Shotguns come in a wide variety of bore sizes, ranging from 5.5 mm (.22 inch) bore up to 5 cm (2.0 in) bore, and in a range of firearm operating mechanisms, including breech loading, single-barreled, double or combination gun, pump-action, bolt-, and lever-action, semi-automatic, and even fully automatic variants (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotgun). We have come a long way from the simple “Thunder Pipe” to some pretty extravagant offerings.
Of course, the Federal Government just had to define exactly what a shotgun was so that we common folk would recognize one when we saw one. A fairly broad attempt to define a shotgun is made in the United States Code (18 USC 921), which defines the shotgun as “a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder, and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.” It is even more broadly defined in English law: “a smooth bore gun not being an air gun” (s.1(3)(a) Firearms Act 1968).
The shotgun has been used in war and peace and continues so today. Many sport shooters and hunters use the ubiquitous shotgun to take clay and game while military and law-enforcement as also seen its use over many years. The shotgun is an all around favorite for home and personal defense and the growth in the number of shotguns intended for that purpose are steadily on the rise with the 12-gauge shotgun being the most popular.
Of the types of shotguns (semi-automatic, single-shot, double-barrel, lever, bolt, etc.) the pump-action shotgun is the most relied upon shotgun and Mossberg has been among the leaders, but many have gone before any of the current leaders arrived.
The first pump action patent was issued to Alexander Bain of Britain in 1854. Since then it has been the Bain of our shotgun existence (sorry for the pun, I was just pumping myself up for the rest of the article).
The cycling time of a pump-action is quite short. The manual operation gives a pump-action the ability to cycle rounds of widely varying power that a gas or recoil operated firearm would fail to cycle, such as less-than-lethal rounds. The simplicity of the pump-action relative to a semi-automatic design also leads to improved durability and lower cost. It has also been noticed that the time taken to work the action allows the operator to identify and aim on a new target, avoiding a “spray and pray” usage.
An advantage of the pump-action over the bolt-action is its ease of use by both left- and right-handed users: like lever-actions, pump-actions are frequently recommended as ambidextrous in sporting guidebooks. However, most are not truly ambidextrous, as the spent casing is ejected out the right side of the receiver and the locating/direction of the safety button is not conducive to left-handed operation in most designs.
The Mossberg 500 line of shotguns has been popular ever since 1961 when it first arrived on the seen and is the top selling shotgun in the world followed only by Remington. Of the Mossberg 500 line, the 12-gauge is the most popular gauge for use by many – including home defenders. For home defense, the Model 500 and Model 590 in 12-gauge normally fill the bill. These Mossberg shotguns are not your granddaddy’s shotgun; they are specialty shotguns although many hunting shotguns have filled numerous rolls in defending one’s castle and one’ self. The shorter barrels and greater shell capacity set these specialty shot guns in a category all their own. With that said, there are many who cannot handle the noise, weight, and recoil of these shotguns, or just plain don’t want to for whatever reason. In these cases, there is a need for a small, but as effective (or as close as can be found) shotgun with relatively low recoil, less weight, and lower noise. The 20-gauge shotgun fits this bill exactly and is flaunted by experts as the next best shotgun if one cannot (or do not like to) handle the 12-gauge versions.
In the beginning, the 20-gauge shotgun was simply an imitator of its larger brother the 12-gauge and served for taking game of winged and four—footed variety. However, and due to demand from customers, the 20-gauge has also fallen in step with specialty shotguns of larger gauge. “Tactical” and “Security” are popular words to toss about these days and so “Tactical” shotguns in 20-gauge are readily available by Mossberg, Remington, and others in order to fill a market void. The Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is one of those shotguns. If you are not familiar with the Mossberg line of specialty shotguns in 20-gauge, perhaps I can help you out with that by showing you the basics and then discussing the particulars. While I don’t expect you to just run out and get one, it might be a shotgun to consider if you feel like that 12-gauge has taken enough toll on your shoulder and you need an excellent shotgun for home defense (HD) or personal defense (PD) purposes.
