When someone says the phrase “American-made, working-class shotgun,” only a few models spring to mind in this day and age. One is a shotgun that hunters, law enforcement, and regular people looking to defend themselves and their homes have trusted for over 60 years: the Mossberg 500.
The middle of the 20th century saw the introduction of several pump-action shotguns looking to improve on the aging Ithaca 37. In 1960, the world was introduced to the Mossberg Model 500, made by Connecticut-based O.F. Mossberg and Sons.
It was relatively simple, robust, and reliable. In 1970, the Model 500 was released with dual action bars (once Remington’s patent on the design feature expired), which it’s had ever since, and became even more robust. Since then, there have been countless variants and interactions of the shotgun introduced, but the core of the firearm has remained the same.
After a few years, the Ithacas and Winchesters filling out Hollywood armories started getting old, and they were replaced by Remington 870s and, of course, variants of the Mossberg 500.
What follows are some of the coolest and most memorable appearances made by the Model 500, and by the very similar Mossberg 590 shotgun, on the big screen.
The Model 590 was designed for law enforcement and tactical use and has one significant design difference that’s pretty easy to spot in movies. While the Model 500 mag tube is closed at the muzzle end and held in place by a bolt attached to the barrel, the 590 has an open-ended mag tube. The barrel ring fits around the mag tube and is held on by a capnut. This makes the mag tube easier to service and clean, whereas the Model 500’s design makes barrel changes easier.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)
Director: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: Kal Penn, John Cho, Neil Patrick Harris
For people of a certain age, Harold and Kumar are their Cheech and Chong.
It’s totally in keeping with the absurdity of the first two movies that the third one is an off-kilter Christmas movie that lands somewhere between a heart-warming tale of friendship and douglas-fir theft and the lewdest holiday movie ever, replete with violence, a toddler on cocaine, a hallucinogen-induced claymation trip, dick jokes, a very rapey Neil Patrick Harris, and an R-rated take on the ol’ getting your tongue stuck to a cold pole in winter trope.
And Santa Claus gets shot in the face. Seriously. He gets shot in the face with a shotgun and falls out of the damn sky.
After the stuck-to-the-pole scene and the rescue by WaffleBot, Roldy (Cho) and Kumar (Penn) take the Russian gangsters’ Mossberg 590 Compact Cruiser shotgun as they make their escape from the warehouse early on Christmas morning and try to summon some help. Somehow, when they get outside, a sharp gun-nerd eye will notice that the shotgun has become a Mossberg 500 Cruiser.
With no phone signal, Harold decides firing the shotgun into the air is an excellent way to get someone’s attention.
“I saw this in a movie, man. You shoot this motherfucker, people come.”
“Well, we can find some people.”
“No, it’s fine—” BANG!
And down comes Santa, right at their feet. Luckily, Kumar is a stoner genius who should be a doctor at this point. He just patches St. Nick up right there on the pavement, saves his life, and gets a happy ending out of it. A happy ending to the movie, you pervert.
Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, James Jude Courtney, Judy Greer
This reboot of the Halloween franchise serves as a direct sequel to the original 1978 film, retcons the many sequels that were released in the intervening decades, and to make things extra confusing, it has the same damn title.
Curtis reprises her career-making role as Laurie Strode, the survivor of Michael Myers’ attack on Haddonfield, Illinois, back in ’78. The film catches up with her 40 years later and finds her with an adult daughter, a teenage granddaughter, and suffering from various psychological issues. One of her main issues is intense paranoia over Michael’s potential return, which turns out to be well-founded.
While being transported from the mental hospital where he’s been kept since the murders, Michael escapes after causing the transport bus to crash and goes on a fresh killing spree in Haddonfield. When he finally comes for Laurie, he finds her in an isolated home that she’s made into a fortress. And she’s well-armed.
While preparing for Michael’s arrival, Laurie chooses a Mossberg 500 Cruiser with an extended magazine tube as her primary firearm. As he’s attempting to breach her front door, Michael grabs ahold of her through the transom windows. While being choked to death, Laurie starts maneuvering the muzzle toward his face. When he grabs it, she pulls the trigger and blows off two fingers on his left hand.
But the fight isn’t over by far — a less-than-stellar sequel, Halloween Kills, has already been released, and another, Halloween Ends, is on the way — but it was a great victory for Laurie that dealt Michael some obvious and permanent damage, though it doesn’t seem to have slowed him down.
Dark Blue (2002)
Director: Ron Shelton
Starring: Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames, Scott Speedman
David Ayer has a penchant for writing about Los Angeles and about cops. Dark Blue can be seen as a sort of prequel to many of his films about law enforcement in LA like Training Day, S.W.A.T., Harsh Times, End of Watch, and Street Kings. Dark Blue is set before the events of all those films, just before and during the LA riots in 1992.
