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Survival Shotgun Part 3: Choosing the Gun

When it comes to survival shotguns, your choices really come down to two brands: Remington or Mossberg. There are proponents of each shotgun, and both have their strengths and weaknesses.  Performance of the basic models will be on par, but there are limitations that should be remembered.

This article is Part 3 in a series of guest posts on the Survival Shotgun by mr. Smashy (Flickr)

Both guns are extremely high quality pump action shotguns that are easily the most popular models in the world. Each company makes dozens of variations of the guns and either will serve you well. Reading about specific differences and your own preferences is the only way to choose.

Remington 870

Remington 870 Express 18" SyntheticThe Remington 870 Express 18″ Barrel and Synthetic Stock

Differences to Remember:

  • The Remington Express five-round magazine tubes have dimples that need to be removed in order to attach magazine extensions.
  • The stock factory pump is too long to use with a sidesaddle ammunition carrier.
  • The Remington 870 uses a push button safety that is not as ambidextrous or obvious as Mossberg’s tang safety.

Mossberg 500

Mossberg 500The Mossberg 500 Lineup

Differences to Remember:

  • The Mossberg 500 series has an aluminum receiver that lightens the shotgun significantly, but prevents the use of most sidesaddle ammunition carriers (they are not recommended by the factory).
  • The Mossberg 500 series has a polymer safety button and trigger assembly.
  • The Mossberg 500 series magazine cannot be extended because the barrel secures to the end of the magazine tube.

Additional Models

Remington 870 18" Synthetic 7 RoundRemington makes an Express model (#25077) that comes equipped standard with a two round magazine extension and a short pump from the factory. The Remington 870 Express 18″ Synthetic 7-Round

Mossberg 590A1 Special PurposeMossberg makes several other versions of the 500 called the 500 Special Purpose and a heavier duty version of the 500 called the 590A1 that comes with a heavy walled barrel, parkerized finish, metal trigger group, which holds 6 rounds.

These shotguns are more expensive and harder to find, although both companies has increased availability, but for the small price increase you will get more gun.  Some other weaknesses can also be overcome by purchasing accessory parts, but the more you change, the more chances you have to cause a failure with the firearm, something you can’t afford.


Mossberg 500 SetupFor the most part an 18.5″ barrel, 5+1 capacity model with synthetic furniture will do fine in the survival toolkit.  If you are concerned about getting some game, an additional longer barrel with a choke can be purchased.

Try not to be drawn to the new “tactical” models with folding or collapsible stocks, or unorthodox muzzle attachments.  If your shotgun came equipped with a heatshield, remove it, it can shoot lose and bind the action.  Keep your shotgun simple and slick (as in clean, fast, and smooth).

Choose for Your System

Whatever shotgun you ultimately end up with, remember to keep it simple, rugged, and test it’s reliability.  Train with it, make sure any changes you’ve made have not compromised the shotgun, and keep shooting it to find any weaknesses in you and your technique or the shotgun.  Even when I shoot skeet recreationaly, I will bring my survival shotgun and break a few clays with it; it’s just another way to keep rounds through the gun and maintain familiarity with my shotgun.

Part 4

Watch for Part 4 which will cover choosing the best loads for your survival shotgun.

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