Is the Mossberg 590 Shockwave Legal in Oregon?

There were Internet rumors in June of 2017 that the Oregon State Police was going to stop approving sales of the Mossberg 590 Shockwave. It looks like the rumors are true. On July 5th, 2017, OSP posted the following on their website:

July 5, 2017


As of Friday, June 30, 2017 the Oregon State Police Firearms Unit began
delaying the transfer of all Mossberg 590 Shockwaves and Remington 870 TAC-14s pending
a review by the Oregon Department of Justice regarding the legal status of such
firearms under Oregon law.

As you may know these firearms first came into the market in 2017 and the ATF
has advised that these firearms are eligible for transfer/possession under
federal law. However, recently a concern as to whether these firearms are also
eligible under Oregon statute has come into question. The Oregon Department of
Justice has committed to a speedy review and determination of the eligibility to
possess/import/transfer this type of firearm under state law. Oregon State Police
will provide an update as soon as a determination has been reached.

It is important to note that a delay in these instances is regarding the
firearm itself and may not pertain to the purchaser. Until further notice and
pending legal review, the OSP FICS Unit will provide a clear response to all
background check requests that the delay is related to the firearm only.

Thank you for your patience during the review of this important public safety

OSP Statement on Legality of Mossberg 590
Screenshot of OSP’s Statement on the legality of the Mossberg 590 Shockwave posted July 5th, 2017.

What is the Mossberg 590 Shockwave?

Mossberg 590 Shockwave
Is the Mossberg 590 Shockwave legal or illegal in Oregon? What is it? A shotgun, a pistol, a short-barreled rifle, or a short-barreled shotgun?

Depending on how you define it, the Shockwave is a firearm, a pistol, a shotgun, and a short-barreled shotgun. Clearly, it started its design life as a pump-action shotgun very similar in design to the Mossberg 500 “Persuader.” Many Mossbergs in the 500 series were sold as a packaged deal– both with a fixed stock an a pistol grip.

Pistol Grip Shotgun
Pistol grip shotguns are common, and legal. However, barrel length and overall weapon length matter.

How is the Mossberg 590 any different
from other Mossbergs in the 500 series?

What makes the Shockwave different from previous Mossberg models are two points:

  1. It doesn’t come with a stock at all, and
  2. The 14″ barrel length is in Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR) or Short Barrel Shotgun territory.

Normally, shotguns with a barrel length under 18″ are regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA). This is the same act that regulates full-automatic firearms (aka “machine guns”), suppressors (aka “silencers”), firearms with an overall length under 26″, and rifles having a barrels less than 16″ in length (aka “short-barreled rifles”). See: 26 U.S.C. 5845; 27 CFR 479.11. But the Mossberg 590 Shockwave is not regulated by the NFA. According to Federal definitions, the Shockwave is a “firearm” under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (“GCA”) but not a “firearm” under the National Firearms Act (NFA). You can read the Mossberg Shockwave BATF letter for a more detailed explanation.

Is the Mossberg 590 Shockwave Illegal in Oregon?

No. Weeks after the Oregon State Police started pending sales of the Mossberg 590, they issued a letter to Oregon gun dealers which read as follows:

July 24, 2017


The Oregon Department of Justice review of the Mossberg 590 Shockwave and the Remington 870 TAC-14 has been completed. Effective immediately the Oregon State Police Firearms Unit will no longer
pend or delay background check transactions solely because they involve the transfer of one of these firearms. The FICS Unit will continue to make determinations as to the eligibility of the transferee, as well as ensure that a firearm being considered for transfer has not been reported as stolen. For the purpose of conducting an Oregon FICS check, the Mossberg Shockwave and the Remington 870 TAC-14 should be entered into the dealer-facing FICS web application or phoned in as a handgun and select “pistol pump” or “PP” for the designated firearm type. This will ensure dealers provide the appropriate information for compliance with state and federal law regarding age and out-of-state resident requirements for this type of firearm. Please refer to information in a letter by ATF dated March 2017 specific to the Shockwave. All transfer requests that had been previously pended/delayed by OSP FICS, specifically due to the Mossberg 590 Shockwave or Remington 870 TAC-14 firearm type,have been completed in accordance with state and federal law as they pertain to the eligibility of the transferee. Future delays involving these or similar firearms will be related to the prospective transferee’s criminal history or stolen gun file records only. Oregon State Police appreciates your patience during the review of this public safety matter.

In June of 2017, it appeared that the Shockwave was of questionable legality in Oregon because it falls into a loophole. A loophole or gap exists between Federal definitions and State definitions of what is a “firearm,” “shotgun,” and a “short-barreled shotgun.”

As mentioned above, according to Federal definitions, the Shockwave is not required to be registered or regulated by the NFA. But Oregon’s criminal laws are not bound by Federal definitions. What’s more confusing is that Oregon law references Federal registration of certain firearms as a defense (e.g. certain firearms are unlawful unless “…registered as required under federal law”). In other words, it’s of questionable legality to possess a shotgun with a barrel less than 18-inches in Oregon that has not been registered under the NFA because that’s the only affirmative defense to ORS 166.272 (which is a Class B felony). See ORS 166.210.

“Short-barreled shotgun” means a shotgun having one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length and any weapon made from a shotgun if the weapon has an overall length of less than 26 inches.

Is the Mossberg 590 Shockwave a pistol, a shotgun, or both?

It’s interesting to note that Mossberg does not use the word “shotgun” in their advertising or marketing of the Shockwave, and in fact the weapon is not listed in the “shotgun” section of their website. They also don’t list it in their “pistol” section. They call it a “pistol grip / AOW” (which we can assume means “all other weapons”).

Mossberg 590 Pistol
Is the Mossberg 590 a handgun?

There’s an interesting argument to be made that a 590 Shockwave containing only slugs is a “handgun” under ORS 166.210(5).

“Handgun” means any pistol or revolver using a fixed cartridge containing a propellant charge, primer and projectile, and designed to be aimed or fired otherwise than from the shoulder. (emphasis added)

The problem is that this “firearm” is capable of firing slugs, buckshot, or even birdshot. Clearly its primary design is to fire buckshot for self-defense purposes. This isn’t a bird gun. This isn’t a deer gun. This is a self-defense pistol-gripped shotgun. Shotguns are firearms in Oregon, and short-barreled shotguns are per se illegal in Oregon.

After hearing the news that the Mossberg Shockwave may be illegal in Oregon, some very angry and vocal firearms enthusiasts have blamed Oregon’s democratic governor, Kate Brown. Candidly, this problem existed long before she took office because the definitions for various firearms were codified from 1977 to 2009. Gov. Brown assumed office in 2015, following Gov. John Kitzhaber’s resignation.

Other firearms enthusiasts are simply saying “Molon labe” in response to this problem. Their view is that it’s legal to posses a Shockwave even if new purchases or transfers are illegal, and they openly challenge law enforcement to take action against the owners. Others take comfort in reading random opinions on the Internet as to the legality of this weapon. When they find someone that says it’s perfectly legal to buy a possess a Shockwave, they agree with it. Because it’s what they want to hear.

The fact of the matter is that violating the law could result in serious criminal charges. Thankfully, the issue with this shorter shotguns appeals to be settled and both the Mossberg 590 Shockwave and the Remington 870 TAC-14 are legal in Oregon.

Michael Romano is a Oregon criminal defense attorney, and this post is intended to be informative, but is not legal advice.

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