Mossberg 500 Review: Is it worth it?

by Ryan Cleckner

February 21, 2020



In today’s review of the Mossberg 500, we’ll be checking out the only pump action shotgun to earn the designation of Mil-Spec. We’ll look at specs for the 500 from Mossberg as well as providing some extra resources to help you decide if it’s right for you.

Mossberg 500 Specs

  • Operating System Pump Action
  • Caliber 12 or 20 Gauge
  • Sights Ghost ring
  • Barrel Length 14-30″
  • Overall Length 41″

Mossberg 500 Background

The Mossberg 500 is a pump action shotgun that was first introduced back in 1960! The 500 has sure been around a while… but not as long as the Remington 870 pump action shotgun for which the Mossberg 500 was introduced as competition. The Remington 870 was introduced 10 years earlier in 1950.

Both the 870 and the 500 have been American staples – they are both the leaders in pump action shotgun sales. Although the Remington 870 is known to be the most popular pump action shotgun with 3 million sold by the 1980s, Mossberg caught up in sales at a later date (although in a faster time from first being available for sale).

The Mossberg 500 isn’t a “copy” of the 870, but it was sure introduced to compete with it. At first, the Mossberg 500 had reliability issues with its original single action bar design but the 500 now has twin action bars as of the expiration of Remington’s patent on the design.

The Remington 870 is more refined but the Mossberg 500 is surely the work-horse of the two shotguns: the Mossberg 500 is the only one adopted by the military as a shotgun.

Mossberg 500 Features

1 Interchangeable Buttstock

Easily swap out the buttstock to other styles.

2 Optional Pistol Grip

Allows you to operate the Mossberg 500 in a more comfortable way.

3 Changeable Barrels

Allowing for easy customization of the Mossberg 500 pump action.

Mossberg 500 – Our Take

Full disclosure: I’ve always been a fan of the Remington 870. The 870 has always been a bit more refined and smoother to me. However, with Remington’s quickly deteriorating quality control, the Mossberg 500 might just be the choice for you!

Yes, I’m talking a lot about the Remington 870 in a Mossberg 500 review… that’s because it is difficult to address one without comparing it to the other. Their differences are the pros and cons of each.

It is fairly obvious that the Mossberg 500 is a bit more “clunky” than the Remington 870 and it has fewer options for upgrades. However, it is built like a tank and it just….well…works!

If you’re looking for a reliable pump action shotgun in a standard configuration, then the Mossberg 500 is for you. If you want something a bit more refined and are looking for more upgrades (especially an extended magazine or a pistol grip), then you might want to check out the Remington 870.

When you rack the action of a Mossberg 500, you’ll notice that it is a bit “clunky.” There’s clearly more moving parts in the action. Also, the Mossberg 500 is a bit sharper on the edges/less polished.

Don’t worry, though… the action of the Mossberg 500 will smoothen up a bit with use.

Differences of the Mossberg 500:

The Mossberg 500 has a unique shell lifter. This open bottom design allows the lifter to tuck up and around the bolt when the action is closed. This allows the easy loading of shells without pushing the lifter out of the way and it also allows the shooter to use new mini-shells with a small adapter. The adapter won’t fit in a Remington 870 because the lifter is solid.

The Mossberg 500 has its safety on the rear top of the receiver. This is a great place for the safety when using a standard shotgun stock. It is easy to access with your thumb and it makes it easy to see the condition of the shotgun. However, if you’re going to use a pistol grip, it is downright awkward to use.

The barrel is held in place with a barrel nut at the end of the magazine tube. This is a strong design but it prevents you from using an extended magazine tube. The capacity at which you buy your Mossberg 500 is the capacity it will stay.

The action release button is behind the trigger guard. This location makes it very easy to open the action to eject a live shell. Remington’s action release button is in front of the trigger guard and requires that you reposition your firing hand grip to access it.

Mossberg 500 Reliability:

Although slightly less refined, this shotgun works! It is beefy but that is part of why it is so reliable. Remington 870s have had numerous problems with simple operations like shell extraction or ejection… the Mossberg 500? It runs and runs and runs.

Also, the mini-shells we mention? They are super fun to use and are really only an option with the Mossberg 500 due to reliability issues with other pump action shotguns.

Mossberg 500 Pros and Cons

  • Good safety location with standard stock
  • Super reliable
  • Affordable
  • Convenient action release button
  • Can use mini-shells
  • A bit clunky (at first)
  • Less refined than other options
  • Can not extend magazine
  • Safety awkward with pistol grip stocks

Report Card


Runs and runs and runs.


As good as a shotgun can be


Aftermarket parts available, but a bit limited.


Great in standard configuration, awkward with pistol grips.


Incredible value and a GREAT choice for your first pump action shotgun


Our Grade


Reviewed by Ryan Cleckner

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Based on 32 Reviews

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The Mossberg 500 is one of those most reliable shotguns you’ll ever put your hands on. So, it’s only right that you help take care of it as much as it does you.

Although the Mossberg 500 is pretty close to perfect as is, there’s always room for some sweet customizations.

Best Stock Customizations for the Mossberg 500

One of the most customizable parts of the Mossberg is its buttstock. There are so many different options available. Whether it be a full-length stock or pistol grip, you’re sure to find one perfect for you.

Our Editor’s Choice for best stock on the Mossberg 500 is the Mesa Tactical LEO Telescoping Buttstock. If you’re looking to give your Mossberg 500 an extra tactical edge, this is the way to do it. It allows you to quickly and easily adjust the buttstock to any situation–with or without body armor. Not to mention, the ergonomically designed rubber grips to help you hold with stability and comfort. CHECK PRICE

If you’re looking to have a Mossberg Shockwave experience without actually purchasing the gun, opt for this grip instead. It’s a super easy install and allows you to have that tactical edge the Shockwave has–albeit a bigger barrel.


Best Lights for the Mossberg 500

In our opinion, the Mossberg 500 is one of the best choices available for a home defense weapon. And that’s why it’s imperative that you have a flashlight mounted securely to it. In high tension situations, you absolutely need to know what you’re shooting at.

This is by far one of the brightest things to happen for shotgun lights. The Streamlight TL Racker integrates a high powered flashlight directly into the forend of your Mossberg 500. It helps you to keep things streamlined and prohibit snags. This option takes your Mossberg 500 to a whole nother level. And that’s why it wins our Editor’s Choice award. CHECK PRICE

Other Shotguns of its Class to Check Out

When it comes to guns, there’s little more reliable than a pump action shotgun. And there’s even less out there that do it better than the Mossberg 500. But one option barely edges it out.

#1 Remington 870 Express Tactical Magpul

Remington 870 Express

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  • Reliability A
  • Accuracy A
  • Customization A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Value A+

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Based on 8 Reviews

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When putting together our list of best combat and tactical shotguns, it was so hard to determine which would top our list. It was either the Mossberg 500 or the Remington 870 Magpul Tactical Express. And unfortunately for the Mossberg, the Remington came out on top for us…READ MORE

#2 Kel Tec KSG

Kel Tec KSG

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The KSG is Kel Tec’s first foray into the shotgun market. In fact, the gun is so significant to the company that KSG simply stands for Kel Tec Shotgun

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability B
  • Ergonomics D
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

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Based on 47 Reviews

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If you’re a KelTec fan and looking for a pump action, this might be the choice for you. The KSG is a bullpup-style pump-action shotgun that’s lightweight and maneuverable. This could make a decent home defense gun as well–especially if your home has tight corridors or less room to navigate…READ MORE

How to Care for Your Mossberg 500

Learning how to properly clean your Mossberg 500 is almost like a rite of passage. A Mossberg pump action is often many gun owners’ first dive into caring for your gun. Let’s take a look at an easy to follow guide on actually cleaning your Mossberg 500 by Mrgunsngear.

If you’re looking for more information on the Mossberg 500, check out our list of recommended reading.


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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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