Mossberg 500 vs 590 – What is the Difference?

You would be hard-pressed to find a serious firearm enthusiast, police officer, or seasoned hunter that had never laid their hands on a Mossberg 500. This notorious shotgun has been produced over 10 million times and is still being purchased today.

With the success of the Mossberg Model 500 came several iterations of the gun, the most relevant of which is the Mossberg 590 and its many variations. When seeking to purchase a Mossberg 500, you will likely be tempted by a model 590 right next door with a slightly higher price tag. So, what’s the difference? 

 The major difference between the 500 and the 590 is the magazine tube. The design of the 590 makes it significantly more difficult to switch to different length barrels quickly, whereas the 500’s design allows for easy barrel switching.

Conversely, the design of the 590 allows you to add magazine tube extensions—increasing shot capacity—and the model 500 does not. A 590 with the same barrel length will hold more shells and be easier to clean than the model 500. 

You may be wondering whether being able to quickly switch barrels in the field is more important than the possibility of increasing your magazine capacity. In other words, which Mossberg is right for you? We will cover which model is better for which type of gun owner, and discuss some of the other “Mossberg 5xx” options available for specific use cases. 

The Mossberg 500 and Model 590

The Mossberg 500 series was designed in 1960 and was intended to be an entry-level hunting shotgun. It wasn’t long before the gun was recognized as a viable option for many other uses including home defense, clay sports, police, and military.  

The model 500—in one version or another—has documented military use in 19 countries around the globe including the United States of America, Japan, Poland, and Mexico.

Whether tested via the military or by passionate hunters, both of these guns have become undoubtedly renowned. They are both durable pump-action shotguns that come in 12 gauge, 20 gauge, or .410. There was a 16-gauge model introduced in 1963, but it was later discontinued.

They both come standard with an anodized aluminum alloy receiver and a polished and blued barrel. They are generally pretty close in price, with the 590 being a bit more expensive depending on the condition.

Both the 500 and 590 shotguns are chambered to hold 3-inch magnum shells, but cannot hold anything larger. The standard models hold 5 shells plus 1 in the chamber. The model 590 and model 500 both have options for a heat shield, and some model 590s have a lug to attach a bayonet. 

The Mossberg 500 is commonly sold with an 18.5” or 20” barrel, while the model 590 is only available (stock) with a 20” barrel and a flush-fitting magazine tube.

Both the 500 and the 590 share a tang-mounted safety, which was distinctive at the time of the weapon’s initial release. This style of safety remains the preference of many people to date and is still used commonly in Mossberg’s new 500 series models.

The Mossberg 590 is allegedly the only shotgun to ever have passed the US Army’s Mil-Spec 3443E test. This test runs 3,000 rounds of full-power buckshot through a 12 gauge shotgun. Needless to say,  It takes a very durable gun to pass this test. There is some controversy behind this claim, however, notably the fact that Mossberg’s major competitor—the Remington 870—was excluded for not being an ambidextrous firearm. 

Who Should Choose the Mossberg Model 500

WIth the easy-to-change barrel configuration, the Mossberg 500 is usually a better choice for hunters. This is especially true for hunters that may hunt several different types of game in the same day. For example, somebody may take their Mossberg 500 with a rifled barrel into the deer stand in the early morning, and head out to hunt waterfowl in the afternoon. By being able to switch the barrel easily, the Mossberg 500 effectively takes the place of carrying another firearm. 

The standard Mossberg 500 is known as one of the simplest, most reliable shotguns for hunters. After all, this is what the gun was originally designed for. For individuals who are not worried about having the highest possible shell capacity and would like to go for the cheaper, reliable, and simple option, the 500 is a great choice. 

Who Should Choose the Mossberg Model 590 

Both the 500 and the 590 are well-known for being extremely reliable without requiring a ton of maintenance. That being said, everybody should clean their guns regularly, and the 590 is quite a bit easier to clean.

The Model 590 magazine has a nut similar to the Model 500 that looks almost the same. However, on the 590, removing this nut allows for removal of the magazine spring and follower, whereas on the 500 the nut is there purely to hold the barrel in place. Once the nut is removed, you will also find threading on the 590 magazine that will facilitate extending the tube and effectively increasing the capacity of the weapon. 

The 590 was intended more for military and police use. This means a higher-capacity weapon that is durable and easy to maintain. If you are looking for a purely defensive weapon for security, home defense, or enforcement, this may be a better choice for you. 

The Mossberg 590A1 

There is oftentimes confusion when looking at this gun compared to the Mossberg 500 and 590. While these two are almost identical, the 590A1 is quite different. 

With deeper consideration for military use, Mossberg released the model 590A1, which featured some notable upgrades. The 590A1 is significantly heavier due to the thicker barrel profile of the gun. This isn’t a bad thing if you have the upper body strength, as a heavy gun equates to less recoil. 

