Memories of Shotguns in the Corps


At any given time there are a handful of firearms I really want to purchase.  Usually after a few years of looking I manage to find one, quickly get tired of it, and later sell it for a minute profit.  The newest accusation is a Mossberg 500 MILS.  I’ll post more about it some other time.

Not me.  That is a Mossberg 500 MILS that my platoon used in Iraq.

Prior to joining up, I used to see ads for the Mossberg 590A1 talk about how it was the only milspec shotgun and the only shotgun to pass the USMC tests, etc.  Then when I was in I never saw a single 590.

Every shotgun I saw in the hands of Marines was either a Mossberg 500, or a Benelli M1014.  That had me fairly confused for a long time.  Where were those 590s?  Where did all the 500s come from?

It is only long after I got out that I learned that the USMC does buy 590s and issues them out to various groups.  Also the 500s they buy are pretty much built to the 590 spec.

Now this is my guess on the matter.  I used to think that the 590 was the standard line, and the 500 was the economy line from Mossberg.  Now I think the 500 was the standard, and the 590 upgraded.  I think some years back the USMC wanted a shotgun and they tested the 500 and liked it, but wanted some changes.  Heavier barrel, metal trigger guard, metal safety, etc.  So that became the 590A1.  Military orders 500 built to that spec, and those are the 500 MILS.  Correct me if I am wrong, but that is my guess and I haven’t bothered to do my due diligence and research it..  I did hear that the Army decided that rebuilding the trigger groups was too long, hard. and expensive, so they started ordered the cheaper plastic trigger housing and just replace the whole unit should it fail or need to be rebuilt.

Being a rifleman, my experience in the Corps with shotguns was fairly limited.  I was fortunate to have received shotgun training while I was in, we had a range sessions where we are familiarized with the Mossberg and the Benelli shotguns.  I remember that under stress and pushed for speed plenty of Marines would short stroke the pump actions.  We all loved the M1014 for shooting, but people would fumble the controls or forget how to release the bolt, etc.  Even after using both shotguns for a couple days straight, Marines would still fumble with them.

While I was in, I taught a class on Mechanical Breaching.  How to break into buildings.  Part of that involved explaining how to breach doors with a shotgun.  I’d never done it at that time, I would just repeat the spiel that I was taught.  I was actually attached to be a demonstrator for that class, and after hearing the instructor teach it a few times, one time he had to take care of something so I simply repeated all the things he taught to the students that were waiting around.  After that it was decided that they liked how I taught better and I ended up teaching that class.

The blind leading the blind, it is the Marine Corps way.  I did get to do a little breaching later on in Iraq, but never popped a lock with a shotgun.

Back then, the instruction on shotgun breaching was to place the muzzle on the door or lock.  Later I have seem multiple sources teach to stand off an inch or two, and it even became popular to attach a standoff to the barrel of the shotgun.  There was a long explanation back then of why we should press the muzzle to the target.  I haven’t bother to look into which way is actually better.  It is near the bottom of my to-do list.

When we deployed, my platoon received a couple of Mossberg 500s.  The one that was used by my squad had the bead sight broken off.  It is the one in the picture above.  We had a 0331 machine gunner who was issued the Shotgun because it was decided he was not going to carry the M240 during all our foot patrols.

Our ~combat~ use of the shotguns was rather pathetic.  Our guys issued shotguns were maybe given about 20 rounds total for the deployment.  Early in the deployment the Marine issued the one in the picture at one point had to hand it over for use by the Battalion Commander’s personal security detachment for a patrol, and that guy lost most of the issued ammo.  So for the rest of deploying our guy only had maybe 7 rounds total.

If I recall correctly, my squad never breached any doors with a weapon.  We generally were able to either open a door or smash it open by pushing/kicking.  I do know of one case where a few guys I knew tried to breach a door using a M16A4.  I’m told the shooter fired 3 rounds, and multiple fragments came back and struck other Marines stacked up prepared for entry.  I heard that the lock was not defeated.  I do not know if the fragments were part of the M855 he fired or parts of the door & lock.  I also would not put it past the guy to have missed the lock completely.  Sadly I’ll never know the whole story, all I know is that those guys couldn’t break a lock with a M16.

While I was in, I never saw any ammunition other than buckshot.  No one ever seemed to be able to get their hands on any slugs or breaching rounds.  But that is the Corps, they had a hard enough time providing us water & chow.  Hell we couldn’t even get the guy issued the shotgun more than the 7 or so rounds he carried during the deployment.

We all loved the M1014.  It was kinda odd that we were told it was adopted for riot use, but it couldn’t cycle the less than lethal ammo.  So it was suggested to use the M500 if your shooting bean bags & baton rounds.  I remember guys had a hard time cleaning them because no one ever taught them how to clean it.

One of the SAW gunners in a different platoon that I knew was issued a M1014 for a short while.  He would put his issued M145 Elcan 3.4X scope on it and joke that he had a sniper shotgun.  That is the only case I ever saw of anyone using the rail on that shotgun.

