In this review of the 20 gauge version of Mossberg’s shotgun that’s not really a shotgun, we take a look at why the very concept of the Shockwave makes it a lousy choice for personal protection. Details in the video, or scroll down for the full transcript.


When the Mossberg Shockwave was first introduced last year, I thought it looked like a completely useless gimmick. But now that I’ve run a few hundred shells through one, I would like to upgrade its status to mostly useless.

The Shockwave is a Mossberg 590 with a 14-inch barrel and a Raptor birdshead-style grip in place of the shoulder stock. Because of some legal nonsense I won’t bore you with, it’s not legally classified as a short-barreled shotgun by the ATF. So at the federal level, you don’t have to pay any special taxes or fill out extra paperwork to own one, but they are restricted in several states.

The Shockwave comes in 12 gauge or 20 gauge. Shortly after its release, Remington followed with their own version called the Tac-14 based on the Model 870.

This is the 20 gauge Shockwave, which is about 6 ounces lighter than the 12 gauge version. Like any 500-series Mossberg, it has the receiver-mounted safety switch. It’s got a plain bead front sight and a 5-shot magazine tube. And the forend has a fabric strap to help prevent your hand from slipping off and getting in front of the muzzle.

I think these things are pretty goofy, but the appeal is obvious. It’s got the power of a shotgun in a much smaller package that can be stashed in places where a typical long gun doesn’t fit. But the downsides might not be as obvious, especially to someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time behind a shotgun. The big advantage of using a shotgun is its ballistic effectiveness but also, like all long guns, they’re easier to fire accurately than handguns. But the removing shoulder stock negates that advantage. It is now functionally a handgun with horrible ergonomics.

Mossberg Shockwave Raptor grip

At first, I thought recoil management would be the major challenge of running a gun like this, but that actually turned out to be a pretty small issue compared to aiming the gun effectively.

Without a shoulder stock, you obviously can’t hold this like you would a conventional shotgun. In the owner’s manual, Mossberg tells you to fire it from waist-level. One of the big red safety warnings specifically says not to hold the Shockwave at eye level and try to sight down the barrel. So they give you a bead sight, but I guess that’s just for decoration.

Most of you probably already know that the old myth that you can’t miss with a shotgun is complete nonsense. To guarantee an effective, fight-stopping hit on a violent attacker, you have to aim — even at hallway distance with a shotgun. That’s really tough to do when you’re firing from the hip.

I tried this on a few different trips to the range and I found that after 10 or 15 rounds, I could find the sweet spot and more or less keep all the pellets in the center of the target at 5 yards. But if I tried just picking up the gun and shooting it cold, or if the target was set up at an angle, or if I started with my back to the target, things didn’t always go so well.

Mossberg Shockwave bead sight

So I don’t think hip firing is a great idea if the target is beyond about two arm lengths. You just can’t be sure of where the muzzle is pointed when it’s down at hip level unless you have put a ton of time into mastering that specific skill.

Personally, I had much better success doing exactly what Mossberg says not to do and holding the gun up at eye level. Starting from a low ready position, it wasn’t any slower than shooting from the hip, but I had a much better chance of getting a good hit with my first shot.

I’m pretty sure the reason Mossberg doesn’t want you doing it this way is because if you hold the gun too close to your face, the recoil is going to make you punch yourself in the nose, so… don’t do that. I extend my support arm out almost completely and that helps keep my firing hand away from my face.

Mossberg safety
The ambidextrous receiver-mounted safety switch on the Shockwave must be in the forward position (top photo) to fire. The safety switch on our sample would occasionally self-engage when racking the forend.

The other key to this is to use the push-pull technique popularized by the instructor Rob Haught for controlling shotgun recoil. Just before I press the trigger, I aggressively push out with my support arm and pull in toward me with my firing hand and that minimizes the movement of the gun. This might not work for everybody because without a shoulder stock, the push-pull technique is almost completely dependent on upper-body strength. Grip strength and maybe even arm length are going to play a part, too. So if you want to try this, you might consider practicing the push-pull technique with the gun at hip level or chest level before you put it in front of your face.

firing mossberg shockwave

Even with the gun up at eye level, we’re still just making the best of a bad situation. There is no easy way to aim a shotgun that’s pretending to be a handgun. A bead sight works pretty well when you’ve got a shoulder stock. If your technique is halfway decent, every time you mount the shotgun, it’s going to be basically pointed at whatever you’re looking at. The bead is just there to confirm and to help make small corrections.

