We Review the Mossberg Compact Cruiser AOW Shotgun

Mossberg recently introduced two new models of short-barreled shotguns for the tactical market — the Mossberg Compact Cruiser series. Learn more here.
We Review the Mossberg Compact Cruiser AOW Shotgun

Repeat customers are the bread and butter of any retailer. This is especially true for small retailers who must compete with big box stores, and this can be tough when what you sell is essentially a permanent item. However, tactical retailers have an advantage others do not — unique inventory and expert service.

There may be a limit to how many ARs your customers want to buy — I haven’t reached mine yet — so keeping an interesting mix of new guns in your shop is essential. One item that is sure to appeal to the modern defensive shooter is the short-barreled shotgun. Tactically, the shotgun is ideal in a home defense situation, and a short-barreled version makes navigating confined spaces much easier.

The close distance encountered inside a dwelling also negates concerns over shot dispersion from a shorter barrel. The versatility of the shotgun in general lies in the range of ammunition choices. One can load everything from birdshot to buckshot or slugs depending on the situation.

Mossberg recently introduced two new models to meet the growing interest in short shotguns, but with a twist. The 590A1 Mossberg Compact Cruiser is the larger of the two and is based on the military grade Mossberg 590A1. It's built tough with a parkerized finish, heavy-walled 10.25-inch barrel with cylinder bore, a metal trigger guard and ambidextrous top-mounted safety. The shorter barrel also means a shorter magazine tube, with capacity of just 3+1. Other amenities include dual extractors and an anti-jam cartridge elevator designed for reliable feeding and cycling.

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The distinctive feature is that instead of a stock, the Mossberg Compact Cruiser 590A1 features an ATI T3 pistol grip, making the overall length less than 20 inches. This makes the Mossberg Compact Cruiser even better suited for close quarters and increases the ease of transport and concealability.

If you have never fired a pistol grip shotgun before, I am afraid to say it is not pleasant, especially with heavier loads. The ATI T3 pistol grip included with the Mossberg, however, does an excellent job of absorbing recoil and reducing discomfort. The rear of the grip features a recoil reducing rubberized material while the rest of the polymer grip has a no slip design to keep the shotgun firmly in the shooter’s hand. At the top rear of the grip there is a single QD sling attachment point for convenience.

Mossberg Compact Cruiser

The foregrip can fold flat for a more traditional grip or for storage or transport.

The front of the barrel has a bead sight that can be used for aiming, but that’s not how most people will use this shotgun. The foregrip is aluminum with an aggressive contour and a nylon hand strap to ensure weapon retention while firing and for safety to ensure that the support hand stays behind the muzzle. The foregrip can be folded back to use in a more traditional manner or folded down to act as a vertical grip using an easy push button system that securely locks it into place in the desired position. It is easiest and safest to operate the shotgun with the foregrip in the vertical grip position, as that also helps mitigate recoil as the support hand pushes forward. The front of the magazine tube allows the user to easily install a standard sling swivel as well.

Second model more compact

The second model is even more compact: the 500 Mossberg Compact Cruiser is based on the standard and extremely popular Mossberg Model 500 shotgun.

The 500 model features a 7.5-inch heavy-walled barrel with a bead sight and cylinder bore and parkerized finish. The even shorter barrel drops magazine capacity by one to 2+1, but the overall length is barely 17 inches and less than five pounds. Like the larger 590A1 Compact Cruiser, the 500 Compact Cruiser features the same reliable pump action design with ambidextrous safety, recoil absorbing pistol grip and folding foregrip with webbing.

On the range, I tested the larger Mossberg 590A1 Mossberg Compact Cruiser using Federal’s Personal Defense 12-gauge nine-pellet 00 Buckshot load with the patented Flitecontrol wad. This unique wad design produces incredibly tight patterns at much longer distances. Even while using the short 10.25-inch barrel with a cylinder bore, I could easily place all nine of the copper-plated pellets high center chest at 15 yards in a pattern that measured no more than 5.5 inches across. This is a good home defense distance and extremely effective load. I then switched to Winchester No. 9 birdshot at seven yards; it gave me a 90 percent shot concentration within a 20-inch spread. To me that is less than ideal for home defense.

Mossberg Compact CruiserRecoil with the buckshot load was stout, but manageable, and slightly less so with the birdshot load — but still noticeable. The pistol grip did a good job of soaking up the worst of the recoil. Those who may be recoil sensitive, but still want to use an effective load, can opt for low recoil buckshot loads. I experienced no malfunctions of any kind during my range session firing several magazines full of a mix of 12-gauge ammunition.

A standard short-barreled shotgun with a stock is regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) and requires a $200 tax stamp along with the application. However, the same shotgun with a pistol grip only is classified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as Any Other Weapon (AOW) and carries only a $5 tax stamp. The application process remains the same. The reduced tax fee is a big selling point for customers who can own an effective and cool looking NFA weapon on the cheap this way.

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Mossberg also offers tactical shoppers a non-NFA short-barreled shotgun, the Mossberg 590 Shockwave 12-gauge pump action shotgun. Under the Gun Control Act (GCA) something can be labeled as a firearm, but under the National Firearms Act (NFA) not labeled as a firearm. A firearm that is more than 26 inches in length and has never had a stock — so it cannot be fired from the shoulder — is considered neither a handgun or a long gun, but still a firearm. It is also not included in the NFA. So, you can have a short-barreled rifle or shotgun as long as it is more than 26 inches long and has no stock. These may be regulated by state law — Texas just legalized the Mossberg Shockwave; but under federal law, they are just treated as a firearm.

The Mossberg 590 Shockwave features a polymer birdshead grip, which I find significantly more comfortable than a pistol grip at taming recoil, and a 14-inch cylinder bore, heavy-walled barrel. The total length is just over 26 inches with a top mounted ambidextrous safety and reliable dual extractors and twin action bars. The pump of the gun has a hand strap to ensure that the support hand stays rear of the muzzle during operation, and it aids significantly in maintaining a firm grip. There is a front bead sight, and the magazine end cap has a sling swivel. The capacity is a full 5+1 rounds of 2 3/4-inch shells, impressive for its small size.

The tactical shotgun remains one of the best defensive weapons there is with incredible ammunition versatility and an easy sell for your customers. Offering them something unique and unusual that takes the shotgun to the next level of compact close quarters defensive use is sure to appeal, especially given the low tax stamp cost of AOW NFA firearms like the Mossberg Compact Cruiser.


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