Cover Photo: Mossberg 590 with a 20-inch barrel. Source: Wikimedia
Brand loyalty is a powerful thing, and this is an understatement of the ages.
We’ve all heard the “great battles” of our time; Mossberg vs. Remington, Pepsi vs. Coke, iPhone and Android users, Beatles vs. Stones, Chevy vs. Ford, and countless other dichotomies.
I can’t help but think about how our very own sense of individuality can affect how we purchase our necessities, but we’re not here to discuss the corrosive residue of modern consumerism’s firm grip.
As far as I can tell, people just seem to pick one brand and that’s the end of that. I could blame indecisiveness and option paralysis, but then again, brand loyalty can be truly crippling.
When pump-action shotguns are in question, we all know that the market is at the mercy of Remington and Mossberg, the two prominent manufacturers of shotguns. You’d expect responsible gun owners to just pick the path of pragmatism and buy a suitable shotgun, despite the brand.
Me? I’m a simple kind of man. I’d buy both a Remington and a Mossberg. They’re simply great shotguns and there’s no other way to know that unless you buy them both.
That being said, something tells me that most shotgun buyers usually purchase a Mossberg 500 as their main pump-action shotgun, but I might be wrong.
No disrespect to Remington, but today we’ll talk about a popular clash of Mossberg models, specifically between the Mossberg 500 and the Mossberg 590, and try to explain what the big deal is with these two.
At a Glance
In this comparison review, I’ll talk about their specifications, famous models, main differences, where they excel, where they flop, who they’re suited for best, and I’ll also mention some alternative shotguns that might catch your eye.
First off, let’s see their main specs:
|Specifications/Model||Mossberg 500||Mossberg 590|
|Capacity||5+1 (Home Defense model has 6+1)||8+1 (7+1 shot also available)|
|Barrel Length||28-inch (Home Defense and Tactical models have 18.5 inches)||20-inch|
|Length of Pull||13.9-inch||13.9-inch|
|Weight||7.5 pounds (Tactical and Home defense are 6.75lbs)||7.25|
|Trigger||Plastic||Polymer (590a1 model has a metal trigger)|
|Stock||Vented recoil pad; Wood||Tri-Rail forend|
|Sights||Dual bead||Bead Front, Drilled & Tapped For Scope Base (One model has Ghost Ring Sights)|
|Chokes||Accu-Set: IC, M, F||Fixed cylinder bore|
|Main Difference||The cost-effective option with a longer stock. Has slightly better handling and stability. Perfect for newcomers. Feeds well, and accepts all kinds of buckshot and slugs. A hunter’s favorite.||Has way more mobility and customization options that fulfill your tactical needs. Faster pumping and reloading time, best suited for close-quarters and home defense. A law enforcement standard.|
Both of the Mossberg shotguns are based on the blueprint of Carl Benson and have been on the market since the 60s.
Mossberg’s main concept for the 500 series was to make shotguns that were based on hammerless repeaters with a reliable receiver and action.
There are lots of models with variations in size, length, choke, capacity, and other features.
The particular similarity between the 500 and the 590 is the receiver and action, but the features vary by model.
Let’s check both before we discuss the differences.
Mossberg 500 Overview
If you have never touched a shotgun before, I strongly recommend the Mossberg 500.
An American standard, the Mossberg 500 Hunting is an all-purpose, lightweight 7.5-pound, 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with a 28-inch barrel that puts most competitor hunter rifles to shame.
It’s a perfect model for hunting turkey, deer, pheasant, or duck. The adjustable fiber optic sight, choke, and decent stock are the components that make it a standard hunting shotgun.
The barrel is really simple to modify. Simply unscrew the magazine knob, pull the action, and replace the barrel. I really like how smooth the steel trigger guard feels in contrast to the polymer cracking guards on other models.
Some Mossberg 500 models have a rust-resistant alloy receiver, but the dual extractor, steel bolt lockup, twin action bars, ambidextrous safety, decent length of pull (LOP), and vent ribbed barrel makes it one of the most versatile hunting rifles when it comes to reliability, smooth cycling, and ease of use.
The Mossberg 500 series is already a popular customization firearm, but if you’re looking for a customizable 500 option, the Mossberg 500 FLEX Hunting is definitely the way to go. A handful of models built for specific game hunting are available.
Then there’s the Mossberg 500 Tri-Rail Tactical if you’re looking for the law-enforcement feel on a home-defense shotgun. The rail system is made for all kinds of attachments and modification options. It’s practical, offers easy operation, and the racks are super smooth.
Mossberg 590 Overview
The Mossberg 590 is definitely heavier, but hey, it feels more stable. It’s a shotgun that’s definitely made for the joy of aftermarket customization. It can fit in anyone’s palm and anybody can shoulder it comfortably.
This pump-action tactical shotgun has models that are usually with 20-inch barrels, anti-jam elevators, and two action bars.
The action bars are solely responsible for reliability, while the barrel length, steel safeties, and steel trigger guard make for a great home defense shotgun that anybody can appreciate.
