Wednesday, December 27, 2023

REVIEW: Is your Mossberg 500, 590, Maverick 88 or Shockwave shooting high? Defender Tactical's Highball Brass Bead Kit is an affordable and easy fix


Mossberg's 500, 590Maverick 88 and Shockwave series of pump shotguns are beloved by millions of Americans for home defense, hunting, camping, off-the-gridding, farming and ranching. But there's one problem with them -- they shoot really high from the factory when eqipped with a security length barrel and a bead front site. 

The problem is so pervasive that it has long been the practice of firearms instructors and police trainers to advise students with Mossbergs to "aim for the belt" just to hit center mass. 

The reason for this is that Mossberg's 18.5" and 20" self defense barrels have a front brass bead that sits lower in the sight plane compared to Mossberg's longer 28" hunting barrels. Mossberg's hunting barrels have a "vent rib" over top of the barrel, which raises the bead to the proper height which allows them to shoot to the point of aim.

To illustrate this, here is a photo of my 28" Mossberg 500 Vent Rib Barrel Hunting Barrel over top of my Mossberg 500 18.5" Security Barrel with the factory brass bead:

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

So when you are shooting a Mossberg short-barreled defense shotgun, it can be very frustrating to hit what you are aiming at when you are shooting at longer distances, especially when you are shooting slugs.

Remington solved this problem with their 870 series defense shotguns by creating a raised front sight platform for their self defense barrels which shoot to the same point of aim as their hunting barrels:

Raised Sight on a Turkish Remington 870 clone with an 18.5" security barrel:
Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

Unfortunately, Mossberg has still not addressed this issue.

Luckily, the aftermarket has responded to this problem in the form of the XS Big Dot Front Night Sight for Mossberg barrels. The XS Sight is an excellent front sight that corrects the point of aim issue, but it is a lot more expensive ($70 to $90 street price) and more time consuming to install.

Seeing the need for a lower cost, easier to install option, Texas-based company Defender Tactical has come up with a new product called the "Highball Brass Bead" to solve this problem once and for all. 

The Bead

The Highball Brass Bead is a taller, thicker brass bead that allows your Mossberg shotgun to shoot to the point of aim. It is super easy to install (check out Defender Tactical's install video) and is quite a bit thicker than the original bead so that it cannot break easily if the gun is accidentally dropped. The street price for the Highball bead is $15.00.

Mossberg's small/short factory brass bead (left) next to Defender Tactical's taller and beefier Highball Bead (right):
Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

Installed on the barrel:
Photo credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

Comparison of the 18.5" Security Barrel next to the 28" Vent Rib Hunting Barrel after installation of the Highball Bead:

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

As you can see, the Highball Bead makes up for the lost height from the lack of the vent rib, allowing for the gun to shoot to the point of aim.

The Rear Tang Safety Sight

Although you can buy the Highball Bead by itself, Defender also sent me their Rear Tang Safety Sight to try out with the Highball front bead. You can buy Rear Tang Safety Sight with the Highball Brass Bead as a kit for $25.00.

Manufactured from aircraft grade aluminum, the Rear Tang Safety Sight has a sight line notched into it to act as a rear sight for better sight alignment with the front bead. 

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

It is also shaped to improve upon Mossberg's rather uncomfortable plastic safety switch. The stock plastic safety switch has sharp edges on it which make it uncomfortable to push back and forth.

The Defender Tactical Rear Sight Switch with its higher and smoother profile solves this issue and makes engaging and disengaging the safety much easier. It's also easier to find and manipulate it with your thumb in the dark when under stress compared to the stock plastic safety switch.

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

In case you're wondering what is protruding from the side of the receiver, it is a Made in the USA Grovtec Swivel Stud for attaching their Quick Detach Single Point Bungee Sling (also made in the USA). 

Grovtec's Quick Detach Single Point Bungee Sling has been a great accessory for my Mossberg 500 FLEX Takedown, especially when I have the pistol grip installed. It allows me keep the shotgun firmly and comfortably attached to my body and allows me to go hands free if needed. 