Without the shoulder stock, you lose the two points of contact that keep your eye in line with the muzzle. And unlike shooting a handgun, your hands are holding separate parts of the gun. So if your support hand is not in a straight line with your firing hand and your eye, you’re going to be off target. And each time you fire and run the action, you have to line everything up again.

I tried mounting a Trijicon RMR to the Shockwave to see if that would improve its shootability. My accuracy was a little more consistent, especially on follow-up shots, but I wasn’t any faster. I do think the red dot would offer a huge advantage over the bead in low light, but not so much outside in the middle of the afternoon.

Mossberg Shockwave with Trijicon RMR

I should also mention a pretty serious reliability issue I ran into. John Johnston was the first to experience this when he was with me at the range the other day. If you run the action hard enough, the safety switch will self-engage — it will move halfway into the safe position, and that’s enough to block the trigger and prevent the next round from firing. This issue is not all that uncommon with the 500 series and it’s one of the known weaknesses of the Mossberg safety. Supposedly it can be fixed by replacing the plastic factory safety with a metal aftermarket safety, but I have not confirmed this myself.

I’ve been pretty harsh on the Shockwave, but like I said at the beginning, I don’t think it’s completely useless. The one thing this is really good for is a gateway to a legal short barreled shotgun. You can pick up one of these, pay the $200 tax stamp, and then a few months later, install a real stock and you’ve got a basic, but very handy home defense shotgun for right at $600. Maybe a few bucks more if you want to fix the safety.

If the Shockwave is all I had access to for some reason, I could probably make it work for me as an adequate self-defense tool. But I’m also really comfortable with shotguns in general, and that goes a long way toward figuring out how to run the Shockwave. Even so, I can’t think of any plausible situation where I’d rather have a Shockwave or a Remington Tac-14 instead of either a full-size handgun or a proper shotgun with a shoulder stock.



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  • Jose Izquierdo

    Its not for the one gun owner to have as his main means of protection in home . It’s a super cool short shotgun .and I had way more fun shooting it than regular full barrel full stock shotguns. For hip fire this guy looked like he was trying to make it harder than it can be done . In a bed room sized room hip shooting can be done easily actually it can be done In Your freaking closet Something you can’t do with a full size shotty . I rather hip fire this than anything else out there . Like ant ant weapon it takes practice

    • sully v

      i’d rather aim from my shoulder with a stock at an intended threat than shoot from my “hipster” any day…OR, in that rare occasion where I do aim from the hip, I would like the steadiness that a stock offers, instead of that short plastic grippy thingy that Mossberg is attaching to their shockwave models… 🙂

      • Jose Izquierdo

        yeah im not disagreeing with you . a full shotgun is better for shooting . but saying theres only one way to skin a cat is very wrong . most people who knock the Shockwave are people that just cant get past somthing different . by your comment i doubt very much you actually fired a shockwave or maybe its just the shockwave is ment to be fired by people with some grip strength because i shoot 1600fps slugs out the shockwave and hit my target at 20 yards easily . this gun can be shot from the hip easily it also can be shot with front arm extended easily . people need to stop knocking things they haven’t tried just because its different . this isnt trying to replace your shotgun its doing its own thing and people like it .

        • sully v

          been carrying and shooting a Remington 870 Police Magnum for over 20+ years, I know a little about shotguns, and Jose, my opinion differs from yours, and that’s ok… 🙂

  • Southernviking

    I don’t think shooting from the hip is all that hard… If you can’t do it, then you should probably just practice until you can. I like the idea of the shockwave as a home defense option, giving you shotgun power in a small, maneuverable package, esp if you put a light on it. Also, a great option for business owners or for backpacking.

    • sully v

      aiming one’s shotgun at an intended target is always better than intentionally shooting from the hip, always, especially under stress… 🙂

      • Vinny

        Yes! That’s why I put a TLR-4 Laser/Light on mine. Deadly accurate shooting from the hip and extremely compact to swing in tight spaces like hallways. Also added Talon Grip custom fit wrap ($17.95) that really helps that slippy grip.

