Mossberg Model 500 Thunder Ranch 12 Gauge Pump-Action Fighting Shotgun

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

June 5th, 2013


Click pictures for a larger version.





Slide release.





Receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount.



Safety is atop the receiver, for easy use with the thumb of either hand.





Magazine plug can be removed to use the full capacity of the magazine.



Nine-pellet 00 Buckshot pattern at seven yards (top); light target load pattern at seven yards (bottom).





The Mossberg Model 500 shotgun has been around for over half a century, being introduced in 1961. It is one of the most popular shotguns ever built, with Mossberg just recently producing the ten millionth Model 500 shotgun. The Model 500 design is the basis for the entire line of Mossberg pump shotguns, including the military Model 590A1, which serves the US military and law enforcement market, with variations of the Models 590 and 590A1 available for the civilian market as well. Still, the basic Model 500 has endured for five decades because it is a very affordable shotgun, and it works very well.

Model 500 shotguns are available to serve the needs of clay shooters, waterfowl hunters, turkey hunters, deer hunters, bird hunters, and upland game hunters. There are versions with long barrels, rifled barrels, short barrels, and buttstocks of varying lengths, as well as variations with a pistol grip in place of the buttstock. Model 500 shotguns are currently available chambered for the 12 and 20 gauges, as well as the 410 bore shotgun shells. In addition to its service to generations of hunters, the 500 makes for a very good fighting shotgun for law enforcement or home defense, and it is one of those variations of the Model 500 that we will feature here.

As a fighting shotgun, the Model 500 fills that role quite nicely. It is relatively light weight, powerful, and easy to use. Inside a home, a short shotgun offers a lot of fight-stopping power, and the Model 500’s reliable action and affordable price make it the choice of thousands of people who need a fighting shotgun for home defense.

The Model 500 is available in dozens of configurations that fill quite well the role of a fighting shotgun, and the one shown here is their Thunder Ranch variation. Thunder Ranch is a world-renowned firearms training facility in Oregon, founded and directed by Clint Smith. Mr. Smith is well-known as a firearms instructor and writer, and has successfully run Thunder Ranch for twenty years, training shooters in the defensive and offensive use of firearms. The Model 500 Thunder Ranch shotgun shown here was designed in cooperation with Mr. Smith, and has pretty much everything needed to serve as a fighting shotgun.

This Model 500 commemorates the twentieth anniversary of Thunder Ranch, and wears the Thunder Ranch logo on the side of the receiver. The shotgun has an eighteen and one-half inch barrel with integral breaching device at the muzzle. This breaching barrel is useful for blowing the lockset out of a lock or to blow the hinges off of a door for a no-knock entry for law enforcement. For the rest of us, it just looks pretty cool, and makes for a formidable weapon on its own. The barrel wears a red fiber optic bead front sight, and has a railed forend for the attachment of a flashlight or laser sight. The two sections of rail on the sides of the forend can be easily removed, if desired, but the bottom rail is integral. None of the rails caused any discomfort when firing the weapon. Being a left-handed shooter, one thing that endears the Mossberg 500 to me is the safety located atop the receiver, right where God intended it to be. I do not like a crossbolt safety on the trigger guard, and greatly prefer the style of safety that Mossberg and Browning puts on their pump guns. The Thunder Ranch 500 has a magazine that holds five two-and-three-quarters inch shells, or four three inch shells. With one in the chamber, that gives the user a loaded capacity of either five or six shotgun shells to use before reloading. On the topic of reloading the magazine; it is very easy to do. The shells thumb easily into place, without having to push upward on the shell lifter as is necessary on some other brands, as it stays in its elevated position until the forend is almost all the way to the rear of the cycle.

I fired the Mossberg with shells varying from light target loads to heavy buckshot loads, with the latter being the ammo best-suited for this shotgun’s purpose. Patterning the 500 out to twenty-five yards, with this Mossberg having a straight cylinder bore with no choke constriction, the nine-pellet Federal 00 buck load kept every pellet within a 12 ½ inch circle at that distance. At seven yards, the nine pellets were landing in about a two-inch pattern, all clustered tightly, and would put a devastating hit on an opponent.  The slide action is very slick on this Mossberg, with both loading and ejection positive, with all ammo tested.  The black synthetic stock is capped with a recoil pad at the rear, and was comfortable to shoot, even with the magnum shells. The Thunder Ranch 500 comes with a padded sling, with locking quick-release sling swivels. The shotgun handled very well, weighing in at about six and three-quarters pounds, with an overall length of only thirty-seven inches. The trigger pull released at an average of five and three-quarters pounds on the test gun.

There are a few new and exotic shotgun designs now out on the market, and those seem to get all of the attention of the press, but the Mossberg 500 has a long track record as a fighting shotgun, and while not holding as many shells in its magazine, it still throws the same highly-effective shotgun loads as do the latest shotgun designs, and the Mossberg does it for a lot less money, and in a shotgun design that is reliable and easy to operate. While on the topic of money, one of the best features of the 500 is its price. As of the date of this review, the Thunder Ranch Mossberg 500 has a suggested retail price of only $493 US, and they are readily available, usually selling below that suggested retail price. The Mossberg 500 Thunder Ranch shotgun is very affordable, built right, and built in the USA.

Check out the extensive line of Mossberg firearms and accessories online at

For the location of a Mossberg dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the 500 Thunder Ranch shotgun online, go to

To order quality shotgun ammunition online, go to and

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.



Breaching device integral with 18-1/2" barrel.





Railed forend for attachment of a light or laser.