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Have you ever noticed the recurring theme in the firearms industry these past years?
There has been an inevitable surge of returning classic handguns like the Glock P80, bolt-action rifles, 1911-style handguns, and what have you. We even saw throwbacks in the lever-action rifle industry, much to everyone’s surprise.
It just seems that once-classic firearms keep re-emerging from the dust as manufacturers attempt to profit from the growing popularity.
Mossberg jumped on the “retro comeback” bandwagon too. Their most recent addition, the reimagined Mossberg 590 Retrograde, is a fantastic pump-action shotgun that pays homage to the classic look and feel.
But is the Mossberg 590 Retrograde truly worth the hype?
Today, we’ll take a closer look at the pump-action Mossberg 590 Retrograde and review what’s improved, what’s changed, where it excels, and where it flops. I’ll also let you in on some cool aftermarket parts for it as well as alternative shotguns if you’re looking for something similar.
But first, let’s see how the 590 Retrograde came to be. Then we’ll dive into our Mossberg 590 Retrograde review.
Mossberg’s Idea Behind the 590 Retrograde Shotgun
Mossberg, our beloved American firearms manufacturer, set many standards for deer and waterfowl hunting as well as military and home defense purposes with their 500 and 590 shotgun models.
Mossberg unveiled the Retrograde pump-action shotgun models in late 2018 and presented the Mossberg 500 Retrograde, two Mossberg 590 Retrograde models with 20- and 18.5-inch barrels, and the 590A1 Retrograde.
The Mossberg 590A1 was the only shotgun that passed the US Army’s 3443 SG torture test among the bunch. Not only that, but the polymer furniture of the 500 series didn’t sit too well with some folks. Check out our comparison between the Mossberg 500 and 590.
With the classic walnut buttstock, heat shield, improved controls, and a very pleasing aesthetic feel, Mossberg chose the 500, 590, and its subsidiary models as the perfect volunteers to receive the Retrograde makeover.
You can already tell by the name and the classic, dark walnut furniture with honeycomb grips that the Mossberg 590 Retrograde is a shotshell blast from the past.
These Retrograde models feature:
- Checkered grips;
- Ventilated recoil pads;
- Ventilated heat shields;
- Matching forends;
- Ambidextrous safeties;
- Dual extractors;
- A positive steel-to-steel lockup mechanism;
- Twin action bars;
- Anti-jam elevator for smooth reloading.
Before we move to the Mossberg 590 Retrograde, let’s check out the differences between the models.
The Mossberg 500, also known as Persuader in the series, is the most barebones model.
It’s a 12-gauge pump-action with a 5+1 round capacity, cylinder bore choke, and a 13.87-inch LOP (length of pull). It has beaded sights, and this one is mostly for sports and hunting.
The 18.5-inch barrel has a blued finish with a 39.5-inch overall length, and it’s the most lightweight model with 6.75 pounds.
I didn’t find other tactical models, so I’m guessing they’ll be discontinuing the tactical Mossberg 500 models besides the Retrograde.
I recommend this one if you’re looking for a good hunting shotgun that’s not necessarily purposed for tactical and duty use.
The Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde is the tactical, no-nonsense model of the bunch. I’m fairly certain that it’s one of the best combat shotguns you can find for such a price.
Basically, everything is more or less the same within the Retrograde design except for two distinct aspects.
Apart from the 500 and 590, the 590A1 retrograde has heavier walls for the tactical and duty applications it’s purposed for.
Secondly, the high-quality machined metal trigger system is up to military standards and is designed to be as smooth as possible for fast-paced shooting and quick follow-up shots. Think crowd control for duty use.
It has an 8+1 round capacity, a parkerized barrel with removable ventilated heat shields, can come with a bayonet mount, and it’s the only model that has ghost rings which can be really viable for deer hunting at a 70-80 yard range.
You got various other configurations, barrel lengths, and finishes at Mossberg, but I strongly recommend the 20-inch barrel length for the ultimate tactical use.
Overview of the Mossberg 590 Retrograde Pump-Action Shotgun
- Manufacturer: Mossberg
- Model: 590 Retrograde
- Gauge: 12-gauge
- Action: Pump-action
- Choke: Cylinder bore
- Capacity: 6+1; 8+1
- Length of pull: 13.87 inches
- Safety: Ambidextrous top tang
- Barrel length: 18.5 inches
- Overall length: 39.5 inches
- Weight: 7 pounds
- Sight: Beaded
- Stock: Walnut; Vented
- Accessories: Heat shield
- Finish: Matte blued
Furniture and Ergonomics
As you can see, the Retrograde looks a lot more like a makeover than a totally new remodeling. However, it somehow still feels like you’re holding a totally new shotgun.
