Mention the name Mossberg to anyone at the range, and they will almost certainly have a mental image of a shotgun. Depending upon the individual, that image might be a long shotgun for hunting waterfowl or it might be the more tactical Model 500, but you can bet that mental image is not of a tiny polymer-framed 9mm handgun. That’s about to change!
Mossberg is one of a handful of heritage firearm companies that are well established with a reputation for doing what they do extraordinarily well. The company has been around for over a century now and has established fierce brand loyalty among its customers. Those customers have traditionally been duck hunters or law enforcement. Mossberg is simply not a company that makes handguns. But you may not know that the first gun Mossberg made and marketed was a handgun – a small .22 caliber multi-barreled pistol called the “Brownie”. Fast forward to today, and Mossberg is once again offering a small handgun. Spoiler alert – it’s a helluva good one!
Tossing one’s hat into the heavily competitive handgun market is challenging enough, but going straight for the slimline concealed carry dollar is downright brave. The marketplace is flooded with both well-established name brand pistols and ‘me too’ alternatives. The latter often offer a feature or innovation that the big boys don’t, but often at the sacrifice of overall quality or reliability. Mossberg’s decision to enter this ultra-competitive market may be interesting – but the outcome of that decision is even more interesting. The new pistol named the MC1 SC (SC presumably stands for ‘sub-compact’) is a combination of very familiar and distinctly different elements that combine to make one of the very best single-stack 9mm handguns I’ve used.
The MC1 SC is available in a variety of models, each with identical essential specifications, but with each variant offering something additional that might be of extra value to the buyer. I was provided with the base model pistol which has an estimated retail price of $425.00. That should translate to well under $400 at the counter. Additionally, you can get the pistol with a safety switch – and here’s where the gun starts to divulge its Mossberg pedigree – the available manual safety is a cross-bolt style catch located just behind the trigger.
There are upgraded models with Tritium® sights provided by TRUGLO®, and one with an installed VIRIDIAN® laser. If bling is what you’re after, there is a model called the “Centennial” that celebrates 100 years of Mossberg with 24kt plating on the barrel and some other small parts. That one will set you back $686.00, but if you really want a pocket pistol with gold plating, I’m pretty sure you don’t mind the price.
The most sensible upgrade consideration would be to add the night sights, which will bump the price by $101. But the good news is that Mossberg uses a standard dovetail installation for both front and rear sight, which means you can defer that upgrade for later as the aftermarket starts to provide options.
The MC1 SE is slim and light, just like we expect our pocket-sized 9mms to be. It is very similar in size and shape to the M&P Shield, Glock 43, and Walther PPS M2, just to name a few. So similar in fact, that I was tempted to try it’s fit in some holsters I have for those models. No dice. The great thing about Kydex is that it fits your gun perfectly if it’s made well. The bad thing about that is that it won’t fit anything else that is “almost the same”. The size and shape of the trigger guard are different enough that you’ll be in need of a new carry rig for it. Unless you prefer the softer style holsters, like leather or synthetic fabrics. I have a nice quality leather holster that accommodates it well, and I am happy to report that it fits perfectly into the DeSantis Nemesis holster – and then into the pocket – my litmus test for a subcompact.
Before I shoot a test gun, I have a tendency to spend some time examining it and handling it to get first impressions and make mental notes of elements to consider when shooting it. While spending that quality fondling time with the MC1, I was very impressed with the quality of the pistol. I don’t find anything about it that hints to “low margin, high volume” marketing strategy. The attention to detail on this design is better, in my opinion, than on many exotic guns I test that cost four or five times the price. There is not a single blemish in the finish. Every part of the frame and slide has been either enhanced for maximum grip or de-horned and smoothed to be comfortable and snag-free. The serrations in the slide might be the best I’ve ever felt – cut sharply in a forward-facing sawtooth pattern, they hold your fingers like a magnet when racking the slide or performing the ever-tactic-cool press check, but are virtually non-existent in the other direction. This means they won’t add friction to the draw of the pistol from the holster or snag on clothing. Cut diagonally into the rear serrations is a wink to the Mossberg heritage, which I appreciated.
The polymer frame is of a high-quality composite, perhaps a glass-filled Nylon or similar. The texturing is interesting in design and very effective at providing very good traction against the skin without feeling abrasive or biting in. That’s no easy accomplishment. On close examination, the texture is an alternating pattern of “X’s” and “+’s” in neat little rows.
