The Mossberg Shockwave might be one of the most disruptive guns of the last decade. Mossberg is mostly known as that shotgun company. Their name has been long associated with sporting and tactical shotguns. Mossberg 500s occupy deer stands and duck blinds across the country, and the 590A1 is the military shotgun of choice. However, the Shockwave does something different and is just barely legal.

The Shockwave is built from the famed 590 design. This means the gun has a pump-action design that utilizes 12-gauge shotshells. Later on, 20-gauge and .410 bore variants appeared as well.

It lacks a stock and utilizes a Raptor pistol grip that looks like the U.S. Marshals’ shotgun. But what caught everyone’s eye was the 14-inch barrel.

The Mossberg Shockwave (Mossberg)

Lots of guns are just barely legal, but the Shockwave is different. When you see one, your first thoughts are likely, that it’s a short-barreled shotgun, aka a sawn-off shotgun. That makes it a Title II firearm that requires a tax stamp to be legal. Without a stamp, clearly, the Shockwave would be illegal to own, right?

Well, no, not really. Let’s break it down.


The Shockwave – How It’s Legal

We all know what a shotgun is. It’s a smoothbore firearm that fires shotshells. That’s the commonsense definition. Well, since when does U.S. law and the ATF have anything to do with common sense? But for once, their lack of common sense benefits us.

The legal definition of a shotgun is as follows,

“The term ‘shotgun’ means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.”

Mossberg Shockwave
Author using a Shockwave. (Courtesy of author)

That little part whereby a shotgun is defined as a weapon made or remade to be fired from the shoulder is the crux of the Shockwave’s legality. For something to be a shotgun, it has to have or have had a stock. If a Mossberg 590 has never had a stock, then it’s not technically a shotgun. If it’s not a shotgun, then it cannot be a short-barreled shotgun.

This means the barrel length can be as short as you want it to be without running afoul of the ATF. This is how Mossberg got away with equipping the Shockwave with a 14-inch barrel without the need for a tax stamp.


Is It a Shotgun?

Nope, not legally anyway. Sure, commonsense dictates that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. Again, exclude common sense from the conversation. The Shockwave falls into another category of firearms. It’s simply a ‘Firearm,’ and it’s not a pistol, rifle, nor a shotgun.

While the barrel length doesn’t really matter, there is a measurement that does.

The Shockwave has to be over 26 inches in overall length. If the overall length of a gun is below 26 inches, it legally becomes an Any Other Weapon (AOW). Any Other Weapons are also Title II firearms.




The reasoning behind the 26-inch length is that it is the length above which the ATF declares an item to be non-concealable. If a firearm, like the Shockwave, becomes concealable, it’s an AOW. It’s an arbitrary length, but that’s how the law’s written. Again, you have to exclude common sense from gun laws.

The Shockwave reaches its overall length via the somewhat long Raptor pistol grip and the combination of a 14-inch barrel. The length totals out to 26.37 inches and gives the gun a little extra to ensure it remains a Title I firearm.


Is the Shockwave Useful?

Pistol-grip-only shotguns are tough customers. The recoil from a 12-gauge shotgun is nothing to sneeze at. Additionally, without a stock, you are sacrificing control and recoil mitigation. This makes the Shockwave tough to use rapidly, hard to aim, and slows follow-up shots significantly.

The weapon has some limited utility. It’s short, so it is maneuverable and lightweight. It’s easy to wield while climbing in and out of vehicles and perfect for RV defense if need be. The Marshals Service used them for their maneuverability and one-shot stop fighting power. However, they took real training to master. Nevertheless, it’s not as effective as a normal shotgun by a long shot.

With a lot of training, you can become quite proficient with a Shockwave. However, that time might be better spent with a stock shotgun or rifle. I will say the Shockwave — and firearms like it — is an absolute blast to shoot. They buck and kick and recoil like wild animals. To me, the challenge of controlling and handling them makes them quite fun.

Plus, I love the fact that Mossberg thumbed its nose at the ATF and gave us a firearm that falls right in line with the legal definition of a shotgun. If they want to abandon common sense with gun control laws, let us beat them at their own game.