Top rated pump action shotguns
Shotguns are one of the most versatile types of firearms you can own. They’re great for hunting, target practice, and even for home defense. The variety of loads (different types of ammo) is what makes shotguns so comprehensive. There are many shotguns in circulation at the moment, but the two that are almost always the most sought after in this market are the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500.
The Remington 870 is a tried and true shotgun that hit the market first in 1950. They are the best-selling shotgun in history, with over 11 million sold to this day. Of those 11 million, there have been 15 different variants of the Remington 870 made.
- Express – Matte blue/black bead-blasted with hardwood, laminated hardwood, or synthetic stocks and chambered for 2 3/4″ and 3″ 12 or 20 gauge shot shells. All Expresses have been chambered in 3″ in 12 and 20 gauge, but markings have varied.
- Express Tactical – Matte blue/black bead-blasted with a synthetic stock and chambered for 2 3/4″ and 3″ 12 gauge shot shells. The Express Tactical (stamped “Remington 870 Tactical”) has an 18.5 inches (470 mm) barrel and is offered with 4+1 or 6+1 magazine tube capacities.
- Mark 1 – adopted by the United States Marine Corps in the late 1960s and saw service into the 21st century. The Model 870 Mark 1 has a 21-inch (53 cm) barrel with an extended magazine increasing total capacity to 8 rounds, and was fitted with an adapter allowing the use of the standard M7 bayonet for the M16 rifle.
- MCS (Modular Combat Shotgun) – A new modular variant of the Model 870 which can be quickly modified with different barrels, magazine tubes, and stocks for different purposes, such as urban combat and door breaching.
- Police Magnum – The law enforcement version of the Model 870, the Police Magnum, is chambered in 12 gauge 3″ magnum. It can be ordered with two options: a blued or Parkerized steel finish. These models feature a sturdier sear spring, carrier latch spring, and a forged steel extractor (as opposed to the metal injection molded extractor used on the 870 Express variants). The receivers are stamped with the insignia “Remington 870 Police Magnum” beginning 2014. They are equipped with Police Magnum-specific walnut hardwood or polymer stocks which are fitted with sling mounts. The walnut stocks omit the checkering that is present on the Express/Wingmaster variants. 870 Police Magnum models come with matching walnut or polymer pumps that are decreased in length to prevent interference with most vehicle-mounted rack systems. The shortened pump also allows quick visual inspection of the internal magazine regardless of what position the pump is in, whereas the optional lengthened sport-type pump on other models partially blocks the loading port when it is pulled to the rear position. Police Magnum models are available with 18″ or 20″ barrels, with or without iron rifle sights, and have a standard magazine tube capacity of four rounds. They can be ordered with a two or three-round extended magazine tube from the factory, bringing total capacity to 7 (+1) shot shells (18″ barrel) or 8 (+1) shot shells (20″ barrel). All Police Magnum barrels come with an improved cylinder choke unless specially ordered to fit the user’s needs.
- Special Purpose Marine Magnum – Corrosion-resistant nickel-plating covering all internal and external metal parts with black synthetic furniture.
- Special Purpose Waterfowl – Matte, Parkerized finish on barrel and receiver, satin-finished American walnut stock and forearm with cut(not pressed)checkering, sling swivels, a camo sling were standard. It was a 3″ gun. This model is sometimes confused with the Express, but it was more closely related to the Wingmaster line, with a commensurate price tag.
- Super Mag – Chambered for 3½” 12 gauge shot shells and has a spring-loaded dust cover on the bolt to allow for a larger opening while keeping the receiver the same length.
- Wingmaster – Blued steel with high gloss or satin walnut stocks. They have been offered in Skeet, Trap, and field configurations. Originally the basic Wingmaster was chambered for 2 3/4″ rounds and came with a fixed choke, and the 3″ chambered versions were designated Magnum models. Models built after 1986 offer the RemChoke Interchangeable choke tube system, and the 12 and 20 gauge versions are chambered in 3″ for either 2 3/4″ or 3″ shells. Prior to the introduction of the “Police Magnum” model 870, altered Wingmasters were popular among law enforcement.