It’s rare to see wood furniture on a tactical shotgun. That’s what Walnut buttstock and forend with a matte blued finish does to your psyche.
The wood furniture has textured grips and a corn-cob forend that helps your hand dig into it for that classic stability and control. The vented recoil pads are also very comfortable and can mitigate lots of recoil.
Additionally, the stock has a checkered grip which feels pretty comfortable, and I feel that the “push/pull” shooting method is most suited for this.
The 590 and 590A1 Retrograde models all have a nifty magazine tube clean-out cap, and most would appreciate the vented heat shield.
A heat shield on a shotgun such as this is an obvious choice because your gun needs to breathe from all those fast-paced 3-inch shot shells.
Variants include different capacities and barrel lengths like the 8+1 model with a 20-inch barrel and heavier walls on the 590A1.
My model was the standard Goldilocks 18.5-inch barrel 590 Retrograde with a 6+1 round capacity. In comparison to the 590A1, the standard 590 is better balanced, and the front feels much lighter, even with your 2¾-inch buckshot loaded.
Shooting, Trigger, and Ammo Recommendation
Shooting the Mossberg 590 felt cathartic. The 590’s trigger group is made of polymer, while the 590A1 is metal. I don’t think it’ll cause many reliability issues, unless you’re a competition shooter or a very frequent visitor at the ranges.
Cylinder bore shotguns such as this are practically buckshot eaters, and the spread is moderately tight in comparison to other shotguns with chokes.
I used Aguila Buckshot, Winchester Defender, and I also shot a few Fiocchi Flyaways bird shots. Federal Premium Personal Defense 00 Buckshot is also worthy of mention if you happen to come across some, and if you’re looking to shoot smaller 1.75-inch shells, you should look into an Opsol TX Mini-Clip 2.0 Flex adapter.
The trigger pull on the 590 feels like a 6.5-pound pull, and it’s a bit sloppy. No problem for a shotgun.
It pumps so smoothly and racks so easily that it’s enough to convince both tactical shooters and hunters. The 13.87-inch length of pull is fine by me, but it might be long for some.
Nothing beats the Mossberg ergonomics department. The 590’s controls are famously very ergonomic.
All of the Retrograde models have the top tang mounted safeties, and the safety is pretty easy to reach for both left- and right-handed shooters.
It’s perfectly positioned and feels very natural to engage it with your thumb regardless if you have short or long fingers.
Additionally, the pump release can also be easily reached without moving your firing grip much, and the slide release is just behind the compost trigger guard.
Every shotgun manufacturer needs to take notes. It’s weird how nobody does top tang safeties nowadays.
The beaded front sight is just standard shotgun procedure. Nothing special here.
Most shotguns have beaded sights, so this can be suitable enough for most. However, the 590A1 has bright ghost sights, which are better suited for deer hunting. It works well with the cylinder bore which is already optimized for buckshot from a 15- to a 100-yard range that can spread.
When engaging single targets with reduced recoil shot shells, the beaded sight offers decent target acquisition at shorter ranges. Not only that, but it’s also great for home defense scenarios and crowd control in tight quarters. Since the bead is golden, it’s easy to see and that’s what makes it a great tactical choice.
Pros & Cons of the Mossberg 590 Retrograde
- Excellent reliability
- Steel-to-steel lockup and anti-jam elevator for smooth operation
- Classic corn-cob forend
- Heat shield barrel
- Tight shot patterns
- Ambidextrous safety
- Highly customizable
- Viable for hunting, sporting, tactical, and home defense
- Hard to come by
- Long LOP
Is the Mossberg 590 Retrograde a Good Self-Defense Shotgun?
The Mossberg 590 Retrograde 12-Gauge has an 18.5-inch barrel, a top tang safety, and a 6+1 round capacity which make it a great home defense option. The barrel has a heat shield, and it also comes with a cylinder bore choke.
The beaded front sight is also great for hunting, and the top tang safety is ambidextrous. I also recommend the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde, which has a 9-round capacity, heavier walls that can take the heat, and ghost rings for better target acquisition.
Are the Parts of the Mossberg 590 Retrograde Interchangeable?
For the most part, the 500 and 590 models are interchangeable, except for the barrels and mag tube caps. A 590 mag tube can fit on a 500, but the barrel of a 500 won’t fit a 590 mag tube, though, or vice versa.
