While there may be a lot of discussion and choices on that first home defense gun, invariably the discussion will circle back around to the good old 12ga shotgun. A shotgun, is one of the most versatile weapons in your arsenal, and can serve both a variety of hunting uses, and an equal number of uses for home defense. When I was first looking for a home defense gun, it was not in my thought process that I might want to go hunting with it also. No, for me it was about stopping the bad guy at the doorstep, and whether it was bird shot, buck shot or magnum slug rounds, if you’re looking to stop a bad guy at the doorstep, a 12 gauge is the way to go.
Now any good hunter worth his weight in salt can tell you, that a tactical shotgun, and a hunting shotgun are 2 different animals, and they’d be right. But face it, we’re guys and we like to play with the toys when we get the chance. I went hunting for a pretty tough tactical 12 gauge and at the time I chose to go with a Mossberg 590A1. The 51660, which is a 20” barrel, with a 9 round capacity and bayonet lugs, parkerized finish and synthetic stock. Honestly, I didn’t even realize it had the bayonet lug till sometime later, and then quickly procured the appropriate OKC bayonet, just for good measure.
I did get a funny look or two at the company picnic, when I took it out for skeet shooting, and it’s a true story, they can eat my dirt, because I ate up clay pigeons with the 590A1 like no one else that day… and no one said two words to me about it afterwards!
But let’s throw a touch of reality on top of that. I happen to be totally fine as Tactical Pete, but not everyone is comfortable as being known as the community defense nut. In a city, camo sticks out like a sore thumb. Street clothes are the best camo you can have in an urban environment. Similarly, my 590A1 did not blend in with corporate skeet shooters. Again, there is nothing wrong with either one. But sometimes you’re “Crazy Tac Pete” in the surplus HumVee, and sometimes you’re Joe the accountant that lives across the street, that likes his lawn neatly manicured, has some good buddies that hang out at the hunting lodge, and like to drink homemade beer with some backstraps every November.
It has been my honor and privilege to take a lot of people to buy their first gun, and I have seen the look on their
faces when you hand them an AK or an AR. With some of them, like my buddy Steve, you hand them an AR, and you instantly see them with a Kevlar helmet, and they’re already blending into the gear on the camo rack. While with others, they look like they’ve seen a giant insect that is about to crush them with its mandibles. Smoke rises from where the sacrilegious metal touches bare skin, and the haunting look in their eye and sounds of screams, mixed with the haze of smoke and the smell of charred flesh, haunt your nightmares for years to come. That’s our friend “Regular Joe Smith, CPA”
Regular Joe, is a pretty smart guy. He is a little quiet, and never wants to stand out of the crowd too much, but the last riots had been a little too close to home, and he had a wife and son and teenage daughter to think about. With what’s been happening in the news, and the spotlight on what has been going on in Europe, Joe is starting to think that there would be no shame in erring on the side of caution here. Now, I’m sorry, but no matter how much of a good guy Joe is … he will never be Steve. When Joe asks me about getting a gun for the house, I am not seeing black semi-auto, tactical light and a red dot scope. No, Joe would have been mortified pulling out a 590 at the company picnic. He’s more of the guy looking to make some excuse about being a gun owner like, “It was my dad’s gun.” And he has to be able to say it with a straight face while wearing a sweater vest.
Owning a gun is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but let’s face it, some guys are just vegetarians, and the last time they wore flannel it was pajamas with feet. Fortunately, whether it was Steve or Joe, I would not eschew the value of the multi-purpose 12 gauge shotgun as their first choice, and we would be having a conversation about the same two manufacturers of fire-arm.
Both guns are absolute princes in what they do, so I would have a very hard time saying which one is better. It’s like one of those time old debates, Chevy vs Ford or Android vs. Apple. They will both get you to 10 … but one may be 2+2+1+5 and the other may be 3+3+4.
I have my own preference, and that’s just me. I’m Tactical Pete, and I like 5.11 pants and a black gun with bells and whistles.
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I bought a Mossberg 590A1, because that’s who I am. But as much as I love the 590A1, there are things I cannot do with it. In this particular case, we are talking about a first shotgun, and I love the fact that the 590 has a 9 shell capacity. But, when speaking to a friend of mine, and trying to answer some basic questions about the 500 vs. the 870. I can say the following. They are both superior choices, having been used by Military and Police for decades. Mossberg has made the statement that they are the only shotgun to pass the U.S. Army’s Mil-Spec 3443E test, “a brutal and unforgiving torture test with 3,000 rounds of full power 12 gauge buckshot”, but both guns are top notch choices for a 12ga pump action shotgun.