There are also variants that have Dole extractors in which the receiver is drilled and tapped for all kinds of optics, sights, and mounting rails, whereas the safeties feel pretty intuitive.
You can find a couple of tactical models like the Mossberg 590 Shockwave. I’d also like to mention the mag-fed version with a pistol grip or otherwise, the Mossberg 590M. The latter holds 11 shells for those of you who like to blast a lot.
The Mossberg 590a1
Before we continue, there’s also the Mossberg 590a1 variant, not to be confused with the 590.
It’s a MIL-SPEC certified improvement to the former model with a steel trigger, safeties, and a heat shield. A powerful, easy-to-operate tactical shotgun that’s been popularized by NATO forces.
The biggest difference between the 590 and 590a1 models is the barrel and magazine system as well as the different metal safeties, wall barrels, and trigger housing; the 590 has a plastic trigger housing.
The two similar models have a longer mag tube than the 500, only the 590a1 caters more to army standards with metal trigger and safeties.
If you’re looking for a more durable 590 model, go for the Mossberg 590a1.
The Main Differences Between the Mossberg 500 and Mossberg 590
The biggest differences between the two Mossberg pump-action shotguns revolve around hunting and tactical purposes.
Just so you know, I’ll be referring to both the 590 and the 590a1 as the same 590 for convenience, except where noted.
The 500 models have ambidextrous safeties, longer barrels, and less shell capacity because hunters usually need just 5 or 6 rounds.
The 590 and 590a1 shotgun barrels, on the other hand, are thicker than the 500 model. For example, an 18-inch barrel on the 590 or 590a1 shotguns has a .930-inch muzzle diameter, while the 500 measures around .855 in.
This may increase the overall weight of the 590a1, but it makes the barrel less likely to dent or get crooked after many years. Besides, you can install many more choke tubes and not have to worry about anything. Additionally, there’s an M9 bayonet lug for mounting, but I’m not much of a fan of those on this Mossberg 590a1.
The Mossberg 500 and 590 models are available with a matte black finish, and you can tell them apart by the bayonet lug and the magazine cap, among other things.
Magazine Tube Design
Another notable difference is that the 590 has a full-length magazine tube. It can hold 8 rounds when loaded with 2 ¾-inch shells and the chamber can fit a total of 9 shells.
When you load it in 3 inches, the mag holds seven. This may vary from model to model, but this is the main concept of the 590.
The 500 has a different tube design where the magazine is closed at the muzzle end and is held in place by a threaded hole at the end of the mag tube. On the 590, the muzzle end is open.
Both 500 and 590’s parts are easy to remove and clean; the nut, for instance, is easy to remove along with the magazine spring and followers.
Trigger and Safeties
The 590 has polymer trigger guards, a safety at the tang of the shotgun, and bayonet lugs. Some models of the 590 have a ghost ring sight, but the 500 doesn’t.
The Mossberg 500 has a plastic trigger and safety, while the 590a1 has a steel trigger/safety, making it a more durable and stable option. Furthermore, the 500 and 590’s polymer trigger guards are prone to annoying cracking. This might be a safety risk, but I wouldn’t worry much.
Both the 590a1 and 590 have a barrel lug that’s secured by a nut and it can slide over the magazine tube. This system is pretty similar to the Remington 870.
The 500 also has a threaded take-down screw assembly at the end of the closed mag tube.
This allows easy safety access without moving around much, and the trigger feels slightly heavy but crisp. Overall, there’s not much difference in trigger pull between the 590 and the 500.
The 500 model is used for hunting, skeet shooting, target practice, and competition shooting. The 28-inch barrel, lesser round capacity, woodstock, and the lower degree of choke adjustments say as much.
The 590 model is a law enforcement-influenced shotgun that’s built to be easily customized for tactical advantage and home defense purposes, as seen on the highly mobile Mossberg 590 Shockwave.
I’d like to mention that the Shockwave has been approved by the ATF, as of September 2021. It’s one of the rare tested, tried, and true models with a MIL-SPEC certificate and a Mil-S-3443E certificate.
Technically, you can still use both variants for whatever purpose, but it’s less practical to use the 590 for hunting. This is why it could be said that the Mossberg 500 is popular among hunters, while the Mossberg 590 is popular among the police.
Though both models are suited for security, law enforcement, and home defense, the 590 can withstand harsher conditions because it has a more durable build.
All thanks to the longer stock, the Mossberg 500 is able to withstand heavy recoil, though this may vary from model to model as well as the type of ammo you’d use.
The 590 has a felt recoil that kicks way more because it has a shorter stock and this also affects accuracy. That’s another point in the hunting column for the 500.
The Mossberg 500 is designed to run all kinds of shells.
It has no problem with 12-gauge and 20-gauge buckshot, birdshot, slugs, and the .410 bore.
It has less capacity than the 590 with 8 rounds, but best believe the internal tube magazine functions well and feeds well.
Speaking of ballistics, the Mossberg 500 can fire 12-gauge buckshot bullets with strong ballistic force and velocity of around 1,300 fps and slugs go around 1,500 fps. The Mossberg 590 buckshot clocks at around 1,200 fps, while the slug goes around 1,400 fps.
