Mossberg makes great guns. One of the most iconic is the Model 835 Ulti-Mag, which was introduced in 1988 and was a true game changer, as it ushered in the era of the 3½-inch Magnum 12-gauge cartridge. More recently, Mossberg, under the direction of Tom Taylor, has gone ahead and pegged the "cool meter." This year, they nailed down a deal with the biggest name in waterfowl hunting and the darlings of the nation: the Robertsons otherwise known as the "Duck Dynasty" clan). This famous family is "salt of the earth" folks who put God first and hunting and family a close second. As for me, I was raised in a family that has a strong predilection toward the Remington 870 and Mossy Oak Bottomland, so writing this story has been a journey of enlightenment. It's nice to get back to my roots with a tough, high-quality, simple pump gun...and the fact that the assignment is scheduled in the middle of Nebraska snow goose and turkey seasons is just icing on the cake-this gun is getting a serious workout.
The Duck Commander Ulti-Mag arrived the way most new guns do, in a fairly basic cardboard box delivered to my local gun shop. When I got home and opened the box, I started grinning. There was not one, but two red, white and blue bandanas just like Willie's. More importantly, the gun shipped with four choke tubes: Improved Cylinder, Modified, Full and Extra Full. Assembly was a snap. During assembly I noticed that the barrel was ported. While not uncommon in this day and age, it was unexpected and is a great feature, especially when shooting heavy-recoiling shells, which are a must for waterfowl and turkey hunting. Shortly after inspecting all of the items in the box, I swabbed protective oil from the bore and headed out to the range for the gun's first workout.
I was in a hurry putting the gun together and hadn't really looked closely at the front bead when installing the barrel into the receiver. The first time I shouldered the gun on the range, the two-color fiber-optic front bead really jumped out at me. It's an ingenious bullseye configuration-orange fiber optic in the center with flourescent green fiber optic surrounding the orange-and it gets your attention.
The 14-inch length of pull (LOP) will fit most teens and adults as well, especially women. It will be a touch short for very large-framed people and a little long for the most petite. The pump action cycles very smoothly and feeds perfectly with both 2¾-inch and 3-inch shells. After testing everything from 2¾-inch trap loads through 3-inch Magnums, I found this shotgun grows on a person quickly. The position of the tang safety took a bit of getting used to, but it is very positive and ergonomically positioned-one of the trademark features of Mossberg shotguns. The barrel porting that I mentioned earlier does reduce recoil. I shot it next to my Remington 870 Express Turkey with numerous loads, and the 835 undoubtedly produces less recoil. The recoil generated by the ported 835 Ulti-Mag is very comparable to a gas-operated semi-automatic 12 gauge. This is a definite plus if someone is going to be shooting heavy loads in volume (as with waterfowl hunting or shooting sporting clays). The barrel porting is a welcome feature.
One important feature is the new Realtree Max-5 camo pattern. Realtree did an exceptional job developing this pattern. It is the correct blend of light and dark colors, and blends well with any natural surrounding that one is likely to encounter. It is simply an outstanding pattern-kudos, Realtree. Other noteworthy features include a drilled and tapped receiver, a sling swivel stud that is owner installed and a gun lock.
Testing has been just plain fun. I patterned the gun with my favorite waterfowl load, 3-inch Federal Black Cloud #2s. Patterns were excellent with the Improved Cylinder choke tube and it would have gone pretty hard on the snow geese (had they spent any time here in central Nebraska; an early migration took them out of our reach). Turkey season is now upon us, so I changed up the ammo and choke tube. Patterns with my favorite turkey load, Winchester Extended Range #4s, are more than acceptable from the extra-full choke tube that was shipped with the gun. If the gun is still around in the fall for pheasant season, I'll be making one more switch to the Modified choke tube and 2¾-inch lead #4s. This is a very versatile gun.
The 835 Ulti-Mag is a great gun from a family perspective. There are many features that make it a very good choice for an all-purpose gun to have around the house. The ported barrel legitimately reduces recoil, which is important whether it's the whole family enjoying an afternoon of impromptu trap shooting or a very serious day in the lay-down blind hammering Canada geese with heavy 3-inch or 3½-inch Mags. The LOP is workable for different sized shooters, but is long enough that it will fit average sized men and women comfortably. As a pump action, it takes thought and deliberate action to cycle the action after the gun is fired, which is an excellent feature for shooters with less experience. The sights are truly impressive and a front bead that catches one's eye so effortlessly is worth its weight in gold. Shipping with four choke tubes standard makes this gun is very versatile. Everything the owner needs to get started is included, and the details-like the drilled and tapped receiver-have been thought of and addressed. This is a great gun for any member of the family at any stage of shooting development. I'm impressed enough with this gun that I am strongly considering making it part of my own family.