- Tac-14 – Black oxide receiver finish, with a synthetic stock. The Tac-14 is extremely compact by design, but retains the reliability and stopping power of previous models. It is chambered in 12 gauge, with a 14″ barrel and a capacity of 4+1. Owing to its unique design, the Tac-14 is not designated a shotgun, but a firearm. Since it comes from the factory without a stock, and its overall length being over 26″, it is not considered an NFA AOW (National Firearms Act Any Other Weapon). It is marketed and sold with a black synthetic Raptor “pistol grip” and Magpul M-LOK forend.
- Tac-14 DM – Tac-14, featuring an external box magazine rather than the internal tube magazine in other models. This allows for the size of the Tac-14, but a capacity of 6+1.
- Tac-14 Marine Magnum – Identical form and function as the standard Tac-14 but with the same nickel plating on all metal parts as the Special Purpose Marine Magnum.
- 870 DM – Matte Blue receiver finish with a synthetic stock. Differs from other 870 models with an external box magazine, similarly to the Tac-14 DM, allowing a capacity of 6+1.
- 200th Anniversary Edition – To celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Remington, two models were designed. One was a Wingmaster with some styling in the wood and a golden emblem on the bottom of the stock. The second was a limited edition Wingmaster that stopped production after 2016, with the same styling, but extended across the entirety of the stock and pump, and also extends to the receiver and barrel, with a golden ring on the end of the barrel. The emblem on the bottom is also a richer gold, possibly real gold, and there is a golden ribbon under the shell ejection reading “1816 Bicentennial 2016” along with a golden trigger, and a golden symbol of a hunter with a firearm in hand walking.
- Wilson Arms Executive Protection – Ultra short model. Sawed-off barrel, with pistol grip and vertical foregrip.
The popularity of the Remington 870 comes from its dependability and reliability because its receiver comes from a single block of solid steel. This is what creates the solid action and smooth shooting you get from an 870. It is also the only shotgun in the world that is made out of steel. Remington’s design is simple: it features a bottom-loading, side-ejecting receiver with a tubular magazine underneath the barrel like most common pump actions shotguns of the like.
One of the biggest advantages that the Remington 870 has over most other shotguns in the market is that the aftermarket support for parts is huge. Many companies like Magpul, Volquartsen, Wilson Combat, Timney, and Scalarworks to name a few, have all been making parts to upgrade and change the 870 that is more custom and tailored for the end-user.
Affordable price point
When it comes to popularity, the price point is a huge factor. The Remington 870 also checks the box there. As there are over 15 different models that have been made for the 870, it means that there is a wide range of shotguns for everyone’s budget. Most Remington 870s will go for anywhere between $480 MSRP on the lower end up to about $600 on average. They can go up to about $1200 MSRP for the Wingmasters but only because those are a fancier model of the 870 designed for competition shooting.
The mossberg 500
While the Remington 870 has dominated the affordable shotgun market and then some, the other popular variety is Mossberg. The Mossberg 500 is its most popular pump-action shotgun. Mossberg has been producing this model since 1961 which was mainly created for hunters, but it quickly became attractive to law enforcement and for self-defense due to its reliability and low cost. The Mossberg 500 name covers the entire family of Mossberg pump-action shotguns that are designed to shoot up to 3” magnum shells.
The Model 500 is available in many variants, for a wide variety of applications. The ease of changing barrels on the Model 500 means that a single shotgun may be equipped by the owner with a number of barrels, each for a different purpose. As sold, the Model 500 is generally classified into two broad categories: field models and special purpose models.
- Field models – Field models are the basic sporting models. They are available with an array of barrel lengths and finishes, and may be set up for waterfowl hunting, upland game hunting, turkey hunting, or shooting slugs. Most smoothbore models come with interchangeable choke tubes and vent rib barrels, while the slug models come with rifle sights or scope bases, and may have smooth cylinder bore or rifled barrels.
- Special purpose models – Mossberg 590A1 Tactical, 12 Ga, 6-shot, 18.5″ barrel, tactical light, and collapsible stock.
Special purpose models are intended for self-defense, police, or military use. The Model 590 and the eight-shot Model 500s are only sold as special-purpose models. Special purpose models have short barrels, either 18.5 inches (47 cm) for the six-shot models, or 20 inches (51 cm) for the eight- and nine-shot models, but the barrels are fully interchangeable with all models of the same magazine tube length and in the 500 families. Most models come with special designations like SPX, Tactical, Mariner, etc.