They’re pretty close, right?
The Mossberg 590 can fire the same shots and slugs, has the same internal tube mag, and the same magazine feed system, but the full load capacity is a total of 9 rounds, including the chambered one.
Additionally, remember that the Mossberg 590M mag-fed pump-action shotgun has a 10+1 ammo capacity.
I strongly recommend the triple aught Remington Express Magnums for the ultimate shooting experience.
What’s the Difference Between the Mossberg 500 and Mossberg 590?
The main difference between the two is that the Mossberg 500 has a longer stock and a shorter magazine tube that’s made for hunting purposes.
The Mossberg 590 and 590a1 have a shorter stock but the magazine tube is longer. Some models vary in round capacity. The Mossberg 590 and 590a1 models are built for customization, tactical, and law enforcement purposes while also being suitable for home defense.
On the other hand, the Mossberg 500 models and variations are for hunting and competition.
Are the Mossberg 500 and 590 Interchangeable?
The Mossberg 500 and 590 parts are not interchangeable.
The parts might offer the same functionality but the magazine tube sizes, triggers, and barrels vary from model to model.
However, the Mossberg 590 and 590a1 parts are interchangeable and the safeties fit most models.
Which Mossberg Model Is Best for Self-Defense?
For self-defense, it has to be the Mossberg 590 Shockwave. It’s literally made for close-quarters combat and home defense situations.
It has a very comfortable raptor grip, ambidextrous safeties, and it comes with a corn cob forend with a strap.
Which Mossberg Model Is Best for Hunting?
For hunting purposes, the Mossberg 500 Hunting pump-action shotgun is definitely the best-suited.
The 28-inch barrel, 5+1 round capacity, vented recoil pad, and unmatched reliability with birdshot and buckshot makes this a great rifle for hunting waterfowl, small game, elk, and buck.
Alternatives to the Mossberg(s)
Here are other great shotguns if you still can’t decide between the Mossberg 500 and the Mossberg 590.
Here are some reasons to buy the Remington 870 Express over the Mossberg 500 or the 590.
There are many Remington 870 models that offer all kinds of features for hunting, sporting, target practice, and self-defense/home defense like the 870 Tactical models or the one with Shockwave grips.
But, we’ll cover the ultimate hunter’s choice.
The Remington 870 Express is a 12-gauge, pump-action workhorse with a 29-inch barrel, 3-inch chamber, and a 4+1 round capacity. Standard stuff, right?
It has a high-quality steel receiver instead of the aluminum that Mossberg boasts, smooth twin action bars, and a hunter’s hardwood stock and fore-end.
Mossberg models might have superior ambidextrous safeties, but you can find twice as many aftermarket parts for the Remington 870, and this is a big plus for many.
You’ve probably heard about the Benelli M4 of John Wick fame. Well, here’s a tactical pump-action shotgun – the Benelli SuperNova.
A 12-gauge, 3.5-inch, 4+1 round capacity powerhouse built for home defense, it provides peace of mind when it comes to considering defensive shotguns. The Italian mechanism and construction offer excellent reliability for a decent price.
It has a Ghost ring and open-rifle sights, and a skeletal steel framework with the combined durability of high-tech polymer.
Check out our list of best semi-auto tactical shotguns if you’re looking for something with faster follow-up shots.
Here’s a standard semi-automatic rifle if you’re a hunter on a budget. This cost-effective semi-auto has impeccable mechanics and a solid construction not to be taken lightly.
It’s a great choice for waterfowl, turkey, and other small game. I can’t think of any other shotgun to compare to the Stoeger M3000’s mettle in this price range.
The Stoeger M3000 is an inertia-driven semi-auto that’s blueprinted on Benelli’s model of action. The receiver is drilled and tapped to accommodate any optics and scopes, especially Weaver-style scope bases.
It weighs 7.5 pounds, has a 4+1-round capacity, 28-inch barrel, and comes with three interchangeable chokes. A hunter’s standard with impeccable reliability for a decent price.
For more info on this little hunter’s number, check out our guide here.
To sum up, the Mossberg 500 is the cost-effective option with slightly better ballistics, user-friendly controls, and manageable recoil that’s best suited for hunters (the Hunter model) and newbies.
If you’re looking for a home-defense option that has lots of aftermarket possibilities, I’d suggest you go for the Mossberg 590. I’d also suggest you go for the mag-fed and reasonably-priced Mossberg 590M if you’re willing to try out a mag-fed one.
Both models have twin-action bars, dual extractors, and ambidextrous safeties that offer great handling and operation, and you can pick the models with shorter lengths or a pistol grip if you need something for home defense.
While Mossberg might not have a cult following as Remington does, the Connecticut-based manufacturer company has been at it for a hundred years now, and they’ve successfully made their pump-action models an absolute American standard.
Even if the model says “tactical” or “home-defense,” you really need to try it out first and shoot a couple of rounds before you decide you like the grip, recoil, safeties, and overall feel of the shotgun.
I’m positive both shotgun models will meet your standards either way.