossberg 500 is because I’ve always preferred the location of the operator controls over the 870. I know, I know, a lot of people are going to tell me the 870 or whatever else is better, but I respect everyone’s gun preferences and hope they’ll respect mine as well. To me, the controls on the 500 are right where I naturally want them to be.
The safety on the 500, being placed atop the rear of the receiver, is naturally ambidextrous. I don’t know about you, but I find this to be significantly more convenient than the trigger guard safeties you’ll find on the 870’s and other shotguns. When holding the gun with either hand, I can easily flick the safety on and off.
I also greatly appreciate how the slide release button on the 500 is placed to the rear of the trigger guard. This means I don’t have to extend my fingers as far to reach it, at least compared to the 870, where the slide release is placed on the front of the guard.
A general consensus I’ve seem form among people is that the action on the Mossy isn’t as smooth as the Remmy, and after comparing the 500 with my uncle’s 870 side-by-side to make a final opinion myself, I have to agree. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean the Mossberg’s action is bad at all. It feels tough enough and certainly makes that classic movie noise when you pump it; it just isn’t as smooth.
Switching the Barrels
Switching the barrels on the 500 Field Combo is incredibly straightforward, another plus I love about this shotgun. All you have to do is unscrew the magazine knob, and then pull the action down midway. The barrel will pull right off from the receiver with a slight twisting motion. Then, place the end of another barrel into the receiver, screw the knob into the magazine tube, and pump the action.
Since I’m talking about the barrel change, I might as well mention a huge difference between the 500 and the 590 in the design of the magazine tube. Whereas the tubes of the 500 are closed at the end of the muzzle, the 590 can be opened at the muzzle end. This means that it’s significantly easier to clean and replace parts with the 590, something I seriously wish the 500 had. I guess I can’t blame Mossberg, since the 590 and 590A1 are supposed to be a step up from the 500, but it’s still my least favorite feature of the Field Combo.
I gathered a variety of different kinds of Federal and Estate 12-gauge birdshot and headed out to the range. I admit I was a little nervous. Considering the lightweight of the 500, I was worried the recoil of the gun would kick hard into my shoulder. I fitted the 18.5 inch barrel on first. I leaned forward, pressed the rubber recoil pad tight to my shoulder, took a breath, and fired.
Surprisingly enough, the 500 handled very well. It wasn’t just the rubber pad that made the gun so great to shoot; the recoil was much more manageable than I had remembered with other 12-gauges I’ve fired in my lifetime. Even so, I still appreciate having the rubber pad at the butt of the gun. I racked another shell into the chamber and fired again. Next thing I knew I was firing faster than I could rack in new shells into the chamber.
I switched the barrels after the short one became hot, and resumed firing at a variety of targets. The 28 inch barrel gave me noticeably longer range than the 18 inch, and the double beads definitely aided in accuracy. Any clay pigeons that I had missed with the short barrel I more than made up for with the 28 inch.
The trigger on the 500 is crisp even if it requires a bit of extra pull, but it gets the job done. Besides, while I’m shooting a shotgun of any kind, the trigger is typically the last thing I think about.
Mossberg claims that only the Mossberg 500/590 series has passed the MilSpec 3443 Torture Test by the U.S Military. The examination assessed the reliability, interchangeability, drop tests, endurance, and quality of many different pump action shotguns. With Mossberg emerging as the winner of the pack, the 500/590 series was subsequently adopted by the military for several years. Currently, however, they are being phased out in favor of the M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System, which can be mounted under the barrel of an M4 carbine.
With that in mind, I’ve fired hundreds of rounds through the 500, and I only encountered one misfire. I’m assuming this was due to faulty ammo, since the firing pin had engaged the primer but the shell hadn’t fired. I ejected the shell, racked in a new one, and the Mossberg continued to fire as reliably as before. I’ve encountered no other jams or problems of any kind.
Applicability wise, you can use the Field Combo for just about anything a shotgun can be used for. Yes, you can use a short 18.5 inch barrel for hunting and clay shooting, and yes, you can use an extended 28 inch vented rib barrel for home defense if you needed to. But I love the versatility of having both barrels and the ease of switching them out. The Mossberg 500 Field Combo can fulfill all of the roles I can ever think of needing a shotgun for: home defense, trap and skeet, hunting, and most importantly, blasting pumpkins apart and branches off of trees.
It’s a Mossberg, it’s a pump action, it’s a 12 gauge, it comes with two barrels, and it goes boom. What more could I ask for? I was in the market for a shotgun or shotguns that I could have for both home defense and hunting/clay shooting, and I found it with the Mossberg 500 Field Combo.
Here’s the thing, you don’t have to be a Mossberg guy or gal if you want a field combo set. You can easily get a two barrel configuration from other shotgun manufacturers as well, for both pump actions and semi autos.
As for me, the Mossberg 500 Field Combo is versatile, lightweight, and reliable. It works and that’s what counts.
Barrels: 18 inch and 28 inch vented rib
Weight: 7 ¼ pounds
Receiver: Aluminum Alloy
Barrel Finish: Blued
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Ergonomics: * * * *
As far as shotguns go, the 500 is comfortable if not ground-breaking when it comes to ergonomics. Mossberg definitely had both right and left handed shooters in mind when they designed this shotgun back in 1960.
Controls: * * * * ½
I prefer the controls of the 500 over other pump shotguns I’ve used in my life. Everything is right where I naturally need them to be. The action isn’t quite as smooth as an 870, but that’s no issue for me.
Reliability: * * * * ½
Mossberg claims this is the only pump action shotgun to pass the army’s torture test, and I’m inclined to believe it based on my experiences with the gun. The one and only misfire I’ve ever had I’m sure is due to faulty ammo, but just in case, I’ll have to lower the score just a notch.
Accuracy: * * * * *
Well, this is a shotgun, so anything I am closely aiming at is practically going to get hit. The 28-inch barrel increases the range of this gun by a mile.
Customization: * * * * *
Over the years, Mossberg has invested much into the accessories and add-ons for the 500/590 series. Rail attachments, stocks, grips, lights, magazine tubes and barrels are everywhere.
Overall: * * * * ½
It’s going to be tough for me to find a pump action shotgun that can beat the quality and versatility of the Mossberg 500 Field Combo. I plan on putting this one to good use!