  • Norm

    You take that, I’ll take a tactical shotgun with a stock and we can run the same tight quartered drill and see who scores better.

    • Vinny

      I have both a Mossy Tactical with ATI stock and JPoint RDS optic; and Mossy Shockwave with Streamlight TLR-4 Laser/Light. Both are very effective and deadly accurate. But there’s no replacement for Training and Practice so you’re proficient with whatever platform you choose.

  • Peakoiler

    The receiver is so familiar. I’ve a New Haven, which I believe was a cheapo shotgun sold at Montgomery Wards (remember them?) that I got used in the 80s. I still hunt with it. As for this Mossberg, it’s an even cheaper gun trying to look “Tacti-cool” without any real tactical benefits but a whole lot of marketing.

    I second with others have or will say about having a stock. But if you get one, practice practice practice. Then it might be of some use. I just imagine more than a few owners getting it at the big box to look cool, shooting it a few times (and never cleaning it), then keeping it under the bed loaded and unsecured “just in case.”

    • ironked

      Mossberg made a lot of third party guns. Probably yours. It’s a standard 500/590 receiver.

      • Peakoiler

        Actually it is a Mossberg model, stamped on the barrel, but it’s a gun sold only through Montgomery Wards. Good deal in 1985 for $85, used. It worked in goose blinds below zero when fancier guns were balky and jammed.

  • Kim D Campbell

    I wonder how adding a laser would work/help?

    • Hammer

      If I was going to buy one of these (which I can’t say I have much interest in doing), that would be the first thing I’d do.

    • Vinny

      I’ve added a TLR-4 Laser/Light onto my 12ga. Deadly accurate at 10 yards shooting bulls-eys with slugs or the preferred LE132 or LE133 Buck. It’s so easy to add a rail onto the pre-drilled & tapped holes of a mossy. Then mounting the laser light is a snap. -Vinny

  • Toby

    Great review… I appreciate the insight/perspective you bring to all your reviews! Keep up the good work Chris! 🙂

  • Tyler Shirek

    This guy makes a lot of excuses for not being a good shot. The shockwave is a very accurate gun if you know what you’re doing. I have one, and with 00 or slugs can hit what I’m aiming at at 50 yards. If you miss someone in your hallway with this, you suck. And you don’t fire from the hip with this gun you extend your arms towards the target. And the added bonus of minishells with the shockwave make it a fun and lethal gun as well.

    • Peakoiler

      Tyler, I would add that if you have read Chris’ entries more, you’d know full well that he is indeed a very good shot. He’s also unafraid of saying that a gun is not any good, unlike many gun writers who seem to have never met a gun they disliked.

    • Little Bill

      Go online and watch the videos of Clint Smith running the Shockwave: he has no trouble at all making hits out to 10 yds

  • Leftcoastlarry

    It’s a freakin’ shotgun, not a sniper rifle. The SOUND of racking a shell, the look of that wide open maw of doom swinging toward you – that is your first defense. Hot glue a laser pointer on it if you’re aim anal.

    • Steve S.

      Oh god, you went there….lol

      If you think the SOUND is a deterrent, just get a CD and record the SOUND on a loop. Your widow can tell us how that worked out for you.

  • Keith Plymale

    If I got one I would pay for the stamp and then put a shoulder stock on it. I think then it would be a fantastic home defense gun especially in 20 gauge for folks who can’t handle 12 gauge. And to my knowledge if you needed it for camping or something like that you could still put the grip back on.

    • Little Bill

      Why not put a PDW arm brace on it– which, when shouldered, works just like a stock– and save yourself paying for that stamp; and subjecting yourself to all the other SBS-related rules and restrictions? Just a thought… that’s how I did with mine, I love it.

      • Vinny

        Again, BE CAREFUL. Modifying the Shockwave to be shouldered may negate the specific BATFE approval. You may be committing a FELONY by modifying it.
        I’m NOT a Lawyer, but if you’re not careful, you may need one, and a bondsman too.

  • sully v

    no offense to anyone– BUT those “shockwave” shotguns are dumb, not an effective choice. Even my 20+ year old Remington 870 Police Magnum with a pistol grip (which I tried and immediately removed) was a poor choice, hard to control. A Magpul butt-stock is the best answer… 🙂

    • Jose Izquierdo

      so because a magpul stock is best everything else is dumb ? yeah makes total sense . last i checked i can shoot same rounds and hit the same target as a magpul stock user in confined space , try it its better than pistol gripped shotguns as your not tasking all that recoil in your wrist .

