A shotgun makes such a thoroughly awesome home-defense weapon. I learned the full truth of that statement during my first defensive-shotgun course. My love and respect for my Remington 870 and Mossberg 590 pump guns grew, but there were a couple of students using way cool tactical autoloaders . . . Although I tried not to let it show, I suffered from a bad case of scattergun envy. For years afterward I looked for a suitable self-defense semi-auto shotgun. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend roughly twice to three times what I’d paid for a good pump-action shotgun. Turns out I just was waiting for Mossberg to release the 930 SPX (for Special Purpose) Tactical shotgun . . .
The Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical has an aluminum receiver, a tactically sound 18.5-inch steel barrel, an extended magazine tube and a tough but lightweight synthetic stock. The gas-operated, semi-automatic shotgun is a direct descendant of the excellent Mossberg 930 hunting guns. The shared self-regulating gas system reduces recoil and eases stress on its components by venting whatever excess gas isn’t required to cycle the action.
The system uses two gas ports in the barrel to power a piston that surrounds the magazine tube under the barrel. The set-up gives the Mossberg a bit of a chunky forend (to accommodate the moving parts), but nothing that looks out of place. The 930 SPX functions smoothly and reliably without a gas seal ring. An added bonus: The 930 SPX also field strips without a lot of drama.
The 930 SPX is an ergonomic delight: surprisingly light, well-balanced and eminently maneuverable. The controls are well-placed. There’s a tang-mounted ambidextrous safety, a bolt release on the right side of the receiver (just beneath the ejection port), a charging handle on the right side of the action, and a cocking indicator just inside the front of the trigger guard. To unload the shotgun, push on the bolt release enough to release the shell carrier, push it up and depress the release completely to unload the next shell in the magazine. Repeat until the gun is empty.
According to factory specs, the trigger on the 930 SPX should break at precisely five pounds of pressure. It feels a lot lighter. Not exactly think-a-dirty-thought-and-it-goes-off lighter. More like what an novice shooter firing a tuned 1911 for the first time might encounter. With a bit of practice, the trigger becomes easy to manage, but you’ve been warned.
The 930 SPX’s adjustable LPA ghost-ring sights give the shooter a fast, precise sight picture, making it ideal for close quarters defensive work involving multiple targets at close range. Some shooters may opt to swap out the fiber-optic front sight for a tritium or red-dot front sight, but if you use a tactical flashlight, you’ll have all the ambient light you’ll need to both identify your target and to see your front sight clearly in low light conditions.
Some shotgun purists will turn their noses up at anything but a bead on the end of a shotgun barrel. But when you’re dealing with a tactical shotgun, a certain degree of precision is essential. This is especially true when bringing slugs into play. And the 930 SPX showed more than adequate accuracy when we put those slugs on paper at 40 yards shooting offhand.
When we tested it on paper with 00 buckshot, the Mossberg’s cylinder bore produced respectably tight patterns that kept all the pellets on the target at 15 yards, which would be considered a long shot in a home-defense situation. Look at the amount of holes made by just two rounds of Winchester 00 buck (one of them a magnum) and you’ll quickly understand why the tactical shotgun, often used by military and law enforcement, is considered such a formidable trump card in life-threatening encounters.
With either six or seven rounds of whoop-ass in the magazine (depending upon whether you’re using 2.75- or 3-inch shells) + 1 in the chamber, the 930 SPX is a highly effective problem solver from contact distance to the practical limits of the load you’re using. Sadly the 2.5-inch 12-gauge mini-loads just don’t provide enough oomph to cycle the action.
The best way to get a sense of the 930 SPX capability: Convert some money into noise with a few rapid-fire strings. The Mossie ate ‘em up and spat out the empties like a champ, even with a mix of high-brass hunting loads, low-brass target loads and some buckshot, birdshot and slugs mixed in. Even when taking the time to use aimed fire, it’s easy to put an impressive amount of lead downrange in a very short time.
I fired more than 400 rounds through this shotgun without complaint. The only caveat: Like most guns, there is a break-in period, and reliable cycling requires regular cleaning.
Lest you think that the SPX 930 is all business and no pleasure, general plinking and blasting are a great way to kill some time, and the ghost-ring sights are no handicap when it comes to smoking clay pigeons in flight.
From a recoil reduction standpoint, the Mossberg’s gas operating system works beautifully. As someone who grew up with pump guns, the autoloading 930 SPX’s recoil impulse was notable by its relative absence. With low brass target and hunting loads, it’s a positively gentle kicker. The 930 SPX doesn’t start to really thump the shooter until 3-inch mag buckshot or slugs come into play. Sorry, but there’s no getting around Newton’s third law of motion once you start slinging large chunks of lead.
When I first received the Mossberg, I discovered a tiny amount of play in the front of the Picatinny rail. Upon closer examination I discovered that two of the four screws that secure it to the top of the receiver were over-torqued at the factory and stripped out. It’s a common problem with some of the earlier 930 SPX tactical models, since corrected. My gunsmith tapped the forward two holes for slightly larger screws and then milled out a tiny bit of the rail to accommodate the bigger screws. A touch of blue Loc-Tite and the rail has been as solid as Mother Teresa’s credentials ever since.
My only other gripe with the 930 SPX: the lack of accommodation for a sling swivel loop on either the fore end or the magazine tube. The butt stock has an attachment for a sling swivel, but an aftermarket remedy like a Wilson Combat mag-tube plate is required for the forward sling mount.
There are better made, more accurate tactical shotguns than the Mossberg 930 SPX —for about twice the price. But the Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical is a safe choice and its own gun: a genuine ass-kicker whose lower recoil encourages regular practice. For $600, the 930 SPX is a home-defense shotgun that could save both your life and your money.
SPECIFICATIONS: Mossberg 930 SPX Tactical Shotgun (NRA 2009 Shotgun of the Year)
Caliber: 12 gauge (2.75 inch and 3 inch)
Barrel Length: 18.5-inch Cylinder bore
Barrel Finish: Matte blued
Sights: Fiber-optic front sight, ghost-ring rear sight
Finish: Matte black
Overall Length: 39 inches
Overall Weight: 7.5 lbs
LOP: 14 inches
Action: Gas-operated, semi-automatic
Capacity: 7+1 (with 2.75-inch shells) 6+1 (with 3-inch shells)
RATINGS (out of five)
STYLE * * * *
It’s a bit spartan, yet plenty intimidating for a defensive shotgun
ERGONOMICS * * * * *
It handles, points and shoots extremely well. Those sexy LPA sights are what really make this shotgun pop. (It’s also available as 930 Tactical – 8 Shot SPX – Pistol Grip for those who prefer such things.)
RELIABILITY * * * *
It it has fed and fired every ammo I’ve thrown at it with no malfunctions, but if you let it get dirty enough, it will have difficulty extracting and ejecting the empties. As you’d expect.
CUSTOMIZE THIS * * * * *
A sling and a flashlight are the only things missing. You could add optics, but why?
OVERALL RATING * * * *1/2
A terrific entry-level semi-automatic defensive shotgun for the price of a good pump.
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