A Brief Comparison and Review – Mossberg 590A1 and Remington 870 Tactical

January 7, 2010

November 19, 2009

Mossberg 590A1 and Remington 870 Tactical Shotguns

Mossberg 590A1 and Remington 870 Tactical Shotguns - out in the desert south of Boise

We took these two out to do a short comparison test. The course of fire consisted of one 2 ¾” 00 Buck shell at 7 yards, one 2 ¾” 1 oz. slug at 7 yards, and a few clay pigeons for good measure. One additional round of slug was fired from the Mossberg at 25 yards to check the sight adjustment, as it printed low with the slug round at 7 yards. It printed even lower at 25 yards, which indicates that the rear sight elevation simply needs some fine tuning.

The one noticeable difference between the two (aside from sight issues) was that the buckshot pattern from the Mossberg was much tighter than the Remington’s.

Both guns have been accessorized and those details will be covered in more detail in the reviews.

Mossberg 590A1 (#51663)

This particular model is the military version of the venerable Mossberg 500/590 family of pump-action shotguns. It features a heavy-walled 20” barrel (that the accessory heat shields don’t fit), a metal trigger assembly and a metal safety button (these two items are plastic on other models). It also features a 9-shot magazine and a bayonet mount that is compatible with any bayonets that fit AR-15s and M16s.

Bayonet Lug on M590A1

Bayonet Lug on M590A1

This model is fitted with a ghost-ring rear sight and a day-glo orange rifle front sight. The rear sight is well-protected inside a base that has two prominent heavy-gauge steel “ears” on the sides.

Mossberg 590A1 Rear Sight and Tang Safety

Mossberg 590A1 Rear Sight and Tang Safety

The main difference between the Mossberg and the Remington is the material used for the receiver. Mossberg’s receivers are made from aluminum, and Remington uses steel. For most users, this probably won’t matter. The Mossberg passed a 3000-round torture test without any problems. Since most homeowner-type users will not put anywhere near that many rounds through the gun, it’s an academic argument as to whether the aluminum receivers are durable enough. The action lock-up in the Mossberg is steel-to-steel anyway. There is a lug atop the bolt that locks into an extension at the back of the barrel when the action is closed.

One other feature difference that may seem like a minor issue but could be a big deal in a “situation” is the placement of the slide release button and the safety. Mossberg places the slide release right at the back of the trigger guard where it can easily be accessed with your hand in shooting position. This is also true of the ambidextrous tang-mounted safety button, which can be flicked with your thumb without removing your hand from the grip.

Mossberg 590A1 Trigger Assembly and Slide Release

Mossberg 590A1 Trigger Assembly and Slide Release

The 590A1 is a heavy gun, and very purposeful looking (the name of the model is the “Persuader”). The barrel is parkerized, and the rest of the bits are done in matte black, and it has a black plastic (“polymer”) stock. It looks especially menacing with a bayonet attached.

It also has a very stiff action right out of the box. This specimen has a few rounds through it, and is starting to loosen up a bit.

This gun is outfitted with a 6-round butt-cuff ammo carrier and a black nylon web sling with quick-detach swivels. Both accessories together cost about $20.

Remington 870 Tactical

The test gun we had featured a SureFire forend with a built-in tactical light, and a Hogue overmolded stock with a short pull length, as well as a 5-round butt-cuff ammo carrier.

The Remington has a smoother action from the get-go, and it was easy to shoot and cycle the action. The SureFire forend does tend to make the gun more muzzle-heavy than it would be otherwise, but it still pointed nicely.

One difference between the Remington and Mossberg, at least these two models, is that the Remington has a simple bead front sight and no rear sight.

The other difference, as mentioned before, is the location of the slide release and safety button. On the Remington, the slide relesase is located at the front of the trigger guard, and the safety is a cross-bolt type button at the rear of the trigger guard.

Remington 870 Slide Release

Remington 870 Slide Release

Remington 870 Safety Button

Remington 870 Safety Button

The butt-cuff cartridge carriers on these shotguns are an inexpensive and convenient way to carry extra ammo. They aren’t perfect, though. I had the experience of shooting some 3″ 00 Buckshot rounds through the 590 and the recoil knocked a few shells right out of the carrier.

Butt-Cuff Carrier on 870 (scrunched due to shorter stock installed)

Butt-Cuff Carrier on 870 (scrunched due to shorter stock installed)

There are plastic carriers available that are more secure, but they cost more, and usually are mounted to the side of the receiver using screws, so the installation is slightly more involved.

The SureFire forend on the Remington is a nice piece of equipment, as it allows you to toggle on and off a high-intensity tactical light without removing your hand from the forend. The downside is the weight and bulk (the gun was hard to stuff into a soft-sided case), and expense. They run upwards of $250 to about $350, depending on the options selected.

