In a world where we can cover just about anything with Picatinny rails, it’s nice to see the industry slow down and take a moment to simplify things. Don’t get me wrong, I love my rails, my M-LOK handguards, my lasers, lights, and optics. However, there’s a real appeal to the simple nature of the firearms in Mossberg’s Retrograde series.
Of the Retrograde guns, the simplest of all these guns is undoubtedly the Mossberg 500 model. There also exist three various 590 variants, but the 500 is the most retro of these guns.
Oddly enough, according to the Mossberg website, it’s the only Mossberg 500 under the tactical series. It seems like they eliminated every other Mossberg 500 Tactical from their website outside of some ATI models.
When you say tactical shotgun you can mean a lot of things, but with this gun tactical means the barrel is a little shorter than most (18.5 inches). When it comes to shotguns, that’s all that you really need to do to make the gun “tactical.” The Mossberg 500 Retrograde is as simple and as a shotgun gets and still manages to be a very worthwhile fighting weapon.
What so Retro About It?
The most eye-catching retro detail is the wooden stock and pump. These are both made of walnut and stained a classic dark brown and they look excellent. The forend has a traditional corncob design that’s been pretty well proven over the years on guns like the Winchester 1897.
The Mossberg 500 Retrograde stock also sports a light layer of checkering that looks great and provides a rather good grip. The other feature of the smoothbore is a dark blued finish that’s shiny and very Wingmaster reminiscent. Other than that, this is a simple Mossberg 500 with an 18.5-inch barrel, a gold bead sight, a 5-round magazine tube, and some sling attachment points.
Light, Handy, and Ergonomic
The Mossberg 500 Retrograde is also remarkably light. At only 6.75 pounds it’s very handy and easy to maneuver.
Shotguns can start tipping the scales quite a bit when you add the word tactical to the model name. It’s like me and honeybuns…once you say tactical the weight seems to pile on.
Guns like the Mossberg 590A1 series and their thick-walled barrels, and 8-round magazine tubes give you a weapon that’s capable, but front-heavy. The 500 Retrograde is light and swings easily.
Shotguns aren’t designed to be suppressive weapons, they are designed to be decisive weapons. In close quarters speed matters and your ability to get the gun on target or to move from target to target quickly and smoothly is critical. Small, short, and handy shotguns most certainly have their place.
Holding this gun on target for extended periods of time isn’t going to be a taxing upper-body exercise. The 500 Retrograde has a length of pull of 13.87 inches and that seems to be the sweet spot for me. As a big guy, I’m aware that this length may not be optimal for everyone.
The 500 Retrograde’s furniture is perfectly checkered for use of the Rob Haught push/pull method. The corncob forend and checkered grip give you a good firm hold on the scattergun and allow you to mitigate recoil easily.
The Mossberg 500 Retrograde uses standard Mossberg shotgun controls. This includes the ambidextrous tang-mounted safety that allows for easy manipulation without needing to change your firing grip. The tube release located behind the trigger is also easy to reach. The pump has that typical Mossberg slop to it, but that slop doesn’t affect function.
The Mossberg 500 Retrograde delivers on that fantastic feeling of operating a pump-action shotgun. The pump glides rearward and slams forward in a way that always makes me feel gleeful. Pump-action shotguns are just plain fun and this lightweight little fella is one fun gun. The Retro look and the inherent retro nature of a pump gun lends itself to the fun the gun delivers.
The twin action bars and dual extractor toss hulls consistently and decisively. The gun didn’t seem to have issues with any shotshell I put through it. This includes shells up to 3 inches in length. With the Opsol Mini Clip, the gun runs 100% with the shorty 1.75-inch shells.
The Mossberg 500 series is well known for its reliability and the 500 Retrograde delivers on that reputation. The brass bead sight is eye-catching and good enough for use at shotgun ranges. Recoil can be stout if you forget proper mitigation techniques. This is a lightweight shotgun so that is to be expected.
With standard 2.75-inch buckshot it’s not uncomfortable and gets even easier to control with reduced recoil tactical loads. When you step up to 3-inch magnums, especially slugs, you may want to slow your roll and be sure to push-pull properly.
The gun patterns well for a short barrel home defense gun. Inside of 15 yards, a center mass shot with 9-pellet buck will land within the space the lungs and heart occupy. With Hornady Black and Federal Flitecontrol loads, the patterns are noticeably tighter and your effective range is extended as far as 50 yards with every pellet staying on a man-sized target. These loads both work best with cylinder bore chokes, which is what the 500 Retrograde is equipped with.
Running the gun against the clock resulted in some fun drills on small targets. This is where the lightweight design really shines. You can push the gun exactly where you need it to be.
I used clay pigeons positioned on the berm in a Z formation and practiced transitioning from the top to bottom, from bottom to top, and from the middle in whichever direction I chose. The gun’s balanced nature ensures your sights never overshoot the target due to momentum.
All in all the Mossberg 500 Retrograde shotgun is exactly what you expect a 500 to be. Light, handy, reliable, and affordable. Only now it’s outfitted with attractive wood furniture, a deep blue finish, and it lacks all the fancy accoutrements many of us are used to.
While the 500 Retrograde was designed to be a throwback to the old wood stock shotgun, it’s still a potent option for home defense. Mounting a light may be tricky without sacrificing the wood, but it’s possible and options exist. I think Mossberg’s idea to go old school gives what’s normally a ho-hum gun some serious charm.
Specifications: Mossberg 500 Retrograde Shotgun
Barrel Length – 18.5 inches
Overall Length – 39.5 inches
Weight – 6.75 pounds
Capacity – 5+1
Caliber – 12 gauge, 3-inch chamber
MSRP – $519.00 (street around $399-ish)
Ratings (out of 5 stars):
Ergonomics * * * *
The Mossberg 500 series is more ergonomic than the Remington 870 as far as I am concerned. The only issue I have is how much the pumps seem to move from side to side. The wood furniture is nicely checkered for an excellent grip and the lightweight design is appreciated.
Reliability * * * * *
It’s a pump-action, made-in-America shotgun. What is there to go wrong? With a proven, legacy design like this, you know exactly what you’re getting. The addition of the Opsol Mini Clip makes it 100% reliable even with mini shells.
Accuracy * * * *
It’s a shotgun, and it does well at shotgun ranges. I’ll ding a star because this is a “tactical” shotgun and I’ve never found a bead as precise as ghost rings for slug shooting.
Overall * * * *
The Mossberg 500 Retrograde is old school tactical…which means the barrel is short and that is about it. It’s light and handy, has looks that can kill, and is a classic American pump-action shotgun. If you don’t have one, I’d have no issues recommending this particular model to you.