I recently decided it was high time to add a self-defense shotgun to my collection. I’d once owned an ancient break-action 10 gauge, but I’d barely so much as handled a pump action shotgun before. After researching on the all mighty Internet and advisement from a few friends, I settled on the Mossberg 590 as the best choice for my needs.
The home-defense shotgun debate generally boils down to Mossberg vs. Remington, and after handling a Remington I decided that I was more comfortable with the Mossberg’s controls — especially the tang-mounted safety.
Like everything else gun-related in these trying times, home-defense shotguns seem to be hard to track down of late, but I eventually found a Mossberg 590A1 with a six-position adjustable AR-style stock, “tactical tri-rail” fore end, and 20-inch barrel. The finish is utilitarian black Parkerized and the furniture synthetic. The gun was clearly built for the long haul. My first impression was that the 590A1 is a robust firearm. It differs from the standard 590 in that it has an aluminum safety and trigger guard, and a heavier barrel (thanks to the standards of the U.S. Navy).
The Mossberg 590A1 taking a stretch, all 41-inches of it. (Photo credit: J.P. Anderson)
All that extra metal means extra weight, and at an advertised 7.5 pounds, the 590A1 is heavier than I’d like if I was going to be carrying the shotgun for extended periods. But as its role in my collection is entirely for home-defense and fun-gunning, I appreciated the extra weight’s ability to help absorb some of the recoil, which in a gun chambered for 3-inch 12 gauge shells can be significant.
A few days after purchase I was able to take the Mossberg out to the local gravel pit and put a few boxes of mixed shells through it, including cheap target loads, 00 buck, and slugs from a variety of manufacturers, including several magnum loads. True to its reputation for reliability and ease of use, the Mossberg 590A1 did not disappoint.
Initially I’d been ambivalent about the adjustable stock, but after just a few shots I appreciated being able to adjust the length of pull. The other shooters, a 10- and an 11-year-old, appreciated it even more. The ability to accommodate a range of body sizes seems to me a very useful feature in a home-defense shotgun if there are many people who may possibly need to use it.
The tri-rail fore end, however, was less appealing. Though their usefulness in mounting a light or laser is obvious, the short side rails interfere with a shooter’s grip. It’s easy to see how the recoil could injure a thumb. Long story short, if you want to keep your thumbnail, watch how you grasp the pump around the side rails. Fortunately the rails are relatively simple to remove.
Of course, one of the advantages of choosing a popular brand such as Mossberg is the availability of parts and accessories. There are a dizzying array or Mossberg brand and after-market options to choose from.
The 590A1 points naturally and features a ghost ring rear sight and bright orange bladed front sight for fool-proof target acquisition. The receiver is tapped, so removing the ghost ring sight and adding a red dot or other optic is a simple enough task, should the spirit move you. As I’m a long standing member of the less-is-more tribe, I plan to keep the sights as-is, which is simple and effective. Speaking of aim, some may also dislike the angle of the adjustable stock in achieving a solid cheek weld, but I personally had no problems placing every shot exactly where I wanted it from typical self-defense distances.
Out of the box, the pump action was stiff for the first few dozen shots, but eventually it smoothed out. The fore end is also a bit wobbly, which I’m told is typical of Mossbergs and won’t affect the performance, but may irk more OCD shooters.
The Mossberg 590A1 is naturally tacticool. What you see is what you get: tri-rail, ghost ring sights and adjustable butt stock. (Photo credit: J.P. Anderson)
The only true quality issue I found with the 590A1 was that the sling mount worked free from the stock at some point during shooting. It would be a simple matter to reattach, but I’ve got my eye on a single point sling, and there are numerous adapters made that fit between the stock and receiver for just that purpose.
Once home, a Hoppe’s bore snake made short work of basic cleaning. The 590A1 must be disassembled for more thorough cleaning of course, and the manual is maddeningly unclear on how to do so, but there are myriad Youtube videos that explain the process in plain terms, and if you have any experience disassembling firearms, and a punch, the process shouldn’t stymie anyone.
The model I purchased, with the 20-inch barrel, holds nine rounds, which should serve almost anybody’s home-defense needs. The robust construction, shootability, and ease of maintenance all add up to a fantastic shotgun that I expect to enjoy for a lifetime. The getup will set you back about $695 dollars in today’s market, provided you can find one.