Since the days of walking down quail in the desert south of Phoenix while a freshman at Arizona State University, I have been using the Remington 870 shotgun. It is an American classic and has served me well in the hunting, shooting and self-defense realms ever since. Not only is it a diverse workhorse, but it has also always been an affordable option for every hunter and homeowner.
I’m a fairly big believer in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” way of thinking. Because I was always happy with the 870, I wasn’t interested in buying any other pump-action shotgun. This all changed when we filmed Season 1 of NOIR. Mossberg was a great sponsor of the show, so we naturally had the opportunity to shoot many of the company’s guns, including their classic 500 series pump guns.
Mossberg is the big kid on the block when it comes to shotgun sales in the United States. The 500 is to Mossberg what the 870 is to Remington. Mossberg scored big when it received a number of military contracts for the 590 model. This shotgun’s quality, reliability and overall performance have been put to the real-world test in both Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade. The consumer market has taken notice.
My first meaningful personal exposure to the Mossberg pump guns came with the Magpul Series 590A1 that Colion and I used on the NOIR Challenge athletic shooting field. The first thing that I noticed about the gun was its light weight. This translated into being something that was very easy to handle in the dynamic way that tactical shotguns require.
In my basic way of thinking, there are two significant differences between the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 590 with regard to operation. One is the location of the safety. On the Remington, it is a button at the rear of the trigger guard. The Mossberg uses a sliding safety on the tang of the receiver. While I despise tang safeties on hunting rifles because of a very bad experience, I’m sold on the Mossberg safety. It’s smoother and more intuitive to operate than that of the 870.
The other big difference is the location of the action lock lever. The 870’s is located in front of the trigger guard while the 590’s is positioned to the rear of the guard. Again, to me the Mossberg’s lever location allows for more natural manipulation. When I reach for the 870’s lever, I feel like I’m doing something less efficient than the ideal. It has taken me some time to get used to the Mossberg system, but now that I’m there I do prefer it.
The first rounds I fed through the Magpul 590A1 were Federal Premium FliteControl 00 Buck. Now, it may very well be the FliteControl wad that accounted for the amazingly tight patterns of the nine pieces of shot at 30 yards, but I would have to suppose the gun had something to do with it. Regardless, the shot performance on paper set my new relationship with Mossberg pump guns off on the right foot to be sure. It was astounding stuff, the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
More recently, I have been shooting the 590A1 SPX. Its 20-inch barrel is two inches longer than the Magpul series that I had been shooting. It also holds nine shells instead of six. This gun’s performance with the same Federal 00 Buck was even better. I didn’t think it could have been possible, but it was.
The Magpul 590 shotgun seemed to fit me perfectly. I will, without any doubt, own one in the near future. I did recently buy the 590A1 SPX and am happy with the purchase. My two modifications will be the addition of a six-round sidesaddle and a shorter stock. The LOP on this gun is 13.875 inches, which is simply too long for my short T. Rex arms. I will always contend that a 13-inch LOP is most appropriate for a defensive shotgun because it allows for faster, smoother shouldering.
The choice between the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 590 would be a tough one for any gun owner. Ideally you would have a little of both in your collection. I do have to say, though, that the 590 will be headed out to the range with me more often than the others in the future. It’s a personal thing, but it just feels better for me in a few significant ways. Give both a try and see what you think. Having a pump-action shotgun for a home defense tool is most often the right course of action.
LaSorte has been shooting regularly since he was four years old and has grown into a competitive shooter, adventure hunter and NRA Certified Instructor. There is nothing he enjoys more than acquiring and sharing knowledge associated with shooting and self-defense. Empowering others, especially women, through an introduction to what he calls the “beautiful world” of shooting is his passion.