Special purpose models may be equipped with a variety of specialty parts which may include adjustable stock, “Speedfeed” stock that holds four additional rounds of ammunition, pistol grip, ghost ring and fiber optic sights, Picatinny rail, forearm band, heatshield, ported barrel, muzzle brake, and even a bayonet lug. All special purpose models come only in black trim with either blued, non-glare matte blue, or parkerized finishes and now come with drilled and tapped receivers for scope and optics mounting.
“Special Purpose” models are not the same as “Law Enforcement” models; the latter have heavier duty barrels, safeties, trigger guards, and will stand up to harder use.
- Law enforcement models – Model 500 Law enforcement combo with red-dot sight Mossberg shotguns currently designated “law enforcement models” are 590A1s. 590A1s differ from other 500/590 shotguns, in that they have heavy barrels, metal trigger guards, and metal safeties. 590A1s are available in 14-inch (36 cm), 18.5-inch (47 cm), and 20-inch (51 cm) barrels. The 590A1 is also used by the U.S. and allied armed forces, having been designed to meet the stricter standards outlined by the U.S. Army. Model 500s were also previously sold as law enforcement combos in 12 gauge with both 18.5-inch (47 cm) and 28-inch (71 cm) barrels, birch buttstock, pistol grip, and sling.
- Home security models – The model 500 HS410, or “Home Security” model, is available in .410 gauge only and is specifically designed for defensive use. It comes with a youth-sized stock, a vertical foregrip, and a special muzzle brake and spreader choke (to help produce wider patterns when using buckshot) on an 18.5-inch (47 cm) bead sight barrel. The .410 gauge round, while by far the least powerful common shotgun chambering, remains a formidable shotgun shell. A 90-grain slug generates energy close to (and in some manufacturer claims, exceeding) a .357 Magnum when fired from a full-length barrel. The HS410 is targeted at the novice user who desires a simple, easy-to-use, and effective defensive weapon. It is packaged with an introductory video covering use and safety, and some versions have a laser sight mounted in the foregrip.
The design of the Mossberg 500 series is very similar in design to the 870: Tube fed, bottom loading magazine with a pump-action made out of a cast aluminum receiver with stamped internals. It’s simple in design but just as effective as the Remington 870. Mossberg’s design on the 500 series ended up passing the Military’s MIL-Spec 3443 E test which required the gun to handle 3,000 rounds of 23-gauge buckshot, non-stop, without fail. Mossberg originally failed the test in 1970, but revamped the M500s to better match the Mil-Spec and overcome testing.
The main difference between the 500 series and the 590 series is in magazine tube design. The 500 series magazines are closed at the muzzle end, and the barrel is held in place by bolting into a threaded hole at the end of the magazine tube. Model 590 magazines are designed to be opened at the muzzle end, and the barrels fit around the magazine tube and are held on by a nut at the end. The 500 series magazine has the ability for easy barrel changes, as the barrel bolt serves no function other than holding the barrel in place. The 590 series magazine makes for replacing parts and cleaning easy, as removing the nut allows removal of the magazine spring and follower. Other differences across models included material changes in trigger guards, heavier barrels, and bayonet lugs for select military models as well.
Being one of the most popular pump-action shotguns, aftermarket support for the Mossberg 500 models has been pretty significant as well. Most companies who have been making parts for Remington shotguns also have been doing so for the Mossberg shotguns. You can find great parts available from Phase5, Magpul, Hogue, Streamlight, and more.
As the Mossberg 500 models have been in direct competition with the Remington 870, pricing has also been very competitive. Most high-end Mossberg 500s will be priced around $700 MSRP and the vast majority of those other models are in the neighborhood of $400-$600 making it a great contender for the price point. To make it even sweeter, Mossberg released the Maverick 88 which is almost identical to the 500s but has fewer features than you would get on the 500 or the 590s, making its price point a lot less than the standard Mossberg 500s. The Maverick 88 does still share interchangeable parts making it another great option for someone more budget-oriented.
The Final Verdict
Both of these shotguns are some of the top-rated pump-action shotguns on the market right now, but ultimately it will come down to you as the end-user to decide which model fits you best. Each company has great offerings for its various models and features but also differ from each other in their own ways. Let us know if you’re in the market for a shotgun and we can help you figure out which models and calibers would best suit you for your needs.
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