Putting Mossberg’s New Optic-Ready 500 Turkey to the Test

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Mossberg Optics-Ready with Holosun EPS
Mossberg Optics-Ready with Holosun EPS

The Optic-Ready 500 Turkey is one of three new pump-action shotguns from Mossberg. Red dots sights have been used on shotguns in 3-gun competition for decades and I know turkey hunters that put red dots on top of their turkey guns years ago as well, but Mossberg has raised the bar by lowering the red dot down into the receiver of the Optics-Ready 500 Turkey.

Mossberg milled, drilled, and tapped the model 500 receiver to allow a small red dot optic to sit at almost the same height as the ventilated rib. I can see the fiber optic front sight in the window of the Holosun EPS I installed on the 500 Turkey 20 gauge.

Cover plate installed on the Optics-Ready 500 Turkey receiver
Cover plate installed on the Optics-Ready 500 Turkey receiver

The low mounting of the optic allows the shooter to get a much better and more natural cheek weld while shooting the shotgun than an optic mounted on a rail on top of the receiver. The red dot being closer to the barrel also provides less barrel-to-bore offset.

Why a Red Dot

So, why a red dot on a shotgun at all? Well, it provides much greater accuracy at distance than just a bead at the end of the barrel and the shooter’s head on the stock as a rear sight. This and the development of tungsten shot that carries energy and pattern further than lead are an ideal combination.

Holosun EPS dot pictured on decoy at 40 yards
Holosun EPS dot pictured on decoy at 40 yards

The Mossberg Model 500 has been around for decades and has a reputation as a solid field gun. In fact, it was my first repeating shotgun when I moved up from my 410 single shot. The Optic-Ready Turkey 20 gauge is a well-designed purpose-built shotgun for giving the hunter the edge in the field against wary gobblers.

X-Factor ported choke and fiber optic front sight
X-Factor ported choke and fiber optic front sight

The 500 Turkey comes with a 22-inch vent rib barrel which keeps the gun short for maneuvering in the woods. Short length helps keep the weight down to a very manageable 6.75 lbs.

A soft and sticky recoil pad is on the backend to keep the gun from slipping under recoil and soaks up recoil. The magazine tube of the pump-action model 500 holds four of the 3” magnum Remington Premier TSS shells, for a total capacity of five. With 2 ¾” game loads it held five rounds in the magazine tube.

Soft recoil pad of the Optic-Ready 500 Turkey
Soft recoil pad of the Optic-Ready 500 Turkey

The only challenge I found with the 20 gauge Turkey was trying to load the “3” inch magnum shells in the magazine tube. The roll-crimped magnum shells were actually 2.67 inches long and the magazine loading port is 2.85 inches. Angling or tilting the shells allowed getting a finger behind them for loading. Loading the chamber through the ejection port is no problem at all.

The Optic

I mounted the outstanding Holosun EPS on the 20 gauge for testing and turkey hunting. The EPS has an enclosed emitter to keep debris from interfering with the optics display. It also features a choice of 3 reticles, 3 modes of operation, and 12 intensity settings.

I chose the manual mode to allow setting the intensity of the dot for the lighting conditions during hunting and testing. The Auto mode will automatically sense the light and adjust the reticle intensity. The lowest 4 intensity settings are for night vision operations.

READ MORE: Mossberg Adds Optic-Ready 500 and 835 Pump-Actions to Turkey Line

The reticle options are a single small dot, a larger circle around the dot, and just the circle. I chose the single dot for turkey hunting because it didn’t obscure the turkey and offered a very precise aiming point.

Holosun EPS sitting deep in the receiver of the 500 Turkey
Holosun EPS sitting deep in the receiver of the 500 Turkey

One last feature of the EPS is that it goes to sleep and shuts down the dot after 10 minutes with no motion, and “shake awake” restarts the dot when the optic senses motion. The sleep mode timer can be adjusted and also disabled if the shooter desires.

The model I installed also has a solar panel to help power the optic. The battery life of the EPS at a reticle intensity of 6 is up to 50,000 hours, which is between 5 and 6 years. This optic has all you can ask of a small red dot sight, it’s truly amazing how much can be packed in this small package.

Camo That Works

Mossy Oak – Greenleaf camo works well in a variety of backgrounds
Mossy Oak – Greenleaf camo works well in a variety of backgrounds

The camouflage on the 500 Optic-Ready Turkey gun looks a little old school in the current world of digital camo patterns. However, when you take it to the spring woods looking for that gobbler you won’t be disappointed.

The Mossberg is covered in Mossy Oak- Greenleaf camo which blends perfectly with the surroundings in the southern woods. It is exactly what a turkey gun should look like to keep you hidden while calling in a big bird.

Only the black sling gives away the Optics-Ready Turkey hiding in the woods
Only the black sling gives away the Optics-Ready Turkey hiding in the woods

I put the gun against several different backgrounds and it seemed to play chameleon and change to fit in with its surroundings. This and the general versatility of the Mossberg 500 make this so-called turkey gun a fantastic general-use shotgun.


