The 930 SPX is loaded with features that attracted me to it, and the price was a bargain compared to what a comparable package would cost from Remington or Benelli, which are the other two tactical shotguns that I have experience with and was considering for a semiauto shotgun purchase. The 930 SPX model is quite different from the 930 Home Defense, and the differences are immediately noticeable. In spite of these, there is a lot of commonality in the parts of the SPX, the Home Defense, and other recreational 930 variants. Mossberg took the 930 receiver and synthetic stocks, and added the 18.5 Home Defense barrel, LPA ghost rings sights, and a Picatinny rail to produce the SPX.
The shotgun is very light. This is due to the aluminum receiver used, although the barrel and chamber are steel. The weight coupled with the short 18.5” barrel make the 930 extremely maneuverable. It feels quite different from my 590A1 with its 20” barrel. I would imagine that with a shorter LOP stock it would be very handy in the restrictive indoor setting or if you wear a PC, or even if you are wearing a heavy coat. Like other Mossbergs, it comes with the stock spacers that will allow the angle of the stock to be changed. The barrel and receiver are finished in a flat matte black finish, and the stocks are black synthetic.
The magazine extension that allows 8 rounds to be loaded in the SPX is flush with the end of the barrel. It is produced by Choate, and has the floating plastic button end-cap. The nut area of the extension is well knurled. There is not a detent that secures the extension to the barrel band although the rear edge of the extension is set up to do so. For some reason, Mossberg neglected to install some form of forward sling attachment point. I intend on using a 590 sling point that installs between the extension and the barrel ring. Even fully loaded at seven rounds in the mag and with the steel extension out front, the shotgun still balances well for me, and did not feel nose heavy.
One of the best features of the SPX is the sights. This is among the best of the ghost ring sight units that I’ve used, certainly for a stock direct from the factory shotgun. Mossberg chose the LPA ghost ring sights from Italy and hit the ball out of the park as far as I’m concerned. The front is described as M16 style, and is a raised tower type unit that appears to be welded onto the barrel at the muzzle, and has protective ears and a red fiber optic insert. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of fiber optic sights, and I’ll switch this out for a tritium unit. Lots of people love the fiber optic sights, and my dealer said I should keep them when I mentioned wanting to change them. The fiber optic requires too much light for me, and worse requires it around you in order to be seen. I would prefer the self-luminous tritium and the big white circle around the vial to be able to pick out the front sight blade in lower light levels where I am not in a lot of light.
The rear sight is a detachable ghost ring unit, again with thick protective ears to either side. It is very sturdily constructed and sits on the Picatinny rail mounted to the top of the receiver. The sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation using a small standard screwdriver. The elevation is adjusted forward of the rear aperture and is very clearly marked “UP.” The windage is adjusted by a cross screw that drives the aperture left and right similar to the M16 rear sight. It too is marked; an “R” with direction arrow is placed above the adjustment screw on the right side of the assembly. There is also a witness mark and adjustment scale at the rear aperture for visual reference when zeroing, and I suppose this would be handy if you ever needed to move the sight to make sure you could return to BZO. I think the markings might be a little small for indexing them with your own witness marks as is often done with the M16 or AR15 type sight. The markings are very clearly laid out in a high contrast white. The adjustments are positive, with audible and tactile clicks. It does require a conscious effort to move the sight aperture, and you will certainly notice when you are doing so. The sight is removable, and uses a captured thumbnut on the left side of the assembly. It has a slot for using a flat-bladed driver to secure or loosen it. Unless you really intend on taking the sight off and putting it back on a lot, I would LocTite the thing.
The sight picture is very clear, and gives the impression of sighting through goal posts. The fiber optic picks up the ambient light, but as I stated I’m looking for just a little more. The ghost ring aperture is substantial enough to not be dainty and easily damaged, but not overly large so that it becomes self-defeating with too much obstruction or distraction.
The Picatinny rail is mounted on the top of the receiver with 4 small screws. It appears to be in spec, with no problems mounting any of my Pic rail stuff that I had on hand. This is a very nice platform for optics if you chose to put one on the SPX.