While the 590 and 500 have a plastic trigger guard and safety, on the  590A1 these parts are metal, making an already extremely durable shotgun even more durable. The 590A1 is advertised as military spec, which generally (but not always) means no plastic, and this usually calls in buyers willing to pay a little extra.

There have been complaints among 500 and 590 owners about the plastic trigger grouping, where the plastic tabs holding the trigger guard in will break and render the gun useless. Because of this, gun enthusiasts discovered that the 500 and 590 can actually use the metal assembly from the 590A1—and therefore can be upgraded—so this shouldn’t be a major selling factor for most.

Some model 590A1 shotguns will have military-style bayonet lugs and heat shields. An important thing to note is that while the 500 and 590 can be easily fitted with a Mossberg-style heat shield, the heavier barrel on the 590A1 does not allow for installing the factory heat shield that the 590 and 500 share. A heat shield can help keep you from being burned when handling the barrel after firing a large amount of shot and can help keep the sight picture clear if the barrel is hot. If this is an important feature to you, it is a good idea to find a 590A1 that already has a heat shield fitted. 

The Mossberg 590A1 is the standard-issue pump-action shotgun of the United States military today, though it is also available for civilian purchase. 

The Maverick 88

While the 590A1 is the higher-end, upgraded, and more expensive alternative to the 500 or 590, there is also a more budget-friendly option. The Maverick 88 is made by Mossberg and is very similar to both the 500 and 590. 

The Maverick 88 has a few distinguishing features. Instead of the tang safety that is shared by the 500, 590, and 590A1, the Maverick 88 has a crossbar push-button safety. While this may be bad news for some, others report that they prefer this type of safety, especially when using pistol grips on their shotgun.

Like the 500, the 88 has a magazine nut that holds the barrel on and allows for easy barrel swapping. As a matter of fact, all Mossberg Model 500 barrels are compatible with the Maverick 88. 

One major downside to the Maverick 88 is the lack of scope provisions. The 88 is not drilled and tapped, meaning in order to add any sort of optic to the shotgun, you will need some sort of external mounting. These are available online and are relatively inexpensive, but are not as reliable as the traditional drill and tap provisions of the 500, 590, and 590A1.

The Mossberg Shockwave

The Shockwave is a unique weapon, being a consumer-ready short-barrel home-defense shotgun that has gained massive popularity. The Shockwave was the best-selling pump-action shotgun in the United States in 2020. 

The Shockwave is a 590, a 14-inch barrel rather than 18.5” or 20”, and a distinguishing “birds-head” style grip. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Shockwave is not a shotgun. It avoids the restriction of being considered a short-barreled shotgun (and therefore illegal), by remaining over 26 inches in length and not being made to fire from the shoulder. 

While legal at a federal level, some states may prohibit the purchase of this weapon, as it is considered a non-NFA (National Firearms Act) firearm. 

The Mossberg 590M 

In 2018, Mossberg continued their development of the Mossberg 500 series with the 590M. The 590M is considered a “special purpose” model intended for self-defense, police, and military use, while still being available to the public. 

The 590M is extremely unique in that it is a double-stack magazine-fed shotgun. This monster of a shotgun can max out at 20 shell capacity (technically 21, if you’ve got one in the chamber). As can be expected, this model is more expensive than its counterparts. 

Are Mossberg 500 Parts Interchangeable with 590 Parts? 

All Mossberg shotguns can use the same stocks. This is true across the board. Heat shields are available that will fit both the model 500 as well as the 590 models, with the exception of the 590A1 which has a thicker barrel.

Barrels and magazine tubes are different between the 500 and the 590. You cannot use a Mossberg 500 barrel with a Mossberg 590. You can, however, use any Mossberg 500 barrel with a Maverick 88. 

In Summary

There is only one major difference between the Mossberg 500 and the Mossberg 590, and that is the magazine tube. If you are looking for an all-around shotgun that can be used for home defense, competition, and hunting, the Model 500 will never do you wrong. 

A Model 590 is a great choice too, and if you find one with the right add-ons for the right price, it may be a better selection. For some gun owners who want to push the limits of capacity, but may not legally be able to own a 590M because of state restrictions, the 590 will offer higher capacity than the 500 in almost every case. 

 Now that you know the important differences between the 500 and 590, as well as the other variations of the Mossberg 500 that are available to you, you can confidently purchase a tough, reliable, and powerful shotgun without hesitation.


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Justin Pikulski

Justin is a tactical enthusiast and writer from Massachusetts. He spends time away from work studying nature and practicing self-sufficiency. His hobbies include motorcycle camping, shooting, hunting, foraging, hiking, photography, and travel.

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