Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde Shotgun Review

Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde Shotgun Review
Get pumped for the new Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde pump shotgun.

As part of their 100th anniversary, Mossberg has introduced the 590A1 Retrograde pump-action shotgun.

Photos by Alfredo Rico

This year marks Mossberg’s 100th anniversary. To help celebrate, they’ve introduced several new firearms. One of these is the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde.

The Retrograde is a 12-­gauge pump-­action shotgun that pays homage to the original 590A1, a staple of military and police for decades. These durable, reliable and user-­friendly shotguns were also affordable to the private citizen, where they gained widespread popularity for home defense.

A Trusted Partner

Many consider the 12-­gauge pump-­action shotgun the ultimate close-­quarter weapon, and the 590A1 is perhaps the most combat-­proven variant. In fact, since 1979, Mossberg’s 590 and 590A1 models are the only shotguns to have passed all of the United States’ military 3443 specification requirements. The specification predicates interchangeability of parts in the field, as well as the ability to withstand a 3,000-­round endurance test.


The average citizen may never put 3,000 rounds through their shotgun, but it’s comforting to know that a tool you may employ to defend yourself and your family is overbuilt. The 590A1 is a trusted partner with a proud tradition of protecting American lives.


Mossberg-590A1-Retrograde-Rich
Make no mistake, the Retrograde is a serious shotgun, perfect for home defense despite it’s obvious lack of polymer.

Shotgun Versatility

In close quarters, the 590A1 is a devastatingly effective weapon, especially when loaded with 00 buck. Nine .32-­caliber pellets traveling about 1,200 feet per second (fps) goes a long way toward keeping you safe. Pretty scary stuff if you’re on the receiving end. In fact, the unmistakable sound of a pump shotgun being racked has been known to halt would-­be assailants in their tracks. However, buckshot isn’t always the appropriate load.


While 00 buck is devastating from close range, 25 yards is about as far as you can be from the threat to responsibly account for all of the pellets. Beyond that distance, the pattern widens considerably. On the other hand, with 1-­ounce slug rounds, the shotgun is a formidable weapon out to at least 100 yards, depending on several factors, not the least of which being marksmanship. Slugs afford the shooter rifle-­like accuracy and the ability to easily penetrate most intermediate barriers, such as the passenger compartment or trunk of a vehicle, behind which an assailant may be hiding.

There is no shortage of 12-­gauge pump shotguns on the market, so what sets the 590A1 apart? Well, affordability and reliability are major factors, as well as the impressive list of standard features.

Mossberg-590A1-Retrograde-Stock
The Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde’s walnut stock is as comfortable as it is beautiful.

Pumped About Features

The controls on the 590A1 are intuitive. The tang safety enables the shooter to easily manipulate the safety off and on with either thumb. Simply push forward to disengage the safety and pull back to activate it. Many prefer the tang style safety to the cross-­bolt style safety on the Remington 870, another popular law enforcement and home defense shotgun.


The cross-­bolt safety requires a different motion to operate, depending on whether you’re a right or left-­handed shooter. Also, it’s not as easy to visually confirm whether or not a cross-­bolt safety is engaged.

Over the years, the 590A1 has undergone several design changes. Traditional hardwood components like the stock and forend were replaced with polymer, which is lighter and more impervious to dents and dings that could blemish hardwood. A quick glance at the Mossberg website reveals a wide array of 590A1 models.

Mossberg-590A1-Retrograde-Barrel
With a nine-shot capacity and a bayonet lug, the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde is battle ready with an old-school vibe.

The 590A1 line features heavy walled barrels, cylinder bores and barrel lengths ranging from 18.5 to 20 inches. Capacity ranges from 7 to 9 shells. The heavier walled barrels, aluminum triggerguards and metal trigger groups are what differentiate the 590A1 from the 590, which is more economically priced.


Some 590A1 models come with a pistol grip, although I’m not a fan. Pistol grips aren’t bad, but when combined with the tang safety, they become quite cumbersome. A shooter has to compromise their shooting grip to work the safety. That’s why I’ll leave the pistol grips to the AR-­15s.

I’ve owned a 590A1 for years. It has a fixed polymer stock and ghost ring sights, which are well suited for home defense because they are easy to acquire under duress and conducive to accurate shooting. My 18.5-­inch barreled 590A1 is one of several firearms I keep on hand for home defense.

Mossberg-590A1-Retrograde-Sights
The ghost ring sights on the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde adds to the old-school vibe.

Rolling Out the Retrograde

The 20-­inch barreled 590A1 Retrograde looks like something John Rambo may have wielded. In fact, it’s even reminiscent of much older shotguns dating back to World War I. From the Parkerized finish and walnut furniture to the distinctive heat shield covering the barrel, the Retrograde definitely exudes an old-­school vibe.

The simplicity, beauty and durability of a fixed walnut stock is desirable for those with an affinity for traditionally styled shotguns. The same can be said of the forend. Polymer is fine, but there’s just something about the way a walnut stock feels against your cheek or the way the corn cob style walnut forend feels in your hand.

The Retrograde sports a bayonet lug, which may not be the most practical feature, but who wouldn’t want to be able to mount a bayonet to their shotgun? The Retrograde’s bayonet lug is a throwback to the “trench gun” of the Great War. When your shotgun was empty, it could immediately be employed as a spearing weapon. Even without a bayonet attached, the lug is a stark reminder that this shotgun was built for battle.