An aside.  I was trying to look up some info on Mossbergs shotguns.  I stumbled across a post on the forum where the following was said:

Slam-fire shotguns don’t exist, much less a comprehensive list of them.
Go troll someplace else, most of us here aren’t foolish enough to encourage your fantasies.


The only reason I can see for such a list is to build a fully-automatic shotgun. If that is not the case, perhaps you can explain why you want this rather odd information. If it is the case, perhaps you can explain why any responsible person would help you.


That is part of the problem of doing research.  Not only will the people who are wrong share their knowledge, but will most vehemently insist that they are right.

There are a handful of older pump shotguns that can “slam fire”.  These guns have no trigger disconnect so you can hold down the trigger and just rack the action.  The Winchester Model 12, Winchester 1893/1987, and Ithaca M37 are the only ones that come to my mind that do that.  Modern reproductions of these often, but not always, keep lack of a trigger disconnect so that they can slam fire.  The Mossbergs do no slam fire.  But the stupidity of the above comments forced me to bring this up.  I have no clue how DrMike thinks that a slam firing PUMP ACTION shotgun is going to be converted to full auto.

I’ve heard of Mossbergs modified or malfunctioning being able to slam fire, but those are the exception.

Anyways, that’s off topic.

So often in the Corps, a shotgun was just handed to a Marine with the expectation that they would know how to use it.  That was more often not the case.  I saw plenty of negligent discharges from people with shotguns.  One example, my platoon was going to escort another platoon when they were moving from one patrol base to another.  They had set up in an empty house.  I was the first from my platoon to enter this house occupied by the other platoon so I was sweeping through it.  I was was leaving the threshold of the living room, my team mates were walking into the room.  One of the Marines of the other platoon discharged his M500 into the center of the floor right by the feet of my team leader.  Needless to say some words were said.  On the other hand, I was also the last Marine to leave that building, and I got a whole bunch of free gear that was left behind from the other platoon.  Those guys had a quite the tendency to screw stuff up.

Often guys did not know how to operate the M1014.  The bolt release button on the side of the receiver caused all manner of confusion.  It is not a knock against the gun, but the poor familiarization and training Marines had.

In any event, the use of shotguns in the military that I personally witnessed was rather sad and pathetic.  But I managed to find the exact model Mossberg M500 MILS we used while I was in and was able to buy one at a reasonable price.  That will be a fun item for my collection.  I’ll talk more about that after I get the chance to put it through its paces.


  1. We (as in the AF) had a mess of various shotguns for the longest time. Old M12s (yes, they most certainly could be slam fired), one form or another of M870 and then sometime before or after 2000 we started getting the M500s as well.
    We didn’t have any real duty use for shotguns during most of my time in so other than ensuring we had a certain percentage of our folks qual’d at any given time for unit training stats they weren’t hardly pulled.
    When we started picking up taskings for prisoner camps we had to spin up more training for the less than lethal rounds. If that did anything it forced the AF’s hand to standardize as the units were breaking the old guns without much hope of repairing them. They finally settled on the M870 MCS but only in the full sized configuration. These sported a choke even, improved modified IIRC, which was pretty sweet. They kept a pretty tight pattern on target.

  2. Cowboy action shooters like the ’97’s and ’12’s for their games. I don’t know why someone would get their panties in a wad about a pump gun not having a disconnector. Seems a pretty silly thing to worry about – seeing as how you can remove the disconnector in several other models of guns.

    • yeah I agree. guys who use shotguns that won’t “slamfire” all their lives suddenly rant about how they wouldn’t buy a combat shotgun unless it can slamfire. as if you can’t fire it just as fast working the trigger..

  3. As for the USMC test:
    The Mossberg 500 / 590 passed the test, because there was no other contender.
    Remington simple didn’t see any need to apply for two reasons:
    1) they had already sold about 100 myriads of the 870 model and the few bucks from a govt contract wasn’t worth the hassle.
    2) plenty of 870s were already in use among the army (not sure about the USMC though).
    No bashing for the 590 here, I own one myself.
    Just to Keep things in perspective.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised. I know the most common USMC M870s were special ordered by the Corps and they tried to make it as cheap as possible. That is why they didn’t have recoil pads or checkering on the stock.
      Got any source on the USMC testing? I’d love to read more about it.

  4. Sorry, no valid source. Just the usual internet rumor mill.
    However, I’ve came across this story so often, there must be some truth in it.

  5. Late to he party since I just found your article, but here’s my .02 worth LOL. Nice write up, BTW.

    Only saw the M590 once in the Fleet (our SgtMaj at 1/2 liked toting it around in Somalia back in ‘93), but during my two-year stint in security forces (afloat) back in ‘90-‘92 we carried and shot them far more than our M16A2’s. They were replacing our old, worn out Winchester Model 12’s, which had less capacity and controls that weren’t as user-friendly as the Mossberg. Our standard loadout was 35 rounds; a full tube of 00 Buck, two ammo pouches of 00 Buck, and an ammo strip of five slugs. Thing was a real attention getter as well when we put bayonets on them for specific guard details! They worked great through the wear and tear we put on them, and many of us subsequently purchased our own Mossy’s for personal use. Still have one to this day.

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