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In the late 1980s Mossberg launched its first tactical shotgun, the 590A1, and has continued to introduce black synthetic pumps and semi-autos over the last 35 years, including its two latest iterations, a conventional shoulder-mounted 590S pump and pistol-grip variant, called the Shockwave. Tactical shotguns with extended magazines first catered to law enforcement and the military to better defend themselves in combative situations. Later, those guns made it into the homes of civilians for defensive applications. The platform is more business-like than the average waterfowl, upland, or clay-target shotgun, many of which couple functionality with aesthetic beauty. Tactical shotguns don’t do that. They are much more basic. Their sole purpose is to stop a threat, so above all else, they must be reliable, which Mossberg pumps certainly have been for almost four decades.

The History of the 590 Shotgun Series

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Mossberg’s 590 series has been a go-to tactical choice since its introduction in 1987. The 590A1 was the standard-issue U.S. military pump shotgun and helped solidify Mossberg as a major player in the tactical shotgun market. The new 590S is available in a full-size shoulder-mounted model with an 18.5- or 20-inch barrel option, or the smaller Shockwave with Raptor grip, which has 18.5- and 14.4-inch barrels to choose from.

My test gun, the shoulder-mounted 590S pump, featured a black synthetic finish, full-length magazine that paralleled the barrel, and high visibility ghost ring sights, upgrades that set it apart from the old “riot guns” like the Ithaca Model 37 or Remington 870 pumps.

The “stockless” Shockwave version of the 590S can handle 3-inch shotshells, just like my test gun, but pistol-type shotguns deliver an incredible amount of recoil. To help mitigate that, Mossberg made the stockless pump capable of shooting 1¾-inch minishells, which Federal and Aguila are both producing. The shorties also give the gun a 10-round capacity in the 18.5-inch barrel. A strap is also affixed to the fore-end of the Shockwave so shooters can better control recoil.

Mossberg 590S Specifications

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  • Action: Pump
  • Gauge: 12
  • Chamber: 3-inch
  • Barrel length: 20 inches (tested)
  • Overall length: 41 inches
  • Choke: Accu-Choke system (cylinder bore choke included)
  • Stock: Black synthetic with M-Lok compatible fore-end
  • Length of pull: 13.87 inches
  • Finish: Matte blue
  • Trigger weight: 5 pounds
  • Weight: 7¼ pounds
  • Sights: Adjustable ghost ring
  • MSRP: $731

How Did the 590S Pattern?

The 590S is threaded for Mossberg’s Accu-Choke system but comes with only a cylinder bore tube. You’re free to use different choke constrictions if you choose, but for a gun that shoots slugs or buckshot, cylinder is a sensible option and so I stuck with the stock choke. I patterned the 590S with Federal Hi-Power 2¾-inch 00 Buckshot, Aguila 1¾-inch Minishell No. 4 Buck, and 2¾-inch Federal Truball rifled slugs from 25 yards on a 10-inch target.

The Federal 2¾-inch 00 Buck’s best pattern placed six of nine .33-caliber pellets inside the 10-inch circle. Aguila’s Minishells placed 8 of 11 pellets within the 10-inch circle, shading slightly left of center. And, the Federal Truball slugs delivered impressive 1-inch three-shot groups, which were also slightly left of the aiming point.

Federal buckshot pattern.
Federal 2 3/4-inch 00 Buckshot pattern was slight low of point of aim. Payton Miller
Augila minishell pattern.
Augila’s minishells put 8 of 11 pellets inside a 10-inch circle. Payton Miller
Truball delivered 1-inch groups.
Federal’s Truball delivered 1-inch groupings. Payton Miller

The 590S Can Handle Multiple Shotshells

Target acquisition is easier with the ghost-ring sights.
The ghost-ting sights make it easier to acquire your target. Payton Miller

In addition to the pattern-test loads, I also ran Federal Field and Target 2¾-inch and Remington Premier Duplex Magnum 4×6 3-inch ammo through the gun. I loaded the magazine, alternating different shotshells to see if the gun could handle cycling loads of different lengths and charge weights. The Mossberg had no problem shooting all of the loads. Now, the recoil intensity of the 3-inch shotshell was unpleasant, but Mossberg was thoughtful enough to make the gun capable of shooting 1¾-inch minishells—they were absolute pussycats. You also get a 13+1 magazine capacity with the shorties compared to an 8+1 capacity with 2¾-inch shells.

I shot several rounds of low-gun skeet with target loads to see if the gun would malfunction. I wasn’t so interested in breaking clay targets(though the gun shot surprisingly accurate on speeding clays) as I wanted to find out if the gun would fail when I brought it to my shoulder. It did not. The pump-action was quite smooth for a new gun. There was hardly any stiffness at all, and that should only improve with use.

Fully loaded, the 590S is a heavyweight, but it balances well and the adjustable, protected ghost-rings make it easy to acquire your target. Mossberg’s signature tang-mounted safety was easy to switch to fire and back to safe. It’s a nice feature to have because you might be required to shoot with your off-hand defending yourself in a tight space.

The Functionality of Mossberg’s 590S

The 590S will shoot 1 3/4-inch minishells
The 590S is capable of shooting 1 3/4-inch shorties. Payton Miller

Mossberg engineers redesigned the elevator and bolt slide and added an energy-absorbing bumper so the 590S can handle 1¾-, 2¾- and 3-inch shells no matter what order you load them in.

The 590S can be had in a shorter 18 ½-inch barrel with a front bead sight, but the 20-inch barrel I tested has ghost-ring sights and makes target acquisition much faster.

The 590S features a magazine clean out tube, which simply means you can unscrew the cap under the muzzle and remove the spring if you ever need to wipe down the inside of any accumulated crud. It’s a simple shotgun to take down for routine maintenance. Once you unscrew the fore-end cap, the barrel slides forward of the magazine tube.

There are several tactical light mounting options for the M-Lok compatible fore-end. And the 590S has a benefit that’s often overlooked in tactical shotguns. It comes with sling swivels in case you need to sling your gun to free both hands.

The Value of the 590S

Many shooters still prefer a pump over an auto for a self-defense firearm, claiming reliability and the ease of quickly chambering a shell when you need to load up fast. Having the option to load three different length shells is a bonus and makes the shotgun more versatile. The minishell capability of the 590S puts it in a class by itself. The combination of high capacity and low recoil is a real game changer for the tactical shotgun platform, and with a price tag under $750, it’s a good value.

Read Next: Best Pump Shotguns Under $500

Final Thoughts

The 590S can serve as a home-defense shotgun or truck gun, though the Shockwave variant is probably better suited for the truck. Its ability to shoot multiple shell lengths, particularly the 1¾-inch shorties, make it a tactical shotgun worth buying. Mossberg has also kept the price within reason on the 590S. You’re getting a highly versatile shotgun designed to shoot any kind of shotshell if it’s not a 3½-inch magnum. Mossberg could charge more for that capability, but they didn’t.

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