Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde – A Birthday Present from Mossberg to Us

590A1 Retrograde looks striking with walnut furniture.

Mossberg turns 100 this year; ten consecutive decades of leading the charge in high-quality American firearms. And on that centenarian anniversary, they have decided to make something special, the 590A1 and 500 Retrograde editions. Fitting, I think, that they chose these shotguns. While Mossberg has created every type of firearm under the sun in the last hundred years, including a new pistol, the name Mossberg is to most of us synonymous with shotguns. As well it should be. Since its introduction in 1961, the 500 series has sold over 10 million shotguns. So here’s to you Mossberg and 10 million more.

Old school rubber butt pad.

When the Retrograde models where announced, I was given the option of the 500 Persuader or the 590A1 for review. And that was a tough call, as I think it will be for you as a buyer. I really like how Mossberg approached the Retrograde concept, with the option of the 500 or the 590A1 set up slightly differently. The primary difference is the barrel length, though there are material differences as well, that we will elaborate on shortly. The 500 has an 18.5-inch barrel, with a 6+1 capacity. The 590A1 has a 20-inch barrel, full-length magazine tube, and an impressive 9+1 capacity. Mossberg understands the combat shotgun market, and it shows. Those are the two most common barrel lengths, with die-hard fans of each. Right from jump street, I appreciate that Mossberg made an option for both camps.

Classic 590 tang safety.

I opted for the 590A1 and I don’t regret that choice. But before we get into the nuts and bolts, what is the Retrograde concept? It is basically an old school look while retaining all the technical advances shotguns have made in the last 100 years. In this case, the look means a Walnut stock and forend, complete with an old school brown rubber butt pad. And the furniture change means a lot in this particular case. Complete with the corncob forend, the Retrograde hearkens back to another time. It wouldn’t be completely out of place as the Old West was ending. For some, it is going to remind them of a classic WW1 trench gun. ( Yes, I know that was a Winchester. I’m talking about feels, not rigid historical accuracy.) For me, it takes me to another place not that distant, but still before my time. When I was a young Marine, I remember seeing lots of pictures of 80’s era Jarheads running a wood stock shotgun like this one. Not the recruiting pictures they stage, but real pictures on the wall from my units. The scattergun in those days was a staple of ship boarding operations, and much more common in general use than now. Lots of weird stuff happened in the 80s you won’t find in any history book, but the memory lives on with the old hands and the pictures. The Retrograde to me says awesome hair, flight suit, and a really bad attitude cause Ronnie Reagan told us to. Holding it in your hands, you can almost hear the rotors spinning on a Huey and “boarding party to the flight deck” coming over the 1MC. That alone is worth the price.

Corn cob fore end with barrel heat shield.

It is also probably fitting that the 590A1 says that to me since the A1 part is due to modifications Mossberg made to accommodate the Mil-Spec 3443E test. This is a for reals military grade weapon, and it feels like one. When I first pulled the Retrograde out of the box, I was kind of surprised by how heavy it felt. The longer I messed with it, the more I thought it couldn’t be just a change from polymer to wood furniture. I compared it to my 590M, and there was a noticeable difference. A look at the Mossberg spec sheet confirmed it. The 590A1 features a heavy walled barrel, specifically requested by the US Navy. I don’t know a single person that can claim to have shot the barrel out of a regular 590, a task I would think impossible. But if it was a concern, no more. The overall weight change does have an upside though. The 590A1 is one of the most robust feeling weapons you will ever pick up.

Heavy duty finish, 590A1 standard.

Another mil-spec feature, the 590A1 series has a heavy parkerized finish. Despite its beauty, this shotgun was meant to be abused. Snow to salt water spray, this bad Johnson was built to take punishment.

Adjustable ghost ring rear, top view.

True to the 590A1 family, the Retrograde edition has all the same bells and whistles. It has a heat shield on the barrel, which is actually a huge benefit if you run your shotgun hard. It has adjustable Ghost ring sights, with a best in class front blade. Even in low light or a snapshot, you aren’t going to miss that big orange front. And it has a bayonet lug, compatible with the M-9 bayonet, in case things go absolutely pear-shaped.

Bayonet lug side view.

Bayonet lug bottom view.

Performance wise, I could not be happier. The 20-inch barrel is a fixed cylinder bore, which is perfect for the intended use. Out of the box, the Retrograde put lead on target at 100 meters with slugs, in a respectable group. I’m not what you would call a fantastic slug shooter, and it still got the job done for me. I ran a few of the notorious Federal Grand Slam turkey loads through the 590A1, the same shell that made me quit after 1 in the Mossberg Night Stick. With the rubber butt pad and overall weight, the Retrograde tamed them nicely. You could easily run a box out of this shotgun and be none the worse for wear. Most importantly, the 590A1 patterned buckshot nicely, and exactly where you aim it.