Working on around the receiver, there is a typical Mossberg tang-mounted safety. While the position is great for conventional stocks, the rumored after-market pistol grip unit might make this difficult. ***UPDATE: Choate advised that the PG stock for the 930 will be available by the end of February 2008.*** Regardless, the standard safety button is that atrocious plastic version. This will definitely be changed out for either the enlarged butterfly or Vang metal safety buttons.
The charging handle is the typical pull-out type, with an oval bearing surface. On a tactical gun I would prefer this to be a little larger, along the lines of the squared Choate unit so that the handle can be manipulated from underneath the shotgun easily. ***UPDATE: The good people at Choate will be producing a 930 version and advised that they expected this to be released by the end of February 2008.*** The bolt locks positively to the rear on empty, and does not dislodge when the shotgun is given an aggressive series of bumps on the floor.
The bolt release is well placed, and is substantial enough to be easily found by touch. The size allows for positive feel even through gloves. It is also used as a quick unload button by pushing the elevator up towards the bottom of the bolt and pushing the bolt release. This allows the first shell in the mag tube to be released from the stops and removed from the loading port.
The magazine tube spring at this point is acceptable, although I would like to see the last round forced out with a little more authority. The follower is acceptable as well, and is a metal (steel?) cup-type. I was able to create a bind on it by intentionally using poor loading procedures. A quick vertical bump on the floor freed the follower and returned the rounds to the ready with the follower in battery. A non-binding hi-vis nylon follower will replace the stock unit soon.
The trigger guard appears to be metal, which I am glad to see. The elevator is a solid flap, with a scalloped cut on the front edge. It moves freely, but I would like very much to see a cut made in the body of the elevator, so that a shell that either flies free of the shell stops or that does not get fully engaged upon loading can be pushed back into the mag tube with a tool.
There is a cocking indicator inside the forward edge of the trigger guard. I guess this might benefit some, and would lend itself to verifying that the shotgun is in the semi-auto version of cruiser ready if you need that sort of thing.
The stocks are about what I would expect for standard factory units. They retain the sporting look of the 930 recreational shotguns. The rear stock has an integral sling point along the bottom edge. I am not a fan of this. I would prefer a standard metal button. The recoil pad is very substantial. It is soft enough to slow down the shotgun, but not overly so. It is chamfered at the heel slightly, and my only complaint is that at the heel there is a slight gap. This looks like it is due to the recoil pad screw being just a little higher than it should be with this pad, and there is enough “slop” in the pad to allow it to pull away from the toe of the stock.
The foreend is also of the sporting variety, and its lineage shows. The rear edge of the foreend overhangs the forward edge of the receiver. It is rather blocky along the bottom of the receiver, and in my opinion interferes slightly with rapid loading through the port. The bottom of the stock protrudes below the level of the receiver, and I would rather that part of the foreend either be removed or be scalloped/tapered back so that there is more clearance around the loading port. For whatever reason, there is also some very noticeable vertical movement in the rear of the foreend. ***UPDATE: I took the 930 completely apart to clean it. After reassembling the shotgun and really clamping down on the extension there is much less movement in the foreend. I would say that it is at an acceptable level. After adding a Wilson Combat vertical sling point this movement has been all but eliminated. But I still want it beveled.
Finally, a comparison between the 590A1 barrel and the 930 SPX.
Overall, I have been very impressed with the SPX. It provides a lot of extra features on a shotgun chassis that has already shown a high degree of reliability. So while the SPX variant is new, the 930 has been around for a while. It can often be found for around $500, which is a steal when you consider that the sights alone run about $200. The tactical features added to the basic sport model of shotgun make this a very competitive entry, and show that Mossberg made some good choices compared to the 500 and 590 shotguns, which lack the ability to increase or decrease magazine capacity. The ghost rings on the SPX are simpler and more robust than the factory set on my 590A1. I am very much looking forward to being able to start putting rounds downrange soon.
I did get a chance to put a few rounds through it today. No problems with light loads (quail and trap loads), reduced recoil tac loads (Rem and Fed), up to full power Remington buck and Brenneke slugs. Didn't have time to pattern it, but I'm going to try to get around to that over the weekend.