Guns: Mossberg 500 Bantam review - the n00b cannon
A few years ago, I recommended a 20 gauge shotgun to people who were looking for a home defense firearm, but who weren't looking to put in a ton of practice. The time I've spent at pistol and rifle ranges since then has only reinforced my thinking - rather than getting a $300 handgun of questionable reliability, why not get a shotgun for the same price that's both easier to hit with and way more powerful? A single 20 gauge shell's worth of #3 buckshot is roughly equivalent to about 20 rounds from one of these:
Always being one to put my money where my mouth is, I gave a Mossberg Bantam 20 gauge shotgun to a dear friend of mine who wanted a firearm, but couldn't muster the time to get to a range regularly. Was my advice sound?
Fit, Finish, and Features
Retailing at under $300, the 500 Bantam is a working man's shotgun. It's made in the U.S. and better built than Mossberg's budget Maverick models, but certainly not as rugged as the 590 series or the Remington 870 Police line.
The Bantam is intended for smaller shooters. The gun comes with a 22" vent rib double-bead barrel (using Accu-Choke interchangeable choke tubes) - noticeably handier than the typical 26" or 28" barreled hunting shotgun, but not short enough to get you kicked off a stodgy trap field. As you can see from the small spot of rust below, the finish on the barrel was good but not great:
I've always liked the tang safety in the 500/590 shotguns, which is just flat out superior to the small crossbolt safety in Remington's 870 series. The condition of the gun is readily apparent to the user, and the safety is easily engaged and disengaged when mounting and dismounting. The only (minor) problem with Mossberg's safety is that it doesn't play well with pistol grip stocks.
The 500 series of shotgun barrels attach with a simple integral screw that attaches to the magazine tube. It's a bit less robust and user-friendly than having a separate screw-in magazine cap like the 870, but it worked fine for our purposes:
At the Range
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that a clay pigeon launched from a skeet or trap house is much harder to hit than a bad guy breaking into your house. The thing might be fluorescent orange, sure, but it's only 5" across, it's flying through the air, and it's usually more than 10 yards away from you.
That being said, both of my friends were able to learn how to operate the Mossberg and break clays with only a couple hours' worth of practice and some (really) basic instruction provided by yours truly. Through it all, the Bantam performed fine, with zero malfunctions through more than 200 rounds.
The Mossberg 500 Bantam is a rare example of a product that performs exactly as advertised. Out of the box, without any additional accesories or even a cleaning, it'll feed and shuck and shoot as well as any shotgun that I've seen. For someone who's not into shooting but wants a gun for home protection, I think it's a good option.