Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review of the Mossberg 590A1

     I recently purchased th3 Mossberg 590A1 pump shotgun as a home defense weapon. It came with all of the accessories I wanted already installed. The only way to get the gun set up the way I wanted to, was to get the "Blackwater Edition". I could care less about the logo on the side, I wanted the features I wanted. The model I bought, so you can see the specifications, is this one 590A1 Blackwater

 I took the 590A1 to the indoor range and ran 150 rounds through it. All rounds were 2 3/4 inch shells. The shot size was mainly 7 1/2 but I did feed 15 rounds of both 00 Buck and slug through it. Loading the weapon was easy, and could be done fairly fast. I bought the 20 inch barrel model, which holds 8+1 rounds. I like the safety controls on the Mossberg better than the Remington 870, probably because I'm left handed. The all metal safety slide on the receiver is easy to find, and grabs your thumb well, with and without gloves.
The trigger group is metal on the 590A1. That might not be a big deal to some, but it's extra insurance for me against a part breaking. The trigger guard allows enough room to operate the gun with gloves on. I ran it with Camelback summer weight gloves on. I don't know what you'd do with ski gloves. The stock is the traditionally shaped synthetic stock, I did not get the pistol grip stock. The stock is stippled for better grip and control over the weapon in adverse conditions.The weapon shouldered well, and pointed extremely well. On occasion the recoil absorber on the stock would grab my t-shirt on the way up slowing me down some. I'll have to find a way around that.
      The stock is a Speed Stock version which has storage for 4 extra rounds inside the stock (2 on each side). It was fairly easy to load the speed stock with a little practice. Removing the shells from the stock took longer than I thought it would. I'm sure I can speed it up with some practice. I tried a slug change over from the Speed Stock and it was a nightmare for me. With additional training and repetition I'll do better with it I'm sure. I simply wasn't familiar enough with the weapon or the process.
     I really like the ghost ring sites on this shotgun. They are XS Ghost Ring Sights. This was my first exposure to ghost ring sights, but they were AMAZING. So much better than the basic bead sight on my Remington 870. I was able to pick the target up quickly in a variety of light conditions. My slug shots were much closer to where I intended to place them with the ghost rings versus the bead sight, especially at 25 yards. The receiver has a rail mounted forward of the rear sight to allow attachment of optics if you want them.

     The action cycled very well. I didn't have any failures with the first 150 rounds through the weapon. I'm going this afternoon to feed another 100 rounds through it. The slide itself has an integrated rail on the bottom, and two "detachable" rails (one on each side). The integrated rail I liked. The slide is long enough to allow a full hand grip behind the rails, which would allow you to operate any railed attachments on the slide without having to grip over them.

     I strongly disagree with the term "detachable". That was a nightmare. I was able to remove the rail from the slide with the hex bit on my Leatherman MUT tool. That's where the fun ended. The nuts that the hex bolts threaded into fell into the slide handle. Now, let me be clear, that the loose nuts in no way interfered with the mechanical functioning of the shotgun. I shot the last 60 rounds with the little bastards rattling around inside the grip. HOWEVER, removing them from the grip required complete field stripping of the gun (which I intended to do anyways). Then you have to remove the retaining collar from the slide, and shake the nuts out. Not too bad right.....right. But wait, there's more.

     Detachable implies "attachable" in some sense. The rails are re-attachable if you have the patience of a Trappist monk, and improvise a tool or two from a paperclip. Lets assume you've retrieved your rattling parts from the grip, and then decide you want to re-attach them. Now the fun begins. I wanted to re-attach my rail because it gave me a thumb stop, and a point of grip reference on the slide. So, after about 45 minutes of trying to balance the slide, and feed the attaching hex bolts from the bottom, I managed to get one hex bolt attached. YAY! But then I lost the second one into the slide. So the entire disassembly / re-attachment process started all over again. I got both attachment hex bolts in  place and re-attached the rail, but it sucked.

     Field stripping the 590A1 for cleaning is pretty easy, and drama free. As long as you line up the bolt in the correct position inside the receiver all of the parts drop in. Remember to push the slide rails down as they enter the receiver, and it's all good. There are lots of videos on YouTube and other sites on field stripping the 500 Series Mossberg. Watch one a couple of times, or follow along as you field strip your shotgun and you won't have any problems.

     I highly recommend this shotgun to anyone looking for a home defense weapon. It is as dependable as the sunrise, and as simple as an anvil. Aside from the "detachable" rail issue (which was a one time thing and didn't interfere with the operation of the weapon), I love this shotgun. I plan on adding a side saddle shell holder to this weapon, probably a 6 round model. I haven't decided between TacStar and Mesa Tactical for the side saddle. This will give me 19 rounds on the weapon when I pick it up. No looking for ammo, just grab and go.