A front sight you aren’t likely to miss.

The action, however, that is what blew my socks off. Being mostly unfamiliar with the 590A1 model, I actually called Mossberg to see if they did something special for the Retrograde. Because it is smooth like butter on the pump. They did not. This is just normal for the 590A1’s. Which is absolutely amazing, even fresh out of the box. Most pump actions require about 1000 rounds before they smooth out, and I still haven’t seen many that will match it. None made in the last two decades. This is my new gold standard for pump actions, and I actually feel sorry for the one I have to review next.

590A1 redefines smooth cycling.

Overall, this is a very cool gun. If you were going to have one shotgun in your life, this would be my recommendation. Between the unique look, robust build, and Mossberg reputation, I don’t think you can beat it. If you want one, get it now. You might have to wait another hundred years if you don’t.

It even tamed the Federal Grand Slam Turkey loads.

MSRP $902

For more information on Mossberg Shotguns visit website.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 45 comments… add one }
  • j.s. April 10, 2020, 11:49 am

    i ordered my first gun, its for home defense. i have been reading and watching youtube trying to understand all i can. i ordered a mossberg 590a1. i should have it shortly after it goes through all the FFL paperwork. I cant wait to get it. i also am waiting for all my ordered accessories (snap caps, case, bore snake etc).

  • Sgt. Pop December 30, 2019, 12:38 pm

    I’d never trade any of my 870 Wingmasters for a 500, but, I’d recommend the 500 series for anyone that doesn’t have a preference and needs or is getting their first pump. The thump safety is the main reason, it’s handy, convenient and can easily be seen. I put 1000’s of rds a year in one or more of my 870’s, sporting clays, trap, skeet, Snow Geese, tactical training etc. and have a buddy that is usually along with me using his old 500 and swapped barrels for snow geese and then another bbl. for salmon and camp Bear gun in the Books range. I just prefer the action of a 870, but gave my grandson a 500 mainly for the safety. Easier than swapping from a 870 to a Winchester and/or back, just my opinion your milage may vary……and I don’t care

  • Peter Brown December 30, 2019, 12:21 pm

    “Ronnie” Reagan?

  • Irish-7 December 30, 2019, 11:14 am

    “Lots of weird stuff happened in the 80s you won’t find in any history book, but the memory lives on with the old hands and the pictures.” I’m very glad to read this statement! No medals, no campaign ribbons, just the satisfaction of “Keeping the wolf away from the door”. AATW, DOL, Brother!

  • Big Al Robinson December 30, 2019, 10:19 am

    To each his own, but back in the day I sold these guns, they were rattletraps of looseness in the pump.
    Dead bang reliable, to be sure, but fit and finish was never there.

  • Carlos M Fiol December 30, 2019, 9:42 am

    I enjoyed the article very much; but I have a question: the video at around the 2:14 mark states 8+1 and ‘one more round capacity’ versus the article statement of 6+1 in the 18.5″ and 9+1 in the 20″??? What’s right? And I would imagine in standard 2 3/4″ shells.

  • Whiskeydog May 27, 2019, 4:38 am

    This is a beautiful weapon. Outstanding fit and finish. Have only shot 15 rounds of 00 Buck, but easy to handle though a bit of kick. Paid $798, but this has everything I want on a shotgun. Will be the first firearm I grab when trouble awaits.

  • Anthony April 3, 2019, 12:39 am

    Why is this msrp price close to the semi auto range? for a couple extra $100 ( or less) get a berretta comp. or a stoeger. I like Mossberg and this new retro design. I may have to wait for a used one to reach my price point.

  • David Stephan April 2, 2019, 2:03 pm

    Last Mossberg I looked at had a plastic trigger group, does this one also have a plastic trigger group?

    • Ejharb April 7, 2019, 5:14 pm

      590 milspecs are metal tg and safety the others idk

  • John Boutwell April 1, 2019, 5:49 pm

    I just bought the Shockwave with the wood furniture. the wood makes for a much better looking gun.

  • Lloyd Dumas April 1, 2019, 5:43 pm

    I wonder how they match up against Remington 870 ? I will root for the Moss because of $$$.

  • Ken April 1, 2019, 4:30 pm

    Thanks for the review, Clay… I have a couple of Mossberg’s and can’t wait to grab up one of these bad boys!

  • Mtchell Maxberry April 1, 2019, 4:30 pm

    Now banned in New Zealand !

