If you’re looking at shotguns for home defense, there are really only two worth considering: Remington 870 and Mossberg 500. These giants in the field have a long history of good service. Both Remington and Mossberg offer shotguns in economy or upgraded tactical versions. And there are quite a few aftermarket parts for each. And though these shotguns are derived from a common ancestor — the Remington Model 31 — there are differences worth noting.
About the Mossberg 500
The Mossberg features an ergonomic safety. The safety is located at the tang of the receiver. This safety is right- or left-hand friendly. However, if the shooter adds a pistol grip, the safety becomes more difficult to manipulate. The Mossberg 500 features twin extractors. Each works independently, a true fail-safe. Mossberg’s 500 features an aluminum receiver. And though there are magazine extensions, this shotgun holds five shells as standard.
About the Remington 870
Remington utilizes a cross-bolt safety, located at the rear of the trigger guard. This shotgun has one extractor. It tends to be standard issue in police agencies, while the 500 is more likely to be seen in military use. Remington’s receiver is steel. The 870 is also heavier than the 500. While this helps with recoil, Mossberg is easier to carry. Remington’s shotgun holds four shells, but again magazine extensions are available.
Both shotguns have smooth operations that get smoother with use. Remington’s action bars attachment seems superior to the Mossberg, but neither has shown problems. Remington 870 feels tighter than the Mossberg 500, though it has still proven reliable. If you have more money for shells, firing either shotgun will smooth it. If you have more time than money, lubricate the and work the action a few hundred times to smooth operating parts.
The Mossberg lifter is tilted up when the shotgun is loaded, while the Remington is visible at all times. The Remington springs up to load the chamber and springs back down to cover the magazine tube. I would say the Mossberg is easier to top off the magazine quickly.
A short cycle, which occurs when the shooter fails to properly work the action completely to the rear, isn’t more likely with one or the other. Remington’s new shell carrier design features a cut that allows an object to be stuck into the feedway in order to clear a short cycle.
As far as maintenance and breakdown, there is no difference. Either barrel is easily changed. You may add a sporting barrel for bird hunting or a slug barrel. And neither shotgun has an advantage in pattern density. Each shoots like a typical open-cylinder defensive shotgun.
Which Home-Defense Shotgun Is for You?
The Remington has the smoother action, as the Mossberg seems to have a slight hitch at the beginning of movement. Additionally, the Mossberg forend isn’t as tight. However, the Mossberg is more easily loaded to keep in action and holds one more shell in standard models.
Sights and other accessories are equal in availability. Though there are trade-offs, the availability of the Mossberg and its more attractive price seems to tilt the scales in its favor. I think the reputation and performance of either shotgun is an illustration of just why there are only two competitors in this field.