Oscar F Mossberg and his sons founded a firearms company in 1919. After making a splash in the world of handguns (yes, they made handguns!), and rifles, they started to move into shotguns. By 1960, the company was a household name and ready to take a gamble with a new pump action shotgun. This slide-action wonder went down in history as the Model 500-- and 10 million guns later, it's still going strong.
What's so special?
With its smooth slide action, the Mossberg 500 cycled rounds from its underbarrel tubular magazine into its breech where a single large locking lug cammed the weapon into battery. Over time the single action bar on the pump slide was made even stronger with the addition of a second bar, making the gun more reliable than legacy Stevens shotguns, which long held the 'value' brand title. A slide release mounted behind the trigger guard and an ambidextrous safety lever atop the receiver that could be actuated in low light conditions by touch gave the gun a user-friendly interface with the user.
Today the company is the oldest family-owned firearms manufacturer in America, and the 500 is still in production in its long-time home of Connecticut, despite that state's strict gun laws.
When compared to the other classic shotgun designs of the past century or so, the Model 500 is something of the people's champ. When the Mossy came out on the market, Winchester was still marking their 40-year old Model 1912 design and Ithaca saw pushing their 1930s vintage Model 37. The 500, sold by Mossberg through various outlets like Western Auto and Service Merchandize, and Montgomery Ward as the simplified Maverick 88, New Haven 600, and the Revelation series besides their own branded models, helped close out those two earlier designs. Only the Remington 870, which has been on the market since 1951 and broke the 10-million mark a few years ago, seems to be able to keep up.
The gun's design is the basis for the M590/590A1 models of combat shotguns used by the US military. It's also been super-sized as the Model 535 in 3.5-inch magnum and other the other end of the spectrum it has been shrunk down into the compact Model 505, Bantam, and Super Bantam youth shotguns, available in mild-recoiling 20-gauge and .410. These guns, ranging from field models for hunters to slug guns, to shorty home defense and police versions offer something for everyone.
In the end, it looks like 10 million Mossberg fans can't be wrong.