So I'm leaning towards the 870 express model. I like the fact that the receiver is steel on the 870's, instead of aluminum like the Mossberg 500.
Now time to go to my local Dick's sporting goods and check them out. Has anyone ever bought a gun from them before?
Benelli SuperNova. I would put that shotgun against any other pump shotgun and say it comes out ahead. Ive shot LOTS of shells through the old 870s, but short and long barrel. After a few hundred shells, they get sloppy and feel cheap. The Mossberg 500 is the same deal IMO. My old man still has one of each, and when its time to shoot shotguns, I pick up my Benelli. Very happy with it, and after a few hundred rounds, its just broken in and feels 100% more solid than comparable use others. Its got some nice features that the others dont, as well, which makes it a nice setup. And it just feels more solid, even though its poly/steel construction.
If you are just getting a gun to shoot clays or ducks and other small waterfowl, Im not sure that you can do any better than the Ithaca Model 37 featherweight. Its light, reliable, and excellent construction and accuracy make it a solid setup. Ive shot more clays and ducks with a Model 37 20GA than all other shotguns combined. You can shoot it all day long without getting sore. And, you can carry it all day long without bitching that its too fcukin heavy, especially with a bag full of ducks and decoys.
Both of those guns can be found in excellent shape used for $300ish and are much better guns IMO than the 870, 500, 590, 88. The only way to improve is to step up to semi auto.
Of course, thats all just my opinion.