Gun Review: Mossberg 500 Retrograde Shotgun

Mossberg 500 Retrograde

(Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Mossberg 500 Retrograde

Classic corncob design, (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Mossberg 500 Retrograde

Walnut stock with sling swivel and classic recoil pad puts the simple in simplistic (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Mossberg 500 Retrograde

A brass bead is a classic sight that still works (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Shuck-Shuck

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.

Mossberg 500 Retrograde

Just another a day at the sand mines (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Mossberg 500 Retrograde

Pump action shotgun goes shuck-shuck (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Mossberg 500 Retrograde

Federal FLiteControl about to ruin that target’s day (Travis Pike for TTAG)

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.

Stepping Back

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.

comments

  1. avatar pwrserge says:

    The price seems a bit steep for a 5+1 pump of mediocre quality. (Reliable, yes, but it’s not a top shelf scattergun.)

    I picked up my 500 for ~$200 back in the day. That’s an awful lot of premium to pay for wood.

    1. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

      I would buy it for the wood. I have the black plastic 500 in 20g. It’s like choosing nice leather shoes over nice gym shoes. Sometimes cleaning and polishing isn’t a chore.

    2. avatar Bob says:

      What would you consider “back in the day”? One dollar in 1990 is valued at nine dollars today, 2020. Therefore your $200 shotgun really cost you $1,800 in adjusted dollars today. Most people don’t think about things like inflation and the value of the dollar.

      So, a $500 shotgun today would have been a $55 shotgun “back in the day”. 😉

      1. avatar Good Grief says:

        Uhhhh……go and use an inflation calculator, bud. Morgan Friedman’s says that $200 in 1990 is $396 today.

        1. avatar Big Bill says:

          Which is, by some strange coincidence, what the gun in question will go for, give or take a few dollars.

      2. avatar Felix says:

        A VERY general rule of thumb is 10:1 from the end of WW II to now, and 10:1 from the late 1800s to the end of WW II. Another VERY general rule of thumb is that a semi-skilled worker in the late 1800s earned a buck a day. Henry Ford raised his skilled worker pay to $5/day after WW I, I think. Bear in mind that wage inflation and price inflation are very different things.

        Here is a fantastic inflation web site, including selectable currencies, countries, and calculator (wage, price, commmodity, etc): https://www.measuringworth.com/

        1. avatar neiowa says:

          Henry’s $5/day were not skilled workers.

        2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

          This is the one I’ve used for over a decade. Official Guv data (useful for comparing to private datasets):

          https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

      3. avatar Art out West says:

        I bought an 8 shot Maverick 88 for $199 six months ago. Adjusted for inflation that would be about $201 today.

        Granted the Mossberg 500 is slightly preferable to the Maverick (Mossberg clone of Mossberg 500). Also my 88 has a polymer stock. The wood adds a little more value. Then again my Maverick is 7+1 instead of 5+1, which favors the 88 in my book.

        When you can get the Maverick for $200, this 500 should go for about $300.

        1. avatar Me says:

          Just got my new Maverick 88 a month ago for $180. Sold my old Mav 88 I had with just the single pump rail. My ATI combo shoulder/pistol grip stock went on right away and the 18.5″ barrel and a weapons light mounted on the shell tube. I like wood, but synthetic stocks take a beating much better. It makes me cringe to mark a nice wood stock.

      4. avatar enuf says:

        My Mossberg 500 was $99 new “back in the day”. If I recall correctly that was $10 off the regular price. When I run the inflation calculators on the first three sites from a Google search, that works out to $352, $394 and $374 for a period of 40 to 42 years.

        When I checked Cabelas just now, prices begin at $349 for the .410 model and go up from there.

        Checking GunBroker.com, Buy It Now prices begin about $325 and go up from there. There’s a “Retrograde” model listed for $699, so some seller thinks the panic buyers are still going strong I guess.

        There’s a $2400 Mossberg 500 but it’s the TASER model, with both TASER bolt and normal bolt and a yellow plastic stock. Just me but I don’t see the point or the wishful thinking in that one.

        On the whole the inflation over the forty years roughly since I bought my first one new seems about right, at least in actual selling price. Certain ly not in list price or profiteering price.