Photo Credit:

It also acts as a poor man's brace to increase accuracy when aiming my shotgun with the pistol grip. Highly rec'd accessory!

Field Testing

Ok, I have the Highball Brass Bead installed, but does it work as advertised?

To test out the Highball Bead, I grabbed my Mossberg 500 FLEX 12 Gauge, installed my 18.5" Security Barrel on it and set up targets at 25 yards and 50 yards. I then shot them with various slugs using both the original bead and the Highball Bead. 

I found that the Highball Brass Bead completely eliminated the point of aim issue. Here are the results:

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

Yes, this target looks like a confusing mess. But that's because a separate wad struck the target after each shot and made a hole similar to a slug going through it, hence all the circles and notes on the target. 

But if you look carefully (click on the photo to enlarge it), you can see that with the factory brass bead at 25 yards, the shots were hitting at the top of the chest and slightly right. They were hitting slightly right because using just the front bead (with no rear sight obviously), was causing my windage to be slightly off. 

But after installation of the Highball Brass Bead and the Rear Tang Safety Sight, I was putting the slugs right into center mass. 

25 Yards using Fiocchi's excellent Low Recoil 1oz Aero Slugs

25 Yards using Federal's 1oz Shorty Slugs:

50 Yards using Fiocchi's 7/8oz Low Recoil Slugs:
Photo credits: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, ©2023 All Rights Reserved

I absolutely love Fiocchi's 7/8th ounce Low Recoil Slugs. Although they were not as accurate as the Remington Slugger Managed Recoil Slugs in my Mossberg, they are plenty accurate within typical slug distances. But their significant advantage over any other slug I've tried, is that they have very low recoil yet still pack a punch. They are also nearly as light as a 20 Gauge slug. So they are an excellent ultra-light 12 Gauge shell to to throw into a wilderness/backcountry survival kit for bear protection and emergency hunting.


I saw comments in an online forum wondering if the Defender Highball Brass Bead would break easily due to its taller size. Well, I've had the Highball installed on my Mossberg 500 since May of this year (8 months as the time of this writing). During that time, I have bumped it into a number of hard surfaces while going back and forth from the range without the slightest hint of it bending or breaking.

Despite its taller size, it is much thicker overall than the factory bead. Based on my experience with it so far, I believe it would take a blow hard enough to damage the steel barrel in order to break the Highball bead. 

Final Thoughts

Cons? Just one -- the Defender Highball Bead and Rear Safety Sight kit is made in China. 

According to the owner of Defender Tactical, he would have had to charge double the price if he made the bead and rear safety sight in the United States. He told me that as much as he would have loved to manufacture it here, he felt that gun owners would not be willing to pay that much for a brass bead and rear safety sight. 

I can't argue with him that the culture in America is still "buy whatever is cheapest no matter what evil dictatorship it comes from." 

Hopefully in the near future this attitude will change, because every Chinese product we buy goes towards the building of hypersonic missiles that are being pointed at our Navy ships in the Pacific. 

Origin of manufacturing aside, the Defender Tactical Highball Brass Bead & Rear Tang Safety Sight kit is well made and does exactly what it is supposed to do at a very affordable price. 

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a US Army Veteran, former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and the author of Edible & Medicinal Survival Plants of the Rocky Mountains Pocket Survival Guides. Jason has taught at the Rabbitstick Primitive Skills Gathering in Idaho, Fire to Fire in Utah, and at the Winter Camping Symposium in Minnesota. In addition, he has written articles on bushcraft and survival for Backpacker Magazine and The New Pioneer
Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

Monday, December 18, 2023

Thursday, December 7, 2023

REVIEW: Winchester Elite Defender 10mm 180gr Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point - Great self defense ammo for when you're off the trail


Winchester recently sent me some test samples of their new Defender Elite 10mm 180gr Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point to try out in my Glock 29 Gen 4 10mm Semi-Auto Sub-Compact 10-Round Pistol

The Glock 29 is what I carry for dangerous game defense when I'm out in the wilderness. In that role, I keep the gun loaded with full power bear protection loads such as the Underwood Xtreme Penetrator and/or Underwood 200gr Hardcast rounds. 