You can fit the different mag tubes on all the Mossberg models, as long as you make sure the barrels are suitable. As for the furniture, most Mossberg models like the 500, 535, 590, and the Maverick 88 use the same buttstock.
The internal parts of a 500, 590, 590A1, and a Maverick 88, are identical and can be used interchangeably. Still, consult your gunsmith first.
What’s the Difference Between the Mossberg 500, 590, and 590A1 Retrograde?
The 590A1 has a heavier barrel, ghost ring sights, metal safety and trigger group, and a bayonet lug. The 590 has a slimmer barrel and is more lightweight. The safety and trigger group are composite, and the finish is parkerized instead of blued like the 590A1’s.
The magazine tube is the only difference between the 500 and 590/590A1.
The 590 is more suitable for tactical operations, while the 500 has a longer barrel, and it’s very viable for hunters because of the lower price.
What Do the Others Have to Say?
Here are some interesting testimonials and review snippets from customers that bought the Mossberg 590 Retrograde
Alternatives to the Mossberg 590 Retrograde
Here are some very cool similar shotguns to the 590 Retrograde in build, aesthetics, price, and function.
Looking for a semi-automatic shotgun? Here’s the Stoeger M3000, more specifically the Burnt Bronze and Walnut models.
If you’re a hunter on a budget, this cost-effective Stoeger with a 28-inch barrel works like a charm.
What makes it tick is the special inertia-driven mechanism that’s inspired by Benelli. It has impeccable reliability and operation that’s designed for hunting turkey and waterfowl.
It’s a bit heavier than the 590 Retrograde with its 7.5 pounds and only has a 4+1-round capacity, so it’s definitely not for self-defense or tactical duty.
However, it comes with three different chokes, and the drilled and tapped receiver can accommodate most Weaver-style scopes for a measly price.
When in doubt, pick a Remington 870.
For a moderate yet very reasonable price, the Remington 870 offers a jack-of-all-trades type of approach in pump-action shotguns that are very similarly qualified to a Mossberg for hunting, self-defense, or plain fun.
Much like the Retrograde, the Remington 870 Home Defense has classic aesthetics with a traditional dark stain hardwood stock.
You got your standard CYL bore choke when you’re using home defense shells, 14-inch length of pull, single-bead sights, and a well-machined interior with the famous Remington reliability.
There are loads of Remington 870 models and variants like the Remington 870 Tac-41 models, and all of them have compatible barrels that don’t require modification, not to mention the abundance of aftermarket parts.
If you want a cool shotgun with ghost rings like the 590A1, there’s no escaping the Benelli SuperNova Tactical. It doesn’t have any fancy furniture, but that’s because it doesn’t need to.
With a fixed cylinder choke, a shell-stop button on the forend, and an excellent pistol grip, the SuperNova offers a new dimension in tactical defense for a very fair price. The skeletal frame and polymer build lets you customize it at your whim.
Benelli’s ComforTech recoil reduction system is what separates it from the rest, so expect unmatched reliability. It only has a 4+1 round capacity and is a bit heavy, but that means less recoil to worry about.
Conclusion – A Nostalgic Touch to a Modern Mossberg Shotgun
With all the shotgun models that they made, Mossberg finally decided to put their fan-favorite series in a time machine and came back with the Mossberg Retrograde series: the 500 Retrograde, two 590 Retrograde variants, and the tactical 590A1 for all you bayonet freaks.
I chose the 590 Retrograde with an 18.5-inch barrel and 6+1 round capacity for a test drive because it felt like it was the most well-rounded of the bunch.
For a hipster pump-action shotgun, it’s still the same Mossy reliability, and it just keeps on cycling double naughts and slugs, not to mention the leftie-friendly ambidextrous top tang.
What’s more, it’s still the same line of shotguns, and there are still loads of customization options that allow you to change the sights and internal parts. The only thing that bothers me is how fast these sold out, and most online firearm retailers rarely have them in stock.
It’s clear as day that Mossberg was itching to let the Retrograde series loose. I’m guessing they noticed how folks regularly bought their standard 500 series and kept sticking classic walnut furniture on them.
The heat shield, anti-jam elevator, corn-cob forend, and the overall feel of the 590 Retrograde are basically made for a long day of shooting and cycling at the ranges, not just bragging. Just don’t short-stroke this pump-action shotgun. Trust me.
Stay safe, shoot straight.