    • WALTER D April 1, 2019, 9:15 pm

      We here in Massachusetts, USA , we have just about the same highly strict gun laws here, mass shootings are so terrible, however the innocent gun holders are the one that are going to suffer.

  • JGWILLS April 1, 2019, 3:07 pm

    I did this years ago, chasing down wood from older Mossbergs and did my own 590A1 retro. Now they offer it as a factory option 🙁

    I still like to say I may have been a trend setter 🙂 Had this been available years back I would have been all over it.

  • Patrick April 1, 2019, 2:48 pm

    Always preferred the safety location on the Mossberg over the Remington. Being left-handed, this is the selling point.

    • Clem April 2, 2019, 2:30 am

      My dad had his 1100 safety switched to left handed when he bought it brand new for $100. It’s good because I’m a lefty as well as my son, 4 generations in a row. The gun sits in my safe with a rifled barrel.

    • Greywolf April 4, 2019, 8:34 pm

      You lefties (me too) need to look real close to where your knuckle of your greate finger (secon from the thumb) rests while gripping the 500/590 left handed. Thats right it is ON THE BOLT RELEASE! While shooting my 500 years ago this knuckle depressed the bolt release after firing severalrounds rapidly. You can not imagine my surprise and PAIN when the thing fired with bolt release depressed! With the ejection port stairing me right in the face hot gas poured out of the slightly open bolt! I have never been struck so hard in my like!! Thank God for bad eyes so I was wearing glasses. I would have been blinded in my right eye if it wasn’t covered, it is always a bad idea to fire any firearm from the wrong side as in the event of some kind of ammo/firearm failure as I experienced could be devasting!!! CHECK IT OUT AND SEE FOR YOURSELF…

  • Jose O Torres April 1, 2019, 2:15 pm

    I want one.

  • edward martis April 1, 2019, 2:04 pm

    I spent a 6 month tour with the AZ NG down on the border area between Naco and Douglas, AZ-from Oct. to March–Me and my partner were in a rag-top HMMWV at the time; this was some years ago….My partner had an M-16A4 and I had a M-590A1—–That A1 had a standard front bead site and military swivels which are different from the “post type’ currently being used ……Walnut is nice to look at BUT that composite stock and forearm are indestructible——The sling was of the “silent” M-16 type and would slip the buckle…That problem was fixed by re-arranging the sling to locking itself in——-the A1 was issued with about 40 rounds ( 8 boxes) of NATO 00B which fit nicely into a 3 ea—30 round magazine pouch of which we were issued 2 each…..I had “snagged’ 2 more for my self and kept them in my ‘butt-pack—–We were also issued a government cell phone with a list of tel. numbers and PVS-7 NVG’s—–All in all; we carried a lot more ammo than we were issued—–You can NEVER have enough ammo—-Only got shot at about 6 times which was scary enough—-and a quik call to the nearest AZ UH-60 with door mounted M-60’s solved that problem—-The bad guys made a ‘run for the border’ very quickly—–The winter weather is very pleasant —-Summers are pure hell—–115o days low 90o nites—–We stayed in 2 man rooms at Ft. Huachuca of which many were un-occupied; so all of us had a room to ourselves—–and we had every other weekend off—-the schedule was very flexible as there were a lot of troopies there—so come weekends I would drive home to Show-Low (NE Az area)—Shifts were 10 hours long—–Night time was the worst when all the druggies and illegals came out to play——That A1 would ‘spray’ the brushie area and an M-16 on full auto was a site to behold—–Did find blood trails but no bodies—Damn It….For a severe punishment shotgun I would recommend the U. S. SERVICE MODEL——The front and rear ghost ring sites can ‘snag’ on all kinds of things—-Each to his own—I bought a M 590 A1 for myself a couple of years ago just like the one I carried in my HMMWV—way back then—–Had no access to NATO #4 buckshot ammo—–That stuff is very nasty—-27 balls of .24 cal. I believe (?)—the 3” #4 buckshot stuff has 41 balls of .24 cal—– keep the 27 ball stuff in my truck—–I picked up a cop shotgun mount which is mounted laying on the floor between tween the pass. and driver seats—-facing forward—–Throw a coat on it and it can not be seen…..Sorry for yapping so much—–Just for fun; go to Google and look up EXOTIC 12 GA AMMO—–That “FLAME-THROWER” stuff will burn a car full of thugs to death with one round——Some GI’s I know buy a small crate of that stuff and take it back to Afganistan (sp)—–It is great for clearing rooms n a house—–Watch the video and see for yourself—-Have a great Trump Day !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also; that NATO 00B of 9 balls is “hot-loaded” and very loud and powerful when shot—-The balls are made of “Hardened Lead”….More nasty stuff for the muzzies to deal with—–Most muzzies there have never a shotgun; so I am told—-but soon learned to stay away from a troopie carrying one……The muzzies DO NOT LIKE to deal with shotguns……………………………………

    • Jeff Sartain April 1, 2019, 2:55 pm

      Great stories. Thank you for your service.