SureFire Forend Switch Detail

SureFire Forend on Remington 870

Our conclusions were that both are good choices if you want a purely defensive gun, but don’t have much utility or versatility as sporting arms, especially the Mossberg.

If you want something that will serve in multiple roles, the more hunting-oriented models of these guns might serve better, as they give you barrel choices and the abiltiy to use different chokes.

27 Responses to A Brief Comparison and Review – Mossberg 590A1 and Remington 870 Tactical

  1. BernieR on January 18, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Greatings, Where are you from? Is it a secret? :)
    Have a nice day

  2. admin on January 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm


    I’m from all over, but I live the Treasure Valley in Idaho.

  3. Edith on January 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Heya i got to your site by mistake when i was searching bing for something off topic here but i do have say your site is really helpful, like the theme and the content on here…so thanks for me procrastinating from my previous task, lol

  4. Robert G on January 22, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Hey bud, great review. I wish I had a bayonet lug. Affix bayonets, OORAH Marine Corps.

  5. regan tanasichuk on February 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    hi there i found your information useful but one thing not mentioned is the issue with reminghtons problems. i have taken back three 870 xcs magnums in a row because of foreend jamming.
    after speaking to reminghton and several dealers as well as checking reviews the truth is that there are tens of thousands of guns that are faulty and according to the nice lady at reminghton they let them slip through quality control because the current president of reminghton is more concerned with numbers going out then the quality. this is from the horses mouth
    and things are not the way they used to be and may never be again
    for reminghton. thanks for reading and feel free to check for yourself.

  6. Mordred on December 8, 2010 at 10:46 am

    The Mossy is battle proven. We use them all though out Iraq and they have proven they have what it takes to survive. I had no problems using it to bash in door or whatever else i needed to hit, and never a misfire.

  7. luke on December 23, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    i have the mossberg 590a1 and while it has never had a missfire it has on several occasions refused to eject the empty catriage but i believe this is due to the fact that the gun does not like the cheap winchester 2 3/4 inch clay pigeon loads,i have also shot 4 of the remington 870′s and all 4 of them locked up in the fore end,my go to gun will always be my 590a1

  8. admin on December 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    You’re the second person to mention the forend problem with the Remington 870…

  9. Larry B on December 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    When I GOOGLE: REMINGTON 870 VS MOSSBERG 590, I have no problem with the Remington 870-centricness when the two are compared. Remington is much more popular and understandably since it has a much longer history; when you buy a Remy you also buy it’s legend. But what many Remy fans fail to point out is that the 590A1 competes directly against the higher end 870′s yet is priced competetively against the Express models which, quite frankly, can’t hold a candle to a 590; let alone a 590A1. So if you’re a LE agency with only practicality and a tight budget in mind, why would you NOT put a 590/590A1 at the top of the list? Thanks to this article which shows that in an apples against apples comparison that Remington doesn’t have a lot over a comparable (and less expensive) Mossberg except it’s legend.

  10. 870 Gunner on January 28, 2011 at 3:49 am

    Regan’s comment screams of BS. While I’m not overly impressed with the modern 870 Express model, I accept that it’s built on a design that is absolutely proven. The 870 has proven itself in combat, and decades before Iraq. It was used in Vietnam. Haven’t heard any complaints about it from that era. I own an old Wingmaster and a newer Express that I built up into a tactical shotgun. The only perceivable difference between the two is how smooth the wingmaster is. This may be due to the fact that it is 40 years old and has seen some loving use, or it may be that the materials and fit were better then. It may also be that I’ve only put about 150 shells through the Express. Mossberg is a decent shotgun and I won’t look down on them, but they aren’t for me. However, I do have enough experience with them to say that out of the box, they aren’t as cleanly machined as modern Remingtons, aren’t as smooth, and feel a bit clumsier. A well-worn Mossy handles nicely, but to my hands, a Remington 870 feels better fresh, broken in, and even dirty than any Mossberg I’ve owned or shot.

  11. Dave on February 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I have beenin lawenforcement for 17 years, on SWAT for about 14 and a firearms instructor for the last 5. I have experienced the lock up with both the Remington and Mossburg. I believe this is a problem inherrant to the single levering lug design. If you are applying rearward pressure on these type of pump guns it will lock up untill you give a quick forward jerk on the fore end. I currently own an FN police pump action. This has a rotating bolt design and if there is any rearward pressure on the fore end it slams back. Our office had 870′s when I first started, we now have 590A1′s (18.5″ heavy barrels) in all the cruisers. Our new 590′s combined with Federal Tactical 00 Buck are the tighest shot group placement I have ever seen. At normal house room distances 15 to 20 feet it leaves one jagged hole. However my issue Benelli w/14 inch berrel shoots similar groups :) I would go after armed bad guys with any one of the four guns and feel comfortable.

