Rifle|July - August 2021
Lee J. Hoots

Years ago, there was a small amount of ugly chatter and insults tossed about on the internet from cyber trolls who, for whatever strange reason, decided my choice in toting a new Mossberg 4x4, bolt-action .300 Winchester Magnum to the Alaska Range in 2008 was counterintuitive for hunting Dall’s sheep. I just laughed it off, and still do when thinking about that hunt and when catching a glimpse of the sheep mount in my home office/reloading room. I can agree that the rifle, with its somewhat futuristic stock, was not very traditional, but it shot well. Plus, with today’s standards, especially modular stocks, it would not be far out of line.

Born in Sweden, Oscar Fredrick (O.F.) Mossberg showed up on U.S. soil in the mid-1880s. After working with and for other firearms companies, he struck out on his own and founded O.F. Mossberg & Sons in New Haven, Connecticut, in the summer of 1919. The company is now 102 years old, which in itself is remarkable as roughly less than one percent of companies of any kind survive to be that old.

According to Mossberg literature, the first gun the new company produced was the BROWNIE pistol, which sold for $5.00 at the time and was chambered for the .22 Short and .22 Long. Today, these sell for up to $400 or so, depending on condition and how badly some collector wants one. The “pocket pistol” was discontinued circa 1932. Bolt rifles and shotguns eventually became the company’s mainstay products, and Mossberg continues to thrive.

Around 1940, Mossberg was given lucrative contracts by the U.S. Government for gun tooling and .50-caliber machine gun parts. Next came contracts for LeeEnfield rifles. Other military agreements mounted quickly, including a long list of 12-gauge pump guns. Many thousands of Model 500 variants were shipped throughout the world but were largely intended for U.S. troops, and later, U.S. sportsmen.

After accumulating a couple of rifles, my father decided he and his boy should take up wing shooting – mostly due to my constant insistence. So, when I was about 11 (having passed a hunting training class a year early), he brought home an Ithaca/SKB, 20-gauge side by side dressed up with a little machine engraving, straight stock, and nice bluing; this was to be his “bird gun.” “My” shotgun, however, was heavy and long – too long, for an 11-year-old boy, anyway.

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