July 2008

Choosing a 20-Gauge Pump: Remington Edges Mossberg

The Remington Model 870 Express Pump Synthetic 7-Round model held a one-shell advantage that, in our view, gave it the nod over the Mossberg 500 Persuader/Cruiser slide action.

For home defense, the focus is usually on 12-gauge shotguns, but we recently tested two 20 gauges that for many—if not all—folks would be better choices because of their lighter weight and reduced recoil. Our test products this round were the Remington Model 870 Express Pump Synthetic 7-Round 3-Inch 20 Gauge No. 81100, $397; and the Mossberg 500 Persuader/Cruiser 3-Inch 20 Gauge 6-shot No. 50452, $388.

Both guns were matte-black synthetic-stock pumps with 3-inch chambers, with 18- or 18.5-inch barrels and weights between 5.1 (Mossberg) and 6.5 pounds (Remington).

Not to spoil the surprise, we liked both of these 20 gauges a lot, and we would buy either one of them. In particular, for those shooters who already own an Express or Persuader 12 gauge for hunting or other uses, we’d recommend staying with your "house" brand and buy the 20 gauge you’re already familiar with. The reason many shooters should prefer these 20s for home defense over a bigger 12 gauge is that they’re noticeably lighter than the 12s. In the September 2005 issue, we tested the Remington Model 870 Express Synthetic 12 Gauge Magnum No. 25077, $345, which weighed 7.25 pounds, and the Mossberg Persuader Model 590A1 12 Gauge Magnum No. 51411, $443, which weighed 6.9 pounds. The 20s we tested weigh three-quarters of a pound to nearly 2 pounds less, respectively, than their counterpart 12s, which make them better choices for women or teenagers who might want to shoot them, but they don’t give up much in terms of hall-clearing power or capacity.

To function-test these pump guns, we took a trip to the tactical range and fed them a diet of common 20-gauge loads. Our test rounds were Remington’s ShurShot Heavy Dove 20 Ga. R20HD-S 2.75-in. 2.5 Dr. Eq. 1 oz. No. 8s; Sellier & Bellot 20 Ga. Field Load 2.75-in. 2.75 Dr. Eq. 1 oz. No. 8s, and Remington Premier STS Steel Light Target Load 20 Ga. STS20LS7 2.75-in. 2.5 Dr. Eq. 7/8 oz. No. 7s. At the firing line, both guns functioned properly, and we recorded no failures to fire or stoppages of any sort, though we had some trouble loading the Mossberg, which we detail below. In terms of materials, the Mossberg had an aluminum-alloy receiver that really cut its weight, while the Remington’s was steel. Both had alloy trigger guards, and the safety button for the Remington was steel while the Mossberg’s was plastic. We like the Remington’s use of a steel receiver and buttons and metal trigger guard.

Both guns have only the most rudimentary sights, which is fine for how they will probably be used, with shotshells. At close quarters, either shotgun would be an effective self-defense choice. Firing at 10 yards, we shot coffee-saucer-size patterns. However, the Remington holds six in the magazine and the Mossberg five, and that extra round might be the tiebreaker for some owners, as it was for us.

After the bang-bang section was complete, we moved on to other areas of function to separate them and call a winner. Here’s what we found out:

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