I used to carry a Mossberg 500 slide-action shotgun when I was working as a LEO in a lifetime past. I still have that shotgun, Boo-Boo as it’s called, and Boo-Boo has seen quite a few changes since its LEO days but is still a very effective shotgun. Due to some personal injuries and such, even Boo-Boo was getting harder to handle and I had to force myself toward something else. I was; however, a grown-up man and need a grown-up shotgun. I reluctantly tried my first 20-gauge, a Mossberg 500 “Security” model and have never looked back. Baa-Baa, as it is called, was called a “security” model since it had a black composite stock and forearm but other than that Baa-Baa acts like any other Mossberg 20-gauge shotgun. I have added a few things to make Baa-Baa more “practical tactical” like a; side-saddle shell holder, a butt-stock shell keeper, a fiber optic front sight, red/green dot optic, and a sling, but Baa-Baa is still a 5+1 shot pump-action shotgun anyway that you look at it. Since then, I have also availed myself of a couple of Remington 870 20-gauge models, but I have always liked the Mossberg for one reason that I’ll get into in a bit. So, let’s get on with it and see what the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is all about.
FIT, FINISH, AND OVERALL APPEARANCE:
The Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is nicely fitted together from lock, to stock, to barrel.
The overall finish is a matte-blued finish and is a departure from other models that have pretty nice and shiny bluing (like Baa-Baa, my Mossberg 500 20-gauge “Cruiser/Security” model). But, since this is a “tactical” shotgun, the non-reflective finish is desirable by most tactical types. With that said, the finish is not unlike that on my Remington 870 shotguns.
The overall appearance is that the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun looks like a long-barreled shotgun in which the normally smooth lines of a shotgun is interrupted with a tall front and rear sight. The synthetic furniture adds to the “tactical” look that is popular these days and contributes to the “Evil Black Gun” mindset that is also as popular these days with those who thinks that looks make a firearm more dangerous than not.
While most standard shotguns come with no rear sight and a bead front sight, the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun comes equipped with a fully-protected “ghost” rear sight that is adjustable for both windage and elevation. I have used the wide-aperture “ghost rear sight with my Mossberg 590A1, M1A, and others and it is my favorite sight for old eyes. Both the rear and front sight is set up like the sights on the 590A1 shotgun and is something that I am used to looking through. Lining up with that rear sight is a very well-defined, fiber optic front sight that just pulls your eye to it. Aiming is quite quick with this setup, and Martha, you do need to aim a shotgun at times.
In addition, the top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting an optic rail. You (I) would; however, have to remove the rear sight to do so.
The one thing that you might notice about the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is the 20-inch smooth bore barrel. Most “Tactical” shotguns these days normally come with an 18.5-inch barrel, which makes them so darn delightful to throw around in tight spaces. A 20-inch barrel is just as delightful and the extra 1.5 inches does not hurt a thing – especially when adding a foot or two of velocity to a 5/8-ounce Foster slug or some 3-inch magnum #2 or 2-3/4-inch #3 buck shot. You also don’t realize just how much an extra 1.5-inch adds to your sight picture and subsequent aim.
Within the receiver lies all of the magical innards that make things happen when chambering, firing, and ejecting a shell. Double lifts ensure proper lifting of a shell from the tube magazine and alignment for positive feeding of that shell into the chamber. A double-hook arrangement on the pump handle (see, THAT RATCHETY THINGY) pulls the bolt evenly into battery and release it just as well when the pump handle is returned to extract (with a dual extraction system) and positively eject the spent shell (or a loaded shell, for that matter, when manually unloading the shotgun by racking the action).
One of the many comments that I hear about the Mossberg shotgun is that it has an inferior aluminum receiver unlike a Remington that has a steel receiver. Balderdash! When the bolt locks up to the barrel it locks up on steel and the barrel is well seated within the receiver. I have never seen or heard of a Mossberg shotgun fail because of lock up. Yes, there are failures, but lock-up is not commonly one of them.
