Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde Review: Is It Worth The Money?

by Travis Pike

August 17, 2021

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In the annals of combat shotguns, very few stand out. We have the Benelli M4, the Winchester 1897, the classic Coach gun, and of course, the Mossberg 590A1 series.

The Mossberg shotguns are the only pump shotguns who’ve passed the Army’s 3443 SG torture test, and today we are reviewing the Mossberg 590A1, but not just the standard 590A1 we got out hands on the 590A1 Retrograde.

This pump-action powerhouse was created through hot demand by the US military.

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Mossberg 590A1 Specs

  • Cartridge 12 Gauge (2.75 to 3 inches)
  • Capacity 8 + 1
  • Barrel Length 20 inches
  • Overall Length 41 inches
  • Weight 7 pounds
  • Length of Pull 13.87 inches

I have a two-part answer to this question. First, let’s address the point of the 590A1 as a shotgun, then we’ll talk about the Retrograde series. The 590A1 is the combination of features demanded by the United States military for their pump-action shotgun.

The 590A1 spares no expense and features a heavy-walled barrel, a metal trigger group, a bayonet lug, and most models wear ghost ring sights. As a pump-action shotgun, these are as tough and as reliable as it gets. For the average civilian, this is a home defense shotgun through and through.

The Retrograde series came to be because Retro is currently the ‘In’ thing in the firearms industry. From Retro AR15s to Colt bringing back the snake guns. Retro is cool, and Mossberg released four Retrograde shotguns that wear wood furniture and a variety of finishes and features.

The 590A1 variant features a heat shield, ghost ring sights, and a parkerized finish. The Retrograde design mixed old-school looks with modern capability. The Retrograde series delivers a unique look that I can’t help but appreciate. As cool as Picatinny rails and optics can be, there is just something cool about wood and steel.

Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde Features

1 Heavy Walled Barrel

High quality, durable barrel

2 Ghost Ring Sight

A two-part sight that allows for easier, more natural aim.

3 8 Round Capacity

Holds up to 8 rounds.

4 Heat Shield

Will not melt or heat during heavy use.

5 Bayonet Lug

A nice addition for a military scattergun.

Mossberg 590A1 Gun Models

There are two capacity variants of note when it comes to this pump-action.

Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde – Our Take

This big heavy beast of a gun certainly feels hefty when loaded down with eight rounds of 12 gauge buckshot. Mossberg’s heavy-walled barrel, long magazine tube, and heat shield make the gun feel a little off-balance with a front-heavy feeling.

This hefty feeling turns out to be a double-edged sword. Sure it makes the gun feel unbalanced, but it also helps add weight and fight muzzle rise and recoil.

You can certainly feel the difference between the Mossberg 590A1 guns and standard shotguns in the muzzle rise department. You’ll also feel a difference as you start unloading and the tube magazine gets light.

Twelve gauge shotguns are always beasts in the recoil department, but proper mitigation techniques make it a good bit easier to handle. Push forward with your support hand and pull rearward with your firing hand, and you’ll mitigate recoil a good bit.

The corn cob style forend makes the gun easy to hold onto when pushing forward and controlling the gun. The rear wood stock is checkered as well for an easy grip. On the ergonomics side, Mossberg’s tang safety is mounted for easy access for both righties and lefties, and pump release is mounted for easy use with either hand as well.

The length of pull is 13.87 inches. This means two things. First, it’s perfect for me, which sounds great, but I’m six foot, five inches tall with ape length arms. What works for me doesn’t work for most people, and a length of pull of 13.87 inches is somewhat long for a lot of shooters, which sucks because you don’t want to replace the nice wood stock on the Retrograde series.

Getting on target is easy. The big rear ghost sight and high visibility orange sight provide an excellent mixture of speed and precision. Modern buckshot like Federal Flitecontrol very effectively extends the range of the classic scattergun, as do slugs. Sights like these allow you to take full advantage of slugs and modern buckshot.

As you’d imagine, this pump-action shotgun has zero issues in the reliability department. You can cycle all the 2.75 inch and 3-inch shells you could ever desire. High brass, low brass, cheap foreign stuff, and even cheaper Walmart birdshot. The Mossberg 590A1 even cycles Noble sport 2.5-inch shells, and with the right adapter, you can even shoot 1.75-inch shells.

