Remington Model 31

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The Model 31 is very pleasing aesthetically, but also very spartan in styling. The short length makes for very quick handling

 

 

 

 

 

It is no secret to those who know me well that firearms are my passion, specifically, shotguns. More specifically, 12 gauge American-made repeating shotguns from the early and mid 20th Century. I have a plethora of old pump, bolt, and auto shotguns made by just as many manufacturers that have seen years of varying use . The best part about this hobby of collecting old shotguns is that it is fairly inexpensive as firearm collecting goes. With the current “tacticool” and black polymer trends in the firearm industry, it leaves a lot of beautiful, old shotguns on the gun racks, languishing in loneliness, begging to be loved, waiting to shoot one more round of clay pigeons, longing to go home with me.

That’s exactly how I found this beautiful brunette, just sitting on a rack at local pawn shop, with a price tag that definitely did not reflect the true, intrinsic value of a piece of American history. Even though I had never seen one in person, just pictures in books, I quickly recognized the long, sleek lines of the classic Model 31. The barrel seemed awfully short and the gun needed a good cleaning, but I didn’t care. I quickly snatched up my newest love, took her home and introduced her to the fold. It was at home in my usual thorough disassembly and cleaning, that I realized this was no normal shotgun that sat in a closet corner for years. This was a warhorse, with a tale to tell.

History

The Remington Model 31 was introduced in 1931 as a successor to the Remington Model 17 (which was bottom ejecting shotgun and the predecessor to the Ithaca 37) and was designed as a direct competitor tothe Winchester Model 12. Like the Winchester, the Remington used a milled receiver and was fairly expensive to produce. The Model 31 was, and is, known for one of the slickest and smoothest pump actions called, rather erroneously, a “ball bearing action” even though there are no ball bearings to speak of. The Model 31 was discontinued in 1949 with less than 200,000 made.

Because of the smooth action, the Model 31 found success on the trap circuit where it dominated the classes. In 1935, in the wake of the Kansas City Massacre, the FBI ordered a large quantity of Model 31s in the Riot or Police configuration. In this capacity, they proved reliable and continued to serve in to the late 1970’s when they were replaced by the venerable Remington 870.

During World War 2, the need for shotguns as trench guns on the front lines meant that most of the War Department’s available supply of Winchester Model 97s, 12s, and Stevens 320s were issued to those Army and Marine units that needed them the most, leaving the Navy and Coast Guard empty handed. When Remington tooled up for war production they used the Model 11 Autoloader, and the Model 31 to fill the void left. The Model 31 is most known during the war for being used by Naval gunners who would simply shoot clay pigeons with them as practice for leading targets. However, Remington did produce a select few shotguns that were not marked as Riot or Police models but had short, 20 inch long cylinder bore barrels. These were sold to the U.S. Navy and used as guard guns for shore patrol, port construction, etc. There are a few isolated claims of some of those Model 31s making it into the hands of Marines in the landing crafts, but I do not know if that can be 100% verified.

As I was thoroughly going through this old shotgun of mine, I noticed that the barrel was exactly 20” and was marked CYL on the left side. At first I thought it was might have been an old police shotgun, but it wasn’t marked with the customary “R” for riot or “P” for police. On the butt stock there seemed to be some writing or carving that was obscured by mud. As I cleaned it off, the three letters “USN”, neatly stamped with a four digit butt stock inventory number, popped out clear as day. That is when I realized I had scored quite a find. I then looked up the serial number and found that it was manufactured in late 1942. Upon doing quite a bit of research on the topic, the summation of which you have just read,

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The USN and stock number can be plainly seen stamped into the pistol grip of the Model 31

I have come to the conclusion, (and I would be happy to entertain criticism) that this old shotgun was one of the few Model 31s that could have served overseas as a guard gun in the Navy. There is also a possibility that it might have seen active conflict during the Island–Hopping operations that the Navy and the Marine Corps conducted.

