Remington 870 Vs. Mossberg Shockwave: Which Is More Useful?

Today, we’ll examine the versatility of the Remington 870 and the Mossberg Shockwave, both in 12 gauge.

Talk about comparing apples to oranges! Why would we even compare these two platforms in the same article? The reason for comparing the two extremes of the spectrum is that each brings some strong attributes to the table, and we’re going to see what they are.

Remington 870, Mossberg Shockwave.
The size difference is apparent. Remington’s 870 on top versus Mossberg’s Shockwave on the bottom. Photo: Jim Davis.

The 870 is a proven design used on duty by law enforcement, hunters, target shooters, self-defense shooters, and everyone else in the free world. I used one when I was an operator in the days just before dirt had been invented.

The Shockwave is a relative newcomer to the mix, and many people question whether it’s viable for self-defense (or any other use aside from being a range toy).

12 Gauge Virtues

The 12 gauge round is another institution that needs little introduction, having been around for eons. It’s also popular with law enforcement, hunters, target shooters, and self-defense shooters. The power factor is undeniable and huge. It’s also versatile, being able to fire rounds from birdshot, buckshot, slugs, non-lethal, and a slew of other rounds.

To make it even sweeter, rounds for the 12 gauge can be found pretty much anywhere that ammunition is sold. Personally, I’m partial to the Low-Recoil rounds, as I like to minimize the punishing recoil that I absorb these days. The considerable recoil is the only real downside of the 12 gauge load.

Technical Specs

Remington 870

Remington’s 870 needs little introduction, having been introduced in 1950 and going strong ever since. But we’ll introduce it anyway because it’s what we do. That and your beloved author is obsessed with details.

It’s remarkable that the 870 is nearing 75 years old and is still chugging along successfully.

The version of the 870 that I use is the HHD (Hardwood Home Defense), which sports hardwood furniture that is attractive looking and reminds me of the 870s that I was issued during my career. I debated going with Remington’s Tactical model with synthetic furniture, but the retro look of the hardwood won me over.

The barrel is 18.5 inches long, with a cylinder bore of .73 caliber. It’s not overly heavy, at 7.25 pounds, but it is fairly long at 38.5 inches. The stock’s length of pull is 14 inches, which is a bit long for my arms. I had my gunsmith take an inch off the buttstock, which makes the shotgun far more comfortable and handy for me. I didn’t think an inch would make that much difference, but it’s turned out to be fairly significant.

Speaking of the stock, there are attachments for sling swivels at the front and rear, so affixing a sling is a simple matter. Every shotgun should have a sling. Feeding is accomplished by a tube under the barrel, which holds six rounds plus one in the chamber. It is, of course, a pump-action shotgun.

The steel receiver wears a matte finish, as does the rest of the shotgun. Even the wood has a dull finish, and I’m glad they didn’t make it highly polished.

The slide release is at the front of the trigger guard, and after all these years, my hand instinctively goes there to unlock the action. The safety is the cross bolt type, located just to the rear of the trigger on the guard.

Double action bars keep things nice and level in the action, which is smoothing out with use.

Mossberg Shockwave

Technically, it’s not a shotgun. It’s officially classed as a “Firearm.” This is due to its length, which is just over 26 inches. Firearms such as this were never manufactured to be fired from the shoulder, which is another factor in their legal status because their barrel is under the length of 18 inches.

Technically, shotguns with a barrel length under 18 inches and equipped with a stock are classified as Short Barrel Shotguns (SBS). But this isn’t a shotgun. Basically, this is a Mossberg 590 with a short barrel and a Raptor grip (not a pistol grip, but a short grip and no stock).

But I digress. The Shockwave’s barrel is 14.375 inches, and it can fire up to 3-inch shells, being of the 12-gauge persuasion and it has a cylinder bore. The overall length is 26.37 inches. It is a pump-action with double action bars. The feed tube under the barrel holds five rounds plus one in the chamber. For such a short barrel, that’s impressive, considering the 870’s barrel holds six rounds plus one.

The forend is a corn cob type that has a nylon strap on it to keep the support hand from slipping out ahead of the muzzle. Accessories such as lasers can be added to the receiver because it’s drilled and tapped to accept them. Lights can also be added to the forend.

There is a tang-mounted safety, which is easy to operate with either hand. The slide action release is located to the right and rear of the trigger guard.

MSRP for the Shockwave is $606, as this is written, but it can be found in gun shops for around $450.



Most people who purchase these firearms are after a limited scope of use. Namely, self-defense/protection. Protection from what might differ a little.

Surely, defense against two-legged predators is at the top of the list. Aside from that, protection from other beasties may be a concern as well. A 12 gauge would certainly be effective at repelling such creatures as bears or other dangerous game, considering that it’s one of the most powerful shoulder-mounted weapons systems we can legally get ahold of.

I occasionally venture into bear country, and having a 12 gauge along for the ride would definitely be a comfort.


Now that we’ve established what we may use these weapons for, the next question is where.

The home is a good place to focus on, as most of us wish to protect our castle if need be. The next possibility might be a business or other place.

Mossberg Shockwave at chest height.
At close range distances, such as inside the home, the Shockwave is plenty accurate. Here, the author holds it at chest level. Held across the chest, the recoil will be straight back, which misses his body and mitigates the recoil. Photo: Sue Davis.

Sometimes, people like to have some sort of “truck gun” in their vehicle, which is a popular trend right now.



Here’s where the real comparisons can begin. These are two markedly different animals when it comes to their size and weight.