But when I'm not in the wilderness, I also carry my Glock 29 as a CCW pistol. 

In a CCW role, bear defense rounds grossly over-penetrate for self-defense use. So I usually switch to jacketed hollow point ammunition to avoid overpenetration once I'm off the trail. 

After spending time at the range with the Winchester Defender 10mm JHP rounds, as well as checking out ballistic gelatin tests on Youtube, they have impressed me to the point where I have started carrying them as my main CCW carry round. 

The Winchester Defender rounds are not quite as powerful as the typical Underwood and Buffalo Bore JHP's that many are familar with. However, they still feel like real 10mm ammunition when shooting them. 

The plus side of this slightly lower power is that recoil and muzzle blast are less intense. In a small gun like the Glock 29, it definitely makes a difference in shootability compared to shooting the larger Glock 20. 

The Glock 20 handles full power loads quite well. But the smaller and lighter Glock 29 can get a bit squirrelly in your hands while shooting full power loads, reducing accuracy during rapid fire.

But you are still probably saying to yourself that if these are less powerful than the Underwood and Buffalo Bore rounds, then they are probably less effective in stopping a threat. 

However, the Youtube ballistic gel tests below should quickly dispel any notion that these are not effective self defense rounds. The Defender round is quite literally devastating:

How's the accuracy?

Excellent. I tested the Winchester Defenders at common self-defense distances. The targets with the groups trending towards the left were because of high wind conditions that were literally pushing my arms to the left as I fired.The last target was done under calm conditions. 

Rapid fire while freestanding:

Slower aimed fire at 15 yards:

As mentioned, the winds were intense and were pushing my arms (and the shots) to the left while doing the tests above. But I was still able to shoot good groups.

Once the winds died down after dark, I did another test using an LED flashlight for illumination:

Without the wind blowing me around, the Defenders shot straight and accurate. 

Reliability Testing

I fired a total of 100 rounds of the Defenders through my Glock 29 and it functioned 100%. There were no feeding or ejection issues of any kind. 

I also tested the Defender ammo to see if it would cause a jam in my Glock 29 by "limp-wristing" the grip. 

A limp-wristing test simulates a scenario where your hand, wrist or arm is injured and you are not able to hold your semi-automatic pistol tightly like you would under normal circumstances. This is always a possibility in any self defense scenario, so I always test my pistols first to make sure they won't do this with my preferred carry ammo.

I've found that with my Glock 29, any 10mm ammo that's putting out less than 500 foot pounds of energy will induce a jam when limp-wristed. 

The Winchester Defenders passed this test with flying colors. I ran an entire box of Defenders through my Glock 29 and was unable to induce a jam no matter how lightly I held it. This gives me confidence that the Defenders will function even in the worst case scenario. 


As a CCW round for carrying in a compact Glock 29 10mm Pistol, the Winchester 10mm Defender Jacketed Hollow Point strikes an excellent balance of controllability and reduced muzzle blast while also having very effective stopping power. The round is accurate and the nickel plated cases help with long-term feeding reliability. I like the Defenders so much that they have become my main CCW ammo for when I'm not out trekking on tree covered trails in the Rockies. 

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the Founder and Senior Editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft and a US Army Veteran. After serving in the Army, Jason joined the 175th Security Police Squadron of the Maryland Air Force National Guard and served during the Gulf War. He was selected as an Honor Graduate at the US Air Force Security Police Academy and completed two active duty operational support tours, which included guarding A-10s and C-130s which were flying federal overseas missions. Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Recommended Book: The Lost Frontier Handbook by Suzanne Sherman


Hey friends, if you're in the market for a book to help you survive the apocalypse, check out Suzanne Sherman's The Lost Frontier Handbook

The Lost Frontier Handbook is part of the popular "Lost Ways" book series. 

It is filled with practical food preservation techniques for when refridgeration is not possible. It also has lots of interesting historical examples of how food was preserved hundreds of years ago as well as tips on the types of tools and firearms you should keep on your homestead to make it through hard times. 