  2. avatar Jerre Peak says:

    Do they offer this gun in a 20 ga. or .410 ?

    1. avatar 9x39 says:

      Used to in 20ga, pretty sure they still make them. Don’t know about .410, haven’t owned a 500 since my 1981 20ga acquisition & I parted ways with in 92′.

      Price is pretty rich for a base model shotgun these days.

      1. avatar Mack The Knife says:

        410 is a yes

    2. avatar Enuf says:

      They made many in both gauges over the years. Visit some local gun shops, check Gun Broker online. You will absolutely find Mossberg 500 series shotguns in all sorts of configurations and conditions.

      I think the .410 was called the “Bantam” size? Intended for youngsters? I know I tried one once.

  3. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    Looks almost exactly like my 1960 Winchester Model 12 Featherweight, which to this day remains as my favorite and most reliable shotgun I’ve ever used. Good shotties “wear in” well with use and care, and get better as time goes on. Like a good pair of denim jeans. The Model 12 was LE standard issue in many Southern locales for years…

    1. avatar jwm says:

      IMHO the model 12 was the best pump shotgun ever made.

      1. avatar Tsay Nguyen says:

        I have a model 12 that my great grandfather bought. Serial number dates to the 1920’s if I remember correctly. I also have the Ithaca 20 gauge he bought for my great grandmother. They used them to hunt for food and I used the 12 to down a few ducks and geese back in high school. 100 years old and still going strong.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          Dad also bought Ithaca’s. My brother is a left handed person. Back in the day you couldn’t find left handed shotguns. The Ithaca with its bottom feed and eject worked fine for him. They were good guns.

          But nothing was as solid as that model 12.

    2. avatar Curious Creedmoor says:

      The same goes for revolvers

  4. avatar Steve says:

    I’ve got the 590 A1 retrograde and the night stick. won’t ever sell them

  5. avatar Rev. Philip E. Evans says:

    If this is the same as the older ones, then it’s absolutely great! My wife got me a Mossberg 500 18 1/2″ wood stock for Christmas in 1986 at Big 5 for $149. It looks identical! It was a great deal and I’ve used it many times over the years to shoot both skeet and trap. It’s a little short for these, but it gets the job done. In the Navy, we carried both these as well as Remington 870 short barrels on the PBRs as prisoner control weapons when we did “board and search” operations. When it comes to “close-in” ops, nothing beats them! I still keep mine handy at home on the farm.

  6. avatar Dude says:

    They should sell those parts separately for those of us that already have 500s with the plastic.

    1. avatar Enuf says:

      You can easily find any parts you want online. I built my 590A1 with bayonet from GunBroker.com parts, plus left over parts I had on hand from other work. There are numerous barrel and stock options for Mossberg pumps!

      1. avatar Dude says:

        Never used Gunbroker, but I’ll check it out.

  7. avatar jwm says:

    25 years ago I bought a 500 combo pack. A 28 inch vented barrel and a 18.5 inch barrel. For 179 bucks. I no longer hunt with that gun, I replaced it in the field with a semi auto, but I still use it as a house gun. It and a security model maverick 88.

  8. avatar Enuf says:

    Exactly what is at hand in my bedroom. Bought new for $99 at a K-Mart Blue Light Special, it has stood and worked dandy all these years with never a failure. Put the 28″ barrel on it for certain critters and feathered trouble makers, the 18.5″ for in the house.

    My 590A1, with the bayonet, was made out of spare parts and works perfectly. Maybe I have $200 in all that, but not a penny more.

    And yes, Mossberg has made the 500 for many years in 20ga and .410. You should be able to walk into many a local gun shop to find examples to check out, very common and it takes a whole lot of STUPID to mess one up.

  9. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

    I was holding out for either the 590 retrograde or mariner whenever prices go down and availability goes up. I think the extra capacity and stronger barrel is worth a little extra weight and price over the 500.

    Still, I appreciate mossberg putting a little wood on a stock. I’m tired of polymer sticks and grips with no soul.

  10. avatar BB Eyes says:

    Ah the Mossy 500 12ga. My first shotgun.
    Lots more shotties over the years but this beat up plain Jayne always fires, always ejects and always feeds the next round.
    What a perfect pump at an excellent price, even today.

