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[Review] Mossberg 500 & 590 Retrograde: What’s Old Is New

Ready to go retro? We hands-on review the Mossberg 500 and 590 Retrograde versions to see if they are as good as the current generation. Spoiler: yes!

    There has been a small, but prominent reoccurring theme in the gun industry. 

    Can you guess what it is? 

    It’s a little contrary to most of the firearms realm. 

    To me, it’s a great move

    Have you figured it out? Possibly by the title of the article. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns, 500 and 590
    Mossberg Retrograde Shotguns, (top to bottom) 500 and 590 with heat shield!

    The retro comeback.

    Obviously we have the Mossberg Retrograde series we are talking today, that’s not the only retro throwback. 

    Brownells has done an amazing retro series, as has Troy. Colt brought back the Python and Cobra, and if that’s not retro I don’t what is. Springfield has the Ronin 1911, and the list goes on. 

    The BRN-10 was one of the first “modern” awesome retro rifles we’ve seen in recent years

    The Mossberg Retrograde series premiered in late 2018 with the original Mossberg 500 and their premier fighting shotgun, the Mossberg 590A1. This year they released two new models of the standard 590 series a 9 shot and a 6 shot. 

    When Mossberg offered me the chance to review a Retrograde model I got a little greedy. Since the 590 models were new they wanted to really send one of them, but as a Mossberg nerd, I also asked for the 500 model. 

    Jonah Hill Excited
    Travis after reading the Mossberg email, probably.

    Mossberg happily sent me both the Mossberg 590 and 500 Retrograde models.

    This leads me to want to explain the differences between the Mossberg 500, 590, and 590A1. It seems like most people aren’t the giant shotgun nerds like I am and many don’t understand the difference. 

    at Palmetto State Armory

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    Table of Contents


    The Mossberg Lineage – Down and Dirty 

    This will be quick, and down and dirty. The Mossberg 500 series are all the same basic gun internally. The differences between models don’t affect the function of the gun.

    However, I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t seem to understand the differences. 

    The 500 

    The Mossberg 500 is the most basic model. It’s mostly a sporting shotgun, but tactical models exist.

    According to Mossberg’s website, the only tactical model listed is the Retrograde model so they may be eliminating the Mossberg 500 outside of porting purposes.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns 500 (2)
    Mossberg Retrograde 500

    The 500 series is a bare-bones gun that’s exceptionally light. 

    The limiter to the Mossberg 500 is the magazine tube which is not easily extendable.

    Its original design was mainly for sporting purposes like hunting. It was adapted for security purposes. The Mossberg 500 has lots of variants with different length barrels, stocks, gauges, and more. 

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    The 590 

    The Mossberg 590 is a purpose-built tactical gun. The man difference is the fact it has an easily extendable magazine tube, and the models Mossberg produces are solely aimed at home defense, police, and security applications. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns 590 on a stump
    Sexy 590 Retro

    The 590 model has variations that include ghost ring sights, bayonet lugs, heat shields, and more. The 590 model is moderately priced and often a cheaper and lighter option compared to the 590A1. 

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    The 590A1

    The 590A1 is the big boy of tactical pump-action shotguns. It’s easily one of the best purpose-built combat shotguns ever made. It differs in two ways from the standard 590 model. 

    The first is the heavy-walled barrel designed for heavy use. Also not to get bet during that crazy heavy use. This was a military requirement, as was the second major difference. The metal trigger system. 

    Mossberg 590A1
    Modern Mossberg 590A1

    The 590A1 comes in various configurations with or without a bayonet mount, various finishes, and barrel lengths between 10.5 inches and 20 inches. 

    There We Go 

    Now that that is out of the way we can dive into the Mossberg Retrograde guns. Keep in mind this is the 500 and 590 series, and not the 590A1, which also has a Retrograde model available. 

    at Brownells

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    What’s so Retro about these Guns? 

    The wood furniture is obviously a big giveaway. When was the last time we saw a tactical shotgun with wood furniture? The walnut stock and pump give the gun a look that can’t be replicated. 