STOCK:The stock is one area that the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun falls short – literally. The length-of-pull (LOP) is 12-inches when shipped with the standard butt pad. A spacer and additional butt-pad, shipped with the shotgun, allows you to adjust the LOP out to 13-inches, which is the same as on the AK and many other long guns. And, as with many other long guns, a 13-inch LOP is too short for me. My answer to this is quick and decisive – a slip-on Limbsaver recoil pad that adds an additional 1-inch of length to the stock and accommodates my fourteen-inch MLOP (Minimum Length of Pull) requirement. In addition, I get a little more help with recoil management since I am “double-padding” the butt end. Some experimenting with these spacers can help you to set up the shotgun for your particulars needs.
The stock is of synthetic material and exhibits a fine textured grip area for the hand. The grip also has enough depth to it for pulling the shotgun into the shoulder tightly. I find myself placing my thumb (I’m a left-handed shooter) on the left side of the receiver near the safety, or sometimes resting it on top of the receiver closer to the safety switch as I am shooting and using the fingers of the shooting hand to pull the stock into my shoulder.
There is an appendage (for lack of a better term) on the bottom of the stock for mounting a sling swivel and a Blackhawk 1-inch swivel work quite well with it. I will eventually put a sling on the shotgun, but the sling type is yet to be determined.
SAFETIES:One of my favorite features of the Mossberg shotgun is that the safety is on top of the receiver, which makes it accessible by the thumb of either hand when shooting. There are exceptions to the top-mounted safety on Mossberg shotguns and is one of the reasons that I did not seek out a SA-20 International semi-automatic shotgun by Mossberg; the safety is just behind the trigger on the trigger guard.
Being a left-handed shooter, positioning the safety on or off can be awkward in a time of need. With the Mossberg top-mounted safety, the position of the safety dictates what you want the round to do; push forward to see one leave the barrel, or pull rearward to keep one in the chamber. It is pretty simple, really. I will say; however, that the rear safety is stiff to operate when new, but breaks in nicely and has enough detent to to hold it in either position.
The Action Lock Lever (also known as; bolt release or Slide release) is on the left side to the rear of the trigger and is a handy place to put it for the left-handed shooter as it keeps the trigger finger out of the trigger guard while the middle finger is unlocking the action if need be.
THAT RATCHETY THINGY:
Obviously, the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is a pump-action shotgun and the composite forearm is what makes the pumping occur.
The forearm surrounds a full-length loading tube that holds 7 rounds very nicely.
My major gripe with the forearm is the lack of textured gripping surface. The sides of the forearm are textured very smoothly with the bottom of the slide handle being somewhat more aggressively textured but not heavily so. While I have had no problems working the slide while wearing gloves, a working hand heavy with perspiration may find a very slippery surface to work with. With that said, it is easy enough to swap out the pump handle with one of my liking.
There is a lot of play in the forearm; in fact, one could say that it is very sloppy. But, it is good play and ensures positive operation of the pump handle and the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun does that quite well, thank you.
There is an end cap with a threaded hole for a sling swivel attachment (shipped with the shotgun) that allows you to remove the barrel from the gun. The feed tube and barrel are well supported together by a very finely-welded adapter at the muzzle end.
The trigger group is housed in a polymer trigger housing that is removable for maintenance and inspection with one pin. The trigger itself; however, is metal and don’t expect a trigger like a hunting rifle or a tuned 1911 pistol – or even an un-tuned 1911 trigger. The trigger is heavy (weighing in at almost the weight of the shotgun) and gritty when pulled slowly. With that said the trigger on a shotgun is meant to be snapped rearward and not squeezed. If you pull the trigger like a shotgun’s trigger is meant to be pulled, the trigger does just fine thank you; the break is crisp and positive.