  11. avatar 9x39 says:

    “Shotguns can start tipping the scales quite a bit when you add the word tactical to the model name”.

    Eh, you don’t have to tell me, lol. I know, I have a couple with a couple of mag feed’s that normally sport 9 & 12 rnd respectively. Plus a 25 round drum. Or 19 and 20 round sticks, but they’re awful unwieldy, looking like a crazy aboriginal boomerang hanging underneath.

    Monopod? We doan’ need no steenkin’ unipod!

  12. avatar Steve says:

    Love the wood, tired of plastic, the wood gives guns A Touch of Class

  13. avatar Ferg in Tahoe says:

    I’ll stick with my M1 Practical and M4. Got deals on both and have never failed.

  14. avatar lefty says:

    The Mossbergs are decidedly friendlier with their tang safeties for us southpaws.Personally I’d prefer rifle sights[fully adjustable rear sight,not merely a fold down one]

    1. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

      The tang safety is why I chose it over the Remington.

    2. avatar CountyRat says:

      Sounds like you need to look at the Mossberg 590A1. Good good fully adjustable ghost ring rear sight and prominent front sight with orange insert. I dropped in a Truglo front blade and added a flashlight and pressure switch, and she’s all dressed up and ready to go dancin’. The biggest downside is weight; with its thicker barrel, eight rounds in the mag, and six on a receiver shell rack it is a mil-spec beast! But it’s not like I am planning to take it backpacking, or even on a hunting trip. I think it is all the gun I will ever need for serious social distancing.

  15. avatar Chuck Dobra says:

    This is the re-creation of Momma’s kitchen gun used to shoot those pesky critters that attacked the chickens in the back yard. Light, easy to point. G’bye Mr. Fox.

  16. avatar Brian Emmert says:

    I have used one for nearly 25 years now and have never had any problems with it. I is showing a little wear with all the dings and bluing rubbed off but I have never shot any shot gun that came close to it in shooting ease except an old hammerless double. From all of the comments it seems to boil down to, get what you want on your weapon, personal choice and all. Just be able to shoot it.

    1. avatar CountyRat says:

      That’s a Mossy for you. She may not be the girl you want to take to the prom, but she is the one you take home to meet mom and dad. Simple, down home, and never let you down.

    2. avatar Tim Hurley says:

      Sorry about the wear you are showing, but we all have a few dings.

  17. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    I bought one just like this about a year ago as a bedside gun for my wife when I travel. She loves it, and I do, too, it’s a sweet shooter and always seems to point where you want it to. Out of the box, though, when I peeled the sticker off the stock, the finish came with it. To their credit, Mossberg sent me a new stock right away and all GTG. Nice little piece of security sitting in the corner every night, loaded with .00. I also bought an extra “field barrel” and I enjoyed dove hunting with it, as well.

  18. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Highlights the fact that what you need in a gunfight…….is a gun.

    All the rest is just details.

  19. avatar nelson says:

    I just don’t get why these shotgun makers keep putting these long ass stocks on these guns.

    1. avatar Enuf says:

      Clearly, they are racist towards short armed people.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Is this bigotry or racism?

        1. avatar CentralVirginian says:

          They sit around at Mossberg headquarters listening to Randy Newman’s song “short people” making their extra long stocks.

        2. avatar enuf says:

          Yes, beyond a shadow of doubt.

        3. avatar jwm says:

          CV. My wife is five foot tall. I have two shotguns that are youth model for her. Both 20s. At house range I doubt the bad guy will feel any difference.

        4. avatar CentralVirginian says:

          I was joking but only slightly. The problem is very real. I can shoot most standard length shotguns but they don’t fit me as intended and its necessary to purchase a shorter replacement stock adding $50 or more if i want it sized correctly.

        5. avatar 9x39 says:

          @CentralVirginian

          Same, just shy of avg. height myself. Getting tail hooked in the arm pit or clothing is tiresome, as is having to replace, or modify existing stocks to fit me.

      2. avatar neiowa says:

        Grow a pair.

        1. avatar enuf says:

          … of longer arms ???

