Just a short while back, I reviewed the pump action Mossberg 500 Retrograde and found it to be a fun, lightweight, easy-shooting gun. It was as simple as shotguns get. But the 500 is not the only Retrograde model, Mossberg also introduced two 590 Retrograde models.
I got my hands on the manlier version of the two and have been putting it through its paces. What sets the models apart is capacity and barrel length. I have the 8+1 model with the 20-inch barrel Mossberg 590 Retrograde. There’s also a 6+1 with an 18.5″ barrel.
Nine rounds of buckshot is nothing to be trifled with and should you run dry, and this model also includes a bayonet lug if you want to reenact the charge at Little Round Top.
The 590 Retrograde’s barrel comes complete with a heat shield that gives it an aggressive look and turns out to be quite practical when sending lots and lots of rounds downrange. The Retrograde portion is the fact that the shotgun comes complete with classic wood furniture and a matte blued finish.
This smoothbore certainty cuts a distinguished silhouette, and its appearance is most assuredly that of a defensive shotgun, but one separated from rails and MOLLE. The 590 Retrograde is old school cool, but would have no issues keeping up with shotguns covered in polymer and inches of rail.
Keeping it Light
Shotguns should be relatively lightweight weapons that are quick to maneuver and easy to handle. The 590 Retrograde most certainly checks those boxes. At 7.25 pounds, the gun isn’t as light as the 500, but lighter than many tactical shotguns.
An important note here is that this is the 590, not the 590A1 (which is also offered in a Retrograde setup). The barrel is a normal diameter and not a heavy-walled variant. The trigger group is also made of polymer and not metal like the 590A1. As the owner of a 590A1, I will say the standard 590 is a bit better balanced and less front-heavy than the A1 version.
The front sight is a simple gold bead. It works well enough and is a sight most shotgun users are used to. The 590 Retrograde feels quite light and well balanced, even with a full payload of 8 rounds of 2¾ inch buckshot in the tube. Lengthwise the 20-inch barrel may feel a little long for some, and I get that, but that’s the trade-off of higher capacity.
The 590’s controls are famously very ergonomic. The safety is positioned on the tang so it’s ambidextrous and natural to engage and disengage with your thumb without breaking your firing grip. The pump release is also easily reached and accessible.
The pump itself is smooth and easy to reach and rack. The downside is the famed Mossberg pump slop. This isn’t anything that affects function, just something you’ll notice when running the gun side-by-side with a tighter shotgun.
The 590 Retrograde’s length of pull is 13.87 inches, which may be too long for some shooters, but for me, it’s just right. I find it easy to sit it in the pocket of my shoulder and be very comfortable while shooting. The wood furniture is a finished American walnut that’s textured for a sure grip.
The pump is cut with a corncob design that allows your forward hand to dig into it. The stock’s pistol grip is checkered and comfortable. I use the push/pull method for shotgun recoil mitigation, and this furniture layout is perfect for that technique.
The stock also has a built-in sling point, as does the magazine tube cap so slinging it is quite simple. I appreciate this little add-on and find it frustrating when sling points aren’t included on my long guns.
The 590 Retrograde – Letting It Run Free
Pump-action shotguns are some of my favorite guns to shoot. Something about the combination of a manual action firearm, the aggressive nature of pump-action shotguns, and that unforgettable noise makes these guns so much fun. The 590 Retrograde most certainly doesn’t let you down as far as the pump-action fun factor goes.
Performance-wise there are also no disappointments here. The 590 Retrograde is built on the bombproof Mossberg 500 design. It’s a simple system that famously works and works well. Three inch, 2.75 inch, and even 1.75-inch shells (with an Opsol adapter) work perfectly through the gun. Manual action guns most certainly still have their place when it comes to reliability.
The gun’s cylinder bore performs as expected and is optimized for buckshot at inside-the-home ranges. At 15 yards, the spread covers a toro sized target with regular old 00 buck. With my favorite load, Federal Premium FliteControl, the spread is much tighter and punches one big hole in the target at home-defense distances.
With the reduced recoil loads, the gun is a breeze to handle and allows you to easily engage a single target with three rounds in under three seconds. The gun will do its job as long as you do yours; control it and run that pump like it owes you money.
The front bead sight is more than enough with buckshot. In a home defense scenario, the bead is a perfectly suitable choice and, to be honest, my preferred choice in tight quarters. It’s gold, highly visible, and easy to see and catch with the eye. It’s very fast to get the gun on target and follow up that sight picture with a healthy dose of lead.
Ghost ring sights are great, but beads are faster.
The capacity, bombproof design, and light weight of the 590 Retrograde make it a solid home defense shotgun. It’s light and handy and packs plenty of punch. The wood furniture, matte blue finish, heat shield, and bayonet lug give it a uniquely eye-pleasing appearance.
Specifications: Mossberg 590 Retrograde Shotgun
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Overall Length: 41 inches
Weight: 7.25 pounds
Caliber: 12 Gauge 3-inch chamber
Capacity: 8+1 2.75 inch rounds
Ratings (out of 5 Stars)
Reliability: * * * * *
Pump action shotgun go shuck-shuck. While not impossible, it’s hard to screw up a pump gun. The tried and true Mossberg 500/590 design is an old one and a reliable one.
Accuracy: * * * *
It’s a shotgun. At shotgun ranges, it’s a very capable weapon. I’m not putting it in a Caldwell Lead Sled to measure accuracy. The bead does reduce some slug precision potential. In that realm ghost, rings still rule.
Ergonomics: * * * *
I’ll knock off a point for pump slop, but other than that, the ergonomics are awesome. They work well, everything is easy to reach, I like the LOP, and the light-ish weight of the gun.
Overall: * * * * 1/2
The Mossberg 590 Retrograde is an awesome shotgun. It looks good, handles well, and is a lot of fun to shoot. Add a bayonet and a heat shield and I’m ready to make the Kaiser sweat.