    Wood furniture is nice, stained a dark brown that’s reeks of scotch and fine cigars. Well not really, but that’s the feeling I have as I hold them.

    Mossberg checkered the stocks fat the pistol grip for a nice grip on the gun. The pump’s are honeycomb style that gives the shotgun an unmistakable, but classic look.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns foregrip
    Honeycomb style forend

    Interestingly enough the Mossberg series originally used checkered pumps and not honeycomb pumps. 

    The honeycomb style pump was famously on the Winchester 1897 and Ithaca 37 shotguns. Both of these guns are fantastic combat shotguns and truly retro compared to modern shotguns. 

    That’s the most obvious design change. On the Mossberg 500, we also get an old school rich blued finish that is absolutely beautiful. I love the rich, and shiny blue that harkens back to old school shotguns. 

    The 590 variant has a blued finish that is more subdued and matte in design. That makes sense on a shotgun built with tactical applications.

    You also get a bayonet lug and a heat shield. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns, 590 with bayo
    Just in case you need to shiv someone in a trench

    If that doesn’t remind you of a trench gun the nothing will. Guns like the aforementioned Winchester 1897 were famed for their heat shield and bayonet lug and prowess in the trenches and the Mossberg 590 Retrograde most certainly gives you that Trench gun feel. 

    The Kaiser is most certainly sweating nervously. 

    WWI Kaiser poster
    They just don’t make propaganda like they used to

    Who Wants a Retro Shotgun? 

    Clearly gun hipsters like me want something like this. Who doesn’t love shotguns with wood furniture?

    They look gorgeous and still perform like modern shotguns. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns fireball

    There is no reason why these guns couldn’t be used as defensive weapons. They are short, handy, and capable as home defense shotguns.

    That’s the good thing about shotguns, they can be remarkably simple and still be extremely effective. 

    The wood may not add +5 to your power or accuracy, but consider it a +10 to your charisma.

    Or well, until you open your mouth, after that the gun can’t save you. 

    Fallout Charisma

    Are the Ergonomics Retro? 

    Yes! The ergonomics are quite retro, but they are also modern. This is largely because Mossberg got it right a long time ago when they designed the original 500. 

    The tang safety is a brilliant design and I can’t believe that no one else ever tried to copy the design.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns safety
    Safety on the tang, yes.

    Maybe Mossberg has a strong patent. A tang mounted safety means you can manipulate it without changing your firing grip. 

    The slide release is placed right behind the trigger guard and is also very easy to activate and use. As far as controls go that’s it outside of the trigger.

    As you might expect, the controls are identical for both shotguns.

    The trigger in both guns is about 6.5 pounds and is a little sloppy. I’d expect more from a rifle trigger, but on a shotgun, it’s perfectly suitable. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns left side
    Press to activate

    Outside of controls, we have a length of pull of 13.87 inches. It’s much better than the 14.5-inch LOP a lot of shotgun companies have an obsession with.

    The 13.87-inch length of pull feels perfect when it comes to mounting the gun and working the action. 

    I consider the weight part of ergonomics and the Mossberg 500 Retrograde is a lightweight 6.75 pounds. It’ also shorter with its 18.5-inch barrel.

    Together, this is one handy package.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns giggity

    The Mossberg 590 Retrograde is 7.25 pounds and has a 20-inch barrel. The weight isn’t terrible, but you most certainly can feel the difference. That extra weight is towards the front of the gun and it feels a little less balanced. 

    The extra barrel and tube length, the heat shield, and the 3 extra shells in the pipe make it a tidbit front heavy.

    While it’s still comfortable as far as shotguns go, it handles a little differently from the light and sweet Mossberg 500 Retrograde. 

    Both pumps are a bit sloppy if you will. They move around a bit and rattle. This is common on Mossberg shotguns at all price spectrums.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns fire ball

    It’s not an issue with the gun and won’t affect function, but guys coming from Ithaca 37’s or 870 Wingmasters may find it odd. 

    Retro Range Time 

    I love shotguns oh so much. I feel like I get a dump of testosterone when I handle and shoot shotguns. Something about the recoil, the manual nature of the pump, and the boom followed by the shuck shuck sound. 

