O.F. Mossberg & Sons Turns 100

America’s oldest family-owned firearms company celebrates a century of offering reliable guns at affordable prices

By Brad Fitzpatrick

Born in Sweden in 1866, Oscar Frederick (O.F.) Mossberg came to the United States when he was 20 years old. Settling in Massachusetts, he first worked at a boiler manufacturing company before another Swedish immigrant, Iver Johnson, offered him a job as a firearms engineer. At that time, Johnson’s motto was “Honest Goods for Honest Prices.” Mossberg eventually worked for several gun companies in New England, including the J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company, C.S. Shattuck Arms, and Marlin Rockwell.

By 1919, Mossberg had worked on virtually every firearm platform imaginable, from shotguns and rifles to telescopic sights and aircraft-mounted machine guns. That same year, he decided to start his own company. The first firearm that he sold was a modernized version of his Novelty pistol, a four-barreled rotating .22 pistol. With the help of his sons, Iver and Harold, Mossberg set up shop in New Haven, Connecticut, and began selling that new pistol—known as the Brownie—for $10.50.

Sales of the Brownie were strong, but the costs of maintaining a factory placed a financial strain on the family business. Iver and Harold helped supplement the operation by playing in local orchestras, and with revenue generated by sales of the Brownie pistol and loans from friends and family, Mossberg expanded to a new facility. In 1922, O.F. Mossberg & Sons introduced their second gun, the Model K .22 pump-action rifle. Mossberg quickly earned a reputation for building high-quality firearms that the average American could afford. During the Great Depression, when most firearms manufacturers were struggling, Mossberg thrived. In 1934 the company introduced its first shotguns, and by 1939 Mossberg was selling more than
1 million firearms and scopes annually.

By the 1960s, Mossberg was one of the top firearms manufacturers in the country, but the company needed a pump-action shotgun to compete with Winchester, Remington, and Ithaca. Mossberg Chief Engineer Carl Benson developed a new pump gun that offered a tang-mounted safety, trigger disconnect (so that the trigger would have to be released and pulled to make the gun fire a follow-up shot), interchangeable barrels, and a “steel-to-steel” chamber design. The first of these new shotguns, dubbed the Model 500, rolled off the assembly line in New Haven on August 21, 1961. As good as the Mossberg 500 was, the company never stopped seeking ways to improve its design. In 1965 models with vent-ribbed barrels became available, and dual action bars were added during the 1970s.

A. Iver Mossberg Jr. is the fourth generation of his family to lead his namesake company, and the same values that made the company successful during its first 100 years still serve as the brand’s guiding principles today. “When my great-grandfather opened the doors of O.F. Mossberg & Sons in 1919, he instilled a set of corporate operating values that we still live by today: always take care of your employees, always embrace change, and always listen to your customers,” Mossberg says. “He coupled those operating values with a commitment to a simple philosophy of providing customers with ‘More Gun for the Money.’ That sort of forward thinking is what allows us to celebrate 100 years of U.S. firearm manufacturing.”

Today, Mossberg is one of the world’s largest firearms manufacturers, offering a long list of shotguns, centerfire and rimfire rifles, and a brand-new 9mm semiauto pistol, and the company shows no signs of slowing down. O.F. Mossberg’s company has helped reshape firearms production, but the key to the brand’s success might well be what hasn’t changed: offering durable, affordable guns for American hunters and shooters.

 

Mossberg 500 Centennial Limited-Edition Shotgun

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Mossberg is celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary with the introduction of a limited-edition Mossberg 500 Centennial pump-action shotgun, chambered in 12-gauge. This commemorative shotgun features a nickel-plated receiver engraved with the Mossberg 100th anniversary logo on the right side and a pair of flushing ruffed grouse on the left, highlighted in 24-karat gold. For more information on this model and Mossberg’s full line of firearms and accessories, visit mossberg.com.