Mossberg 500/590A1 Compact Cruiser AOWs

These factory shorty’s prove big things can, in fact, come in small packages

I’ve always believed that a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with 00 Buck is one of the best home defense weapons money can buy. That’s especially true for people who don’t have a lot of experience with firearms, since precise shot placement is not required.

Mossberg has just come out with a pair of short-barreled, 12-gauge, Compact Cruiser pump guns—the Models 500 ($910) and 590A1 ($980)—that fit the bill nicely. Built on Mossberg’s legendary Model 500 action—which passed the rigorous endurance, accuracy and quality testing required to meet or exceed U. S. Armed Services Mil-Spec 3443 requirements—both have an  ATI T3 pistol grip mounted at the rear of the receiver instead of a buttstock. The major differences between the two are that the 500 is fitted with a 7.5-inch cylinder bore barrel and has a 2+1 round capacity, while the 590A1 comes with a heavy walled 10.25-inch cylinder bore barrel and has a 3+1 round capacity. Both models have 3-inch chambers, and the stated capacities are for 3-inch shotshells. Other than that, they’re virtually identical.

The 590A1 Compact Cruiser takes up a whole lot less realestate compared to this non-NFA , 18.5-inch-barreled, pistol-gripequipped 590.

Common features include lightweight, Mil-Spec matte black anodized aluminum receiver; non-binding twin action bars; positive steel-to-steel lock-up; anti-jam elevator; metal trigger guard; front bead sight; dual extractors; front magazine tube cap-mounted sling-swivel stud; convenient cleanout magazine tube; and Mossberg’s immediately recognizable, ambidextrous, top-mounted steel safety selector.

The ATI T3 pistol grip is molded from reinforced polymer and designed to absorb recoil energy before it reaches the shooter’s hand. And it does…extremely well. Its non-slip, textured finish provides a positive grip, which is especially important when shooting a mini scattergun like this. As an aid in controllability and ease of cycling, both the Compact Cruisers do away with a traditional pump-gun slide, replacing it with a contoured, deeply textured, polymer foregrip with a nylon web hand strap. The foregrip can be folded down into the vertical position, which assists in recoil reduction and speed of cycling, or folded up against the magazine tube and used like a traditional slide. Both the ATI T3 pistol grip and folding foregrip feature a non-reflective black finish, while the barrel and other steel parts are Parkerized.

The 7.5-inch barreled Model 500 Compact Cruiser measures 17.0 inches in overall length and weighs in empty at 4.9 lbs., while the 10.25-inch barreled Model 590A1 has an empty weight of 5.3 lbs. and measures 19.5 inches in overall length.

The 500 version gets a shorter 7.5” barrel, While the 590 pictured here gets a 10.25” barrel and a one-shell additional capacity.

If you’ve been paying attention so far, you have undoubtedly realized that these are NFA (National Firearms Act) guns because of the barrel lengths, and are not legal for sale to civilians until registered with the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) as AOWs (Any Other Weapon). In plain English, the BATFE classifies any smooth bore shotgun that is capable of being concealed upon the person, and cannot be fired from the shoulder, is an AOW.

The registration process is similar to registering full-auto weapons and SBRs (Short Barreled Rifles), but the required tax stamp costs only $5.00 instead of $200. It’s a pain in the butt, but its cheap, and worth the effort and delay.

For those not familiar with the process of registering and NFA weapon, here’s the process, step by step.

  1. Visit your local Class III dealer and pick out and pay for your gun.
  2. Fill out a BATFE Form 4, which the dealer will provide (or you can down load from the BATFE website: and assist you in completing.
  3. Go to your local police department and get finger printed, making sure to have them use the ink-on-card rather than digital process. Most PDs don’t charge for this service; others do.
  4. Get a passport size photo taken of yourself in the format required (see specs on the BATFE website).
  5. Submit it all to the BATFE along with the tax stamp fee of $5.00.
  6. Take a very long vacation while some BATFE bureaucrat diddles around with your application package.
  7. When the BATFE finally sends you your tax stamp and certificate, go back to your Class III dealer and pick up your new AOW.

I’ve owned a number of NFA weapons over the years, and I make it a point to carry copies of the BATFE registration certificates in my truck in case I get stopped by a bust-hungry cop or game warden at or on my way to or from the range.

For our evaluation gun we chose the 590A1 Compact Cruiser, because we preferred the additional velocity afforded by the longer barrel, the one extra round in the magazine and the modest extra four ounces of recoil attenuating weight.

Downrange OO buckshot results from (left to right) 5, 15 and 25-yards using Hornady’s new Black load.

During testing we found that magazine capacities remained the same with 2.75-inch shells. If you find recoil offensive with 3-inch shells, you’ll get a little relief by using 2.75-inch shells.

Since buckshot will, no doubt, be the most likely fodder run through the Compact Cruiser in the hands of anyone, we tested the Mosberg with Hornady’s 2-3/4 Critical Defense 00 Buckshot load, which is designed to deliver tight patterns with its VersaTite wad. And that it does; at 15-yards all 8-pellets landed in a 5-inch spread and at 25-yards, it was a hair over double that at 10.25-inches. We consider that a more-than-acceptable spread out of a 10.25-inch cylinder-bore barrel. No malfuntions whatsoever were experienced while testing the Mossberg.

See the Mossberg 500/590A1 Compact Cruiser AOWs at your Class III dealer, or for more information contact O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc., Dept. OT; Tel.: (203) 230-5300; Web: