The Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde – Military Fight Shotgun

Of all the fighting shotguns out there, the 590A1 has always been one of my favorites. I was issued one in my days as a Marine for a short period, and since then, I’ve been a fan. Mossberg’s famed 590A1 pump-action shotgun. The 590A1 came from a list of requirements made for the United States military. The 590A1 would form the basis of the fighting shotgun for the United States military. One of the latest models blends all the military’s requirements with a dose of old-school cool to form the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde.

What’s Inside a 590A1?

The 590A1 Retrograde comes with all the necessary features that the military demands. What separates a 590A1 from a 500 or standard 590 is worth noting. First, gone is the polymer trigger guard, and in its place, an aluminum trigger guard now sits. This stronger metal option provides that soldier-proof design. On top of that, the safety is also made from metal and not polymer.

The old school cool design combined with fighting shotgun features make this a winner.

The barrel also features a heavy-duty barrel. This thick, heavy-walled barrel came from a request by the United States Navy. They needed thick barrels that would resist bending if accidentally slammed by those heavy Navy ship doors. At the end of the barrel also sits a bayonet lug. Originally the bayonet lug was a 590A1 only feature, but over time it migrated to the 590 series as well.

Breaking Down Retrograde

What does the Retrograde in 590A1 Retrograde mean? Well, the Retrograde series is a rather new series of shotguns from Mossberg. Mossberg wisely observed that old school was cool once more and embraced the idea. The 590A1 Retrograde features all wooden furniture, and it’s a healthy departure from the synthetic furniture most Mossbergs come with.

This Retrograde furniture utilizes a corn comb forend that’s actually a really nice texture that provides a great grip. At the rear, we have a wooden stock with a checkered pistol grip. A rich dark finish covers the wood, but it’s not the strongest, and mine has taken a bit of beating and showed a lighter wood underneath.

Mossberg’s dark finish sure looks nice but can be a little weak.

The barrel finish is a parkerized gray. The 590A1 Retrograde certainly looks like it’s in that Cold War era, and parkerizing is a tough finish. Across the top of the barrel, we got that nice ventilated metal handguard to keep your fingers from catching a burn. Add in the thick barrel, and the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde absorbs heat well.

With the wood furniture, parkerized finish, and bayonet lug, the 590A1 Retrograde looks and feels a whole lot like a trench gun. Like a modernized trench gun that holds eight rounds. The hefty design ensures the weapon can be just as deadly as a melee weapon as it is a firearm.

The heat shield gives me trench gun vibes.

Fighting Gun Ergonomics

The Mossberg 590A1’s heavy-walled barrel is a double-edged sword. First, it adds weight, and ounces equal pounds and all that. Second, the gun feels off-balance, it’s front heavy, and you feel it. On the other edge, that heavy barrel does help with muzzle rise, especially when it’s fully loaded.

The straight stock comes with a rather long LOP. Not as bad as others, but at 13.87 inches, the stock is a little bit longer than most would prefer. For my gorilla-length arms, it’s fine, but I’d prefer 13-inches. Other than those two minor complaints, the 590A1 Retrograde is ergonomically sound.

It’s an easy-handling shotgun with some winning features, but I’d trim the LOP.

Mossberg’s famous safety is easy to accentuate. The pump lock release is easy to find, and the loading port is nice and open. I like the skeletonized shell lifter and have found them handy in case I need to clear a complicated malfunction. The texturing on the pump and stock provides a great purchase and makes manipulating the weapon easy.

At The Range

With a pocketful of 12 gauge, some paper, and steel, I hit the range in a hurry. I love range days, and I love shooting shotguns. Why not combine the two and see what I can get out of it? I brought a variety of buckshot, including 00 and some No.4 loads. I brought some Hornady slugs and a lot of birdshot.

It’s a big gun, and a bayonet would make it a little longer.

I ran some of my favorite drills, including the El Pres shotgun drill and the ASP Casino drill. Both focus a lot on reloading and rapid target engagement—my favorite kind of shotgun drill by far. The 590A1 Retrograde’s sights make speed and precision possible.

A High Viz front sight makes it quick and easy to get on target.

The rear is a massive ghost ring, and the front is a bright orange ramp-style front sight. Aligning them takes no time at all, and you’ll get your buckshot right where you want it. The action works without flaw but has that little bit of slop we all come to expect from Mossberg shotguns. If I have to deal with slop for the anti-binding design, I’ll deal with it.