Action                                     Pump-action

Gauge                                     20 gauge or 410 bore

Optic-Ready                           RMSc mounting cut

Chamber                                 3 inches

Barrel                                      22 Inch ventilated rib with fiber front optic bead

Capacity                                  5+1 (2 ¾”)

Overall Length                       41.25 inches

LOP                                         13.8 inches

Weight                                     6.75 pounds

Finish                                      Mossy Oak- Greenleaf

MSRP                                      $644


The Holosun optic mounted down in the receiver made it natural to shoot the Mossberg with the illuminated dot. I started by zeroing the Optic-Ready with lead shot to get the pattern centered up on the Holosun reticle. Then at 40 yards, I switched to Remington’s Premier TSS (1 ½ oz Tungsten #9 shot @ 1100 fps).

TSS carries more energy than lead shot allowing the use of smaller shot giving a higher number of shot per load and is also harder so it deforms less giving denser patterns. It is definitely the way to go for longer-range turkey hunting.

At 40 yards the Remington TSS put 123 #9 pellets in a 10-inch circle, including the 26 in the head and neck of my hand-drawn turkey. That’s way more than what’s needed to kill a big tom.

40 yard pattern from the Mossberg/ Holosun/ TSS combination
40-yard pattern from the Mossberg/ Holosun/ TSS combination

Moving back to 50 yards the Holosun EPS really shined and allowed precise shot placement. The little Mossberg with its 22” barrel put 84 pellets in the 10” circle; with 18 of them in the turkey head and neck. An experienced turkey hunter once told me 5 or 6 tungsten pellets in the head/ neck would bring down a turkey.

Taking several shots at 50 yards since every pattern is different, resulted in head/ neck pellet counts between 12 and 18 below. As much as I like fiber optic front sights on shotguns pattern placement at these distances is much easier with the EPS.

EPS atop the Optic-Ready puts plenty of TSS on target at 50 yards
EPS atop the Optic-Ready puts plenty of TSS on target at 50 yards


I wish I could have a picture of it laying on a turkey I shot with it but it wasn’t in the cards. Three gobblers came in to my call on one occasion but they came in too far to my right and I didn’t think I could get around to them without spooking them, so I let them walk back into the cover thinking I would get another chance- oops, bad choice.

On another outing, I had a big gobbler called in but it wouldn’t get within 70 yards and there was nothing between us but an open field and he won the standoff as I ran out of time. Well, live and learn, my calling is getting better and I don’t think I could have been holding a better shotgun for the hunt, and I enjoyed both opportunities even if I didn’t bring home birds.

Wrap Up

The Mossberg 500 shotgun has decades of past performance as a solid performer in the field, and the new optic-ready feature just makes it better. Topped with a quality red dot and loaded with good TSS shells it should take turkey to 50 yards and a bit beyond.

The Holosun EPS was the3 perfect optic for the 500 Turkey and allowed precise shot placement. The camo makes the gun invisible, and the X-Factor ported choke will keep the pattern tight and help tame the recoil from the magnum TSS loads. Everything about the Optic-Ready 500 Turkey makes the hunter’s chances of success greater.

Besides being a great turkey gun, the Optics-Ready 500 20 gauge would be a killer little slug gun for deer hunting, and awesome for small game as well. With the optic removed, it could also be fantastic for doves and ducks. Mossberg also offers 12 gauge and 410 Optic-Ready shotgun models.

Optic-Ready and gear ready for the hunt
Optic-Ready and gear ready for the hunt

For more information, Visit Mossberg Here

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About the author: Jeff Cramblit is a world-class competitive shooter having won medals at both the 2012 IPSC World Shotgun Championship in Hungary and more recently the 2017 IPSC World Rifle Championship in Russia. He is passionate about shooting sports and the outdoors. He has followed that passion for over 30 years, hunting and competing in practical pistol, 3gun, precision rifle and sporting clays matches. Jeff is intimately familiar with the shooting industry – competitor, instructor, RO, range master, match director. Among his training credits include NRA Instructor, AR-15 armorer, FBI Rifle Instructor, and Officer Low Light Survival Instructor. As a sponsored shooter, Jeff has represented notable industry names such as: Benelli, 5.11 Tactical, Bushnell, Blackhawk, DoubleStar, and Hornady. He has been featured on several of Outdoor Channel’s Shooting Gallery episodes and on a Downrange TV series. Jeff’s current endeavors cover a broad spectrum and he can be found anywhere from local matches helping and encouraging new shooters as they develop their own love of the sport, to the dove field with his friends, a charity sporting clays shoot, backpack hunting public land in Montana, or the winners podium of a major championship.

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  • Felix Gordillo Jr. June 13, 2023, 7:08 pm

    I’ve hunted wild turkey here in Florida since I was 16 years of age. My “Turkey Gun” was a Stevens 16 guage double barrell, full and modified barrels using number six or four shot. Sadly, I had to stop due to health reasons . At 83, I can only reminisce the good times I spent out in the woods. It is getting more difficult here in Florida to hunt any more due to expanding populations, government regulations and other like issues. At 83, I don’t have the stamina nor the ability to tracking through the woods anymore, so i’ve taken salt water fishing instead and I can tell some whopping fish stories you wouldn’t believe!

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