  12. Greg on March 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Hi: Have had a 590 since 1999 , ghost ring model. Have never had any issues with it.Feed shells in pump and pull. Dont have speed feed , 8+1 gives me that well armed feeling. With the Ghost rings you can hunt deer or pigs. Only owned 1 870 and I sold it shortly after I got it “wingmaster” guy needed $$ . Have other 12s and 20s 308s and 45s , Bugout time comes the 590 will be one of the first in the truck. Nothing says BACKOFF like a 590 period.

  13. Rusty on March 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I am in the market for the Mossberg 590 A1 item #51670. It has the AR-15 style grip on it. Does the AR style grip get in the way of the slide release or make it difficult to access the slide release?

  14. admin on March 22, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    The pistol grip will necessarily limit access to the slide release. If you are looking for right-handed reach-under access to the slide release (which is located on the left rear of the trigger guard), having a pistol grip equipped shotgun will prevent that, at least without some contortions.

    You just need to decide which is more important, the pistol grip, or unfettered access to the slide release.

    Being a right-hander, I would stick with the standard-style butt stock. It has the added advantage of fitting into normal-sized shotgun cases, too.

  15. Dennis on March 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Today I put some cash down on a used 590A1 after listening to the clerk convince me that I couldn’t go wrong having done so. After reading these reports, I feel confident that the choice is a good one! I know I’ll feel a little more secure with this cannon strapped on while hunting for nuggets in Alaska this summer!

  16. Larry on November 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Just bought a Remington 870 express. Total piece of crap. Will not eject the spent shells, fore-end jamms up at least every other time shot.
    Returned to store, they told me that a lot of them are being returned because of the smame problem. Said they would strongly recommend not buying Remington, the investors that acquired it are running it into the ground.
    Unfortunately, can’t return them, has to be sent to Remington to assess/repair. Stuck with it, and VERY dissatisfied.

  17. Andy Mac on March 12, 2012 at 1:14 am

    I have a Mossberg 590a1 and I am left handed. The safety and the slide release are completely natural and comfortable for a south paw. The kick, the weight and the pull are all just amazing. I would recomend a 590 for anyone who enjoys a working shotgun and and still wants to be able to protect what they love most. An amazing gun.

  18. mike on April 12, 2012 at 4:45 am

    This debate seems as old as Chevy vs ford. You have some true to one no matter what and vice versa. I bought an 870 from my uncle. He never had problems with it and it seems to be a nice gun.

  19. TuFargon54 on June 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    No complaints about 870s. never owned one. True thing ’bout that one big hole that dave mentions. @ local range my son unloaded his 590 on man sized target. Sounded like… “BoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoomBoom”!!! He leaned steady towards 5 yard target w/ no hesitation btwn booms. Range owners say they’d never seen a hole like that before. Hear if u don’t hesitate, cycle gun hard/fast, it should work fine. Just an opinion. I hesitate & mess up occasionally…need more playtime!

  20. z on June 13, 2012 at 7:46 am

    All 870′s are not equal. I you want to compare apples to apples then use 590A1 vs. 870P.

  21. Sig on August 26, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Intresting information about the 870 tactical! I grew up shooting a Wingmaster 870, excellent gun! 25 years later I am in the market for a home defense shotgun, so I buy an 870 express, logical choice considering my history with Remington, right? I get it set up with ghost ring sights, and take it to the range. WOW, I was shocked!!!! Same issue as mentioned earlier, for end locked up?? Plastic trigger housing? What happened to the American legend?? Done with Remy!!!

  22. Jay on September 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Well, like another poster said, this should be a debate between the 870 Police Model and the 590A1. I have owned both, and both are very good guns. The 870 has a smother action, nicer fit, and finish. The 590A1 seems more rugged and has dual extractors. I currently own the 590A1 20″ with Ghost Ring Sights. To choose between these two is a matter of preferance, although I do seem to be reading of a lot of QC issues with the 870 Express.

  23. PAUL on September 5, 2012 at 11:08 am


  24. Drey on October 6, 2012 at 6:59 am

    Aimpro.com has heatshields for 590a1. get their phone number off of the website. they have them for 20″ and 18.5″ models, parkerized and good quality.

  25. Kathleen Kelly on October 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    What would you recommend for my daughter and myself for home defense. I thought pistol grip instead of stock. From your site looks like mossy better. Want a short barrel. More shells it holds the better. What about recoil? Thought also of carrying one in my semi. Right now have a 9mm. Help! Lol. We are both going for our CCP next month.

  26. admin on October 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Before you buy something, it would be a good idea to shoot it first. A 12-gauge with pistol grip can be a handful, especially if you are of small stature. You may want to consider a full-stocked 20 gauge, as well, if you’re keen on having a shotgun. Handguns may be a good choice, too, just from an ease of use standpoint (small or medium framed double action revolvers are a good starting point). Again, try before you buy!

  27. admin on October 21, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I’m still not seeing heat shields for the 590A1 with the 20″ heavy barrel. What gives?

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