The story is a dark tale of rampant police corruption in the LAPD’s infamous Rampart Division. Russell plays Sgt. Eldon Perry, a member of the old guard of cops who is neck-deep in secrets and shady dealings until he helps bring it all down.
When things get dicey, he arms up with not only his Smith & Wesson 4506, his backup S&W 4566, and his dad’s S&W Model 10 revolver, but also a honey of a riot gun. The customized Mossberg 500 Cruiser he keeps in his trunk has a cut-down barrel and mag tube to make it super compact and consequently has a truncated “corncob” slide action. The receiver has a six-shell carrier, and it looks like he can fit three 2.75-inch shells in the mag tube and one in the chamber.
This Mossberg 500 is cut-down right to the edge of no longer being functional. He uses it to devastating effect when he goes after the despicable Orchard and Sidwell in the hard-boiled movie’s final act.
The Crow (1994)
Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Ernie Hudson
The Crow became a cult classic, partly because its lead actor, Brandon Lee, was killed in a firearm-related stunt accident while filming it and partly because it’s an awesome action-horror flick with tons of atmosphere.
While the raised-from-the-dead Eric Draven (Lee) is supernatural in origin and has a few otherworldly abilities, he still relies on conventional weapons. He takes what he needs from the victims of his vengeance quest as he seeks bloody retribution on Halloween night for his own murder and the rape and murder of his fiance, Shelly.
After dealing with the first member of the gang that killed him, Draven heads to Gideon’s Pawn Shop, a fence for the merchandise the gang steals from their victims. He finds Shelly’s engagement ring in a cigar box in Gideon’s store, and the shop’s fate is sealed.
Draven takes a Mariner-finish Mossberg 500 Cruiser with a stockless pistol grip from the pawn shop’s wall and pours gasoline all over the floor. He spills some of the other engagement rings from the cigar box down the bore, walks outside, and fires them into the store. The sparks ignite the gasoline, and the store goes up in a fabulous fireball. “Fire it up! Fire it up!”
Jackie Brown (1997)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
If you don’t like Tarantino’s style, his excessive uses of vulgarity and violence, or the sometimes drawn-out dialog scenes in his movies, then I don’t know what to tell you. Walk on. Those who are here for all that know Jackie Brown is the most underrated film in Tarantino’s filmography.
One of the film’s best scenes features a Mossberg 500, and it comes early on. Ordell Robbie just bailed this dude out of jail who works for him, name of Beaumont Livingston. Thing is, Ordell knows ol’ Beaumont is facing a pretty serious stretch of prison time thanks to a parole violation and a fresh gun charge. And Beaumont knows way too much about Ordell’s business selling black-market firearms for him to trust that he didn’t trade info with law enforcement for a break on his charges.
In short, Beaumont has to go.
It’s not the way Ordell coaxes Beaumont out of his apartment, or even the way he convinces him to lay in the trunk of his car holding an unloaded, sawed-off Mossberg 500 and waiting to surprise some of Ordell’s customers during a fictional machine-gun buy. It’s the time Tarantino gives it. The patience. We see Beaumont being convinced, see him make one bad decision after another, and finally, we see Ordell’s face after he slams the trunk lid closed on him, having easily caught him in his trap.
He starts the car, and as the camera pulls back for a long shot, Ordell slowly drives around the block and pulls into an empty lot. He gets out again, opens the trunk, and we hear one last bit of Chris Tucker’s high-pitched complaining before Odell shuts Beaumont up for good. The fact that the actual violence is seen from far away makes it far more impactful than if we’d seen it up close and bloody.
The shotgun itself has wood furniture, and it looks like the stock and barrel were cut down by hand. With its vented rib, this 500 looks like it was originally a field model, and it stands out among the from-the-factory Mossberg 500 Cruisers that show up so often in movies and TV.
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore
One of the coolest scenes in Heat for gun nerds — and there are a lot of them — is the door breaching scene.
Det. Casals (Wes Studi) and Det. Vincent Hanna (Pacino) are in an elevator getting ready to bust into Hugh Benny’s (Henry Rollins) apartment and shake him down for some info. While Hanna does an old-school press check on his compact 1911, Casals unloads the buckshot from his Mossberg 590 shotgun with polymer furniture and a heat shield. In their place, he loads several 12-gauge slugs.
When they get to the door, Casals uses the slugs to blast both hinges to pieces, careful to fully turn his head away and keep his eyes protected. They enter swiftly and tackle Benny on the run into, and through, a glass door. Few directors in Hollywood pay closer attention to guns and tactics than Michael Mann.
That’s not the only time the 590 makes an appearance in Heat. During the big bank-heist shootout, Sgt. Drucker (Mykelti Williamson) is rocking the same shotgun. When Hanna finally catches up with Neil McCauley outside Waingro’s hotel at the end and chases him into the runways of LAX, he grabs a shotgun from a very trusting LAPD officer standing next to his black-and-white.