On the Range

The shotgun has a dull grey finish, not bluing, over all the metal surfaces except for the bolt, which is in the white. The stock has a lacquer that is flaking in some places, but still retains its sheen. The short 20” barrel has a rather large gold bead atop the muzzle that is just about the biggest bead I think I have ever seen on a shotgun, but makes for quick and instinctive shooting. The magazine holds 4+1, which seems downright silly today, but at the time was pretty standard for shotguns. The controls are exactly the same as a Remington 870, down to the crossbolt safety and the slide release in front of the trigger guard. The shotgun is a trim 39” package and weights about 2 ounces less than 7 pounds.

Of course, the

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Despite 70+ years of use, the author’s Model 31 has held up well mechanically and is well suited for a variety of tasks

most memorable feature of the Model 31, the slick action, is definitely without compare. Imagine velvet gliding on tile. Yes, that smooth. The Model 31 also has a very high quality barrel ratcheting system that allows for very secure lockup to the magazine tube, but also quick removal if it is necessary to change barrels.

Shooting the Model 31 is a blast. It is great shotgun for shooting clay pigeons with if you are fast enough to hit them before they can fly farther than 15 yards. As this was probably a working gun in an austere environment, I also wanted to see what she could do with some more serious fuel. This old gal works splendidly with 00 and #4 Buck; I even fired five Winchester 1oz slugs through her and was able to keep them all in a pie plate at 50 yards. Mind you, the recoil with slugs in that tiny shotgun was downright painful, and I probably won’t entertain another notion to do it, but it is always good to now that she can be mustered into service again if need be.

Conclusion

The Remington 31 is one of those lesser known shotguns that never got the limelight that its more famous contemporaries received. With a short lifespan in a time period when the most innovative shotguns ever designed were being produced, the Model 31 was just another wave in the big, blue, ocean. Its time is over, but its legacy has been passed on in the form of the Remington 870, the best selling shotgun in history. Regardless of what history says about her, mine will always have a home with me.

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Mossberg 500A Persuader

FullSizeRender     The Mossberg 500 is one of those firearms designs that is here to stay. Regardless of if you prefer it or its competition, the Remington 870, you cannot deny the overall popularity of this ubiquitous shotgun. Introduced in 1961, the Mossberg 500 was originally designed as an inexpensive alternative to the popular Remington 870, and to the classic Winchester Model 12. The Mossie had two features that automatically distinguished it from its competitors. The first was the all-aluminum receiver to save weight and cost of manufacturing. Most shotgun designs prior to the 500 had heavy, milled steel receivers with a recess in the top that allowed the bolt to lock into. The Mossberg instead has a steel barrel extension that slides into the receiver about two inches. The steel bolt lug lock into the recess and safely seals up the barrel. This made for a very strong and reliable, yet light combination. The second innovation is the sliding tang safety.

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Here you can see the common crossbolt safety on the Ithaca, the sliding trigger safety on the Stevens, and the tang safety on the Mossberg

A majority of shotguns at the time had either the classic crossbolt trigger safety, or the “suicide” trigger guard safety. The Mossberg’s tang safety was ambidextrous and lefty friendly. The big red dot, and spring loaded indent made it very easy to see if the safety was on or off.

For some time, the Mossberg wallowed in the shadow of the Remington 870. This is mainly because at the time it was thought to be a more handsome and well made shotgun, it had been introduced earlier, and had a fruitful law enforcement contract with various departments and agencies. This might have spelled the demise for the 500 as another cheap pump shotgun from the fifties and sixties (of which there are many!) until 1979 when it passed the very stringent U.S. military’s Mil-Spec 3443 test for combat shotguns. After this, the floodgates opened for DOD and LE contracts. The modularity, reliability, and ease of use have since propelled the Mossberg 500 to the top of the heap in the pump shotgun category, with 10 million of the boom sticks sold.

One of the best features of the Mossberg 500 is its modularity. The Mossberg 500 has evolved over the years into many different variants based on purpose, and chambering. A quick look at the different variants of Mossberg shotguns based off the basic 500 design yield about a couple of dozen, with half that still in production. One can purchase a youth 500 chambered in .410, a cantilevered slug gun, a military issue 590, or a goose gun for those long, 12 ga. 3 1/2 magnums. The 500 is equally at home under the bed for self defense, in the field for hunting, or in service of our nation in the most austere of environments.