Besides recoil from 3-inch magnum loads, the only pain this gun will cause is in your wallet. The Retrograde series demands a premium with an MSRP of $987 dollars. These things sell for well beyond MSRP as well, making them tough to obtain for fans of wood-equipped tactical shotguns.

Mossberg 590A1 Pros and Cons

  • Tight patterning
  • Excellent sights
  • Extremely Reliable
  • Endlessly customizable (But you won’t want to)
  • Sling ready
  • Expensive
  • Long LOP

Report Card

Reliability

It’s a pump-action shotgun made by the kings of pump-action shotguns. It’s going to work for thousands of rounds, and won’t even think of failing.

A+
Accuracy

It’s a shotgun with Ghost ring sights. It easily takes advantage of modern buckshot loads and slugs out to their utmost range.

A
Customization

The Mossberg 590A1 utilizes very ergonomic controls with the placement of the safety and pump release. The heavy-walled barrel adorned with a heat shield makes it a bit unbalanced, and the long for most LOP takes a point off.

B
Ergonomics

The Mossberg 590A1 utilizes very ergonomic controls with the placement of the safety and pump release. The heavy-walled barrel adorned with a heat shield makes it a bit unbalanced, and the long for most LOP takes a point off.

B
Value

The Mossberg 590A1 is typically an affordable shotgun for the features you get. The Retrograde series packs a premium, though. You won’t find a 590A1 for below MSRP, and the MSRPs between the Retrograde and a standard 590A1 is a difference of over 200 differences.

C
Shootability

A 12 gauge shotgun isn’t for everyone. These often have rough recoil, and the pump-action requires training to ensure reliable feeding. However, once mastered, they are tough to beat.

B

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

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Mossberg 590A1 Starter Pack

A pump-action shotgun is a great addition to any arsenal. But if this is your first foray into scatterguns, there are a few things you’ll need to pick up in order to safely handle your new firearm. 

  • Gun Cleaning Kit: What’s the point of keeping an expensive firearm if you don’t keep it in tip-top shape? Learn what are the best cleaning kits (or how to build your own) for your shotgun in our dedicated gun cleaning kit article.  
  • Eye Protection: If you’re planning to fire off some practice rounds–which we highly recommend you do–you’re going to need some eye protection when you visit the range. Check out our favorite shooting glasses.
  • Hearing Protection: They’re called boomsticks for a reason. They’re loud. Protect your ears with a quality set of shooting hearing protection.

Mossberg 590A1 Gun Gun Deals

Best Ammo For Your Mossberg 590A1

Ammo isn’t cheap nowadays, but that doesn’t mean you should hoard it and not practice shooting your new firearm. Instead, pick up two different types of ammunition–one for the range and one to get the job done. 

Range Rounds

Fiocchi Ultra Low Recoil

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Brownells $0.38

Working Ammunition

Federal Vital-Shok #00

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Brownells $2.95

Best Light Accessories For The Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde

Before we go, I want to walk you through how to add a light to your gun without ruining that movie star Retro looks. If you plan to use this for home defense, you’ll need a white light for positive target identification. Here’s how we’ll equip you with a white light without killing the Retrograde’s looks.

Best Mounted Light Accessories

AccessoryDetailsCheck Price
Streamlight TLR RM1
Streamlight TLR RM1
  • 500 Lumens
  • 140m Narrow Beam Distance
  • IPX7 Rated
Check Price
Streamlight Shotgun Mount
Streamlight Shotgun Mount
  • Allows for mounting on long guns
  • Good for M3 and M6 Streamlights
Check Price
Streamlight Shotgun Cord
Streamlight Shotgun Cord
  • Stretchable
  • Remote Switch
Check Price

Caring For Your Mossberg 590A1

Owning a shotgun without knowing how to clean it is no bueno. The following video shows you how to take down and clean your blunderbuss when its time. This particular video doesn’t show the Retrograde model; however, the same principles and concepts still apply.

Important Links For The Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde

Looking for more resources and information on the Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde? If so, check out the links below to get access to Mossberg’s page, the user’s manual, and more.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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