      • sully v

        All I can say is that you don’t see the “shockwave” application used in any US LE Agencies, nor within any branch of the US Military. Can I shoot a shotgun for my hip yes, do I think the “shockwave” is a platform I think is effective–NOPE, it’s still dumb, just my opinion…

        • Jose Izquierdo

          Your like the people who shunned the Glock back in the day for being plastic. . Being different doesn’t make it dumb or useless . It’s effective enough to shoot the same shells that come out of any other shotgun .

          • sully v

            I’m not those people… I’ve carried and qualified with a Glock since 1996, just transitioned over to a Sig P320, again, I’m not those people.

  • retfed

    Back around 1986 I attended an FBI High-Risk Arrest school where I was taught to shoot a shotgun from the hip. Here’s the way I was taught:
    Hold the buttstock of the shotgun in your shooting hand, with the upper arm straight down and your elbow against your side, more or less at the hip (not behind you, like you did in the video), and your forearm level to the ground.
    Hold the fore-end in your non-shooting hand with your elbow straight (not bent, like in the video).
    Make it go bang.
    Adjust elevation by moving your hand forward or back on the fore-end.
    It worked fairly well with a straight-stocked 870, so it should work with the stubby stock of the Shockwave (or the Remington version), since the stock angle is similar. You might wish to try it and see if it works for you.
    And, the original, pre-NFA versions of these things, the whippet and the Ithaca Auto Burglar, were in 20 gauge, which seems to be the proper size. And it’s easier on your wrist than the 12 gauge.

  • ironked

    Should be noted that SB has come out with a brace that fits the Shockwave making it into a de facto SBS without the stamp. At some point I’m going to buy one of these things. Mostly for the novelty. The brace seems a prudent addition.

    • Little Bill

      Check out my comments above. I installed a PDW brace on my Shockwave, like you point out, all the advantages of a 14″ SBS without needing to involve the ATF. Much easier to shoot accurately with the brace on your shoulder.

      Short, lightweight, and handy. What’s not to like?

      Next will be figuring out how to upgrade the sights.

      • Vinny

        A word of caution…modifying the Shockwave grip with a shoulder stock of any kind negates the BATFE approval. What you may have now is a short-barrel shotgun.. A FELONY to have unless you have a permit and paid tax stamp. It may also be a FELONY to carry it concealed. Just say’in. BE CAREFUL. Know your Federal, STATE, and LOCAL LAWS!

        • Little Bill

          Point well taken!

          It was my understanding that putting on a PDW brace does not make it illegal, as long as I don’t put it to my shoulder and use it as a stock; similar to the law re: AR pistols. But it would certainly behoove me to make sure.

          Right now I’m using mine inside my home. Taking it into the outside world does have it’s hazards: even where it’s legal— will the responding officer know that? Even if I’m eventually exhonerated— it may cost me a night in jail and substantial legal fees. So I’d think twice before taking it out on the town or on a trip.

          All that being said, the brace does make it into a handy ‘SBS-like’ weapon… very powerful for it’s size, and a lot easier to shoot accurately.

          But thanks for the heads-up!

          • Vinny

            When they first came out; I felt the BATFE approval letter would make it OK so I got one of the first Mossberg shipped early 2017. They are a HOOT to Shoot.

            However, I went to my local Sheriff in Lake County FL to be sure. He said although it ‘might’ be legal in FL, if one of his Deputies looked at that 14″ barrel; I was probably going for a ride. Yeah, I might win in court, but is it worth the hassle and risk of a FELONY charge? Every State or Local jurisdiction has the right to decide if it’s an SBS, explosive devise, or ‘other’ illegal weapon.

            Don’t assume that if it’s OK with BATFE, it’s OK in your jurisdiction. And…If the grip has been changed or modified to be in ANY WAY different than the BATFE approval specs as shipped by Mossberg, the risk of a FELONY increases exponentially.