The Shockwave is far shorter in length than the 870, so it gets advantage points here. It’s also a couple of pounds lighter, garnering still more points.

Thanks to its short length, the Shockwave does pretty well maneuvering around a house or other building. Smaller weapons are simply like that.

Yes, a full-length shotgun can be maneuvered around a house/building, but it’s going to be more of a challenge.


For vehicles, the Shockwave, once again, is going to be far more convenient. Even more so in vehicles than buildings, given their cramped nature. That short length wins this one by a landslide.

Deploying the Shockwave from a vehicle.
The Shockwave is easily deployed from a vehicle. The classic “truck gun”. Photo: Jeremy Charles.

Once we are outside the vehicle, the 870 wins because it’s simply more shootable, with its stock saving the day.

The Woods

If you want bear repellent to walk around the woods with, the Shockwave’s weight of a little over five pounds and the short length might win you over. It’s just plain handy to tote on a sling through nature.

At The Range

So far, the Shockwave is kicking the 870’s rear end all over the place.

Whoa, settle down. I see you out there, dear reader. Your face is all red, and veins stick out of your forehead because I trash-talked the 870.

Here’s where the 870 comes into its own – when we’re actually about to pull the trigger. That shoulder stock that makes the 870 tough to maneuver in vehicles and buildings now comes in rather handy with that little thing we refer to as “aiming.”

The 870 at the range.
Remington’s 870 12 gauge brings a world of hurt to the target at realistic shotgun ranges. The action is fast to cycle, too. Effective range is 35+ yards. Photo: Jason Stimmel.

Simply put, we can aim the 870 better than the Shockwave, being able to bring it up to our line of sight.

Oh sure, we can bring the Shockwave up to our line of sight, too – just as long as it’s not near our face. If you get it too close, it’s going to remind you not to do that with a swift smack in your teeth. Yes, the recoil with the Shockwave is something to be reckoned with. It’s light and short and it’s 12 gauge. Do the math. It’s like holding onto a stick of dynamite.

That’s where the Low-Recoil loads really shine. Mind you, even with those, the recoil is still quite noticeable.

Some people recommend the 1.75-inch shorty shotshells. The thing is, I’ve never seen them available in my area, as they’re somewhat rare. I’m sure I could track some down at some point, but I haven’t so far. And, you need a special adapter that fits into the bottom of the shotgun where the shells are fed. Without the adapter, reliability is not going to be 100%. Personally, it just seems like a lot of trouble to go through, and I’d just as soon use standard shells that are reliable.

The Shockwave can be fired accurately, but you will definitely have to invest some time and money into practicing with it. I found that shots tended to go high when I held the Shockwave up at eye level. When I held it lower, shots tended to go lower with it. So there’s a learning curve. After some practice, I was getting good hits.

Pattern Size

Here’s where things got interesting.

With the Shockwave, out to around seven yards, the pattern was one jagged hole with 00 buckshot. When I moved to 10 yards, the pattern had already begun to open up, and it covered the head of a police B-27 qualification target.

Shockwave pattern, 10 yards.
At ten yards, the Shockwave’s pattern with Federal Low Recoil 00 buckshot covers the head of the B-27 police target, with one pellet missing the head.  Photo: Jim Davis.

By the time I’d moved to 15 yards, the pattern opened so that it covered roughly half of the torso of the B-27 silhouette target. Clearly, the pattern opens up very quickly once it exceeds 10 yards.

For typical house distances, it’s still very important to aim the shotgun (contrary to what Chairborne Rangers will tell you about not having to aim it, but “just point it in the general direction of the target”).

If you intend to keep all the pellets in the target, the Shockwave is a 15-20-yard proposition. If you don’t care about some stray pellets, such as in a rural locale, then have at it. But I will say that, past 15 yards, accurate fire starts to be a little tough to achieve due to the lack of a shoulder stock.

The 870, on the other hand, can accurately fire buckshot out to around 35 or so yards. If you’re operating rurally and don’t care about stray rounds, you can stretch it further.

870 pattern at 15 yards.
A pattern from the 870 at 15 yards. Federal’s Low Recoil Tactical Buckshot keeps most rounds in a tight pattern with one pesky flyer. Photo: Jim Davis.

I fired my 870 at a B-27 target at 15 yards, and using Federal Tactical Low Recoil 00 Buck, all the pellets except for one went into a nice, tight pattern right in the head. And it will keep all the pellets in that silhouette beyond 25 yards most of the time easily.

What’s The Verdict?

For its niche, the Shockwave brings a lot to the table. It’s super compact and light, so stashing it in a vehicle is very convenient. Carrying it through the woods is also convenient and proves to be a comfort. Maneuvering in tight quarters such as buildings or vehicles is easy, too.

It’s more of a challenge to shoot accurately, and combined with the recoil, the Shockwave is not a beginner’s weapon. I wouldn’t hand one to a novice shooter under any circumstances. This one is best reserved for seasoned shotgunners. Still, with what it brings to the table, I’d say it’s worth your consideration for situations when you don’t feel like lugging along a large shotgun but still want something more than your handgun.

The old 870, as always, comes through in fine style. It’s able to be fired more accurately and at longer range, thanks to its shoulder stock tighter patterns. You just need a bit more room to operate it.

My Shockwave resides in a very convenient, discreet spot where I can grab it at a moment’s notice at oh-dark-thirty. Frankly, I find that to be a comfort.

Oh, lest you think that my 870 is relegated to a far-off spot, think again. It’s quite close by too! As a result, my verdict is…and here’s where readers will hate me…get both!

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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