  • Old Outdoorsguy April 1, 2019, 1:48 pm

    @ M.E. Hensley – Why sure, Sparky, nothin\’s better than a \”cool\” look to greet that O dark 30 personal intruder who just broke into your house with his buddies to do a little rape and pillage after a wild night at the Dew Drop Inn.\”Hey guys, take a look at the cool bayonet this guy has on his shotgun!!\”Me? I still bank on that composite stocked 500 I still have by my bed, yeah, the one loaded with the 7+1 rounds of Lawman high brass 9 pellet 00 buck with a 4 round side saddle and the Tach Star 6 under the muzzle with the pressure switch attached to the composite \”corncob\”. It\’s old, lightly used, and paid for; under $400 with the Tach Star and SS. And it will change a man\’s attitude in less than a heartbeat and really fuck up his day if he chooses to invade MY personal space without a proper invite.\”By the end of the day, some will die and some will live to see the birth of a new morning\”…….. I love the miracle of new birth …….

  • KO April 1, 2019, 12:49 pm

    Mine has the poly furniture with tacti-cool tri-rail foregrip. More like tacti-cruel until you throw a few of those rubber rail covers on em. Since the only combat use mine will ever see is against marauding gophers, I really wish I had those retro wood pieces. Maybe they’ll sell em separately?

  • hiplnsdrftr April 1, 2019, 12:32 pm

    I inherited a 590 when my LE relative passed away, but this version looks awesome. My question is, is it limited or will it be readily available? Like maybe the price could be less than suggested retail?

  • nate chung April 1, 2019, 12:19 pm

    I love the old school look. You just can’t beat the 12 gauge in close range. And thank you for your service as a Marine. God bless American and Gob bless our troops.

  • John Silverman April 1, 2019, 12:12 pm

    Clay, please forgive my unrelated request on this article blog, but do not have any other direct blog to you. Would you please consider reviewing the new Barrett Rec10. They just won a major military contract and it seems to stand in competition to many high-end ambi 7.62s (Knights SR25, etc.) that cost much more. As a warfighter, your opinion of this ‘battle rifle’ wold be much appreciated. Thanks in advance for any consideration……

  • Mount Nebo April 1, 2019, 11:55 am

    Own a 930 tactical Mossberg and it will be separated from me at t he time of my death.

    • Gerald Berry April 3, 2019, 9:47 am

      I owned the 930 tactical. Hated it. What are the attributes you like about it? Just a friendly enquiry.

  • Joe Ernst April 1, 2019, 11:34 am

    Great review Clay! I have two Model 500’s. They last forever. I would love to have this model. Reminds me of my Army Military Police days. Carried similar, maybe a Different manufacture, but what a sweet and absolutely intimidating weapon!

  • Altoids April 1, 2019, 11:13 am

    Not much of a shotgunner, but this is a review of the first firearm I have really liked the looks of in a long time. The 9+1 capacity is a “+” too.

    I’m sure the price will come down but man, that one cool ass gig.

    I’ve had a 500 for years and it came with a 28″ modified and an 18 in cyl bore barrel. Also came with a pistol grip. You don’t want to shoot it with the pistol grip, especially if you’re talking 3″ Buck.

    Did that once – never again!

  • James Nicholas April 1, 2019, 10:50 am

    Nice-but I personally don’t see the need for rifle sites on a home security shotgun. I have and will stand by my Mossberg 500 Maverick, 8+1 @ $200.00 all day long. The bang for the buck is a no brainer.

  • Dick Willson April 1, 2019, 10:15 am

    Ref to the downward picture of rear sight. Does the sight have to be that off center to get on paper at 100 yds?