    With two new, cool shotguns, I was ecstatic to get out there with boxes of birdshot, buckshot, and slugs and tear up some targets. Target wise I brought clay pigeons, a rifle gong, and some man-sized printed targets.

    To challenge myself and to make my range trip a little bit more than just turning money into noise, I took the time to run several drills with both shotguns. 

    Snap Drills 

    Each drill started from the low ready and was ran against a timer. The first drill was a snap drill. Snap drills are simple and on the beep from the timer, I mount the weapon and take my shot. 

    The goal is to be as fast as possible while hitting the target. I ran both guns with birdshot and used clay pigeons positioned on a berm 10 yards away. This drill replicates your ability to swiftly get on target and with a shotgun speed is king. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns smoky

    My fastest was a .72 second time, and on average I was hitting in the .80s. The Mossberg 500 Retrograde was lighter but not necessarily quicker on target. I got my slowest time with the Mossberg 500 with a straight 1 second time. 

    One of the benefits of a bead sight is how easy and quick it is to get on target. A bead, unlike ghost ring sights, doesn’t require you to line up sights. Put the bead on the target and go. 

    Two on the Gong 

    I used a 10-inch gong and buckshot loads for the next drill.

    Rob Haught, America’s premier shotgun instructor, was asked once what’s a good standard for civilian shotgun users in a defensive role.

    He said two shots in three seconds on a man-sized target. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns ads

    I attempted to do the same with a 10-inch gong and do the drill at 15 yards. I did miss twice in two separate drills, one with each gun.

    Other than that I was able to put two rounds of buckshot onto the gong in 1.37 seconds as my fastest time with the standard Mossberg 500 Retrograde. 

    On average I was scoring 1.5 seconds and blowing that gong off its legs. The two misses taught me that I did need to slow down just a bit as both were first-round misses.

    This drill does show how fast you can manipulate the pump and work the action while keeping the bead on the target. 

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    Rarely does it take more than one round to stop a target with a 12 gauge shotgun, but its always good to be ready. 

    One to Two Drill 

    The one to two drill is simple. You set up two targets 1 meter apart and fire one round on each target. It’s a transition drill that starts at the low ready and goes against the clock. Here I used a man-sized target. 

    My average time was 1.60 seconds with the best time being 1.36 seconds with the 590 Retrograde. This is one of my favorite drills as it takes all the speed needed for a snap drill and adds in a transition as well. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns loading

    One of the good things about a bead sight is that it’s very easy to track as you move from target to target.

    On the Retrograde series, both guns are light enough to easily transition and even balanced enough to avoid overshooting the target due to momentum. 

    Drilling it Down 

    Overall, the Mossberg Retrograde series performed admirably. They are balanced, with a comfortable length of pull, as well as an easy to use sighting system.

    The pump action is smooth and quick. 

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns 590 pretty
    She really is a nice looking scattergat

    Both guns are light enough to easily transition between targets and to quickly mount to the shoulder. The recoil pad also ensures you aren’t getting beat up with full-powered loads, although proper recoil mitigation techniques make a big difference as well. 

    When I messed around with reloading drills I did find the followers to have some friction.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns loading port
    It also takes a Mini-Clip!

    They need to be worn in a bit and beat up. Alternatively, metal followers are often an excellent means to reduce friction for smoother loading. 

    Buckshot patterns 

    Cylinder bore guns are made for buckshot and give it a natural spread versus a choked gun. Both guns gave identical patterns with my two chosen buckshot rounds.

    Those rounds being Olin Military Spec 00 buckshot and my personal favorite Federal FliteControl 00 buckshot

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    Both loads were patterned at 15 yards. The Federal FliteControl gave me such a tight load it seemed more like a slug than a buckshot load.

    Federal FliteControl is my absolute favorite shotgun load and I’m glad it works well in the Retrograde series. 

    Olin Military Spec buckshot patterned well too. Inside of an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper the rounds stay well within the necessary chest area of the target.

    A Standard nine pellet buckshot load performs well within the standards of a man-sized target and at 15 yards. 