The stock and pump are texture enough to push/pull for recoil mitigation. I can really dig in with that front hand and work the slide rearward and forward with absolute ease. I was tossing shell after shell without issue. How’s recoil? Bout the same as every other 12 gauge pump. It’s more about how you mitigate recoil than how much it delivers.

A ghost ring sight makes precision possible.

Shucking and Jiving

With a load of standard nine pellet 00 Monarch, I did a patterning at five, ten, and 15 yards. At each range, all nine pellets remain on an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper. The 590A1 Retrograde has a cylinder bore choke, but you can’t tell if patterns are much tighter than most other cylinder bores. This is likely due to the thickness of the barrel and the three points of contact it has with the rest of the gun.

The heat shield gives me trench gun vibes.

In my experience, the 590A1 shotguns always pattern a fair bit tighter than most other comparable cylinder bore guns. This includes other Mossberg shotguns. It’s a nice touch on an already awesome fighting shotgun. That nice tight pattern helps keep your pellets accountable and lined up for home defense purposes and maximizing range.

For home defense, you might want a light and red dot, but that would kill the Retrograde look.

Is it Worthy?

The 590A1 Retrograde goes for a pretty penny more than the standard 590A1 models. It’s also the least likely to be upgraded and customized. I expect these to be limited releases, and to me, that makes it a worthy purchase. I’m a shotgun nerd. If you want a competent fighting shotgun, it certainly is one. If you want something you add a light to, reduce the stock’s length, and maybe toss a red dot on, then I’d advise you to stick with the standard 590A1.

I love the look and feel of wood, the heat shield, and the entire Retrograde package, but I can say it’s not for everyone.

MSRP $1018

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Timothy Smith March 25, 2022, 10:31 pm

    I wouldn’t put a price on something that will save my life! I would trust my 590a1 made in the USA shotgun to defend my family. I might use a 250 dollar gun to hunt squirrels.

  • Ej harbet March 21, 2022, 10:49 am

    When mine arrives home it’ll have oiled walnut waiting for it. I’m looking for a retro m16 bayo for it.

  • Russ March 18, 2022, 1:06 pm

    I finally found one of these at Cabelas after searching thru COVID and missing out on a few at stores because they were sold before I got to them. It was on sale for $519.99 and with my 5% military discount it came in just under $500.00 before this states ridiculous sales tax. Well worth the price I paid. It’s a keeper.

  • stoney March 18, 2022, 4:12 am

    another 1000 buc gun….add ammo double to triple in price….= your out of biz!….

  • Mike March 14, 2022, 6:57 pm

    Why does a $250 gun cost $1000? Never mind.

    The question Mossberg should be asking, what can we do to make this gun fly out of our factory?
    First, use the old barrel. Make the heavy barrel optional.
    Second, offer an unfinished wood stock.

    I recently bought an RIA 12ga. pump, 6 rounds, synthetic stock. $264 w/tax.
    I won’t spend 4 times more, to get an equivalent product.

  • J.D. Smith March 14, 2022, 3:37 pm

    I bought the 590 Retrograde 6+1 last summer and it has been one of my favorite guns. However I was not real happy with that dark finish you mentioned. When I went to pick it up from my FFL I almost sent it back but having waited a while to buy one I figured I could refinish. It was an ugly paint-like purple-red that was so thick you couldn’t see the wood underneath. And it did not want to come off easy. I usually use Krud Kutter but this crap took a more chemical remover. It took the unwanted finish off but also took off parts of a polyurethane finish which would have been just fine if Mossberg hadn’t decided to cover it with that paint. I think it was a stain but damn it was awful. I called Mossberg and they said that was what they were putting on the retrograde stocks now and I said please don’t. Got no reply. I was a bit unhappy with their customer service but I guess that’s to be expected these days with a lot of companies. Anyway to make a short story long I had to strip the stock and forend down to bare wood and put on a real nice stain and now it looks like a retrograde shotgun is supposed to look.

  • Tommy Tee March 14, 2022, 10:39 am

    The length of pull is given, down to the hundredth of an inch. No mention of the barrel length, or overall length or weight either, for that matter. Maybe I missed those stats.

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