Between Troy, Springfield, Brownells, and now Mossberg, it seems like the future is decidedly retro among firearm manufacturers in the United States. There has been a major uptick in the market for guns from the age before the Picatinny rail ruled. Mossberg’s Retrograde line is our specific focus for today. The Retrograde series premiered late last year with two decidedly old school shotguns, the old classic 500 and a Retrograde Mossberg 590A1. Since then, two new Mossberg 590 Retro shotguns have been introduced.
I got my greedy mitts on the Mossberg 500 variant and one of the new 590 models. When Mossberg asked which ones I wanted, it seemed simple to me. The Mossberg 500 was the original, the classic, the Coca Cola of Mossberg’s line. The 590 is their tactical fighting shotgun and the 590 Retrograde specs looked promising to me.
The 500 – An American Classic
The Mossberg 500 Retrograde is a sweet little blaster. This shotgun has a standard capacity 5- round tube, a barrel length of 18.5 inches, and is delightfully light at only 6.75 pounds and short enough to fit into an AR15 case. The simple bead sight will get you on target and gets you on there quick enough. Beads have been around for a good long time and if it works why change it? The 500 also features a beautiful deep blue finish that I do miss on my modern shotguns.
The 590 – The Fighting Shotgun
This specific Mossberg 590 Retro variant is not the A1, so it does lack the heavy-walled barrel and metal trigger guard. Likewise, it lacks the ghost ring rear sight and front blade available on that model. The 590 Retrograde comes in two variants and I went with the bigger 8-shot model. The barrel length is twenty inches and at the muzzle, you have a bayonet lug. Hear me out: the shotgun is the only weapon where a bayonet still makes a little bit of sense. The 590 variants also get the heat shield treatment to give it trench gun appeal. This gun also wears a golden bead sight — again, it works without being fancy. The matte blued finish is not as pretty as the 500, but fine enough.
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What’s Retrograde About Them?
Pump shotguns haven’t changed much since the days when classic Mossbergs ruled. The furniture has become more modern, and rails and M-LOK slots cover just about any accessory. The Retrograde series does away with polymer for wooden furniture.
The wooden walnut furniture is darkly stained and outfitted for use. The pump on both guns is a corn-cob style pump that’s textured and easy to grip. The stock features a textured and checkered grip that is also easy to grip and hold onto. I use a Rob Haught style push-pull method of recoil mitigation which relies on good texturing to work, and the Retrograde series most certainly provides that.
I like my shotguns light and handy and the Retrograde guns are both quite light. The Mossberg 500 classic is exceptionally light and flies up and on target and moves quickly between targets. It’s a real kitten that’s quite handy.
The Mossberg 590 Retro variant is a little heavier, but not noticeably. The extra 3 shots might be enough to convince you to take it over the 500 for home defense. Plus, it has that bayonet mount if you run dry. Imagine how terrifying you would look in the middle of your night, in your underwear, charging at a home invader.
I never thought a heat shield was that handy on a shotgun, but after running a few hundred rounds through each gun I saw its appeal. If I was storming a trench and spraying rounds of buckshot at scattering Germans before using my gun to beat the survivors to death then, yes, I’d be quite fond of a heat shield.
Both guns have an identical length of pull at around 13.87 inches. This is perfect for my giant ass but may feel a bit long to other shooters. This is my perfect LOP and I love it about both of these shotguns.
The Retrograde guns are a lot of fun to shoot. Pump shotguns, in general, are my jam and I always have a ton of fun shooting them. The Retrograde models got the kick and fight that any 12-gauge shotgun has, but proper recoil mitigation gets you plenty far with these guns. The Retrograde series use twin action bars like any other Mossberg. These have strong actions and surprisingly smooth pumps, but admittedly both still contain that Mossberg slop.
The guns are incredibly reliable, and while it sounds hard to mess up a pump-action shotgun I can show you several that found a way. One of the benefits of a Mossberg is the skeletonized shell lifter, so if you do run into a malfunction it’s easier to free it up and get the gun back into action.
The Retrograde guns have 3-inch chambers and with the Opsol Flex adapter, they can very reliably run those mini 1.75-inch shells as well. They are fun and increase your ammunition capacity significantly.
Patterning shotguns are all dependent on the gun and the load. Between these two guns, I never noticed a major difference so the patterning is nearly identical. Both are cylinder bore guns and the patterns are rather predictable. With traditional 00 buckshot loads at 20 yards, the patterns were within 10 to 12 inches. They’d cover the vital portions of the human torso and put 9 holes all up in them.
When I switched over to my chosen buckshot, Federal FliteControl 00 eight pellet buckshot, my range extended and pattern tightened. At 20 yards, the pellets landed in very predictable five-inch groups. All of these patterns are sufficient and well beyond typical home defense distances.
The bead sights are great for speed on target but are also a little less precise for slug use. I have issues at 50 yards with bead sights and slugs. I can hit the target, but it’s likely to be well off from my point of aim.
Keeping it Retrograde
The Mossberg Retrograde series is a welcome reprieve from the world of Picatinny rails and clamped on accessories. These guns are light and handy and have a look that’s to die for. At their heart they are still Mossberg 500 and 590s. Both guns are well proven, and now they look as good as they handle.
For additional information on the Mossberg Retros, see Swat Magazine.
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