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      Having a longer than normal LOP I don’t see a problem with it

      1. avatar CountyRat says:

        Not a problem really. Depends mostly on your build. For some, a slightly shorter than standard LOP mounts a little faster.

        1. avatar 9x39 says:

          Definitely, I’ve got a range toy bullpup shotgun with a short LOP. Outside of the normal point-ability greatness that is bullpup, along with the massive detraction that is stereotypical bullpup trigger groups, it’s short on the pull even for my build with the added stock spacers removed. I find it a lot more comfortable to mount the weapon than almost all others.

          Bonus, removing the spacers positions the bore axis directly inline with the shoulder, making recoil/muzzle flip mitigation easier.

  20. avatar Billb says:

    When nearly every shotgun had wood furniture I remember thinking I wanted something different. I only had a Rem. 870 kit gun (two barrels, chokes, wrench, oil), wood stocks, from Wally World for about $250 I think. I’d previously had a Win. 1300 Defender with wood. I outfitted the 870 with Choate pistol grip stock and matching forend. Fast forward decades I now have a small collection of 7 shotguns (Moss, Win, Rem, Rossi Coach), four with wood and three with polymer. A nice balance. Of course when you look at them the wood furniture guns just look better.

    1. avatar enuf says:

      I tried a pistol grip on my 500 years ago, hated it. Went back to the original wood.

      1. avatar Billb says:

        That stock is the full length Choate with a pistol grip. It looks a lot like an FN FAL stock. That’s the only pistol grip stock I have and it’s actually a good stock. I’ve just come full circle back to liking wood furniture more now.

  21. avatar Turtle it For Maximum Tactical says:

    :AAAANNNND we’ve got an armpit and turtle-neck and stiff armer. Nope. Not serious.

    1. avatar Ron says:

      Yeah I was going to say if that dude actually shoots that shotgun like that, he won’t ever do that again.

    2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Photo pose. He’s likely a tactical AR trainer first, and a shottie shooter second.

  22. avatar MtnDewey says:

    i bought an 88 back in the early 90’s….love Mossberg!!!!

  23. avatar BuckeyeMike says:

    I passed on buying a mossberg in the fall. Figured I’d have plenty of time to buy it. I was wrong. Been looking again for a 20″ barrel, pump action since February. Finally last week I was on Gun Grab and saw the 590 retrograde 20″ barrel. 3″ shells, holds 7+1, with 2 3/4 shells, 8+1. I hurry up and ordered it before it was gone. With tax and shipping $500 & change. I’m happy with it.

  24. avatar GS650G says:

    I like it. Looks great.

  25. avatar Mike H says:

    When I first got my Mossy 500 a ways back I looked high and low for furniture like this to give it that old school riot gun look. I even bought and refinished a walnut stock and new fore end. I could never find a good corncob fore end though, so I gave up and ended up going in the other direction. Tacticool Magpul furniture, single point sling fitting, weapon light, Tacstar sidesaddle, raised metal safety switch and – Meprolight (I recall?) tritium & ghost ring sights. After all that, now, I find myself torn between telling Mossberg to stick it in their ear, or surfing the web for new parts…

  26. avatar Big Bill says:

    A 590A1 Tactical 20″ bbl will cost $379.97 right now at Bass Pro Shop.
    That’s about $15 more than I paid for mine about 12 years ago.
    Sale prices are a wonderful thing!

    1. avatar Billb says:

      Wish I had known this before every store around me was out of stock. It’s also not showing available for shipping.

  27. avatar Wally1 says:

    I have a short barrel (18.5) mossy 500 that I got about 15 years ago. Great truck gun, simple fast and reliable.
    Put a Hogue stock and forearm, handles even better and more comfortable. I wish someone would make a English straight stock for the mossy. I also have a Browning BPS Upland special. Also great short shotgun with straight stock and handles well.

  28. avatar AdamTA1 says:

    That was a long article for a basic shotgun..

    “ It’s like me and honeybuns…once you say tactical the weight seems to pile on.” made me guffaw however

  29. avatar PTM says:

    Good luck finding them in stock anywhere. They are great looking shotguns! I opted for a Mossberg 590A1 Magpul edition instead.

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