Mossberg 500 20 Gauge: http://www.mossberg.com/product/500-tactical-8-shot-54300/
GunsAmerica’s review: https://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/20-gauge-home-defense-mossberg-special-purpose-review/
Buy a Mossberg 500: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=mossberg%20500%2020%20gauge
ATI Gunstocks: http://www.atigunstocks.com/shotguns/mossberg?p=1
For most new shooters, youth and smaller individuals, especially–12-gauge defensive loads are too much to handle. If I’m being 100% honest it’s even hard for me to handle a long day of high brass 12 gauge loads. So what does the smaller stature shooter do in a world dominated by bigger-is-better?
As I typically do, you suck it up. My go-to shotgun, for more years than I can remember, has been a Remington 870. I’ve cut it down, and tricked it out, and have it running exceptionally well. I’ve put in serious range time with the pumps, autos, the bullpups, and even some of the more esoteric “firearms” that shoot 12 gauge shells.
What happens after a day on the range? Your shoulder suffers, but you will get by. You can dumb-down your practice sessions with low-recoil shells. Birdshot is a popular option. While this cuts down on the felt recoil, it also gives you a false sense of your abilities. With less recoil and muzzle rise, you can get back on target more quickly. You can feel accomplished with fast split times and epic follow-ups. But then, when you load it back up with high-brass buckshot for the real world–you’ve changed an important variable. If you have to go to the gun in an emergency, it won’t run like gun you shot on the range.
Still, this is what almost everyone does. Is there another option? I would seriously recommend a shotgun in a gauge that you can run instead of a gauge that is going to run you ragged.
1. There are (a few) serious 20 gauge shotguns readily available
Looking at the limited options on the market, I went with the clear winner–the Mossberg 500 tactical 20 gauge. Compact, controllable, effective, and fairly inexpensive, the 500 is a great out-of-the-box option for people looking for a gun with optimal bite with out all that uncontrollable bark.
- Gauge 20
- Capacity 8
- Chamber 3 inch
- Barrel 20″
- Choke Cylinder Bore
- LOP 13″
- Weight 6lbs
- Length 39″
We reviewed this gun more than a year ago, and as part of a long-term study on this exact topic, I’ve been working it out regularly. I’m pleased with what I’ve found, but I still think there are some changes I’d like to make. If you want to upgrade your 500 or 870 (in 12 gauge, at least) you can spend months researching your options. But the 20 gauge 500?
2. Available Upgrades
Though the Mossberg 500 tactical 20 gauge is a great gun, its furniture is a bit underwhelming. It is built with a youth-sized stock and forend and is more or less setup for younger or smaller framed shooters. This isn’t a bad thing, but as shooters grow (or in my case, buckle down to the 20 gauge) it helps to add a few more inches to the length of pull. I’ve studied up on all of the available 20 gauge Mossberg furniture options, and the clear choice and true focus of this review ended up being the TactLite furniture from ATI.
Installing the furniture is simple, straight forward and can be done with simple hand tools. All in all, it took me right around 45 minuets to strip the Mossberg of its youth furniture, give it a quick cleaning and install the TactLite furniture.
Starting at the back, the TactLite furniture gives you a thick rubber recoil pad, an adjustable cheek riser, 6-position collapsible stock, sling mounting points and a rubberized pistol grip. When comparing the ATI stock system to the standard Mossberg there is no contest. The Factory stock is short, straight, and awkward to hold. The TactLite offers the shooter serious customization at a fair price of $119.00.
Moving forward the handguard is elongated giving ample space for your off hand. It is a serious improvement over the small forend that comes on the Mossberg. The bottom of the TactLite forend is wrapped in rubber making the shooting experience that much more comfortable. Lastly the ATI forend has two positions on the left and right to mount picatinny rails and ultimately any accessories. The forend is fairly inexpensive, coming in at $30. All in all, both the forend and the stock make for a much more ergonomic and efficient gun.
3. Increased Speed and Control
Shooting with the newly dressed Mossberg 500 tactical 20 gauge is an entirely different experience. I never really disliked the shooting experience with the youth furniture, but at the same time it always felt crowded. With the addition of the adjustable stock, pistol grip and elongated forend the gun feels spacious and much more comfortable.
The modest recoil previously present is removed thanks to the thick rubber butt pad. Looking at muzzle rise it’s hard not to be impressed. Most if not all muzzle climb is controlled by the pistol grip stock. The shotgun feels like a full size combat weapon yet it handles like a feather weight when compared to its 12-gauge brother.
After spending an afternoon on the range with the Mossberg 20 gauge I can’t imagine anyone who would rather shoot or use a 12 gauge. This gun just proves to be faster on target, quicker to cycle and regain the sights, and ultimately more efficient to shoot.
This section may be a bit more philosophical. The increase in speed and control means you will (all things being equal) also be more accurate. This is a big deal with shotguns designed for close quarters work. Consider the spread you get from birdshot at typical skeet-shooting ranges. It is vast. You throw up a cloud of lead or steel that spreads out several feet. But that’s not the case at contact distances. You still have to aim. That cloud we associate with birdshot is a tighter wad when it leaves the barrel.
And is that tighter ball of shot, or a similar ball of buckshot, or a slug… what’s the word I’m looking for? Effective? I think that’s it. Are the terminal ballistics offered by the 20 gauge sufficient for home defense, or tactical applications? I would argue that they are. There are many scenarios (like clearing a house, for example) where a 12 gauge may be overkill, or potentially dangerous (because of over-penetration of walls, etc.).
Looking at the patterns from the Mossberg’s 20-inch cylinder bore barrel, I was pleasantly surprised. At 15 meters the spread was just at 12 inches and at 20 meters the spread was right at 15 inches. For game loads and a cylinder bore barrel, this was good. Having previously shot Federal #4 PD through the gun, I know that it is capable of much tighter patterns at defensive distances.
But there’s one serious downside to the 20 gauge that we still have to overcome. Being that 20 gauge is under appreciated and underutilized, I had no such luck sourcing defensive ammunition locally for this review–and I live in a major metropolitan area of Virginia. I had to settle for hunting loads.
Every big box store has mountains of 12 gauge shells with varieties of loads. Even during the last ammo crisis, 12 gauge slugs, buckshot, game loads, and target loads were always available. Speaking from personal experience owning a 20 gauge is a completely different story. Ammo is hard to come by, unless it is ordered online and then still you generally take what you can get. So stock up when you can.
5. Practice and training
The Mossberg 500 20 gauge is a great gun. As the gun ships form the factory, it is a good-to-go option. Given the addition of the ATI TactLite furniture it’s a hard gun to beat. With or without the furniture, I’d recommend this gun to anyone new to shotguns, and with the ATI furniture and good ammo I’d say its up to par with the best tactical shotguns on the market.
And the best part is that you can shoot it all day and never feel it. This is important. When you aren’t overly abused by the guns you shoot, you’ll shoot them more frequently. You won’t flinch when you anticipate that heavy recoil. You won’t get those nasty looking hickies on your shoulder. In short, you’ll develop your own skills and a confidence that will undoubtedly prove valuable, should you ever need it in an emergency.