Gun Review: Mossberg’s 590A1 12-Gauge Shotgun


Mossberg 590A1

       If Samuel Colt’s revolvers made all men equals in the 1800s, I’d like to nominate the shotgun for that title in the succeeding centuries, even though the shotgun saw an appreciable amount of martial use in the 1800s and before. It would seem any firearm striking such fear into the hearts of military opponents that they sentenced captured users to immediate death is pretty special! Shotguns continue to effectively defend home and hearth and serve with military and law enforcement personnel.

       While shotguns are not magic wands, nor the devastating weapons the World War I-era Germans felt they were, they are certainly very effective when used correctly. Despite the increased popularity of patrol carbines in law enforcement, shotguns—primarily pump actions—are still in use by patrol officers and others. The United States armed forces currently authorize three shotguns, including the 12-gauge Mossberg 590A1.

Mossberg 590A1

       The Mossberg 590A1 is a member of the well-established Mossberg 500 family with enhancements made to meet military requirements. The 590A1’s predecessor, the 590, incorporated a modified magazine tube and end cap. Introduced in the 1980s, the 590A1 took things a little further with the addition of an aluminum alloy triggerguard and safety, added in response to the military’s 3443G materials requirements, as well as a heavier barrel, satisfying the Navy’s request to prevent deformation if heavy ship doors were to strike it. Steel parts on the 590A1 are Parkerized, and the barrel features a fixed cylinder-bore choke.

       Like all of the 500 family, the 590A1’s receiver is milled from weight-saving aluminum alloy. For durability, the bolt locks into a steel barrel extension. All Mossbergs have twin action bars for smoother operation and magazine tubes threaded directly into the receiver. The safety is mounted on the tang, an ambidextrous location easy to reach on a shotgun with a full-sized stock.

The reptile-looking Typhon camo should do a superb job of breaking up the pattern of the shotgun and helping it blend in.

       Prior to the Army, Navy and Coast Guard’s adoption of the 590A1, it competed with a number of shotguns in the usual abuse tests, including being buried in sand and firing a mixture of 3,000 rounds of buckshot and slugs. The 590A1 was the only pump action to pass with no more than three malfunctions. Part of that success results from the Mossberg’s design, which discourages dirt and debris from gumming up the action. Following the military’s adoption, many law enforcement agencies adopted the Mossberg 590A1 for the same reasons that the armed services had.

       Mossberg’s 590A1 is not your father’s bird gun pressed into a harsher duty. There may be bird guns in its lineage, but the 590A1 has been modified for harsher duties, putting it at the top of the Mossberg pump shotgun food chain when it comes to tactical duties. With all of its mandated durability, the 590A1 is obviously perfect for the military’s needs. As with many weapons with a military background, the 590A1 may seem to possess a little more than what a non-military shotgun—self-defense or law enforcement—might need, but for those who demand only the best when lives are at stake, the confidence the 590A1 provides is certainly worth it.

       Mossberg’s 590A1 Special Purpose shotguns are available with several sight options, including just a bead front sight, a front blade wearing a highly visible fluorescent orange stripe on the ramp, three-dot rifle sights or a ghost-ring setup. They typically come with either 18.5- or 20-inch barrels. While perusing the Mossberg website recently, I noticed a new finish available on the 590A1 Special Purpose: Kryptek Typhon camouflage. According to Kryptek, Typhon camouflage was designed under the premise that “Darkness is the ally of the predator that prowls at night. Kryptek Typhon serves those who operate when and where others will not venture.”

Mossberg 590A1 “US SERVICE MODEL”

Gun Details

       This 3-inch-chambered 590A1 Special Purpose (officially dubbed the model 51522) sports an 18.5-inch heavy barrel, a ghost ring rear sight and a front ramp with a high-visibility orange stripe. Of course, the first thing you’ll notice is the very interesting Kryptek Typhon camouflage that covers the entire shotgun, including the polymer furniture and the sling swivel stud that screws into the magazine cap. Well, everything except the cushiony buttpad at the end of the stock, with its 14-inch length of pull.

       Whether hunting game or two-legged predators, the reptile-looking Typhon camo should do a superb job of breaking up the pattern of the shotgun and helping it blend in. Once the Typhon camo is applied, the Mossberg 590A1’s original black coloration still shows through where the urban gray pattern doesn’t cover it.

       The secret to any Kryptek camouflage’s performance is that it “utilizes a multi-directional design to effectively conceal in a multitude of terrains that have either a lateral or vertical flow. The bi-level layering of the patterns incorporates background transitional shading and sharp random geometrical foregrounds to create a three-dimensional effect that ensures the utmost in concealment at both close and long ranges.” Kryptek’s camouflage is described as “the ultimate in passive battlefield deception.” I can tell you this: The Typhon camo is definitely an eye-catcher and, based on a couple of my low-light evaluations, it’s very effective.

       The secret to applying the Moss­berg’s camouflage is “hydrographic dipped film,” or water-transfer prin­­­­t­­­­­­­ing, which can add decorative surfaces to flat and three-dimensional objects. The hydrographic process can be used on virtually any material because the film is applied when parts are dipped into a water tank in which the film to be applied is floating.

Range Time

       Honestly, the 590A1 arrives with just about everything you could ask for, including very usable sights. I could have stripped the ghost-ring rear sight off, added a rail to the receiver and popped a small electronic sight like EOTech’s compact and effective MRDS onto the rail. I might’ve considered that if it were my shotgun, but for this test I kept the ghost-ring sight in place.

       And then there is the sling, a much-needed item for duty long guns. At some point every officer needs both of their hands free to search or handcuff a suspect. I usually prefer non-black slings, but it seemed only fitting to give the Typhon-covered 590A1 a black one. I had a black Viking Tactics VTAC sling, complete with swivels on hand, that was a perfect fit! Mention a VTAC sling and most folks envision rifles, but it worked perfectly with the Mossberg shotgun.

       All kitted up, I hauled a ton of shotshells to the range and began banging away at things with Mossberg’s 590A1. Birdshot, full-power and reduced-recoil slugs, buckshot—it all worked well in the 590A1—but of course it did, it’s a pump! It should come as no surprise that the 590A1 shot and handled well, producing low-recoil 00 buckshot patterns in the sub-8-inch range at 15 yards. Slugs dropped into groups measuring between 1.5 and 2 inches.

       Even though the extra rounds of a 20-inch-barreled 590A1 would be nice, I still prefer the maneuverability of the 18.5-inch-barreled version. It seems to track well on moving targets and handles itself better than longer barrels inside close confines. And the 590A1 I tested is an outstanding example of this Mossberg series.

Final Notes

       The final verdict on the Kryptek-Typhon-covered Mossberg 590A1 Special Purpose is simple. After all, the Mossberg 590A1 has an excellent reputation built upon decades of battlefield and LEO use. It is solid and should work for years even with heavy use. The improvements made to the 590A1 years ago, including the thicker barrel and the metal triggerguard and safety, are definitely worth it! This robust 12-gauge shotgun has been, and continues to be, a great choice for law enforcement.

       Having an effective camouflage such as the Kryptek Typhon on the shotgun is an outstanding bargain for only about $60 more than a similarly equipped 590A1 without the Kryptek camouflage. Much of the work done in tactical operations is in low light—inside structures, approaching structures, maneuvering through wooded areas, etc. If the operator is wearing effective camouflage, the solid color and straight lines of most firearms could reveal his position. But that’s not the case if the firearm has a Kryptek camo finish. And, let’s be honest, this particular shotgun really looks outstanding!

For more information, visit mossberg.com or call 800-363-3555.


Like this Contents? Get FREE Updates!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *