Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde

Gun Reviews Shotguns

Mossberg is a legendary company in the American firearms industry. They are a very diverse company that produces rifles, shotguns, and handguns. They are mostly known for their shotguns, and inside that realm, their 500 model reigns supreme. The 500 occupies deer stands and duck blinds, sits beside the nightstand for home intruders, and the 590A1 variant serves with the United States military. Today we are looking at the Mossberg 500 Retrograde.

More than 10 million model 500 shotguns have been produced. How exactly could Mossberg spice things up? After 10 million shotguns were made, things were getting a little stale in the metaphorical bedroom. Mossberg decided instead of moving forward, they’d look rearward, just a little.

Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde
Doesn’t it look mighty fine?

This gave us the Retrograde series of shotguns from Mossberg. The Mossberg Retrograde series is made up of various shotguns, including numerous 590 models, and of course, Mossberg couldn’t leave the Mossberg 500 behind. The Mossberg 500 Retrograde was born, and today we are going to see if it’s more than a gimmick.


Before we dive too deep into the gun, let’s look at its specs. I got to keep you folks waiting a bit just to keep things interesting.

Barrel Length – 18.5 inches
Overall Length – 39.5 inches
Caliber – 12 gauge 2.75 to 3-inch shells
Capacity – 5 + 1
Length of Pull – 13.87 Inches
Weight – 6.4 pounds (Officially listed as 6.75 pounds)

Let’s address the weight. Mossberg lists the weight as 7 pounds, then changed it to 6.75 pounds. When I weighed the Mossberg 500 Retrograde on two different scales, I came up with 6.4 pounds. It weighs just about 6.75 pounds, fully loaded with five rounds of 8 pellet buckshot.

Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde
The Mossberg 500 Retrograde is light, handy, and reliable.

Everything else is dead on the money. The Mossberg 500 Retrograde provides a small, lightweight shotgun that’s well suited for a variety of uses. Mossberg has seemingly ditched most of the Mossberg 500 tactical models. They have a Security model, as well as an ATI Tactical model, but that’s about these days.

The Mossberg 500 Retrograde and its short barrel represent a capable tactical weapon for home defense. Albeit some higher capacity options like the 590 version might be a slightly better choice.

What’s so Retrograde About It?

First and foremost, the wood furniture makes it pretty dang apparent what is Retrograde about the gun. Mossberg 500s still have wood furniture, but this set is a bit different. It’s a dark walnut stain with a honeycomb-like grip on the pump. The rear stock has a heavily checkered grip that looks gorgeous. I love the darker wood look, and the checkering and grip material is very nicely done.

Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde
That honeycomb or corncob pump is delightfully old school

Besides the dark wood finish, the gun is blued, and it’s a rich dark color that looks absolutely fantastic. The dark blueing harkens back to an older mindset of gun design, and I can’t help but love it. The Mossberg 500 Retrograde does harken back to the world of classic shotguns. Back then, this would be the epitome of a tactical shotgun.

Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde
The checkering at the rear is also nice and works well with the dark wood finish.

No high capacity tubes, fancy sights, or crazy side saddles. An old ‘tactical’ shotgun would be a sporting model with a shorter barrel, and that’s almost exactly what this is. It’s an 18.5-inch barrel, topped with a bead sight and wood furniture.

Dropping Buckshot

It looks good, but how does it handle? Well, the only way to find out is to take a bucket of buckshot out and start dropping rounds. With it, I brought a load of birdshot as well, just for a little lighter and cheaper practice.

I use the push/pull method of recoil mitigation. Essentially I push forward on the pump and pull rearward on the stock. I’m stretching the shotgun if you will. The Mossberg 500 Retrograde sports an aggressive pump backed by checkering on the rear stock. This provides a great grip surface for using the push/pull method.

Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde
The Retrograde doesn’t mind a little rain either.

Lightweight shotguns don’t have a lot of mass to absorb recoil, but proper mitigation techniques make this a non-issue, to be honest. Working the pump with this method takes some practice, and you have to develop a rhythm to be fast with it. The good news is that the Mossberg 500 Retrograde sports a smooth pump action that’s easy and quick to manipulate.

Your grip won’t slip when working the action. While the pump is smooth, like most Mossberg, it’s got some slop to it. Call it a slip for tolerance purposes as it doesn’t affect the gun’s function by any means.

Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde
A blued finish gives it some shine.

The cylinder bore works best with buckshot and allows the round to naturally do its thing. With Federal FliteControl, the pattern is one big hole at 15 yards. As you go a little further, you still get impressive performance from the ole scattergun.

A bead sight doesn’t do wonders with slugs, but it’s good enough. I prefer buckshot anyway, so this wasn’t a huge deal for me.

On the Subject Of Reliability

The Mossberg 500 Retrograde eats everything, just like a good pump-action should. The weapon feeds and ejects any standard 2.75 inch and 3-inch load. I even experimented with some 2.5-inch loads, and the gun chewed through them as well. With the Repsol mini adapter, the gun even works with 1.75-inch shells reliably. High brass, low brass, it doesn’t matter; the gun will eat it.

Old School Cool; Mossberg 500 Retrograde
The little boomstick is classicly designed.

Why I Love A Lightweight Shotgun

The Mossberg 500 Retrograde looks nice and performs well, but what does it do that other guns won’t? Well, not a whole lot. If the wood furniture and blued finish don’t do it for you, you might choose an alternative. What I do like about the Mossberg 500 Retrograde is its compact nature and lightweight design.

It makes the Mossberg 500 Retrograde a bit of a utilitarian weapon. As a lightweight weapon, it’s perfect for a wide variety of working tasks. Toss a sling on, and it could accompany you anywhere you need a good shotgun. Shotguns are versatile weapons, and you can load them to deal with any number of problems.

Birdshot for snakes, pests, and small game. Buckshot for two-legged predators, medium game, and threatening critters like hogs and coyotes. Slugs extend your range and could be a very capable bear defense. All that in a light and handy weapon makes the Mossberg 500 Retrograde an appealing choice for a discerning customer.

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  • Grumpy Old Biker December 20, 2022, 11:16 am

    Looks like this otherwise wonderful shotgun has the polymer trigger guard and safety that I despise. I’d never buy any gun with important parts made of plastic (including the frame). So stupid. At least the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde has a trigger guard and safety made of aluminum. I’ll buy that.

  • Handgunner March 14, 2022, 1:58 pm

    I like the new home defense and tactical shotguns. I do have an issue and request though. I am in my 70’s. My wife could never shoot a 12ga. Why are makers not making 20ga guns in the same configuration. You don’t need a 12ga for home defense, a 20ga is plenty. Plus the 20ga could be controlled by many more people who cannot shoot the big 12ga

  • BOB October 17, 2021, 5:04 pm

    what kind of Steiner light is mounted on the mag tube? and how does it mount? Bob

  • Frank October 12, 2021, 6:47 am

    Good looking gun! Although I own my share of tactical arms, I’m still “in love” with my old-school stuff! I have a number of side-by-side scatter guns. One could argue that they were the first weapons to designed as tactical with the advent of the coach guns. The limited capacity notwithstanding, they still provide the quickest and most reliable second shot… and look good while doing so. Thanks for writing about something that hearkens back to simpler times.

  • Ken October 11, 2021, 11:05 pm

    Still have the one I bought in 1983.

  • Chris October 11, 2021, 12:18 pm

    I see a light on the end of the magazine tube. It isn’t mentioned at all in the article. What is it? Is it aftermarket, or part of the package?

    • Rokurota October 11, 2021, 2:02 pm

      Looks like a Steiner light made for the 500. I have one.

      • Chris October 12, 2021, 12:37 pm


  • August Bender October 11, 2021, 9:58 am

    Travis, you write above, “That honeycomb or corncob pump is delightfully old school.” The pump handle has annular grooves and ridges, so it does look somewhat like a corncob. But I don’t get the honeycomb reference, it doesn’t look anything like a honeycomb to me.

    • Travis L Pike October 11, 2021, 2:49 pm

      I’m not sure either, but Ive heard both terms used since I was a kid to describe that style of pump. I used it ti make sure everyone understood.

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