            So, I traded my 14″ in for a completely legal 18-1/2″ barrel 590. Removed the stock and put on a Shockwave grip and strap, Talon grip Wrap,and Streamlight TLR-4 on a picatinny rail atop the receiver. OK, it’s 4-1/4″ longer, but it’s barrel and overall length are unquestionably legal and I gained 1 shell for 6+1. I sleep much easier. YMMV

  • Larry Fletcher

    I installed a center mass laser on top of my shockwave and shooting from the waste is no problem.

  • Tequila Party USA

    This dude doesn’t know doodle-e-crap about compact combat shotguns and intuitive shooting from the hip!!!!!!…..If you have to bring it to eye level to aim, why have it? You might as well buy a shotgun with a full stock so you can have a stockweld, if you are worried about you aim! Any competent shooter preparing to shoot by racking a round in the chamber would already have their thumb on the safety….lol…after all they would be preparing to shoot!

  • Thinker-1

    Needs a laser.

  • Crazy Captain Shrimpboat Eddie

    I’m getting one just for the novelty. And some minishells. Just for the novelty. And shoot it enough to become accustomed to doing so.

  • Snarky McGurk

    Hip shooting no good? Depends on the individual. I wish the reviewer could see my 10 year old run a milk jug around the back yard (12, not 20) with all five shots, from the hip. I’m pretty good too, but he’s the family expert.

  • Richard Ray Robinett

    I shoot mine, 12g like a pistol with one hand and it’s very accurate. Yes a bit more time between shots but with that being said, in a one on one situation, loaded with 00 buck, one shot is all your going to need.

  • Richard Kling

    You Sir are a fool when it comes to a short barreled shotgun !I own a shockwave and this gun is not at all very complicated too handle neither hard to hit a target while firing at hip level !Possibly you need too improve your Proficiency by shooting this gun more than it takes too film a crap 7 min video !

  • Richard Kling

    I love the comments coming from people who have never fired a Shockwave .Your all a bunch of Experts LOL !Can anny of you offer me Stock advice ???

  • jaxtom

    Mine’s just sitting there…belly full…waiting…

  • Little Bill

    I put a PDW arm brace on mine: Mesa Tactical Adapter, Shockwave Technologies buffer tube and brace.

    Kinda like a 14” SBS without all the ATF cost, paperwork, and registration.

    12” LOP, 32” OAL: only 5.5” longer than the factory Shockwave w/ raptor grip.

    Shoots real nice with the brace on my shoulder.

  • Mark Brockway

    Are there any problems with the safety on the 590A1 models?

  • Bill Kelly

    The arrogance that you bring to your reviews is one reason that Lucky Gunner is one of my last choices for ammunition or anything else. Maybe some people find that arrogance appealing, but I am the opposite.

    I have a 12 gauge Shockwave, and I find this gun to be fun and potentially effective. I’m not an experienced shotgunner, but I have no doubt that I could defend myself effectively using this gun. I’m sure that I could use this gun as effectively as any full-sized shotgun for most self-defense situations.

    Many people have tried the Shockwave, and the common complaint is that the gun tends to “shoot high.” In truth, the gun doesn’t “shoot high.” Instead, people tend to aim high because they aren’t used to this kind of gun. In a self-defense situation, I can’t see this being a major problem. If I’m standing at my bedroom door aiming down the hallway towards an attacker in my home, both of us are likely to be standing and both of us are likely to be similar in height. If I hold the gun at lower chest level and keep the gun parallel to the ground, I’m going to put 9 00 buck pellets into the attacker at either abdomen, chest, or maybe face level. The difference in height will be decided more by small variations in my ability to hold the gun parallel to the ground. If an attacker is coming up stairs at a homeowner, the vertical aiming issues are more serious, but many home defense scenarios involve shooting at a single level. Putting most of the pellets of a defensive load into an attacker is not going to be that hard.

    In terms of left to right adjustment, one can get a pretty good sense of aim looking along the barrel at the target. I’m not an experienced shotgunner, and I haven’t had any problems hitting targets. The Shockwave is a self-defense shotgun. No one is trying to do MOA shooting in self-defense. If most pellets hit the attacker, the attacker will stop attacking.

    This gun is born of lawyers. They looked very carefully at the ATF regulations and found a way to build something a little handier than a full-sized shotgun but without requiring government paperwork. I’m not surprised that they tell people not to hold this firearm at face level and risk getting hit in the face. Their caution on this point doesn’t make the gun a bad choice if one finds a comfortable technique to fire the Shockwave by holding at chest or face level.

