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Field Ethos Retrograde: Evolution of Mossberg

Field Ethos Retrograde: Evolution of Mossberg

This article appeared originally on Field Ethos, where old-school adventurers thrive. From gear reviews to philosophical discussions, join their community and embrace a lifestyle of unconventional journeys. Discover captivating content on their podcast, films, and social media.

Right now you can buy a 35-inch bullpup shotgun that holds 15 rounds. Still, I’ll take a Mossberg 590 for when the shit actually hits the fan though, because the 15-round video game gun—for as sweet as it sounds on paper—points like a turd, has questionable reliability, and recoils like hell’s horse. The 590A1 just works, every time.

How do I know this?

The 590 is an evolution of the Model 500, and since 1961 the family-owned Mossberg company has sold over 11 million Model 500s, making it one of the most popular guns of all time. Millions of Mossy maniacs, including combat veterans and crazy duck hunters, aren’t wrong. For over 60 years it’s demonstrated 99 percent reliability all while at the lowest price class in the industry. Find me another product in any industry with this reputation and I’ll buy you a tall one.

During the 1970s Mossberg submitted its model 500 for official military consideration, but it failed the government’s Mil-Spec 3443E protocol. Mossberg decided to keep the 500 like it was for the civilian hunting market but introduced the Model 590 in 1987 to win the military contract.

Heeding the military’s rejection report it gleaned from the 500, the 590 did away with the plastic tang safety, replacing it with metal. It swapped the plastic trigger guard with a metal one and replaced the magazine cap with one that would allow cleaning without having to disassemble the gun. It wore a 20-inch barrel, parkerized metal finish, and a 6-round extended magazine. The resulting shotgun won the contract.

Then Mossberg beefed up the 590 even more to meet the Navy’s special request. The barrel was thickened so it could be slammed into a frigate’s steel door and still shoot straight. A barrel shroud was added, as was an 8-round extended magazine and a bayonet lug—because it’s good to have options. The resulting 590A1 was the military shotgun of choice until Benelli’s semi-auto M4 replaced it in the early 2000s. Yet for those who’ve ever dropped a semiauto in sand or aren’t nerds when it comes to cleaning, the 590A1 endures.


A couple of years ago Mossberg released a 590 “Retrograde” model as seen above, featuring a walnut stock and a parkerized finish that’s a throwback to the original. I had to have one. Mike Schoby even shot a turkey with his. To this day, if you can find me a better bargain than this 9-shot, battle-tested $800 590A1 in all of the firearm world, hell, I’ll pick up your whole tab.

Pros: 99 percent reliability, affordable, looks badass, handles like a shotgun should, bayonet lug, all steel construction, adjustable ghostring sights for slugs

Cons: Let me know if you find any

About the Author

Jeff Johnston

Get to know Jeff Johnston, the crack shot and avid outdoorsman who recently joined Field Ethos as Editor-in-Chief. Discover how his passion for guns and blades developed at a young age, and learn about the down-to-earth sensibility he brings to the team.
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