    15 yards is a long-range for a home defense shotgun, but if you took a shot at that range you could have confidence in the fact that it would hit where you were aiming. 

    By The Numbers

    Reliability: 5/5

    It’s a pump-action shotgun. It’s reliable as you can get. The gun cycled and fired every round without a single issue. It eats birdshot, buckshot, and slugs without any difficulty.

    The Mossberg 500 series of shotguns have been around for so many decades for a reason. 

    They work, and they work incredibly well. The Retrograde series is no different. These guns perform as good as they look. 

    Accuracy: 4/5 

    It’s a shotgun. When I squeeze the trigger the shot hits the target. It’s very simple and with shot based loads you won’t have any issues hitting your target. The only downside ad why I knocked a point off the score was that beads kind of suck for slugs. 

    Reliability: 5/5 

    It’s a pump-action shotgun. Pump it, pull the trigger and it goes boom. Reliability is entirely on the end-user. Don’t short stroke it and you’ll be golden. 

    Customization: 5/5 

    The Mossberg 500 series is easily at Glock or AR 15 levels of customization. You can change just about everything in the gun. You can, but changing the wood seems silly. 

    Mossberg 500 with Surefire
    If the retro isn’t for you, you can get a modern 500 and really trick it out!

    Ergonomics: 4/5 

    The Mossberg 500 seres are excellent shotguns and made to function with ease for both righties and lefties. The gun is easy to operate, and I knocked a point off for the sticky follower. 

    Looks: 5/5 

    I mean do I have to explain this one? These are gorgeous guns with a good finish and a wonderful looking wooden furniture.

    Mossberg Retro Shotguns 590 on a stump
    I mean really, you gotta be blind to not love this look!

    The Mossberg 590’s heat shield and bayonet lug also give the gun a trench gun aesthetic. 

    Price: 4/5  

    The price for both guns is quite low and they are relatively affordable. I knocked a point off simply because there is a slight upcharge for the Retrograde models compared to the standard 500 series. 

    at Palmetto State Armory

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Overall: 4.5/5 

    The Retrograde appeals to me in both function and looks. I’m captured by their looks, and the performance makes them an enjoyable and functional shotgun. 


    The Mossberg Retrograde series is an awesome series of guns. The new 590 model is an excellent in-between for both weight and tactical applications. The 500 model is light and handy, as well as incredibly affordable. As a random side note the heat shield is pretty handy after a long day of shooting.

    at Palmetto State Armory

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Seems like it would be common sense but I was impressed when handling the Mossberg 500 and 590 and feeling what a big difference the heat shield made. 

    So who else is a shotgun nerd? Does the Mossberg Retrograde series appeal to you? Not sure if you want a Mossberg or a Remington? We’ll break down the pros and cons in Remington 870 Vs. Mossberg 500: [Battle of the Pumps]!

    Remington 870 (17)
    My collection of Remington 870 shotguns

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    6 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Beau Sandland

      This has to be the most poorly edited article I’ve read. So many grammatical errors. Annoying and disappointing to see from pew pew tactical.

      October 29, 2022 7:50 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Kicks Bear

      You forgot to mention the stainless steel 590 Marine model.
      Great for the swamp.

      November 16, 2020 7:34 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Russel Sellick

      Just remembered the Savage BPS also has a tang safety...!

      June 19, 2020 5:28 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Intrepid Gunner (Paolo)

        Hi Russel,
        I am just curious about where you live; are you here in the USA?


        June 25, 2020 3:03 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Russel Sellick

      Hi, actually Savage pump action shotguns have a tang safety!

      I have owned an Ithaca 37 riot gun that had a full choke barrel. A plain Mossberg 500. A CBC which is I think marketed in the USA as a Magtech, bears some resemblance to an 870! A couple of Remington 870's and currently I'm about to license an 870 and a Savage!

      June 19, 2020 5:21 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      I love the retrograde and want one or all of them, including the nitestick. I did however end up finding a deal on a used 500 field/security combo with wood furniture that i thought would scratch my itch. I just wish mossberg sold the retro furniture separate

      June 18, 2020 4:57 pm
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