    Low recoil ammunition is the best choice in the Shockwave. I prefer ammunition that fires 8 or 9 00 buck pellets at 1150 to 1200 fps. These rounds are easy to control and cycle well. The minishells are easy to control but require an adapter to cycle well. A few companies make 2-1/4″ shells with 6 00 buck pellets. I forget the speed, but these rounds are easy to control. These rounds just require the right technique to cycle.

    The Shockwave is not made for shooting skeet. The Shockwave is not made for hunting. For people with years of experience and comfort using traditional tactical shotguns, the transition to a Shockwave may not make much sense. For people who want something that is a little smaller, a little easier to hide or store somewhere, a little less likely to be caught up on furniture or anything else in a cramped room, the Shockwave can be a great choice.

    • Little Bill

      Put a PDW arm brace on it, it gets even better.

  • Jager1952

    Years ago I took my old 870 wingmaster and put a 18″ factory slug barrel on it. I next added a 7 shot extension tube and a Choate folding stock. I have tried firing from the hip with the stock folded with some success. I find I am most accurate when shooting from the hip with the stock folded out and held to my hip. That seems to give me a reference point to help keep the muzzle level. I can always whip the stock up to my shoulder and put a slug in the kill zone at 100 yards. I have shot the Remington version of the gun and with practice I believe I could be proficient. My weapon of choice will be my Mossberg 590 tactical with flashlight and green laser. Only reason I would choose this one would be the 870 won’t shoot 3″ 00 buck. I like 15 pellets heading downrange vs 8 or 9. Bottom line practice with what you have, you won’t want to find out you missed your mark if you ever have to use your shotgun to defend your family.

    • Rick McC.

      I watched Clint Smith shoot his on video,before trying my 12 gauge Shockwave, and had no problems shooting it with #4 buck (my carry load), or high brass number six shot.

      I shot it after IDPA practice on the targets used that day, and had no trouble shooting very effectively with it.

      I do have a fair amount of threat focused training and experience, so I don’t need sights to hit what I’m looking at, anyway. That’s a great skill to own BTW, no matter what you’re shooting.

  • Little Bill

    For a different perspective, go online and watch the Youtube videos of Clint Smith running his Shockwave. He has no trouble making center-mass hits out to 10 yds.

    There’s no doubt that a full-stock shotgun is easier to shoot. But in situations where tight quarters or the need to conceal it come into play, it gives you more power than any pistol round.

    Like I say below, a PDW brace obviates the need for the $200 tax stamp and ATF restrictions.

  • steve

    It’s not for a new gun owner or a one gun owner – but as a former LE officer who used shot barreled shotguns in my line of work the Shockwave is a great FIREARM if used properly. Great for use inside a vehicle or if aimed correctly at eye level as intended. Many other reviewers completely disagree with your findings. Just saying.

  • Mikerbike

    Chris, I have to give you credit. You stated your opinion. I agree with you. I would not depend on it at any significant distance and would rather opt for a handgun.
    You also successfully attracted several trolls.Stating just about any position on the Internet draws them. They like to express their anger at people who are more rational than they are. Don’t take them seriously. Keep doing what you are doing.

  • gunsandrockets

    590 Shockwave now available in .410, which may be ideal chambering for this configuration. Depending on the application, 9 pellets #4 buckshot, or 4 pellets 000 buckshot, or slug are good load choices.

    I would add a red dot sight, laser, and a light. That much crap is sort of ridiculous on a service size handgun, but it is proportional on a Shockwave.

  • Strange. Haven’t had an issue aiming and firing mine from up in front of me. Accurate out to 25 yards and patterns well with the flite control. Even slugs are accurate. Maybe you need some practice?

  • Andrew

    I’ve noticed the reliability issue with the Mossberg shotgun safety. It seems like if it screwed down too tight, the safety won’t move at all and if it is too loose, it will move too easily and may self engage. It almost seems like the screw loosens the more you use the safety and fire the weapon. I guess you could Loctite it in place but I haven’t tried that yet. The metal safety may reduce these occurrences but I’m not convinced they completely eliminate them. Any suggestions?