     Again, I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. You can submit them through the blog, anonymously if you like, or e-mail them to me directly:  As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Surviving The Death of a Family Member

     The death of an immediate family member is a intense moment in life. All of us will experience it in our lives. Most often it is the deaths of our parents, possibly a sibling or spouse, and unfortunately on occasion the death of a child.

     I know this is a deeply personal topic for many people, myself included. I get "advice" all the time about not getting too personal on the Internet. "don't tell people too much about yourself" they say or "you never know who will read it" they say. I understand that, I do. This is a personal topic, and I can't write about it in a clinical sense. Quite honestly, it's probably therapeutic for me to write it as well.

     I lost my mother to Leukemia 10 years ago. She fought a courageous and unwinnable fight against her own body for 2 years before succumbing to the disease at 70 years old. I was with her when she died, holding her hand as I had done for most of my life. I was able to tell her I loved her. I was able to tell her I would be OK, and she had done a fine job raising me. It was a blessing to be able to say those things to her before she died.

     I am my mothers only child. My parents divorced before I turned 3. So it was only her and I for my whole life. Aside from two uncomfortable weeks in the summer with my dad, I was with my mom when I was growing up. She raised me. She did it all; fed me, clothed me, disciplined me, housed me, worked full time and cared for her ailing mother as well. Meanwhile my father jaunted off on yet another, seemingly endless, quest for another woman.....which has resulted in 4 failed marriages and 5 half siblings scattered over most of the US. My mom never criticized my father in front of me, she only said "you'll figure him out when you're old enough".

      I remember the day my mother died as clearly as if it were yesterday. It was a Tuesday. She was at my  home, and her breathing sounded really bad, so I drove her to the ER. She never left. Four hours later she was dead. Just like that.

     I was numb. I had absolutely no idea what to do next. The next three days were like a blur. Arrangements were made, condolences were offered, services were held, etc. But then every ones lives went back to normal, except mine. This huge piece of my life was gone. Simply no longer there. Her house was still there, her car as well, all of her physical possessions......just no mom.

     I went through her things and donated her clothes to the needy. Cleaning out her house was very hard. Everything inside was a memory. A memory I wanted to hold on to. A memory of a person who I wanted to hold on to. I quickly realized that the home I had spent my entire childhood in, was no longer was just a house. The person who had made it home was gone. For me that was an important distinction in my grieving process.

     I put all of our (hers and mine) collective stuff into piles. One to be thrown out right away, one to be evaluated in a week, and another to be evaluated later. Each week I went back through the stuff. Over time most of the stuff found it's way into the Throw Away Right Now pile. That was my wife's plan and it worked out really good. She was my support network and helped me through some rough times. She knew I would get frustrated and throw everything away. I'm glad we did it her way because I held on to some really important things that probably would have gotten thrown out.

     In the last week my mom was alive, I promised her I would get a bachelors degree. The strength of that promise, and the strength of the person I gave it to helped motivate me to finish. It was important to her that I get my degree. Two weeks after she died I enrolled at The University of South Carolina. Five years later I graduated from the College of Engineering and Information Technology. No easy feat with a wife, two kids, and a full time job. I remember thinking when I got my degree, that my mama would have been proud.

     While I was in school, I wrote my mom a letter. It was during the second semester of my freshman year. I was sitting in Amoco Hall in the Swearengen Engineering building, and I just started writing. I must have written every day for a week. I don't understand why I wrote it there or why I wrote it then...but I wrote, a lot. I wrote to her all of the things I wished I had said, and apologized for all of the things I wished I hadn't said. That letter was easily the worst formatted, most heartfelt thing I have ever written. It was by far the longest thing I have ever handwritten. When I finished it, I put all 20 something pages into an envelope, and drove 3 hours to put it on my mothers grave. For some reason I felt lots better after I did that. Strange, but helpful.

     I'm not a therapist and I'm not giving advice on how anyone should deal with this kind of thing. But, I learned a few things from it. Maybe they'll help someone else in their time of need.
  • Let those who love you, help you. Lean on your close friends and family.
  • Be sad, cry, grieve. Miss your loved one. They earned it.
  • Live your life the way they would have wanted you to have live.
  • Recognize the positive impact they had on your life and share it with others who are important to you.
  • Don't have 20 pages of things you wished you'd said. Say them today to the ones you love.

      Anyways, you know the drill by now. I'm not an expert and I don't play one on the Internet. I have other topic for the blog, but this one was important to me. I don't know if it was because it has been 10 years since my mother died or because her birthday was Christmas Eve. It was on my mind and weighed heavy on my heart. Thanks for reading.... I owe you one  :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Shotgun For My Home Defense In The Suburbs

     I realize this is a well discussed, often tedious, topic around the Internet. However, I'd like to put my personal spin on it. Maybe, just maybe, I might brush on something not discussed before, or come up with a pretty good idea. It rarely happens, but has been known to occur almost as frequently as Bigfoot sightings.