So flipping back through my mental inventory, one of the great things about both guns is that, as industry standards, there are a whole host of configurations and accessories you can get for them. One of them is that while the Mossberg 500 has a nice cylinder bore perfect for buckshot or rifled slugs, you CAN get a barrel with a choke for a 500, or an 870. As I said, we like playing with tools and toys. However … here is where I found out an interesting tidbit. The swappable barrels for the 500 are designed around the standard 5 round tube length … NOT the 8 round tube I have with the 590. ( Just future food for thought, and I still love my 590. ) They can also be both acquired with synthetic or wood furniture. So we have two guns that I can get to 10 with.
There are differences between the two, and you can feel some of them when you hold the gun in your hands. The Remington is a little heavier, and feels a little more solid. Shaking a Mossberg might give you a little more rattle than the same effort with a Remington, but I don’t need a Cadillac over a Charger. I’m reminded of the difference between my AK and my AR. The AK is loose, and built with a lot of tolerance for forgiveness. Does it rattle a little more when I shake it ? Yes, it does, but it also makes it a gun that can take a beating and still keeps on running. That’s a personal take on it.
The receiver of the Remington is a cut billet of steel. Steel is strong, heavy, and you can give it a nice blued finish to make it as rich looking as if it WAS in fact your grandfathers gun. This is part of what gives the Remington its solid feel, and some of its weight. The Mossberg receiver is Aluminum Alloy. Still very strong stuff, and just about everything else on the gun will fail before the receiver, it cannot be blued, so it will be black anodized or parkerized, or painted with a cerakote black or camo finish.
The Mossberg also uses a double extraction pin system for the 500’s, which is a bonus for reliability. But that in no way detracts from the single extractor in the Remington which has stood the test of nearly 70 years.
The Remington however has a feature that I find less than appealing, in that there is a shell elevator covers the loading well, and being spring loaded, needs to be pushed up to load a shell. On the Mossberg, when the breach is closed, the shell elevator retracts and the tube is wide open for loading. In a speed load scenario this requires extra caution and training to get a smooth loading action on the Remington.
There is also a different placement of the safety. The Mossberg has a thumb safety on the tang. It is, in my opinion, easier to get to and easier to see. The Remington Safety on the trigger guard may for some, be a little more difficult to get to, and since I can’t see it, I find myself coming off target to check the safety position. Making the Mossberg a little more convenient, to get to for both right and left handers.
The release button for the slide is forward of the trigger on the Remington, and from a safety perspective this forces your finger off the trigger to rack a round, ergonomically it is a stretch from Mossbergs slide release button just behind the trigger guard. It is easily operable by the middle finger of the shooting hand, so as to leave the trigger finger in ready position and the eye on target as you rack a round and slip the safety off.
Now for home defense one thing we do like in a shotgun, is a shorter barrel, so that it is more wieldy in a tight area. Another one of those nice selling points of a 12 gauge for self defense is that by using lighter shot, like #7 bird, will still stop an intruder close quarters, however will not readily pass through residential walls and endanger family or neighbors in adjacent rooms. So I personally love a 12 gauge as your first home defense gun. 12 Gauge ammo also comes in all kinds of specialty rounds from non lethal bean bags, to rubber bullets, to salt rounds, and I have even seen tazer rounds for a 12 gauge.
Lot’s of fun to be had with a 12ga, but in the case of Regular Joe Smith, CPA, I suggested a Mossberg combo field/defense gun with a switchable barrel. It comes with nice would finish furniture, and a 28” vented ribbed accu-choke field barrel and an 18.5 inch cylinder bore for home defense. A great versatile buy for your neighbor at a great price too. Something else I like about the Mossberg is it runs about $100 cheaper than an 870, and a fire arm, like a radio is something you’d rather have, even a less expensive model, than not have, because you needed to save money for the expensive one that you never seemed to have all the cash for. You can grab the Combo Field/Security 500 model for about $370 with both barrels, and now at least you are off to a start protecting the family, or bringing home some fresh game.