The Mossberg 590A1 is the standard-issue pump shotgun of most of the United States Military. There is also the M1014, the Remington 870 MCS, and the M26. Even with all the competition, the Mossberg 500 series of shotguns is the most common.
There are three current Mossberg 500 series shotguns in use by the military. This includes the Mossberg 500 MILS, the 590A1, and now the modular 590A2.
The specific model we are reviewing today is the 590A1 nine-shot model, complete with bayonet lug, ghost ring sights, and a Speed Feed stock that holds four extra rounds. This shotgun has an 8+1 capacity, as well as a heavy-walled 20-inch barrel. The gun can handle both 2.75 and 3-inch shells. Its length is 41 inches, and weighs 7.25 pounds when unloaded. This is not a compact, lightweight, bird gun. It’s a fighting shotgun and is designed as such.
This model is designed less for home defense, and more for soldiering and police work. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be an excellent home defense weapon. Personally, for inside the home, I’d prefer something a little lighter and shorter, but that’s me.
One thing that makes this shotgun such a good fighting weapon is its sights. Those ghost ring sights give the gun a good degree of precision and allow you to milk extra yards out of your buckshot loads. Combine the sights with buckshot loads, like Federal FliteControl, and you’d be amazed at what a shotgun can do. It also gives you rifle-like precision with slugs and allows you to place precision shots at close to moderate ranges.
Speed is still important, and ghost rings aren’t necessarily as fast as a bead, but the 590A1 tries to rectify that by adding in a wide rear peep sight and a high visibility bright front sight. The bit of extra orange on the front sight makes it quick to get your eyes on and quick to get on target. Shotguns are designed for close quarters and in close quarters speed and power rule.
The 590A1 also has a heavy-walled barrel designed for durability. It will take a beating, and most marines and soldiers will give it one. The 590A1 also features a metal trigger group that adds to the weapon’s durability and strength versus Mossberg’s traditional polymer trigger group.
The Mossberg 590A1 also features a tang mounted safety that allows activation without changing your grip in any way. Simply push it up or down with your thumb. It’s ambidextrous, and easily the best safety ever placed on a shotgun. The pump release is placed behind the trigger and again is easy to reach for both righties and lefties.
This particular 590A1 stock is very long and has a 14.5-inch length of pull. That’s a crazy long stock and honestly trimming an inch off would make the gun more accessible to different sized shooters.
The stock pump used to feature sections or tri-rail that were placed to attach lights, lasers, and accessories, but it was also painful when gripped tight. Fortunately, it has been replaced with the much more ergonomic Streamlight TL-Racker. This is a pump with an integrated weapon light that is absolutely fantastic. It’s easy to activate and adds a certain degree of low light domination to the shotgun. Shotguns do excel in low light conditions, so a light is a must-have for any tactical use, including home defense.
590A1 Range Time
This is a heavier shotgun, and with modern tactical loads, the Mossberg 590A1 is as soft shooting as a pump-action shotgun can get. It will still beat you up if you don’t know how to handle a shotgun, but that’s part of the shotgun life.
Muzzle rise is surprisingly reduced, especially when working the gun fast. The heavy-walled barrel and 8 round tube make the gun a little front heavy, but that tends to be a benefit for it.
The pump of the 590A1 isn’t as smooth as an old Ithaca 37, but it’s completely serviceable. The 590A1 doesn’t require you to be a gorilla to work the action, but running it hard and fast is advised. This helps prevent short strokes.
The sights were dead on for both slugs and buckshot out of the box. With slugs, at 50 yards, the gun was precise enough to make a three-leaf clover looking group. At 100 yards and beyond, you need to aim a hair high, but you’ll have no issues dropping slugs into the chest of a man-sized target.
With buckshot, the spread is predictable, which means it varies greatly between loads. Mil-Spec buckshot creates a group that spreads about 10 inches at 15 yards. With FliteControl, it’s half that. At 10 yards and closer, the FliteControl loads look like slugs. I found that with the ghost ring sights, the FliteControl buckshot is a perfect choice. It gives excellent performance beyond normal buckshot ranges.
With some practice, an experienced shooter can dump all nine rounds of buckshot into a target at 15 yards in less than three seconds. That’s quite quick and a lot of firepower on one poor target. The trick is learning how to work the pump quickly and fluently, and the key to that is violence of action. Rip that pump back and shove it forward. Do it with intensity, and you won’t short stroke the weapon.
Reliability with pump-action shotguns is almost always through the roof, and there is no difference here. The 590A1 is as reliable as the shooter handing it. The 590 was the only shotgun to pass the military’s Mil-Spec 3443E test, which involved 3,000 full powered rounds of buckshot. The gun could not have more than three malfunctions and no part breakages. The Mossberg passed with flying colors.
The Combat Prowess of the 590A1
While the day of the bayonet has passed, the 590A1 retains the ability to mount one, should you need a spear and a shotgun. With the shotgun’s effective range in mind, if there was a gun that could use a bayonet, it is a shotgun. Additionally, the heavier barrel profile and the weight of the weapon do make it an effective club. Should you need to muzzle thump or give someone the old buttstroke, the 590A1 is the weapon to do it.
The 590A1 is a proven shotgun with a long history of success across several different theatres. It is also one of the few weapons in use by the modern-day military available to us civilians.
If you need a shotgun designed for combat, then the 590A1 is an affordable and robust option.