     I like the shotgun as an option for home defense. I have a couple of pump shotguns, and am now getting comfortable with the reliability of an auto loader as a home defense weapon. The shotgun I chose originally is a Remington 870 Magnum, which I've used for 20 years. The replacement I recently bought, and have yet to run through it's paces is the Mossberg 590A1. The actual version of the 590A1 I bought is this one 590A1 Blackwater.  I could care less about the logo on the side. This was the only way to get that shotgun, configured that way, from the manufacturer. I'm not recommending the above retailer as a place to buy it, but the Mossberg website didn't detail the Blackwater and the site above did a good job I thought.

     The Remington 870 has served me well, and also helped me create a wish list of option for it's replacement. I'm a big proponent of OEM (the manufacturer) equipping a special purpose weapon versus buying the components myself and putting them on. The warranty is big reason, so is relying on their R&D versus my own research which would be heavily Internet based vs real life practical field testing.  That's not a knock on the "home armorer".  I like doing that stuff myself some also, just not on my home defense shotgun. That weapon, second only to my carry gun, has to be 100% reliable. I've got to have 110% confidence in THAT weapon because of the roll it plays in defending my family.

     Over penetration, while a concern in a home defense situation isn't something I want to go into a great deal of depth about on this post. Generally speaking, if something shoots with enough force to kill a person, it will pass through two 1/2 inch pieces of sheet rock. I also don't want to get into the shot size debate either. I use 00 Buck and could care less about the arguments for or against. If you want to use #7 shot, go for it. 

     Upgrades on the new shotgun:
  • 590A1 - Military spec with heavy walled barrel. Makes the weapon more durable, but also makes it heavier. If you've ever stood in  line in a grocery store holding a gallon of milk for 10 minutes, you know how heavy almost 8 lbs can be. I'm OK with heavier, I'm not standing a post with it. It's for grab and go defense.
  • XS Ghost Ring Sights - hi-visibility white front post. I'm familiar and comfortable with this type of site.
  • 20" barrel - full mag tube and 1 in the chamber, the weapon holds 9 rounds. A little extra length adds a little more weight.
  • Speed Feed Stock - stores an extra 4 rounds. Two on each side of the stock. Brings the capacity of the weapon up to 13 rounds. If I added a side saddle it would hold 19 rounds of 00 Buck on or in the weapon. Nothing extra to grab. Stock is stippled for better grip in adverse conditions.
  • Rail on the receiver - option to mount a red dot should I decide to.
  • 3 Rails on the fore grip - One integrated, two bolted on. I'll probably remove the bolt-ons, and add a light to the integrated rail.
  • Metal trigger, trigger guard, and safety button.
  • Anti-jam elevator, dual extractors, positive shot shell extraction and ejection all increase the reliability when it's needed most.
     A shotgun is longer and more difficult to corner with, but it's the most versatile and powerful weapon a civilian can use for home defense. My 590 has a longer barrel than my 870, but I get 3 extra rounds in the magazine. To me that is worth the extra inch and a half in barrel length.

     With the right rounds you can breach a door, clear a room, and make a 100 yd accurate shot. Granted that will take some training, skill, and practice to effectively make a slug change over for example. So...get some training. That's the long and short of it. Get trained. If you can't effectively operate a shotgun under stress, you shouldn't use one for home defense.

     I'm going to add a light to my 590. Target identification as well as target environment as equally critical in a home defense situation.  For example, knowing the person you're about to shoot with buckshot is actually the bad guy, and also knowing your 4 year old isn't standing behind him are equally important. You should understand that if you miss with a weapon as powerful as a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot, it will go through interior walls. If you don't live in a brick structure, it can go through exterior walls as well.

     I'm going to take my new 590A1 out and shoot a hundred rounds or so through it this week. I'll be curious to see if I actually get the benefits I think I'll get by upgrading from my older Remington 870 to a new Mossberg 590A1. I'll be sure and provide a full range report, and possibly do a side by side comparison vs my Remington 870. Although I think the Mossberg 591A1 would compare more equally to the Remington 887, the 870 is what I have.      
     The next shotgun I plan to purchase is the Mossberg 930SPX. It'll be really interesting to compare that to the 590A1. As I said above, I'm getting much more comfortable with the reliability of the auto shotgun. It'll require additional training to learn how to run it effectively, but you know me...I love to train.

     I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. The point is to survive to fight another day. 

     As always, suggestions and comments are always welcome. If you have any shotgun drills you'd like me to run in my comparisons, please e-mail them to me

Thanks for reading.