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Are These The 2 Best Pump-Action Shotguns Ever Made?

Image source:

Image source:

The Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870 are easily the two most legendary and recognizable pump-action shotguns ever produced.

Both of them are proven, come with an unlimited number of customizable accessories, and have found favor with millions of gun owners for decades.

No surprising, the popularity of the 500 and the 870 has caused yet another “gun war” where millions of shotgunners across the globe claim that one is better than the other. Here’s the plain truth that hopefully both sides can agree on: Both shotguns have not aged at all as far as pump actions are concerned, both are an incredible value, and both are held in high regard for their quality and versatility.

With that in mind, we won’t attempt to find a consensus on which is the better of the two. The one you buy should be based entirely on your personal preference.

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Shotguns, and pump actions in particular, are an essential weapon to own for home defense, bird hunting, and survival in a grid-down scenario. If you are on the market for a new pump-action shotgun and have narrowed things down to a 500 and an 870, you can use this article to learn more about the key differences.

Development and Use

Remington 870. Image source:

Remington 870. Image source:

The Remington 870 was first produced in 1951, a good decade before the Mossberg 500 hit the scene. Remington designed the 870 as a rugged but cheaper alternative to their Models 17 and 37, both of which were fine shotguns but struggled to keep up with sales compared to more economical offerings from Winchester and Ithaca. The 870 was an immediate success and continues to thrive today. With more than 10 million built, the 870 is the most popular pump-action shotgun ever produced and has been widely used by military, law enforcement and civilians from all over the world.

Ten years later, the Mossberg 500 arrived on the market and was designed by Mossberg to serve in the worst of conditions, whether it was for hunting or for combat. The 500 series also was designed to be very simple to maintain and is interchangeable with a number of different barrels (for the six-shot models). The 590 version, Mossberg claims, is the only pump-action shotgun to pass the Army’s grueling 3443E torture test, leading to its adoption by the U.S. Military. The 500 is currently the second-most popular pump shotgun produced, but is not far behind the 870.


The controls on these two shotguns are different. The safety on the 870 is placed on the rear of the trigger guard, which makes it less convenient for left-handed shooters. The slide release on the 870 is also placed to the front of the trigger guard, which again, makes it somewhat inconvenient. The controls on the Mossberg 500 are more convenient, with the tang-mounted safety located on the rear of the receiver, making it naturally ambidextrous. The slide release on the 500 is also placed to the rear of the trigger guard, again making it easily accessible for both right- and left-handed shooters. While left-handed models of the 870 do exist, the bottom line is if you want a shotgun that’s ambidextrous right out of the box, the 500 should be your choice.

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Fit and Finishing 

The fit and finishing on these two shotguns is where many fans between the two draw the line, but both have their pros and cons. The 870 is traditionally equipped with a steel receiver, which is more prone to rusting but is also stronger and more durable than the aluminum receiver featured on the Mossberg 500. Both shotguns traditionally are equipped with blued barrels.

The exceptions to this include the Mossberg 590A1 model, which has a mostly parkerized finish.  In addition, Mossberg manufacturers a model of the 500, the Mariner, that is fitted with a silver coating Mossberg calls marinecoat, and is highly resistant to corrosion and outside elements.  Remington’s answer to this is the Remington 870 Marine, which is equipped with an electroless nickel plating and is equally corrosion resistant.

Pump Action 

Finally, these are pump shotguns, so no comparison would be complete without commenting on this element. Between the two, the 870 is known for having a smoother pump than the 500.  By no means does this indicate that the 500’s pump action is bad; it still works excellently and will definitely produce the classic pump-action noise, but it just isn’t as smooth as an 870.

Both the Mossberg 500 and the Remington 870 are excellent do-all pump-action shotguns. So which would you choose? In due course, you may end up with both!

Which shotgun do you prefer? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. Is the question implying that you’ve eliminated all other pumps from the 1 & 2 spots, or are you asking the reader what is the best pump ever made? In my opinion the BPS is the best pump platform ever made, period. I think there a few reasons why the BPS is often left out of the discussion when it comes to the best pump. It’s heavy and it’s expensive. It sure as hell isn’t for anyone, and lets face it, most guys shooting pumps aren’t at a phase where they’ve considered matching the initial investment of buying the gun to have a skilled gunsmith give it a custom fit. Let me emphasize most, because some of the best in the game rely on their pumps to knock down limits consistently while being dragged through hell. Yes, the BPS is expensive, that’s pretty straight forward. Yes, the BPS is also heavy, but with a proper fit heavy is good when it comes to pumps, especially if you into a 10 Ga. or utilize the 3 1/2 option with certain 12 Ga. BPS models… A pump better be durable, why else forfeit the extra 0.5 second to shuck shells if theres no gain? When it comes to durability and reliability, I’m confident the BPS will match or be superior when stood up against the 870 or 500. Take into consideration the top ting (if you are a fan) and the single port that lends itself to ambidextrous shooting the sends hulls at your feet instead of your buddies head… No question, the BPS is King of the pump world.

  2. I have a 20 Guage Mdl 500 and a 410 Bore Mdl 500 plus a Winchester Mdl 1300 Home Defender all in Pump Action. The 20 Guage now has a Rifled Slug Barrel withopen sights. The only other thing I will say is I am satisfied with them all

  3. the 500 & 870 are good but the saiga 12 is better it is semi auto & works just fine

    • Maybe you didn’t notice that the article was about rhe best PUMP shotgun ever made. Even among semi-auto shotguns the Saiga is an also-ran.

  4. Whom ever wrote this article is not very well versed on Remington shotgun history. Remington never made a model 37 shotgun, they did make a model 31 pump action shotgun, and it’s IMHO the best pump action shotgun Remington ever made. The Mossberg model 500 used a lot of the designs of the Remington model 31 in the making of the Mossberg model 500. Just like the Ithaca model 37 was made off of the Remington model 17. One should also take note that a Remington model 870 Wingmaster is a much better finished shotgun and higher priced than the Remington model 870 Express and a Mossberg model 500. The Remington 870 Express is priced at a lower Wal_ mart price for a reason.

  5. With 11,000,000 of Remington 870 and 10,000,000 of Mossberg 500 shotguns made you can be sure that they are the best ones. But there are newer pump-action shotgun like Benelli Supernova which are really good too.

  6. I’ve owned all the pumps from the major brands, the benelli supernova is in a different league to the Remington and especially the mossberg , don’t know much about the browning as it’s hard to get hold of the bps here in the U.K. The Winchester pumps are especially pony my last one done 500 shots the started to misfire and double feed constantly. To be honest most of that American stuff is pretty poor nowadays.dont even think it’s even made there anymore? The Winchesters are made in turkey which explains why they are pants. Id say the benelli is the best gun I’ve owned When it comes to pump actions .

  7. The Model 31 is by far better than any metioned here except maybe the Beneli. This 31 is 60+ years old and the roller bearing action is still the finest and fastest pump ever. Touch the assist and the forestock falls fast with no hesitation. To be more badass than when it was made is a testament to who the champ is. As far as accuracy, all my friends know the undeniable superb accuracy of this gun w/ shot or slug as did my grandfathers freinds as well. When the shot is a little too far out for everyone else they expect the 31 to reach out inplace of everything else. Do yourself a favor and do your best to find one and discover what all shotguns should be.

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