Mossberg At 100

A Century Of Great Guns
19

O.F. Mossberg (born in Sweden, 1866) and family: wife Alida, sons Iver and Harold, daughter Inez.

In March, 1919, the nascent O.F. Mossberg and Sons Company was hanging on a thread. Harold Mossberg was the only employee in the rented loft on State Street in New Haven, Connecticut as his father Oscar and older brother Iver were still employed by the Marlin-Rockwell Co. The Mossbergs labored evenings and weekends tooling up to build the Brownie, a pistol yet to be patented. In July Oscar and Iver left M-R to join Harold full-time.

A year later, July 27, 1920, Oscar’s patent application was approved. The Brownie, a four-barrel, hinged-breech .22 was already in production. It featured a 2-1/2″ barrel with the trigger designed to swing forward out of the grip. The first Mossberg-branded firearm, it owed much to Oscar’s pistol work for the Iver-Johnson Arms and Cycle Works in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

This ad shows the streamlined bolt-action Mossberg offered, beginning in 1957, on its popular rimfire rifles.

Oscar’s Story

Born in 1866, patriarch Oscar Mossberg had emigrated from Sweden in 1886. First employed in a boiler factory, he started with Iver-Johnson and married Alida Peterson six years later. A patent awarded I-J in 1896 was credited in part to Mossberg and resulted in the “Hammer-the-Hammer” top-break revolver. Ad images showed a carpenter’s hammer coming down on the revolver’s hammer, proving the gun would not fire if dropped.

In 1900 Oscar left I-J to supervise shotgun production for C.S. Shattuck Arms Co., in Hatfield, Massachusetts but his heart was in gun design. Besides, Charles Shattuck was also a tobacco-grower and closed his factory during harvest to put his employees to work in the fields! Oscar left after two years.

Oscar next worked for the J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. where he patented the Novelty, a four-barrel .22 with a rotating firing pin affixed to the hammer. A steel blade held in the frame was removed to extract cases. With tooling bought from Charles Shattuck, the Mossbergs began building Novelty pistols in a barn behind the family home in Chicopee Falls. In 1909, after 500 pistols, they sold manufacturing rights to Shattuck who produced them in .22 and .32 until 1915.

The same year, war in Europe shifted firearms priorities stateside. Oscar’s sons were away at college when he took a job at Marlin-Rockwell, moving with Alida and daughter Inez to New Haven, Connecticut. One task: synchronize Colt’s Browning-designed machine gun to fire between the blades of a biplane’s spinning propeller. He worked with the brilliant Carl Swibelius, Marlin’s chief designer from 1914 to 1926. After armistice, Marlin-Rockwell reorganized in 1919 and Oscar Mossberg, age 53, decided to form his own company.

Mossberg’s first firearm — the four-shot Brownie pistol, introduced in 1920 at $10.35, lasted until 1932.

The Brownie

The Brownie pistol appeared on New York distributor J.L. Galef’s letterhead at $10.35. Soon the Mossberg loft on State Street was spewing Brownies 50 at a time. The business got more space and hired more help at 201 Greene Street. Before the Brownie was discontinued in 1932, it would sell 37,000 units.

The company’s next firearm was a hammerless, slide-action .22 rifle designed by Arthur Savage and marketed as the Model 1903 Savage until dropped from the line in 1921. Oscar Mossberg was quick to buy it (allegedly for $1) and produce it as Mossberg’s Model K. By this time Savage’s original box magazine had given way to a tube. Savage would revive the design in its Models 25 and 29 rifles.

Mossberg’s first bolt-action .22 was the single-shot Model B sold as the Taylor Trapper’s Special. F.C. Taylor Fur Co. of St. Louis had contracted the $4.85 rifle. Built from 1928 to ’32, the Model B preceded a single-shot lever-action .22 Oscar designed on the eve of the market crash. It had a Martini breech and listed for $17.50. About 4,000 Model Ls were produced before vanishing in 1932 with the Model R tube-fed bolt-action and Model C single-shot, introduced in ’30 and ’31.

Tough Times

As the Depression raged in 1932, Mossberg produced its first shotgun, a .410 bolt-action single-shot. Improved .22 rifles, the Model 30 single-shot and box-fed Model 40, followed a year later, only to expire in ’35. Priced in those hard days for as little as $6, they wore Mossberg’s own No. 3 receiver sight. It would sell many rifles!

By 1934 Mossberg had repeating bolt-action shotguns in .410 and 20 gauge. It overhauled its .22 rifle line in ’35 and added telescopic sights. Harold designed the $7.50 No. 6 scope and mount, and Mossberg made it inhouse rather than outsourcing. Between 1926 and WWII the firm would list over 30 models of rifle scopes. Spiegel and Montgomery Ward branded more than 87,000 of them.
Oscar Mossberg died in 1938. His sons added the round brick New Haven Gas House to expand the nearby Greene Street operation. Both plants ran at capacity until Mossberg moved to its North Haven, Connecticut facility in 1960.

The Patriot push feeds smoothly from a polymer box. The “LBA” trigger pull: adjustable, crisp, consistent.

You’re In The Army Now

During WWII Mossberg produced the Model 42MB box-fed .22 training rifle. The similar Model 44US was made for stateside use, staying in service for 40 years in ROTC and youth programs.

Iver O. Mossberg served as company president until his untimely death in 1945 at age 50. His son Alan was 12 then, but already active in the factory as Uncle Harold took the reins. It wasn’t long thereafter I began ogling two-page catalog spreads of Mossberg .22 rifles — a treasure courtesy Carl Benson, chief Mossberg designer from the late ’40s into the ’70s.