Mossberg has given us a flat trigger (polymer) with a safety blade that ensures the pistol cannot fire unless the trigger is actuated. The design is such that the trigger’s flat face should be vertical at the break, which has been found to aid trigger control and transfer more tactile feedback to the user. The magazine release button is good sized and also bears
the same texture as the enhanced portions of the frame. I found the mag release well placed, very easy to operate, and perfectly reliable. Being able to perform a quick reload in an emergency situation begins with having a magazine release that works perfectly and easily every time – this one does. It is also reversible, for the left-handed owner. Another control that I am quite snobbish about on handguns is the slide stop lever. I insist that if a pistol is equipped with such control, that control should also function as a slide release. Many don’t. Some barely do. This one works beautifully. It is also nicely tucked to the frame with a raised guard area around it to help prevent the user’s thumb from accidentally locking the slide back before the last round is fired.
The base model sights are effective and good quality. Made of steel with painted white dots, they are low profile and provide a good sight picture for both fast action and slow aiming. The rear sight is of a snag-free design. The upgrade option night sights offer a rear sight with a squared front, capable of being used to work the action if necessary.
SHOOTING THE MC1
Quality materials and workmanship paired with a pleasing deign aesthetic are all well and good, but if you’re going to consider owning a small handgun for self-defense, it had better perform unquestionably. Despite the abundance of pocket-sized centerfire pistols on the market, the engineering that goes into making one both small and reliable is significant. The timing of the barrel lockup is critical and has far less travel distance for error as compared to a full-sized duty gun. So too does that shorter cycle distance squeeze tolerances for ejection and feeding. But there is no tolerance in my world for failures in an emergency. I tested the MC1 SC with hundreds of rounds of a variety of 9mm commercial ammunition – from the same stuff you’d buy on sale for range days, to the expensive defensive rounds you’d keep it loaded with for emergencies. Zero problems. Not just the absence of any malfunctions, but the absence of the slightest hint of a malfunction. No round “felt funny” being chambered. At no time did the slide ever break stride or tempo returning to battery. And the ejection pattern was so consistent I was tempted to put a bucket in one spot to catch the spent brass. The trigger feels exactly the same for every pull – and it feels great. I measured it several times and it was consistently below 5 lbs.
Small 9mm’s can sometimes buck a little bit – a simple law of physics. But the MC1 SC felt extremely flat while I shot it – even during rapid bursts. The angle and texture of the grip frame, along with the telescoping dual recoil spring and guide rod assembly do an excellent job at absorbing most of that energy. And while racking the slide of a small 9mm pistol can be challenging for some with low hand strength, the serrations in the slide help with that quite a bit. The white-dot sight picture was very good and easy to acquire for fast shots. The sights are also good enough to allow the shooter to take a slow, carefully aimed shot and hit with precision. Beyond that, I found the Mossberg downright fun to shoot. I was only hampered by the limitation of loading 13 rounds at a time between the two magazines supplied. The MC1 SC will accept Glock 43 magazines – a huge benefit, but I wasn’t testing Glock mags and wanted to put all the rounds through the Mossberg mags (okay, I’ll confess – I tried them and they work).
The magazines are nearly transparent, which makes it easy to see the loaded rounds. But there are no witness marks or graduations printed on it – you’ll have to count them. My first impression of the mostly-clear plastic mags was that they seemed brittle, and I wondered about damage. But I am pleased that after hundreds of rounds of normal handling and use, they are holding up just fine.
Accuracy from the MC1 SC is on par with all the best pistols in this category. Standing and shooting off-hand from between 10 and 12 yards I was able to keep six rounds of SIG Sauer Elite Performance 124 gr. JHP V-Crown ammo inside 1 ½”. Why no formal pseudo-scientific test? Because I already know this gun can produce better groups from a vise than I ever could with it – and for a defensive pistol I want to know how well I can shoot it freestyle. I never took a single shot inside 10 yards with this gun and unless I was doing macho-mag-dump stuff, everything stayed in a fist-sized group. Excellent ergonomics and a much better than average trigger have a lot to do with that.
JUST MY OPINION
When I first learned that Mossberg was tossing its hat into the single-stack 9mm saturated marketplace, I was neither skeptical nor excited. I have to admit I was fairly ambivalent about it – like the excitement of hearing that another car company is offering a “crossover” vehicle. I assumed that Mossberg wouldn’t put their name on a gun that didn’t work, but aside from that, I figured it would be a purchase consideration for the very brand loyal folks. Boy, did I underestimate this handgun!
Perhaps the one off-putting characteristic of the Mossberg is its takedown (or fieldstrip) method. It is a bit more involved than most (though not as involved as some) and might seem intimidating. In the accompanying video review of this gun, I’ll show you how to disassemble and reassemble the pistol – and you’ll see that it’s quite easy. Don’t let anyone scare you about that. I’m not a big fan of having the striker assembly removed and its channel exposed with every cleaning, as that’s how small parts get lost – but it can be a plus if the user is careful with the parts and takes time to clean them too.
Bottom line – I would put the Mossberg MC1 SC on the table with any and all of the industry leaders in this space and give odds to the others. If a slimline 9mm handgun is on your list – you can’t possibly make an informed choice until you’ve tried the MC1. It’s that good.