Mossberg is one of the older names in American firearms, specifically in the arena of affordable American firearms. While other original stalwarts like H&R and Iver Johnson went by the wayside anywhere from years to decades ago to be nominally resurrected later, Mossberg’s been uninterrupted in its quest to provide Americans with modestly priced, reliable shotguns and, more recently, rifles.
Surprisingly enough though, Mossberg’s first firearm was a handgun: the Mossberg Brownie, a four-barreled Derringer of sorts chambered in .22 Long Rifle. It was marketed principally to trappers as a handy pistol with which to dispatch animals, and it experienced modest success during its production run from 1919 through 1932. Since then, however, Mossberg’s been strictly a longarm company, focusing for decades on shotguns of all sizes and charges and recently making large strides into the rifle end of the market as well.
Mossberg’s pump-action 500, 590 and Maverick lines of shotguns have long been go-to defensive, hunting and target-shooting options for millions of Americans.
Pistols, however, remained well outside of Mossy’s bailiwick. The closest the company had come to releasing a handgun was the phenomenally successful 590 Shockwave, a “pump-action firearm” with a birds-head grip and a shortened barrel that, through a literalist reading of the National Firearms Act of 1934, could be sold as a “non-shotgun firearm” since it was, technically, never designed to be fired from the shoulder.
But I’m getting away from myself here. In short, if you’ve ever heard anyone claim that he owned a Mossberg pistol, he either had himself a neat old piece of Americana or he had sent a shotgun off for some NFA work.
In November 2018, Mossberg brought 15 other gun writers and I out to the Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona, to put the MC1 through a rigorous assessment — combat courses, pure marksmanship drills, tactical and speed reloading, drawing from leather and Kydex, the works. Over four days, Mossberg proved to us that its new concealed-carry-oriented pistol is as top-notch as its shotguns.
“We’re always looking to give more gun for the money,” said Mossberg Senior Director of Marketing Rich Kirk. “[When the decision was made to make a pistol], we thought, ‘Why don’t we go back to our roots and combine everything we’ve learned over the last 100 years?’”
This is certainly the pattern any observant shooter would have noticed by now. Mossberg’s pump-action 500, 590 and Maverick lines of shotguns have long been go-to defensive, hunting and target-shooting options for millions of Americans. Mossberg holds numerous patents and pioneered multiple practices that a full generation of shooters take for granted, such as the inclusion of cable locks in all shotguns sold (1985), the bullpup shotgun (1986), the cantilever scope mount (1988), dual-comb stocks (1992) and bolt-action rifles that accept STANAG AR-pattern magazines (2014). It’s a company that’s always focused on innovation and economy and, as such, it stands to reason that any firearm Mossberg would release would be both practical and affordable — without sacrificing quality or reliability.
So What Is It?
I hate to go all country on you, but when someone asks what squirrel tastes like, some hunters are quick to declare that it “tastes like chicken.” This is, of course, incorrect; chicken tastes like chicken, and squirrel tastes like squirrel. Similarly, though the MC1 is a single-stack 9mm striker-fired pistol, it doesn’t really feel like anything but an MC1.
The pistol itself sits in the hand almost like a cross between a Bersa BP-9CC and a Smith & Wesson Shield, but it doesn’t really feel like either. Adding to the mix, the MC1 mirrors the grip angle and pointability of the 1911, which makes for a small, compact, easy-to-shoot unit. In short, this isn’t a knock-off of anything. This is a gun that Mossberg actually designed, and it feels like a Glock or a Shield about as much as a squirrel tastes like a chicken.
Most revolutionary though is the fact that this is a striker-fired pistol that requires neither a space-consuming takedown latch nor the trigger to be depressed for disassembly. Called the Mossberg “STS” (or “Safe Takedown System”), it entirely eliminates the uneasy feeling many gun owners get as they press the trigger on other designs for a field-stripping.
To disassemble the pistol, first lock the slide to the rear and remove the magazine. Then, depress the slide’s backplate with your thumb and pull down, removing it. Once the backplate is removed, you can easily slide the striker out of the striker channel and release the slide forward, which will allow it to slide free of the frame.
Of note is the fact that the trigger must be in the forward position for reassembly, but if one of your major criteria in handgun selection is NOT needing to press the trigger to break the gun down in the first place, that should hardly be an issue, should it?
Sight systems are one of the most difficult decisions to be made while designing a new handgun, and Mossberg chose a slyly unconventional direction. In an effort to afford the end user as high a quality a product as possible, the company decided to make the MC1 compatible with SIG sights rather than those designed for Glock pistols. This allows for both the front and rear units to be dovetailed (rather than screwed to the gun) and still affords the end user a cornucopia of options since SIG enjoys a large presence in the law enforcement, competition and self-defense markets. In short, you’re going to be able to put whatever kind of SIG 8/8 sights you want on this pistol.