Post-war products included the Model 151M autoloading .22 rifle and its M1 Carbine-like sibling, the Model 152 Carbine. A flock of .22 bolt-actions followed, plus 12- and 16-bore smoothbores. Mossberg’s first pump shotgun, the Model 200, had a one-piece stock with a nylon sleeve to run the action. It appeared in 1955, in versions with screw-in choke tubes and adjustable C-Lect-Choke on a ported muzzle starting at $46.95.

Late ’50s

In 1957 Mossberg ditched the Model 200 and replaced its 100-series rimfire rifles with the more streamlined 300 series. Models 342 and 352 bolt-action and autoloading rifles had distinctive stocks, their synthetic fore-piece hinged for support up front. The Model 35K auto’s tube was housed in the butt-stock.

In ’59 Mossberg fielded its only repeating lever-action .22, the Palomino. It sold for a pricey $68.88 and lasted until 1971. The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR) also arrived early in 1959. Mossberg added its first WMR “Chuckster” rifles and the series would endure until 1985, when Mossberg discontinued all rimfires. Meanwhile, the 100 line of bolt-actions shotguns acceded to the Model 385 20-gauge and Model 395 12-gauge. The Model 500 pump would follow in 1961, on the eve of Mossberg’s move to North Haven.

Wayne’s Mossberg Model 464 lever in .30-30 downed this South Dakota buck.
Ejection is angled, for scope use.

Changes Again

Harold Mossberg died in 1964. Three years later the board elected 35-year-old Alan Mossberg as its president. This year marked Mossberg’s entry into the bolt-action centerfire market. Its Model 800 had a six-lug bolt feeding .308 or .243 rounds (initially) from a staggered-stack box over a hinged floorplate. Priced from $97.95, the M800 had an eight-year run. A long-action Model 810 gave way to the classier RM-7 with the M810’s four-lug bolt head but a three-position wing safety, “rotary” (not spool) magazine and machine-checkered walnut. Introduced at $235, the RM-7 fell prey to late-’70s inflation, expiring in 1985.

Mossberg’s commitment to a centerfire rifle coincided with Smith & Wesson’s decision to drop its Howa-built bolt-action. The first Howa Mossbergs sold as four variations of the Model 1500, plus the deluxe Model 1700LS in nine chamberings, .223 to .300 Win. Mag. Mossberg discontinued these rifles in 1987.

Monkey Ward Lever

Mossberg’s most unlikely rifle may have been its Model 472, a lever-action similar in form to Marlin’s Model 336 but with a disconnecting trigger that traveled with the lever. It evolved at the urging of Montgomery Ward, a major purveyor of Mossberg firearms. Ward was first to introduce it as the Model 72 while Mossberg’s Model 472 label came in 1974. Bored to .30-30 and .35 Remington, the M472 (rifle and carbine) was initially priced at $112. In 1979, with cosmetic changes and a hammer-block safety it became the Model 479. After trotting out two racy .22 autos in 1972 and 1977 (the Model 432 and thumbhole-stocked Model 377 Plinkster), Mossberg soon weaned itself of rimfires.

Solid lock-up of the Patriot’s twin-lug bolt contributes to the accuracy Wayne has found exceptional.

he massive locking lug of the Model 500 bolt engages a steel barrel extension in a forged alloy receiver.

The 500 Leads The Way

By 1985 it had dropped the M472 centerfire and hung its firearms fortunes on the Model 500 shotgun, announced in 1961. In 1970 the M500 got dual slide bars. A tang safety distinguished this shotgun from other repeaters and made it a hit with southpaws. Introduced in 12 gauge, the M500 came in five versions starting from $74.95 to $90.35.

The M500 story is long and still spinning out. It has become one of the best-selling shotguns ever with millions shipped! My “Retrograde” walnut-stocked indulgence has a ghost ring sight and extended magazine.

Today

Economically priced Maverick pumps have joined Mossberg’s line, with the Model 835 Ulti-Mag series for 3-1/2" shotshells. Gas-driven autoloading shotguns appear on Mossberg’s current roster as the Model 930 and Model 940, the Model 935 Magnum for 3-1/2" fans. There is an SA series for small-gauge fans.

A century after the Brownie introduced shooters to O.F. Mossberg & Sons, the MC1sc again made Mossberg a pistol company in 2019. The striker-fired auto has a glass-reinforced polymer frame and a stainless 3.4" barrel.

Mossberg is also back in the .22 business with the Plinkster bolt-action and autoloading rifles, Blaze and AR-style Model 715 autos. The MMR is the company’s nod to AR-15 demand, chambered in .224 Valkyrie and 5.56.

Their Model 464 lever-action in .30-30 has helped me take deer. Unlike the M472 mimicking the Marlin’s 336 in profile, the M464 action has a Winchester Model 94 look. Choose a straight or pistol grip — or an AR-style stock and flash suppressor. This one would look odd in a scabbard at the hitchin’ rack outside Kitty’s saloon.

Centerfire

Finally, there’s nothing strange about Mossberg’s Patriot bolt rifle. It has practical features and shows solid engineering with variations filling seven catalog pages. Mine, with walnut stock and iron sights, is chambered in .375 Ruger. Despite the rifle’s 6-1/2 lb. heft and the bump of buffalo-stopping loads, it’s surprisingly comfortable to fire. My first range trial yielded a 0.7″ group! I wish all my deer rifles shot this well, but then, this is a Mossberg — “More gun for the money.”

www.mossberg.com

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