For decades, the Mossberg 590 has been a mainstay of home defense. Very little has been able to dethrone it from its cushy spot at the top of the pump-action hierarchy. Generations of homeowners, police officers, and soldiers have relied on it to thwart evil because it’s, well, reliable. However, they do have a Kryptonite, and the Mossberg 590s addresses it.
Introducing the Mossberg 590s
Dual-action bars and a rock-solid lockup ensure that as long as that pump can move, the 590 will run. No sand, nor dirt, nor ice stands a chance of seizing these bad boys up. And, aside from politicians, they only have one natural enemy: 1¾-inch shells.
Several adapters have been made to help guns like the 590 run these reduced-length shells, and many of them have been relatively reliable. “Relatively reliable” is okay for the range. However, imagine being handed something across a gun counter and hearing, “Yeah, most of the time, it works.”
Right, no bueno. Hell, the main reason folks buy a 590 is that they want something that will go bang when they need it to. Until now, the conventional shotgun owner had to make a choice: single-digit capacity or roll the dice on an adapter. What changed, you asked? The introduction of the 590s platform.
Capacity Pump Up
The 590s is Mossberg’s solution for those that want to run shorter shotgun shells. Specifically, those available from companies like Aguila and Federal. A gun stuffed with 1¾-inch shells will see more than a 60 percent increase in capacity without changing a thing.
Aside from more shots, you’ll also enjoy reduced recoil, reduced chance of overpenetration, and fewer errant pellets. All important considerations if you ever have you use a shotgun inside of the house. One can argue that they are quieter as well, but I think that’s irrelevant. Your ears are still going to be ringing either way.
Yes, Aguila Minishells and Federal Shortys offer a rainbow of advantages over its full-length ammo. But, when you try to run them through a standard pump action, they often slip through the rearmost portion of the elevator and create a nightmare of a jam. Most will deal with this through aggressive cycling and enjoy some success. At least until one flips a full 180 degrees inside of the receiver, again needing to be removed manually.
Mossberg solved this problem by modifying just the elevator and the bolt slide to better control the shorter shells’ movement. Likewise, it added a rubber bumper to the action that is held securely in place by a dove-tail style groove.
Best of all, you’re not limited to just these oft-hard-to-find shells. As being a 590 at its core, it can also handle 2¾-inch and 3-inch shells without any modifications. Yep, you read that right, stuff the tube with any combination of shells, and it’s gonna run.
The 590s Lineup
One of the things that I love about Mossberg is that they aren’t afraid to add a bunch of SKUs to their catalog when they come out with a new product. In reality, all the company really needed to offer was the 18.5-inch version of this revision. But, when you’re sitting on barrels and grips, you might as well make your fans happy and offer both a shorter and longer version as well.
The shortest 590s comes in the form of a 14-inch Shockwave. It makes a world of sense because these things are tough to tame with standard 12-gauge fodder. So, shooting one with the minis is gonna be a breeze.
The same holds for its higher capacity 18.5-inch brother. This also allows you to add a stock without going to Club Fed or paying for the tax stamp. Those that want a stock can grab the aforementioned 18.5-inch version with one attached right out of the box. And those looking for maximum capacity can shoulder up to the 20-inch version with its 13+1 round count. As you might imagine is the route I went.
Hands On the Mossberg 590s
I’m on record saying that guns are tools, and aesthetics shouldn’t have anything to do with your range day. I know I’ve said it and there’s not supposed to be anything pretty about an all-black, working-class shotgun. But that was not what my soul felt when first taking the 590s out of its box.
I know it’s gonna sound crazy, but I felt a bit of myself personified in this shotgun. I don’t know if it was its neat outward appearance or its stout yet rugged composition, but something was definitely there. Maybe it was the fact that it thumbs its nose at New York state’s firearms laws and operates under a technicality…. yeah, that’s probably it.
Meanwhile, my wife is reading this saying, “It’s because it’s cheap. Just like you, you fat bastard.”
Anyway, to put it plainly, I liked the way it looked and felt before even bringing it up to my shoulder.
My 590s was fitted with a bold front sight blade and a hula-hoop of a rear ghost ring built for rapid target acquisition. This scattergun also wore an MLOK-compatible forend to hang flashlights, lasers or a little pouch to store your man card. This is a sharp departure from old-school Picatinny rails and lets you keep the bulk to a minimum.
The 20-inch barrel is threaded for a choke, opening up the gateway for use outside of tactical affairs. However, it includes a cylinder choke already in place. No other chokes were included with the gun. But it’s a common enough pattern that you should be able to walk into any gun store and find something.
Slug Safe Out of the Box
On the bright side, the gun is “slug-safe” right out of the box so that’s where we started our testing. With the ammo market still recovering from those who stocked up in preparation for defending their toilet paper, the only slugs I had to test were the Aguila 1¾-inch, 7/8-ounce jobbies. But at 15 yards, they still faired pretty well with five-shot groups measuring as small as 3.78 inches.
My initial shots landed about seven inches left and a tad high. However, the fully adjustable rear sight made short work of that correction. I appreciated the large graduations in lieu of small precision clicks. After all, this is a shotgun—accuracy by volume is the motto.
With 14 total rounds between the tube and the chamber, I finished my slug eval by lighting up a full-sized steel IPSC for what seemed like forever. My follow-up shots were faster than I could have ever imagined. In addition, my shoulder wasn’t calling me a butthead after the experience either.
Switching it Up
A shotgun loaded with a double-digit count of slugs is cool. But, in reality, it’s just a low-capacity rifle at that point. This is why I was more excited to put my next rounds through the tube, Federal Shorty No. 4s. Good old No. 4 is always my recommendation for home defense—it’s certainly going to be lethal inside a room. Also, the odds of it blowing through the threat and into your kid’s room are going to be significantly reduced.
Before letting loose, I patterned these shells on the steel at a distance of seven yards. It printed tight 4.5-inch clusters, with each of the 15 pellets accounted for in the center mass of the target.
Remember, kids, flesh stops a shotgun pellet better than sheetrock. So, as attractive as a monstrous pattern seems, there is the downside of those off-target pellets causing unwarranted injury and/or property damage.
Banging away at steel and paper is fun, but my favorite part of this range day was making use of the odds-and-ends shotgun shells that have been lying around the house for years. I dumped the remains of close to a dozen different boxes of shells into a shopping bag. I then stirred in the rest of the Federal Shortys to put the “any shell” claim to the test on a recreational clay course.
In the mix, there were even a few 3-inch Hornady coyote loads. That made for a fun surprise every time one found its way into the chamber. For not being built to break clays, I smashed more than 70% of what went into the air that day. And the gun fed everything I put into it regardless of what came before and what was coming after it.
The Mossberg 590s might just be the most innovative design the company has come out with since the shockwave. This shotgun is going to blow open the market for miniature shells. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more manufacturers offering them as a result of this firearm.
I loved the heft and balance of the platform, and having 14 shells onboard without adding an exorbitant amount of weight is an absolute dream to the weekend shotgunner or the home defender.
Typically, I end a review with a few negative points that I would like to see improved. However, I genuinely didn’t have any gripe with the Mossberg 590s shotgun. That’s par for the course in situations like this, though. I mean all they did was take a great shotgun and make it even better.
For more information, please visit Mossberg.com.
Mossberg 590s Specs
Barrel: 20 inches
Overall Length: 41 inches
Weight: 7.25 pounds (empty)
Sights: Ghost Ring
Capacity: 8+1 (2¾”)
This article was originally published in the Personal Defense World February/March 2022 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.