Be sure and see Mike Searsons' review of the Mossberg 590 Shockwave for a second opinion and some warnings for this ‘other weapon'.
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- There are few guns that capture the American imagination like a shorty shotgun.
There is something so authoritative and solid about a hero with one of these types of weapons. It’s an in-your-face kind of gun that instantly brings to mind the likes of the Terminator and Doc Holliday. The short shotgun is a type of finalizer in our pop culture and it deserves that reputation one hundred percent of the way.
I ended up spending a little more time with Mossberg’s 590 Shockwave than most Hollywood couples stay married. I felt that a week of daily use would give me a pretty good idea of what this awesome little weapon was capable of.
For the uninformed among us, this gun is legally not considered a shotgun. You may scratch your head at this as the weapon is chambered to fire 12ga shotshells and is a pump action, but it is considered by the ATF to be a ‘firearm’. You’re probably sitting there trying to figure that one out, and you wouldn’t be alone. The legal status of this gun is a result of the idiotic and arbitrary rules established by the government to regulate motorized gangsters… or was it to criminalize ordinary citizens? We may never know the true motivations of those who rule us, but I don’t really care because this gun is as cool as hell.
For all intents and purposes, I’m going to be talking about this ‘firearm’ in terms of how shotguns are used and performed several shotgun related tests with it.
The Shockwave is ready to run right out of the box. The action is, you guessed it, the same as the venerable Mossberg line and can accept modifications and parts that other Mossberg models do like Magpul forends and upgraded internals. The gun is heavier than it looks and the weight is welcome. The handling characteristics of the weapon are pretty unique in that it is really easy to use and at the same time difficult to master. I’ll talk more about this later.
Attached to the receiver is a 14” smoothbore barrel with a gold bead sight. The barrel isn’t fancy and has no embellishments to speak of. Located under the barrel is a magazine tube that holds up to five 2 ¾” shells. I had no issues loading five in the tube with one in the chamber. As you can readily guess, the gun is cycled by means of a pump action. This means that between shots you must manually ‘pump’ the action to feed and eject shells. Reliability was flawless no matter what loads I used in it.
The grip of the gun is why this model is called the Shockwave. The name is a nod to the guys who make these unique bird’s head grips and they are specially engineered to meet the overall length requirements of a ‘firearm’. The grip has an odd angle that makes it a bit awkward to hold, but it is what it is and it looks good to boot. You cannot attach a traditional stock to this gun, at least not legally or without a tax stamp. The receiver comes from the factory never having had a stock mounted, thus making it able to have the short barrel attached under the ‘firearm’ classification.
The weapon has a receiver mounted safety, a safety loop on the foregrip, and sling studs fore and aft. I’d be really hard pressed to find a reason to use a traditional sling setup on this gun because there isn’t a way to keep it out of the way. I tried to use one for all of five minutes and quickly decided that it was a far more useful gun without it. A single point sling would be a bit better because, if attached to the end of the grip only, it wouldn’t get in the way of the action or safety strap on the foregrip.
Since this little weapon wasn’t really geared to be tested like any other gun I’ve ever used, I decided to run it through its own unique paces and shoot it recreationally with some of my action shooting buddies.
As I mentioned earlier, the gun is supremely reliable. I never once had an issue or failure to feed or fire. The gun just cycled everything and anything. I finished off about a dozen boxes of mixed shells to include cheap birdshot to slugs. You may question my use of slugs in this weapon and I admit that I did, too. Out of the twenty or so varieties of shells I ended up getting my hands on, the most alarming to fire were slugs. I had several options from a couple makers to include Remington and Hornady. The recoil was very stout and my ability to hit things was essentially non-existent, but it was more fun than I’d had in a while.
The thing I fired the most of out of the weapon was just standard low brass Remington and Winchester game loads with a mixture of shot types. The lower recoil loads allowed for better control and an easier time on the range. It may not seem like it, but going through box after box of full-house loads makes for an exhausting day at the range.
The problem with the Shockwave isn’t that it is a hard gun to shoot, it’s that it is a hard gun to aim. The shape of the gun and angle of the grips makes it so that the weapon doesn’t hurt you. Since it isn’t in your shoulder, there isn’t anywhere for the recoil to bruise, that is unless you decide to get too familiar with it and introduce the grip to your face. The true difficulty is learning to point shoot with it and to be consistent when you need to actively move your hands to pump it.
I found that I was shooting high most of the time due to the fact that you can’t really get low to the receiver without endangering your face. This means that the angle of the muzzle is always slightly tilted upwards. Holding the sight bead right on and loosely aiming meant an almost guaranteed hit inside of ten yards. The further out I got, the harder it was to make anything connect. I’d give this gun a realistic effective range of about twenty yards with military-grade buckshot. Game loads didn’t really do anything at any more than ten.
The gun is difficult to hip fire. I know that most people that get a weapon like this will want to blast away from the hip, but it is just about useless in this capacity unless you tuck in your arms and rigidly hold it while working the action. Unlike the glittery image of our Hollywood heroes, aiming is still a thing in real life and you’ll waste lots of shells playing hero. Waste may be a strong word, as a happy day at the range is rarely a waste. A worthwhile expenditure would be a better way to describe it. I often struggle with the relationship between dollars and empty brass, but it is a dilemma that I was happy to have with this awesome gun.
The thing that would make this gun far more effective would be a simple rear sight or at least something to use to index the sight bead to in relation to the rear of the receiver. I wouldn’t want this feature to be overly complex or too adjustable. I’d love it if there was a company that made a fixed notch like on a Smith and Wesson J-Frame or SAA revolver that could mount using the pre-existing receiver scope base locations.
In my week with this gun, I shot at everything from moving clays to stationary paper and came away with the impression that this is a devastating and effective weapon at close ranges and could be employed at greater distances with practice. Mastering this gun is going to take practice, but much in the same way that shooting a revolver in double action can help you in single action, the more difficult things have the most rewards in the long run. You’d be amazed what you can do when you can ‘see’ where the shot will go when point shooting.
All in all, the Mossberg 590 Shockwave is one hell of a fun gun that is simple to use and enjoy. Some may think that is just a gimmick, but there is serious utility to be found in this tiny ‘firearm’. The Shockwave, I believe, will have lasting popularity among the shooting public and find its niche in your collection along the way.
About Josh Wayner:
Josh Wayner has been writing in the gun industry for five years. He is an active competition shooter with 14 medals from Camp Perry. In addition to firearms-related work, Josh enjoys working with animals and researching conservation projects in his home state of Michigan.