Comparison between the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500

Written by Recoil, Second Amendment Society  -- August 2, 2009


The debate regarding the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 shotguns has raged for years.  The issue recently came up on my forum, the Second Amendment Society, and after writing a couple long posts regarding the differences between the two, I realized that it would do a lot of people good to see a feature-by-feature comparison between the two classic weapons.  I have attempted to write this as factual and as somewhat non-biased as possible, but the reader will definitely know by the end of this which gun I prefer.

In the end, when all is said and done, I thoroughly suggest that any prospective buyer of either model do their own first hand comparison.  What works for me might not work for you, and when faced with a situation where you have to defend yourself or others with one of these formidable weapons, it is genuinely in your best interest to forget about the Internet scuttlebutt and choose the shotgun best suited to your body structure and gun handling abilities.

A note before we begin though: when I say "Remington 870" I am referring to all non-Express models, such as the Wingmaster, Police, and Marine Magnum.  The 870 Express is not included as it has several differing features which I will discuss at the end.  Similarly, when I say "Mossberg 500" I am referring to all 5XX models, such as the 500, 500A or the 590, and so forth.  The standard models of both brands differ only superficially, and stocks, finishes, etc., will not be discussed here.  An engraved 870 Wingmaster with gold leaf and carved AAA walnut stocks has identical functional features as the ugliest 870P, and likewise with the Mossbergs.  My focus here is simply on the mechanics of the guns, nothing more.  If you want a factory camo finish, fancy sights and a rail for mounting optics, that's your business, but you wont find any recommendations regarding those things in this article.

So without further chit chat, let's get on with it.


Receivers

Remington 870

Mossberg 500


Action

Remington 870

Mossberg 500


Barrels / Magazine Tubes

Remington 870

Note how the magazine tube (bottom tube) is independent of the barrel, making the addition of the extension simple:

Mossberg 500

Note how the barrel has a band and threaded lug which screws to the end of the magazine tube, making it impossible to add an extension tube without replacing the whole barrel and magazine:


Extractor

Remington 870

Mossberg 500


Slide Release

Remington 870

Mossberg 500


Shell Lifter

Remington 870

Mossberg 500

* Note: Combat reloading is the general process by which the shotgun is reloaded before it is empty.  A major disadvantage to a shotgun in defensive or offensive operations is it's low cartridge capacity and resultant lack of sustainable firepower, unlike a high capacity magazine fed rifle such as the AR-15.  To alleviate this problem somewhat, for combat shotgunners, it is standard practice to reload the shotgun as often as possible prior to the magazine going empty, thereby theoretically allowing the shotgun to sustain shooting operations until one is completely out of ammunition.  Another purpose for the combat reload is to feed a specialty round into the string for the next shot, typically to transition from buckshot to slugs.


Manual Safety

Remington 870

Mossberg 500


Trigger Guard

Remington 870

Mossberg 500


Fore-End

Remington 870

Mossberg 500


Military Use

Remington 870

Mossberg 500

Note: The U.S. military's adoption of shotguns is a tad confusing and not as clear cut as with it's rifles.  They appear to buy whatever they want, whenever they want.  I am not aware of any specific order adopting the Remington 870 (I could definitely be wrong about this!), unlike the Mossberg 500 which has officially been adopted as a U.S. small arm.  However, it is certain that Remington 870s are indeed in wide-spread use in the military, and have been since the Marine Corps began purchasing them for the Vietnam War.  Despite the possible lack of official adoption, it is probable that the U.S. government has simply purchased the Remington 870 as needed. 

It should also be noted that both the Remington 870 and the Mossberg have officially been replaced by the Benelli M1014, known as the M4 Super 90 on the civilian market.  Interestingly, the Mossberg is still the only shotgun to meet Mil-Spec 3443E.  Also, the government continues to purchase both 870s and 500s despite the adoption of the Benelli.


The Remington 870 Express

The Remington 870 Express line of shotguns is geared towards the budget shotgunner.  The Express is still a Remington 870, however there are some mechanical and cosmetic differences from the other lines of 870:

I have emboldened the last five items.  It is my opinion that these things ought to be remedied prior to pushing an 870 Express into combat duty.  All of these issues are easy and inexpensive to fix, as all one has to do is replace the aforementioned parts with those meant for a Remington 870P (Police).

It should also be noted that the 870 Express' fore-end must be replaced if you intend to use a standard 6 round side saddle, otherwise you're stuck with a shortened 4 round side saddle.  The stock Express fore-end was made long so as to come back farther and cover part of the receiver in the retracted position.  Remington did this to prevent average citizens from building an "evil assault shotgun," along with the addition of dimples inside the magazine tube to prevent the installation of an aftermarket magazine extension.  Fortunately, Americans are a lot smarter than the apparently left leaning, pandering, Nanny State executives at Remington and one can simply file down the dimples in the mag tube and replace the fore-end to correct the gun's short-comings.


Closing Remarks

So as I said in the beginning, despite all of the above being factual, you can probably tell which shotgun I prefer.  It is, of course, the Mossberg 500.  Though, I admit much of my bias comes from being left-handed, and the 500 is a much more lefty friendly gun than the 870.  However, that bias was earned as I used to be an 870 man myself.  It was only after I acquired a pair of Mossberg 500s in payment of a debt a friend owed that I had the chance to use the 500 enough to form a real opinion.

That opinion is that the Mossberg 500 is a more ergonomic, user friendly, lighter and handier weapon than the Remington 870.  The only major downside to the 500 is it's inability to cheaply and easily accept a magazine extension (you have to obtain a 500 Persuader or 590A1 barrel and magazine tube).  It would definitely be nice if Mossberg changed their barrel and magazine design so as to allow for easy upgrading like the Remington 870.  It would also be nice if they tightened up the somewhat sloppy fore-end too.

Another significant upside to the 500 is that it's cheaper than the Remington 870 since you're not paying for the Remington name.  You can get a Mossberg 500/590 in a tactical configuration, with a 20" barrel, an 8 or 9 shot magazine (your choice), rifle or ghost ring sights (your choice) and Speedfeed stocks for at least $100.00 less than you can buy an identically equipped 870.  Such a Mossberg would look like this:

That $100.00 minimum savings over an 870 buys a lot of extra shotgun ammo my friends, not to mention some gear you'll find useful in a defensive or offensive situation, such as a side saddle, sling, a spare ammo pouch and a flashlight.

But, that's just my opinion.  Some people are glued to the 870 and that's fine; the Remington 870 is a superb weapon.  Every firearm of every make and model has plusses and minuses, and so long as the user knows the weapon's limitations and can work with them, then it doesn't matter.  It's the person holding the gun that is the weapon, not the gun itself.  So in the end, I strongly suggest you try both shotguns out if you can.  Even if you can only just play with one in the gun shop for awhile and give it a hard, critical look, that'll beat any opinions you read on the Internet.

I hope this has helped you.  Good luck, and happy shotgunning.

Please visit our forums at: http://forums.second-amendment.org.