While it’s not supposed to be the same shotgun, it’s a 590 with a heat shield, which is a little odd for a patrol-car scattergun. Hanna fires it empty while chasing Neil and switches to his 1911 to take him down.
During the movie’s famous shootout, we see plenty of LAPD officers with shotguns, but they use a mixture of Mossberg 500s and Remington 870s.
Point Break (1991)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey
As Michael Mann realized when he made Heat, adding a heat shield to a Mossberg just does something special. It increases its badassery by a factor of five, at least.
The beginning montage of this flick features a plain-jane Mossberg 500 with black synthetic furniture. Keanu does his movie star thing, running a Hogan’s Alley-type shooting course in the pouring rain and looking super-cool as he splashes around and blows away wooden targets with the shotgun before switching to his pistol. The slow-mo shooting is intercut with even slower-mo shots of Bodhi (Swayze) surfing at sunset. It’s beautiful.
Bodhi’s gang of surfer daredevils who also rob banks as the Ex-Presidents use two Mossbergs during their smash-and-grab heists. Grommet, who wears the LBJ mask, carries a wood-stocked Mossberg 500AT with what looks like a 20-inch barrel. The gang also wields a blacked-out Mossberg 590 with a stockless pistol grip and a heat shield.
After the last robbery that goes terribly wrong and leaves an Ex-President dead (Grommet goes down with his 500AT) along with an off-duty cop, FBI Special Agent Johnny Utah (Reeves) catches up with the gang as they are making their escape from an airfield.
When he rolls up in a super 1990s-government-looking car, Nathaniel stays ready with the 590 concealed in a gym bag as Utah tries to negotiate the release of his girlfriend, who is being held hostage by one of the gang’s accomplices.
Meanwhile, his partner, Pappas (Busey), gets the drop on Nathaniel and takes aim with his snubby revolver. Unfortunately, Roach gets the drop on Pappas with a shorty Remington 870. He doesn’t have a round in the chamber, and racking the action gives Pappas enough time to turn. Half of Roach’s shot hits a luggage hauler, but some of the pattern wounds Pappas, who manages to hit Roach in the shoulder and the gut on his way down to the tarmac.
Nathaniel opens up with his Mossberg. He fires three rounds — and misses with every single one of them. Pappas, on the other hand, even wounded and rocking a snub nose, puts two rounds into Nathaniel, center mass, firing from his back. He drops dead on the spot. Pappas has at least one round left for Bodhi, but Utah won’t let him shoot until he knows where Tyler is. It gives the not-quite-dead Roach enough time to put a fatal load of buckshot into Pappas’ back.
An infuriated Bodhi pick’s up the 590 and uses it to force Utah onto the plane with him and Roach, who is wounded but still alive. Roach doesn’t have the shotgun when he jumps from the plane, and neither does Bodhi or Utah, so it must have stayed on board.
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sonny Landham, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter hall
Is there anything about this action classic that isn’t totally fucking awesome? I don’t think there is. While the Mossberg 500 and its variants have appeared in many movies, this may be its most excellent role and its most badass form. Sure, you could mount a 40mm grenade launcher under the barrel of your AR-15, but why not mount a pump-action shotgun instead!
Landham plays Billy, a member of Maj. Dutch Schaefer’s (Arnold) squad of elite commandos whose specialty is navigation and tracking. But when superior firepower is called for, he’s rocking an AR-15/SP1 playing an M16 fitted with a cut-down Mossberg 500 mounted underbarrel. It has no grip — instead, Billy uses the M16’s magazine as a handhold when firing it. Compared to Blain’s Minigun backpack, this weapon is tame and realistic.
While the unconventional firearm gets plenty of screentime, we only see Billy fire the shotgun component once when the rifle half of the gun runs out of ammo. We mostly just see him working the action in a couple of scenes.
The military certainly mounted M203 grenade launchers this way on M16s for many years. The setup worked well and allowed grenadiers to also be riflemen. But despite firing 40mm grenades, the M203 is actually a fairly low-pressure, low-recoil weapon. It’s possible the mounts fabricated to fit the shotgun to the rifle for the movie weren’t strong enough to handle the recoil of 12-gauge ammunition, even blanks.
The filmmakers likely got the idea from the real-life Knight’s Armament Masterkey project that began in the 1980s, which absolutely worked, and so does the modern M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System. Score one for Predator.
The Mossberg 500 made one of its earliest 1980s appearances the year before in another Schwarzennegger movie, Raw Deal. It was one of Arnold’s earliest action movies, and it looks extremely low-budget today.
Arnold uses a stockless Mossberg 500AT shotgun with a pistol grip, short barrel, and what looks like an adjustable choke in that movie. It bears a striking resemblance to the shotgun used by Chuck Norris in Code of Silence (1985).