A look back at Mossberg, however, reveals a rich production history beginning in 1919, which actually includes even more “Mossberg” firearms produced as part of the company’s industrious private-label programs under names like Montgomery Ward/Western Field/Western Auto. Scouring used guns listings will turn up some long-out-of-production gems that remain not only useable and beautiful but growing in collectibility. Here are just a few of our most revered classic firearms from O.F. Mossberg & Sons.
Model 44 and 144
Mossberg built a reputation around practical and affordable firearms, especially when that came to the rimfire world. A few of those rimfires went from ordinary to exceptional. The bolt-action Model 44 and Model 144 fit that bill, having built a reputation as competition-quality target rimfires.
While the 44 and 144 are two separate models, they are related rimfires, and each has grown significantly in desirability and collector value over the years. Why? Each are well respected for their reliability and pinpoint accuracy when fractions of an inch count. Both models, at different times, found service as military training rifles. Some Model 44s can even be seen today marked “US Property.” Similarly, the most desirable Model 144s have been stamped with a “US” indicator.
Aperture sights were the norm, aiding in bullseye accuracy, as many of these models found their way from military use to civilian shooting clubs and marksmanship programs. They used pronounced pistol-grip-style hardwood stocks with heavier 26-inch barrels. The Model 144 was a competitor with its wider target forend, 10-round detachable magazine, clean trigger, and small-bore details. Once revered for its balance of budget and accuracy, these rimfire target rifles now command collector prices exceeding five bills, especially when U.S. marked.
Model 51 and 151
Mossberg built more rimfire rifles than one can shake a stick at, yet no two were quite alike. That’s certainly true when looking at the Model 51 and Model 151. The military Mannlicher-stock influence is clear in the beefy, oversized, full-length stock .22 LR rifles. A wide steel forward band actually joins two separate “stocks” and doubles as a sling-stud attachment while adding to the rifle’s unique looks.
Though a few were made with standard rifle stocks, the Mossberg’s Mannlicher design commands the most interest. Straight-grain walnut stocks show a pronounced pistol grip with many variants using a polymer finger-groove insert as part of the trigger guard. An internal magazine tube ensured adequate firepower for hunting and plinking. The Model 51 came first, followed by the improved Model 151 and its many variations built from the later 1940s through the 1950s. Like others on this list, once budget-friendly Mossbergs have been gaining significantly in both value and scarcity in clean, original condition.
Surely the most obscure of Mossberg’s offerings has to be the dandy little Brownie semi-automatic pistol. This rimfire pocket pistol, produced from 1920-1932 was advertised for a whopping five dollars. Though looking like a derringer, the Brownie was actually more like pepper-box handguns, featuring four barrels, a rotating firing pin, and double-action drive. A push-button latch at the upper rear opens the action. The barrels measure 2.5 inches with an overall gun length of only 4.5 inches, meaning it stashed easily in a coat pocket or hunting vest.
While few people other than obscure collectors will ever own or fire a Brownie, the design is further evidence of Oscar Mossberg’s design prowess. Though the company went many decades without a handgun coming off the factory lines, times have now changed. Shooters gravitating to the Mossberg pocket-pistol idea today can shift pistol gears to the modern MC series of 9mm handguns launched in 2019 and still gaining steam.
Mossberg 142 and 152
Why do we mention two completely different actions in one listing? That answer is a simple and instantly recognizable one for fans of Mossberg’s folding forend design. Both the bolt-action 142 and the semi-automatic 152 were .22 rimfire rifles that showed off what looks like an inline forend that actually folds down to become a vertical forward handgrip or, in some cases, a rudimentary monopod for bench or prone shooting.
The earliest versions used a wooden grip, with later and more common production guns wearing a molded black forend. This and other design features were a direct nod to respected weapons from WWII. Some used open iron sights, others used apertures, and many were scoped with Mossberg-branded optics. These models saw their greatest age from the late 1940s to mid-1950s, though they have become surprisingly collectible and harder to find as the years go by.
Mossberg 800 and 810
At a time when powerhouse companies like Remington, Winchester, Browning, and Weatherby dominated the bolt-action centerfire rifles in the hunting market, Mossberg was not to be ignored. The company debuted their Model 800 short action in both .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester. The rifle was known for its short throw, 60-degree bolt lift, and tang safety. The actual bolt design closely resembles that of Weatherby, with six beefy locking lugs, albeit in a different configuration. There were quality iron sights, walnut stocks, and distinctive checkering with several configurations available, including a Mannlicher and Deluxe option.
While the short-action chamberings were sharply limited, Mossberg did branch out to produce a long-action Model 810 in calibers like .30-06 Springfield and 7mm Remington Magnum, offering considerably more firepower to hunters pursuing larger game. Though attractive enough and plenty capable, its production lasted only a handful of years. While similarly named, the 810 used a differing opposing-lug bolt design and the option for a dropbox magazine. Long out of production, Mossberg’s 800 and 810 are still out there and claiming game with more than a hint of nostalgia. Modern hunters, however, would do well to jump over to the now-proven Patriot line.
Mossberg Bolt-Action Shotguns
Few bolt-action shotguns are produced today. But at one time they were common and often based on the German Gewehr Mauser rifle design, which had been converted to fire shotshells following WWI. When Oscar Mossberg designed his specific, bolt-driven shotguns, these scatterguns became practical and affordable tools of the hunt and the ranch.
Mossberg led the charge with the production of its bolt-action scatterguns starting in the early 1930s, with model variants including numbers 70, 75, 183, 185, 190, 385, 395, 585, 595, and 695. Production ended quietly in the early 2000s, but the heyday of those bolt shotguns spiked in the years directly following WWII and continued a solid run through the 1960s.
While many bolt-action shotguns seem to have lost their original detachable magazines over the decades, the guns endure. Many were factory fitted with twist-adjustable chokes. While we gravitate to either .410-bore or 16-gauge bolt scatterguns for something a little outside the mainstream, finding a perfectly serviceable 12 or 20 gauge is more common and affordable. These workaday bolt drivers have accounted for everything from small game to big, with plenty of vermin and even some home defense work along the way. Grabbing one of those old actions today comes with a good bit of design history, simplicity, and nostalgia.