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The full length magazine tube increases the capacity of the Persuader to 8 rounds, over the standard 5. Note the plain gold bead

I have owned Mossbergs in some form or fashion for most of my life, so I do have some experience with them. In my military endeavors I have also had opportunity to use a Mossberg 590, which is the military version of the 500 with some slight differences. The particular Mossberg I am going to highlight is my Persuader 8 shot. The Persuader was introduced in the late seventies as a contemporary to the Ithaca 37 DSPS, the Remington 870R, and the Winchester 1200R, all popular police/riot style shotguns. The Persuader, like the others mentioned previously, had an 8rd magazine tube and a 20” cylinder bore, smooth barrel.

When I first purchased the my Persuader used, for a very low, low price, it came with a pistol grip and a pistol grip pump fore end. This made for a very compact and cool looking package, but was downright painful to shoot, even with field loads. I quickly ordered a factory wood stock and fore end and installed them immediately. This made for, in my opinion, a much more attractive and classic Persuader look. Plus, it is shootable now.

The shotgun is a fairly compact 41” overall and weighs 7lbs even. The trigger breaks at a heavy 7 pounds, but I like a heavier trigger on my shotguns for snap shooting, so that is not a detriment in my mind. To field strip the 500, ensure the firearm is unloaded, open the action by pressing the slide release just behind the trigger guard, and unscrew the barrel from the magazine tube. With the barrel off, that is as far as you should need to go for most cleaning. To reassemble, simply reverse the order of disassembly.

As for sights, all it sports is a plain gold bead on the end of the barrel. I prefer beads on all my shotguns, that is just a personal preference. I have used ghost ring sights, and they work great for slugs, but in my opinion, they detract from the speed that a shotgun drives from. As an aside, my

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The very long barrel extension on the Mossberg is clearly seen as compared to the Ithaca’s shorter, threaded barrel. This allows the Mossberg’s receiver to be made of aluminum, instead of milled steel, and still take the abuse of full power 12 ga. loads.

specific shotgun is factory tapped for optics on the receiver bridge.

On the Range

On the range, the Persuader makes for a unique shooting experience. I did a series of different drills, which were somewhat difficult to capture on camera, but I think they capture the essence of the capabilities of the Persuader

I first shot a magazine full of slugs at a 24”x36” paper target 100 yards away. These slugs were Winchester 1oz lead slugs traveling along at 1700 fps. That is right up there with a heavy 45-70 load, and boy, could you feel it. Accuracy was certainly minute of man. I could keep all the slugs on the target, but with the smooth cylinder bore barrel, and a gold bead as my only sight, there was no rhyme or reason as to where they landed on the target. I then paced off 10 yards and fired a myriad of military 00 buckshot, high brass no#6 turkey loads (which were by far the stiffest recoiling), no#8 field loads, some very unique .69 caliber double round ball loads, and some mini-2” 00 buckshot loads. What I found is that, reliability in feeding and firing is flawless, but that it tends to pattern high and right. The reason it was doing this is because the wads/shot cups were keyholing into the paper targets I had set up. I think this has to do with the lack of constriction in the barrel, but what do I know.

I then shot two rounds of 25 clay pigeons on the automatic thrower ( I hesitate to say trap or skeet, because I know some of you out there are actual trap and skeet shooters, and I would hate to degrade the sport with my misuse of terms J) The first round, I actually hit 23/25 targets, but only because I was snap shooting as soon as they were thrown. On the second round, I waited until the clays were out to about the 25-30 yard range. The cylinder bore and short barrel really showed itself because my score dropped to 11/25. Past 30 yards, I hit no birds, the pattern was just too spread out.

My range session uncovered quite a bit of information. For one, this is a powerful and absolutely devastating package at close range with the proper ammo. Past 25 yards, and you better have slugs on board. That’s not to say you won’t hit your target, but your chances of getting a disabling hit are severely diminished, even with buckshot.

Conclusion

The Mossberg 500 Persuader is an excellent choice for home defense and/or duty work. The pump action allows any variety of 12 ga. shells 3” and shorter to be fed reliably, which only enhances its usefulness. The ergonomic and reliable controls make this shotgun the one to beat, in my opinion. If you have never had the opportunity to dump 8 rounds of 00 buck into a target as fast as you can work the controls, I’d say you are missing out.