The Retrograde series from Mossberg proves that you can blend modern tactical function with old-school appeal. As the reigning king of tactical pump-action shotguns, the 590A1 couldn’t be left out in the rain. In fact, for some reason I cannot fathom, the 590A1 Retrograde has become absurdly expensive across online auction sites.
I know what you’re thinking: all gun prices are up with President BidenHarris in office, the COVID craziness, and our summer of love. However, the 590A1 Retrograde has been selling high since before the craziness set in. It’s a finely made gun with an excellent legacy, but some are selling for almost twice the MSRP.
I guess it’s safe to say the gun has a rather large fan base. And I can see why. The walnut furniture, the heat shield, and the Parkerized finish make it a rather distinct-looking and attractive shotgun.
Add in the 590A1 accouterments like the 8-round tube, ghost ring sights, bayonet lug, and proven design, and you do get a shotgun that functions as fearsome as it looks. Mossberg’s 590A1 famously serves as the pump-action shotgun of choice for the United States military in various configurations. It has served with distinction more than the M1014, which tended to be much less common than the 590A1.
Retrograde goes beyond the wood furniture we see on the gun. That said, the wood furniture warrants its own recognition. It’s dark stained walnut that is rather attractive. Our pump is textured ribbed-style for an easy grip. The stock is quite traditional, with a textured portion where your hand rests. At the end is an old-school built-in brown recoil pad.
Beyond the wood furniture, the barrel and heat shield are parkerized for an old-school finish. A bayonet lug plus a heat shield and wooden furniture give the 590A1 Retrograde trench gun vibes. Like any good 590A1, the barrel is thick and heavy-walled, and the trigger group is all metal.
The sights are surprisingly modern with a rear adjustable ghost ring and a high visibility front blade. It’s the same sight setup you’d see on the 590A1 SPX. Mossberg could’ve settled on the bead sight, but I appreciate the ghost ring setup when it comes to accurate shooting.
Shouldering the 590A1 Retrograde
A 13.87-inch LOP isn’t for everyone, though it’s much better than the 14.5-inch LOP I run across a bit too often. While a 13.87-inch length feels perfectly sized for me, since that’s the case then I imagine it’s long for most shooters. The ribbed pump and textured rear grip make it easy to utilize a push-pull recoil mitigation technique. Weight wise the 590A1 Retrograde doesn’t bring much heft at 7 pounds.
A lot of weight is pushed to the front of the 590A1 Retrograde when the weapon is fully loaded. 8 rounds of buckshot and a heavy-walled barrel push the weight forward and make it off balance. If I were swinging the gun at clay pigeons, maybe this would matter, but I don’t see a big deal with it in a combat shotgun. In fact, the weight-forward advantage helps fight muzzle rise.
After blasting through a few cycles of the ASP Shotgun Casino drill, I did see how the heavy-walled barrel and heat shield work well. Shotguns and buckshot heat up a barrel nice and fast, but the gun is rather resistant to it. This is great for situations where you might need to grab the receiver’s front to manipulate the gun and are not wearing shooting gloves.
590A1 Retrograde Go Thump Thump
Recoil is what you can expect from a 12 gauge shotgun. Good technique goes a long way in mitigating it, and without it, you’ll get a thump or two. Like all Mossberg pumps, the action is a little rough, and the pump is a little sloppy, but neither affects function. The gritty action will smooth out in a few thousand rounds.
Ghost ring sights allow for excellent shot placement, especially if you are going to be using modern buckshot loads like Flitecontrol. These offer the most range of any buckshot I’ve handled, and a good set of sights takes full advantage of that range. The rear ghost ring sight is nice and wide, and the front high visibility orange sight is easy to see and direct.
One neat thing about the 590A1 Retrograde, and about 590A1s in general, is the unique barrel harmonics that give you a rather tight patterning gun. Basically, the claim and effect is that the 590A1 patterns tighter due to the unique barrel profile and design. In practice, cheap 00 buckshot without a good wad creates a pattern 6 to 7.5 inches wide at 15 yards.
Pump Action Reliability
The Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde gives you the reliable performance you’d expect from a pump-action shotgun. It loads, shoots, and ejects almost entirely without issue. The only situation I ran into was with S&B buckshot. On occasion, the pump would stick, requiring me to use both hands with the gun braced against the ground to free the shell.
Some of the hulls from the S&B buckshot seemed to have expanded. I replicated this problem in a Mossberg 500 and a KelTec Ks7. I’d chalk it up to the round causing issues more than the gun. Other than the few times that happened, I had zero issues. Obviously, as a pump gun, I can use the lightest loads without problems.
The 590A1 Retrograde is a combination of a competent fighting shotgun with classic wooden and steel appeal. It is priced at a premium, even when you compare MSRPs between standard 590A1s and the Retrograde. It’s certainly a desirable mixture of old-school cool and modern capability. Not something we often see in the world of Picatinny rails and black polymer furniture.
Specifications: Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde
Caliber: 12 gauge
Chamber: 3 inches
Capacity: 8 + 1
Length: 41 inches
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
MSRP: $987 (about $870 when in stock at Brownells)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy * * * * *
Ghost ring sights and a tight-patterning cylinder bore deliver excellent accuracy at a variety of distances. Load it with slugs and the ghost rings become all the handier. Federal Flitecontrol and these sights make precisely-placed buckshot all too easy.
Reliability * * * * *
Pump-action shotguns are hard to make unreliable. I’m sure someone has, but Mossberg is not one of them them. The 590A1 delivers excellent performance with high brass, low brass, and various length shells.
Ergonomics * * * *
Mossberg 500 series shotguns are very well designed with an ambidextrous tang safety, a skeletonized shell lifter, and the Retrograde series features excellent texturing. While the LOP fits me fine, it might be a hair long for smaller shooters.
Overall * * * * *
Although it’s priced at a premium these days, the 590A1 Retrograde is chock full of features. This is a very well-designed shotgun. A standard 590A1 is cheaper, but nowhere near as stylish. The 590A1 Retrograde is a fantastic firearm that’s well-suited for home defense and a good time at the range. And you can add an M9 bayonet if you really want to get under the Kaiser’s skin.