Suzanne has years of preparedness experience living in the mountains of Utah and it shows in this book.

The section on preserving eggs is worth more than the price of the book itself!

Available in traditional book form or as a digital download for your phone.

Highly Recommended.


Saturday, August 26, 2023

Tips & Tricks: Use Shock Cord to Hold Your Bushcraft Knife Securely in its Sheath

Photo credits: Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2023 All Rights Reserved

Is your fixed blade knife too loose in its sheath? Here's a trick I've been using for many years.

Get some quality 1/8" shock cord or 3/16" shock cord (depending on the size of your knife and the amount of retention you want), cut it to length, and then use a simple overhand loop knot to fasten it onto the belt clip or belt loop of the sheath. 

You will have to experiment with how small and tight to make it to have the retention you want. 

Using this trick made my Benchmade Puukko shown above, as well as several of my Mora knives that were previously too loose and unsafe, to be safe and secure when carrying them in the backcountry. Plus, it has saved me a lot of money because I don't have to buy aftermarket sheaths to get the retention I need!

One hank of shock cord is enough for many applications, plus I usually have enough left to replace any cord that starts to wear out.

This same trick can be used on any knife that has a retention issue, or, if you just want to add extra retention to an already good sheath.



Thursday, August 10, 2023

River stone knife sharpening at Rabbitstick 2022

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Bushcraft ©2022

This is a class I assisted my friend Lex Rule with (shown holding the knife and river stone) at Rabbitstick in Idaho last year. 

The goal was simple -- have students bring their dull knives to the river which runs next to Rabbitstick and show them how to sharpen them using only natural stones found in the river. We were able to bring most of the knives to shaving sharpness using just the stones and afterwards, stropping them on the bark of the Willow and Alder trees that ran along the bank.



Saturday, July 29, 2023

Recommended Book: Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel

This is the book my bushcrafting guru friends in Utah swear by for identifying edible and medicinal plants. My initial impression of the book is really good. 

Highly recommended! 

Cheers, Jason

Buy this book from Barnes and Noble and stop supporting the censorship practices of Amazon!

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Wool Blanket Tip! - Look for 100% Northwest Woolen Mills USGI Army Blankets on eBay and in Thrift Stores

Hey friends, if you're looking for a 100% wool blanket but don't have a lot of cash, look for USGI Military Northwest Woolen Mills Blankets on eBay and in thrift stores. I have owned a TON of US Army wool blankets, and the Northwest Woolen Mills are the BEST. They tend to be the largest, heaviest, softest and highest quality of all the army wool blankets out there. I'm talking on the level of the famed Italian Army Wool Blankets, only a little lighter. Northwest Woolen blankets run about 4lbs to 4.7lbs vs 5lbs to 5.5lbs for the Italian Blankets. In my experience, they are just as warm as the Italian blankets and easier to carry.

And don't let the "65/35%" thing confuse you. It is a 100% wool blanket. I currently own three of these and they are among my most prized possessions. You can use a dog hair comb to lightly tease one side to make the wool fluffier for more loft and warmth. And if you combine one of these with the USGI Fleece Blanket that Sportsman's Guide sells, it is the cat's meow. With the Northwest Woolen Mills blanket on top of the fleece, I have slept comfortably into the 20s (F) at camp.

Just make sure if you buy one from eBay to ask the seller to provide an actual measurement, because people sometimes wash them incorrectly and shrink them down. As long as the blanket is at least 80"x 60" it is still a good useable blanket. The medical versions of these blankets tend to be slightly larger, so if you can find one grab it!

I would not hesitate to pay up to $60 to $80 for one of these in good condition, but they can often be found for $25 to $45 if you look around or wait a few weeks. These blankets are one of the best kept secrets in the bushcraft world.



50 Yards freestanding with a Ruger 22/45 22LR Pistol and a $40 Walmart Tasco ProPoint 1x30 Red Dot!


50 Yards free standing (no rest) using a $40 Walmart Tasco ProPoint 1x30 Red Dot! Really digging this concept for a compact wilderness survival kit.