March 01, 2016
After emigrating from his native Sweden to the United States in 1886, Oliver Frederick Mossberg worked in a bicycle plant with another name familiar to gun lovers, Iver Johnson (who would later become famous for his revolver). Mossberg had two sons, Iver and Harold, and together they formed O. F. Mossberg & Sons in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1919. It is still a family affair, and Mossberg is still the largest family-owned firearms manufacturer in the America.
Today, the firm makes a diverse line of rifles and shotguns, even including modern sporting rifles as well as bolt-and lever-action big game centerfires. But shotguns have really been Mossberg's bread and butter for decades, and here we find pumps, over-unders, side-by-sides, and a plethora of semi-autos that collectively provide a specific model for just about any shooting sport.
The name "Mossberg" has always represented quality and value, and the Model 500 pump-action is a good example. And with more than 10 million M-500s made (and counting), you can't argue with success. It has proven to be one of the most versatile and reliable shotguns ever produced.
I can authoritatively address the reliability and durability of the M-500. On Aug. 3, 1982, I bought a 3-inch 12-gauge M-500 ATP, with a 20-inch cylinder bore barrel. In the intervening 33 years, it has served as the "house gun" in the corner by the front door, ready for anything. It has taken care of countless garden raiders, vineyard pests, marauding crows, and small game for the table. You name it, and this M-500 has probably killed it.
I call the ATP-8 my "zero maintenance" gun because it never gets cleaned. The barrel might have been snaked clean once or twice, but that's it. The hardwood stock has mildew on it, and the bluing has rust here and there. But it has never failed to fire nor has it malfunctioned in any way for over three decades. If it's loaded and you pull its trigger, it's gonna go "bang." That says a lot about the gun (if not its owner).
The M-500 is about as practical a gun as you can get. It is offered in at least 39 variations, and that doesn't include six two-barrel sets.
Of interest to us for this spring puppy issue of GUN DOG is the M-500 "All Purpose" in .410. Light, handy, and priced right, the M-500 .410 is just the ticket to introduce a youngster to the joys of shotgunning€¦and without getting their socks kicked off or breaking their piggybank.
The lithe little gun weighs in at a delightful 6¼ pounds, and balances nicely with its 24-inch, ventilated rib barrel, chambered for 3-inch shells. A white front and brass middle bead sights sit atop the rib. Unlike the other bore sizes in the M-500, the .410s have a fixed full choke.
An improved cylinder or even a modified choke might make it a bit better field gun, but it works fine as issued, and will teach a young hunter lead for sure. If the choke ever became an issue, a competent gunsmith could fix that in a jiffy. The magazine holds six 2¾-inch shells, and five of the 3-inchers.
The manual safety is mounted on the tang (lefties will appreciate this), and the action release is right where it should be at the left rear of the receiver. The receiver itself is lightweight and durable aluminum. This doesn't affect strength of the gun as the steel bolt locks up solidly in the steel barrel extension. If, unlike me, you actually decide to clean your M-500, it's a snap. The barrel is easily removed by unscrewing the knurled magazine cap, and the trigger group pops out by driving out one pin.
The nicely proportioned hardwood stock has a full-sized 14-inch length of pull, and (blessedly) a nice, squishy 1-inch recoil pad. There is functional machine-cut checkering on the pistol grip, and around the forend. A gold-plated trigger adds a classy touch to such an economical gun.
Purists decry the use of a .410 to teach kids the ways of shotgunning, but most, if not all, of us learned with one. (I shot my first quail with a single-shot .410. how about you?) Besides, modern-day 3-inch .410 ammo is very effective.
Fried Tree Rats
I enlisted my buddy Lane Compton to check out the Mossberg .410. Lane is slight for a 15-year-old, but took to the M-500. He pronounced it "cool" and "neat." Hey, that's a ringing endorsement from the target audience in my book. The recoil was light, and the little pump cycled shells through the action lickety-split.
OK, I admit it: I liked this Mossberg .410 pump, too. Squirrel season was on, and I hadn't had a mess of fried tree rat for quite a spell, so I grabbed a handful of 3-inch 6s and headed for the woods west of the house. It wasn't long before the curiosity of a fat bushytail got the better of him, and he peeked over a tall oak limb for a look. Big mistake. "Pow!" One shot from the M-500 and it was time to remember how to dress a squirrel. It was a fun hunt reminiscent of the simpler times of my youth. The fried squirrel wasn't bad, either.
If you have a youngster who wants to get into shooting, the Mossberg Model 500 in the light-kicking but still effective .410 bore is a viable alternative for a "first gun."
After he or she learns the ropes, you can always graduate to another M-500 in, say, 20-gauge. The familiar learning curve for safety and shooting will be a boon, and, if you talk nice to the youngster, he or she might let you borrow their Mossberg .410 for some retro fun of your own.
Manufacturer : O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc., mossberg.com
Action type: Pump-action repeater
Receiver: Aluminum alloy
Capacity: 6 rounds, plus 1 in chamber (2¾-inch shells)
Barrel length: 24 inches, ventilated rib
Choke: Fixed full choke
Overall length: 43¾ Inches
Weight: 6 pounds, 4 ounces
Trigger: Single stage (pull weight 5 pounds, 3 ounces)
Safety: Tang-mounted, non-automatic
Stock: Hardwood stock and forearm, cut checkering, with 7/8-inch black rubber recoil pad
Length of Pull: 14 inches