But, weight! The Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun weighs only 6.75 pounds unloaded. With a 20-inch barrel, and 39” overall in length with standard butt pad (with the spacer, butt-pad, and the Limbsaver slip-on recoil pad, the length is 40 ½”), the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is a mighty easy shotgun to throw around or carry for an extended period of time while on perimeter watch.
To test out the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun, a Foster-based Remington 2-¾”, 5/8-ounce Slugger rifled ammunition was going to pass down the barrel. At a Muzzle Velocity of 1580 fps and a Muzzle Energy of 1513 ft. lbs we are talking about some .628 caliber business taking place.
From the muzzle, the Remington 20-gauge Slugger drops about 0.5-inch at 25 yards, and this is the limit of my indoor range. Now, let’s put that into perspective. For my intended use of this shotgun, 25 yards is more than adequate and I would suspect that 15 yards would be more realistic. Since I have adjustable sights on the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun, I checked zero at 15 yards with the Remington 20-gauge Slugger ammunition and then moved the target in to 10-yards for the rest of the session. With this ammunition, even a one-inch deviation from zero will have a definite impact on the target. Also with this ammunition, I can aim 2-inches high from CM to get a CM hit at 50 yards (assuming everything would be perfect, of course). At close range, the Remington Slugger is pretty devastating to a target – even a paper one. There was no need to adjust the rear sight.
With my particular set-up, felt recoil is negligible considering that I am actually running two recoil pads (for length of pull). The stock is such that simply laying my cheek against it lined up the front sight right in the center of the rear ghost ring. Due to the lack of recoil and muzzle jump (as compared to a short –barreled 12-gauge), getting back on target for subsequent shots is very quick, and that can be very useful when confronting a person (or persons) bent on performing negative engagements with society – especially against you or yours.
The looseness of the pump handle simply faded from my mind as I worked the slide and the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun functioned flawlessly with its dual lift gates and dual extraction system. Although I am right-handed, shooting the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun (or any shotgun, rifle, or carbine for that matter) weak-side has its advantages; while the weak hand only has to work the safety, bolt release, and trigger the strong hand works the pump handle and takes on the loading/reloading task – which I find easier to do with my strong hand (my working hand, so to speak).
THE FINISHING TOUCH:The 20-gauge shotgun is a viable alternative to the 12-gauge for HD or PD work. The Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is a light and maneuverable shotgun that can be easily brought to bear and can deliver some serious damage to one who thinks that a 20-gauge is a mere play toy. It is a positive performer with 3” Magnum or standard-length 2-3/4” slugs, 3” magnum #2, or 2-3/4” #3 Buck and is going to leave a mess when used.
Several experts, including Masad Ayoob, have endorsed the 20-gauge shotgun as the next best shotgun if one cannot handle the 12-gauge versions. Although the 20-gauge may not have the devastation of a 12-gauge, but it is pretty darn close with the right ammunition, the less trauma experienced when shooting the 20-gauge makes it a good choice for most shooters regardless of size. I know men that are much larger than I am and they wear by the 20-gauge; it is something that their spouses or children can also fire where they would rather be shot than operate a 12-gauge.
The Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun can be made to accommodate a wide range of shooters and their physical dimensions by experimenting with different stock spacing and butt-pad options.
When I was traveling to and from Atlanta, one of my 20-gauge shotguns was in the vehicle in case of a social encounter or as part of a Get Home tool. Whenever I travel out of town, a 20-gauge is with me, and there will be an adequate supply of slug and #3 Buck with it as well.
The MSRP on the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun is $490, but can be found for less. If the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot is not for you, Mossberg also makes several Tactical 6-shot versions and combinations that might work for you.
As far as accessories for this one; only a slip-on recoil pad and a good sling is necessary. I’ve burdened Baa-Baa with enough that I have learned to go as light as possible and the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot will be that.
The reality is that I was looking for a basic shotgun with a few more features than a standard shotgun comes with and the Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot 20-gauge shotgun fills those wants and desires.
Mossberg 500 Tactical 8-shot: http://www.mossberg.com/product/500-tactical-8-shot-54300/