Mossberg .410 Cruiser No. 50455-3, $305
Despite its wide appeal, the 12-gauge shotgun and the recoil it produces are not for everybody. But we think weve found a shotgun that isthe Mossberg 410 Cruiser (No. 50455-3). This is $305, easy-to-handle pump-action .410 shotgun with pistol grip is a versatile self-defense alternative to a light rifle or handgun. While also available with full synthetic stock for firing from the shoulder (dubbed the HS Home Security .41, No. 50359-4) the Cruiser model is compact enough to fit inside the door pocket of some larger pickup trucks. Both models will handle .410 cartridges up to 3 inches long.
The Cruiser comes with the safety mounted atop the receiver just like on full-sized Mossbergs shotguns. The only difference in controls is that the slide release is tucked away on the left side, so operating it is less handy than on the 12-gauge Model 500 we tested previously.
Were impressed with the Cruiser because it compares favorably to other guns used for the same situations. What other weapon priced under $300 produces 600+ foot-pounds of muzzle energy but shoots like a .22? To match this in a handgun, for example, you have to live with the recoil of a .41 Magnum or 10 millimeter revolver, much more expensive options than the Cruiser.
How did the .410 Cruiser shoot? We patterned three different buckshot loads at 7, 10, and 20 yards. Patterns of 2.5- and 3-inch birdshot were also printed, but only at a distance of 7 yards. We also fired slugs off of a rest at 50 yards just like we did with the booming 12-gauge shotguns. In every case we the recoil barely got our attention and handling was simple.
Variation in slug-group size at 50 yards was only 2.7 to 4.3 inches. Weve not been able to do this well with most of the handguns we test at any price.
Mossbergs design, which includes a top mounted safety and lined top strap were the keys to accuracy. We could pick out the top of the bead at 6 oclock on our target and use the screw head of the safety to line up the shot. Striations atop the receiver were referenced for fine tuning the alignment. At this point the only thing that could go wrong would be trigger control, but with the Cruisers smooth 6-pound trigger, that wasnt a problem.
The 3-inch birdshot from Federal produced a more intense pattern than the 2.5-inch Remington cartridge, but only slightly more evenly. Either round would be a good choice for dispatching garden-variety varmints, but for self-defense buckshot or slugs are the way to go. Patterns out to 10 yards with the buckshot were tight and would be very effective. At 20 yards the 3-inch Sellier & Bellot round held the tightest pattern, a 7.8-inch hole.
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If you want to get away from hard-shooting handguns, and a short-barreled rifle isnt the right choice for you, the .410 Mossberg Cruiser is a handy defensive alternative worth buying.