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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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