Mossberg-590A1-Retrograde-Pump

The 590A1 Retrograde’s ghost ring sights and orange-­painted front sight blade facilitate fast and accurate fire whether obliterating a target in close quarters with buckshot or while making a precise shot at distance with a rifled slug. There are a variety of sighting options for the 590A1, but the ghost-­ring style is far and away my favorite for defensive purposes and was a solid choice for the Retrograde.

Retro Range Time

Having plenty of time shooting 590A1 shotguns, the 590A1 Retrograde performed as anticipated. I started at the 5-­yard line with 00 buck and gradually moved back to the 25-­yard line. I was shooting Winchester Super-­X 2¾-­inch 00 buck (nine pellets), and from 25 yards, all nine pellets remained on the B-­27 silhouette target.

While shooting the Retrograde, I noticed the walnut furniture and heat shield made it a little heavier than the polymer furnished 590A1s I am accustomed to. The Retrograde tips the scales at 7 pounds. Still, the weight was very manageable, and the shotgun felt well-­balanced. The action was smooth, and recoil was on the soft side as far as 12-­gauge shotguns go. The rubber buttpad on the end of the stock undoubtedly helped dampen felt recoil.

Mossberg-590A1-Retrograde-Trigger

At 25 yards, I loaded five Winchester Super-­X 1-­ounce hollowpoint rifled slugs and was able to easily contain the rounds within the head of my B-­27 target, a testament to the inherent accuracy of the Retrograde and its user-­friendly ghost-­ring sights.

The Retrograde is everything a pump shotgun should be — durable, reliable, comfortable to shoot and intuitive to operate. With its 8+1 capacity, the Retrograde has plenty of firepower for home-­defense applications.

With an MSRP of $902, the Retrograde is pricier than a more conventional 590A1, but if you’re looking for a modern shotgun with classic styling and an old-­school cool, the Retrograde is well worth the money.

Recommended for You

Accuracy testing a rifle begins with building a good shooting position. Too often, shooters so focused on shooting and what's happening at the target that they never learn how to create a solid shooting foundation. Without that foundation, we introduce accuracy-degrading variables into our marksmanship. Here are some rifle accuracy testing tips to get you headed in the right direction. How-To

How to Accuracy Test a Rifle, Part One

Tom Beckstrand - July 14, 2016

Accuracy testing a rifle begins with building a good shooting position. Too often, shooters so...

The Springfield Armory Saint Victor continues to show that Springfield is a dominant force in the AR market. Reviews

Review: Springfield Armory Saint Victor

Guns & Ammo Editorial Staff - May 29, 2019

The Springfield Armory Saint Victor continues to show that Springfield is a dominant force in...

By now, you've likely heard that a report released by the Justice Department's inspector general  Industry

CNN Asking Wrong Question on 'Fast and Furious'

Kyle Wintersteen - September 20, 2012

By now, you've likely heard that a report released by the Justice Department's inspector...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

A New Season of G&A TV

A New Season of G&A TV

In this new season of Guns & Ammo TV, we introduce two new series and bring back a viewer favorite - Camera's Don't Lie. We look at long-range tech and see how to make shots previously thought impossible. Next we visit ISS Prop House in Hollywood.

Trijicon

Trijicon's New Specialized Reflex Optics (SRO)

The Trijicon SRO is specifically designed for pistol use. The wide field of view and clean, crisp dot makes it easy for users to find and track the dot in both target and competitive shooting applications.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

A guide on how to pair .223 and 5.56 NATO rifle barrel twist rates with bullet weights. Conventional wisdom says slower twist rates wouldn't properly-stabilize a heavy bullet. On the other hand, faster rates could over-stabilize lighter bullets. This is correct in theory, however, modern ballisticians have all but debunked the over-stabilization theory. All things being equal, it is better to have too much twist than not enough. How-To

Pairing Barrel Twist Rates with Bullets for .223 and 5.56 NATO

Keith Wood - November 17, 2018

A guide on how to pair .223 and 5.56 NATO rifle barrel twist rates with bullet weights....

The Hornady 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) is a Rifle

6.5 PRC - Magnumized 6.5 Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand - August 01, 2018

The Hornady 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) is a "magnumized" 6.5 Creedmoor. It offers...

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and deer; here's everything you need to know to make it work for you. Rifle

.350 Legend Cartridge: Everything You Need to Know

Tom Beckstrand - April 02, 2019

The Winchester .350 Legend straight-wall cartridge is ideally suited for hunting hogs and...

See More Stories

More Reviews

A full detailed review on why the new Springfield Hellcat 9mm subcompact pistol — standard and OSP models — may claw its way to the top of the concealed-carry handgun market due to a few key features and benefits, which includes better ammunition capacity. Video included! Reviews

Springfield Hellcat 9mm Review

Eric R. Poole - September 25, 2019

A full detailed review on why the new Springfield Hellcat 9mm subcompact pistol — standard and...

The Seekins Precision Havak Bravo is a nice do-­it-­all rifle and is available in 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC and .308 Winchester. Reviews

Seekins Precision Havak Bravo Rifle Review

Guns & Ammo Editorial Staff - October 07, 2019

The Seekins Precision Havak Bravo is a nice do-­it-­all rifle and is available in 6mm...

The latest additions to the Kimber Micro 9 family, the Micro 9 KHX and the Micro 9 ESV, embody a perfect blend of performance and ergonomics for concealed carry. Reviews

Kimber Micro 9 Review - ESV and KHX

James Tarr - October 03, 2019

The latest additions to the Kimber Micro 9 family, the Micro 9 KHX and the Micro 9 ESV, embody...

See More Reviews

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×