    • Briley April 2, 2019, 12:11 am

      As a serious shotgunner with a little over 60 years of experience and some 500,000 plus down range…well, more like over the trap and skeet fields and across the duck ponds…I can tell you with certainty that different loads shoot to different POI even in a shotgun and that includes birdshot. Slugs are crazy in that two or three might group in 3 inches at 100 and then the next will be barely on the paper. And, different types of slugs are going to shoot to different POI, probably. Some years ago I picked up some shells on sale after hunting season ended and, even knowing that different loads shoot differently, I got lazy and did not pattern the new shells (I think they were Heavy Metal or some such shell) before the next hunting season. I am a pretty fair shot but on that first weekend the old X2 did not account for a single duck while my hunting buddy limited out both days. I was totally embarrassed by the whole affair but still believed it was probably me just being rusty and went out the next weekend only to have the same problem…until a duck came in low across the water and I missed him but saw the shot pattern on the water was a foot left of the duck. I knew I was on that duck and there was no way I screwed up so I skipped hunting the next day and headed for the pattern board. Wow! I couldn’t believe what it showed but there it was – the “Heavy Metal” pattern was two feet high and a good foot to the left of the target center. I then patterned some Remington Express and Premium steel and some Federal “Ultra Shock” steel loads and these all patterned center of the target. The Remington Premiums had the best pattern and that is what I shot in the X2 from then on until I quit hunting ducks some 15 years ago. After the switch to the Remington shell the ducks then, literally, fell from the sky. Bottom line, most people don’t understand that different shotguns and shotgun shell, just like rifles and pistols, are all individuals and shoot what and how they want. When I shot trap I use Estate Comps because my gun “likes” them. Sure it shoots others and breaks birds but when there’s money on the line it will be Estate Comps in my pocket because the birds smoke a little more and seem to break a little harder even if I screw up a little. I hope this helps somebody.

  • Tenbones April 1, 2019, 10:01 am

    Interesting! I seem to have gotten the “uncut” version of your video, nothing wrong with that. I just thought my video stream was being interrupted until I saw you answer your cellphone and figured out you were saying cut instead of some word being interrupted. LOL.

    Anyway, it was still a good video.

  • Mr. Sparkles April 1, 2019, 9:34 am

    Thanks for a great article. Tried watching the video but found all the “cut”s to distracting. Stated to wonder who was behind the camera making Clay stutter.

  • Moises Carotti April 1, 2019, 9:27 am

    I’m more partial to my older 870’s, but I have bought a 500, 930 and 590. The 590 is a great gun and with nice wood I bet it looks even better in person.

  • Chris Baker April 1, 2019, 9:23 am

    I’ve never tried the ghost ring sights on anything. My old Mossberg 500A has a very small screw where the front sight used to be. I wouldn’t mind trying those sights and I’d like to have that big long magazine to hold more shells but as for paying for an all new shotgun, I’ll stick to my old one that I know so very well. Unless someone wants to trade for a “classic” LOL. It’s so old it doesn’t have a serial number. The finish is worn off some of the pump mechanisms that are visible between the fore end and the main housing. I have no idea how “smooth” the pump action is, I’ve never shot another pump shotgun. Never felt the need. I’ve ended a few predators that were “interested” in my wife’s livestock with it. Feral dogs and coyotes mostly and a few really big crows.
    Mossberg makes good stuff.

  • hillhunter April 1, 2019, 9:05 am

    navy requested thicker barrel wall due to tendency for shotgun barrels to get some serious dents when maneuvering around tight quarters and steel in ships.

  • A/T3 SIMONS April 1, 2019, 8:25 am

    ROCK’ON DEVDOG’ ,, A CARRIER BATTLE GROUP WILL SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF ANY NATION ON THE PLANET .

  • Jay Bree April 1, 2019, 6:28 am

    Nice shotgun, but did you have to scratch the heck out of every surface during your test?

  • Don Pollock April 1, 2019, 6:01 am

    I have one of the old blued 590 A1’s. I put A red dot sight on it. It’s good to go.

  • Kaniksu Kidd April 1, 2019, 6:01 am

    Nice article Clay. My very first shotgun in 1978 was a High Standard “Riot” which is similar to this beautiful Mossberg but with a fixed 18″ barrel. I have built up several “combat” style Rem 870’s over the years with pistol grips and collapsible stocks but I really like the looks of this one. It looks like they did everything right on this model including the adjustable peep sight. Old eyes don’t focus so well on plain beads anymore. I wonder why most police agencies have seemingly abandoned 12 bores for M-4’s? Nothing says “You’re in trouble now” than that click-clack of the slide being worked on a pump action. Nothing stops the fight as well as a load of buckshot to center mass either.

  • James April 1, 2019, 5:49 am

    Perhaps if i did not have my Rem 870 set up with ext mag , side saddle , flashlight & corn cob forend. I DO like the safety location on Mossbergs though. $900 seems kinda steep , /shrugs.

  • Michael E. Hensley April 1, 2019, 5:05 am

    I have one of the Old Ones, They shoot well and look Cool with the Bayonet Attached

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