From the factory, the 3-dot-style sight system was adequate for defensive use but bothered some of the assembled assessors to the point that they elected to black out the rear sight dots with a permanent marker. I shot both ways and didn’t experience much of a difference, but factory options above and beyond the polymer 3-dot sights include models that ship with TRUGLO Tritium Pro night sights or a Viridian E-Series red laser.
As much as I love the extremely aggressive texture on the first-generation Shield pistols, I will admit that it’s a tad much for many shooters, especially those who are currently enjoying their Golden Years. The hard truth of the matter is that human skin thins with age, and with those over 55 being an enormous chunk of the concealed carry market — and I don’t mean to put words into Mossberg’s mouth here — one of the major comfort factors in designing this pistol would likely have been, “Can we design a pistol that can be comfortably operated by people who aren’t 29-year-old combat veterans?” The grip texture is effective without being aggressive, and it stood out as one of the more enjoyable angles of the pistol to several of the other assessors.
The pistol ships with a pair of “clear-count” magazines: a flush-fit six-rounder and a seven-rounder with an extended baseplate. They are clear polymer and as strong as any other clear polymer mags I’ve used, meaning there was not a single complaint of misfeeding or breaking throughout the intense, 8,000-round test period. While some shooters look askance at clear polymer mags, let me tell you that they’re awfully nice while executing tactical reloads or assessing whether you’ve loaded your mags to proper capacity. I have a sinking feeling that the same people who would pooh-pooh a clear polymer magazine today are the same kind of people who thought a “plastic gun” seemed ridiculous in the 1980s. They’re both wrong … it’s just that only one group knows it yet.
Interestingly enough, one of the attendees, Jeremy Stafford (who you may remember from the USCCA’s “Polymer Palooza” shoot-out a few years back) ran half of the class with the included magazines from Mossberg and did the rest of his shooting with factory Glock 43 mags without issue. We weren’t explicitly told that the MC1 could run fine with 43s, but it would certainly seem to be the case. This is quite a boon for anyone who intends to carry this pistol, as you can order 43 magazines in both factory configurations and, from companies like ETS, seven-, nine- and 12-round variants. When it comes to carrying a spare magazine, I’ve always believed that bigger is better, and I see no reason to change my attitude here.
Mossberg is always concerned with saving its customers money and were well ahead of the curve in the “ship everything in a cardboard box without any additional case” game. While some snicker at the thought of receiving a gun in nothing but a cardboard box, I’ve never understood why other manufacturers do anything else. I know of no individuals who decide that the plastic clamshell boxes they get with pistols are exactly what they’d like to store those guns in for the rest of their time with them, and, as such, almost everyone I know almost universally stores and transports their pistols in aftermarket cases. Included in the shipped package are, of course, the attendant gun lock, instruction manual and various commercial blow-ins.
I shot several combat courses over several days with the MC1 and can say that it is more than accurate enough for normal use. In fact, I watched as Chris Cerino went five for six on a small steel “vitals” target at 100 yards. This wasn’t from a bench … this was standing, holding the MC1 in a two-handed firing grip and sending a shot about every two seconds. If he can hit five times and barely miss on a sixth with this pistol and Hornady Critical Duty 9mm +P, that means it’s accurate enough for your EDC.
15 other shooters and I sent a total of more than 8,000 rounds through 16 pistols with no malfunctions of the firearms themselves. The closest thing to a malfunction that any of us reported was the tendency for shooters with exceptionally large hands, such as Cerino and me, to occasionally depress our slide stops with our support-hand thumbs, resulting in the slides not locking back on an empty chamber.
In Mossberg’s case, a century of innovation and gun-making knowledge came together to forge a heck of a carry pistol.
Not to be outdone by my large hands, I managed to induce a malfunction on my last shot of the assessment when we were shooting from the retention position. Though I shoot from retention the way I was instructed to shoot many years ago, being “in Rome,” I was doing my best to shoot from retention “the Gunsite Way,” which involved keeping my wrist locked into my rib cage.
Though even the instructor admitted that my height and size made that technique more than a little awkward, I was determined to do what I always do, which is work through a class exactly as the instructor asks. While doing so, I induced a malfunction by not allowing the slide sufficient space to cycle rearward. This was, of course, the fault of the shooter for using an inappropriate technique rather than the fault of the firearm or its design.
New Gun, Old Name
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you decide that you’re going to step outside of your traditional milieu and break into another area of competition. In Mossberg’s case, a century of innovation and gun-making knowledge came together to forge a heck of a carry pistol. None of the caveats even apply. You can’t say, “Well, for a carry pistol, it’s decently accurate,” because champion-level shooters were able to ring steel with it at 100 yards shooting freehand. You can’t say, “Well, for a cheap gun, it’s decently comfortable,” because it is, in fact, more comfortable in the hand than plenty of its competition.
It’s pretty much got it all, and if polymer-frame single-stacks are your idea of a good time, I would encourage you to look into an MC1sc. It proved itself as well as any polymer single-stack 9mm I’ve ever handled, and once I realized it fit suspiciously well into a G43 Professional holster from N82 Tactical, I knew it would be spending a great deal of time with me.