The All-Arounder

After watching my team, the Auburn Tigers, lose yet again today, I went outside to enjoy the cool fall weather. Naturally, I got to thinking about hunting.

"What are you *snort* lookin' at? *snort*" Hog Hunting in the South
“What are you *snort* lookin’ at? *snort*”
Hog Hunting in the South

I haven’t been a big hunter in many years, as I’ve said before. But there’s a type of hunting I’ve been wanting to try for several years but not gotten around to. Hogs. Seems appropriate today, as the Arkansas Razorbacks just bloodied my Tigers, right? However, I might like to bag some venison this year, too; something I haven’t needed to do in many years since I was typically given at least one deer by customers every year while working outdoor retail. All of the benefits with none of the effort. Why bother hunting?

A Winchester 1894 Lever Action Carbine.
A Winchester 1894 Lever Action Carbine.

Anyway, I’d like to have a gun that’s good for both deer and hogs. Being that my AR (.223) is a little light for either, even though it’s now legal in Alabama, that means gun shopping. Yea! What to look at, though? In rifles, there are lots of options. Too many, in fact. So let’s narrow it down. Alabama mostly means dense brush with short range shots at hogs, and likewise for deer, unless you know someone with a huge field that’ll let you hunt it. Let’s assume that I’ll be hunting the dangerous wild hogs just as much or more than the complacent deer, so a slow to re-chamber, high-power-scoped common deer rifle is not the single weapon of choice to cover both scenarios.

A big-bore heavy thumper that won’t change trajectory easily if it nips a branch would seem the way to go. Even if it keyholes, it’s still more likely to make it’s mark than something like a .243win. A chambering in the .44mag or .45colt realm might be nice. Especially since I have the .45colt six-gun already. These aren’t very good for shots beyond about 100-150 yards, though, if the need arises. 200 yards is doable, but is a big arc. There’s .45-70, but those are expensive trigger pulls. And all of those are typically lever action, which have skyrocketed in price for good, sturdy examples since the cowboy action craze came about. I still want something that’ll hit hard though. Ah, wait…slugs.

This may be the answer. A combo shotgun. I need a defensive shotgun anyway. Being that I can’t afford most of the semi-auto shotguns on the market, and the ones that I possibly could afford aren’t really that good, I should probably look to pump action. I could go with a Mossberg 500 pump in 12 gauge with multiple barrels! I’ve thought of this before, but not to the extent that it just hit me. Mossberg sells this ( as shown on the BassPro website that is a great deal. What do you get for under $400? A 28in vent-rib bird/clays barrel with interchangeable chokes, a 24in rifled slug barrel (for deer or hog) with weaver rail mount, an interchangeable padded comb (the cheek-weld piece of the stock), a wood stock (even if this is the cheapo wood they tend to use nowadays, I still prefer it to the hard-touch polymer stocks they use otherwise), and Mossberg 500 toughness and reliability. Seems a fabulous deal to me!


The Mossberg 500 Dual Combo - My pick as the Best All Around firearm.
The Mossberg 500 Dual Combo – My pick as the Best All Around firearm.


But, wait, it’s still not a defensive shotgun, really. Oh, but wait again, extra barrels for the 500’s are cheap! I can get an 18in cylinder bore barrel for about $100. I can also get a mag tube extender for pretty cheap. Here, for less than $600, may be the perfect all around firearm. One receiver, three barrels, five uses. With the 28in barrel and low comb, it’s good for anything flying, including clays (two uses). With the 24in barrel, high comb, and a 1-4 or 2-7 scope, it’s good for Alabama whitetail or hogs (two uses). And with the 18in barrel and extended mag it’s a great home defense piece (one use). Plus, I could even add one more barrel, like a 22in with choke threads and buy a super-tight turkey choke, adding one more use to it!


Example of a Rifled Slug. Notice the rifling molded into the projectile.
Example of a Rifled Slug. Notice the rifling molded into the projectile.


12ga ammo section at any major retailer can tell you that the load options are almost endless. Everything is available from non-lethal bean bags and rubber pellets, to magnum buckshot that will annihilate most anything in the line of fire. The Mossberg 500, like the Remington 870, is chambered for 3in shells. These will also take 2 3/4, for those that don’t like or don’t need the shoulder pain of the 3in rounds. And for those who want to slap geese out of the stratosphere, you can also get 3 1/2 inch chamberings. Then there are the slugs! You can still find old-school rifled 3/4″ diameter lead slugs in case all you have is a smooth bore barrel. These will cave in an engine block if needed, or knock down a grizzly with a chest thump. However, if you want to be more accurate with your shot placement and use your shotgun as a rifle replacement, there’s a wonderful alternative called sabots.


A Projectile in a plastic Sabot.
A Projectile in a plastic Sabot.

Made to be used in rifled slug barrels, the typical sabot slug uses a heavy but still pointed (as compared to the rounded rifled slugs) single projectile. The sabot sleeve drops away after exiting the barrel, leaving the .30-06-like projectile spinning and flying like a rifle round, making your shot effective and mostly accurate out to 200-300 yards. And most importantly to my original line of thought, they’re still heavy enough to bust through dense Alabama brush, knock a hog senseless, and drop any whitetail deer on the continent. Perhaps even all with the same shot.

I’ve solved it. If you can only afford one firearm, are all about practicality, and enjoy hunting as well as needing a defensive piece, a Mossberg 500 with 3-4 barrels is your puppy. I’m going to start saving my change now, since I won’t be giving up my AR-15 to get the 500. But I will be getting a 500!

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