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Mossberg 835 with Matthews Harmonic Damper

Product Tests

"This is just a much better gun in all respects than any Mossberg 835 Ulit-Mag I've seen." For the past several weeks I have been shooting a new Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag with the Matthews Harmonic Damper Recoil Reduction System. It's an all black gun, waterfowl model with a 28” ported barrel. It's drilled and tapped for scope mounting and the comb height can be adjusted easily to put the shooters eye in the proper position for using the beads or for any optical sight mounted on the receiver by using one of 2 supplied comb adapters.

The overall quality of this new 835 is outstanding. It's tight, solid feeling and the bore was clean and smooth.

As I always do, I stripped down the 835 to its basic components, barrel, receiver and fire control unit. I inspected and cleaned each unit. Surprisingly, the fire control and receiver were free of any grease and I also found no excessive oil in either.

The bore had a pretty good coating of oil as expected. I “deep cleaned” the bore using the guidelines in the article, “Cleaning a Shotgun Barrel” That enabled me to really take a good look at the quality of the bore. While not mirror finished, it was certainly very smooth and clean looking.

One feature of immediate note was the very much improved recoil pad on the 835. It fit very well and was noticeably softer than pads that were on older Mossberg shotguns. I was glad to see that since I intended to evaluate this gun exactly as it came from the factory without changing pads or using any type of slip on pad on it.

Included with this gun were 2 interchangeable low and high profile combs. A hex wrench for changing these combs is included. It's a very simple concept that allows you to have your eye properly positioned for either shooting with the beads or some type of optical sight. While I intended to evaluate the 835 with the beads only, I did change the combs just to see how my eye position changed and it seemed that with the high comb, I'd be properly positioned for a scope or dot type sight.

I was very interested in seeing just how this Matthews Harmonic Damper Recoil Reduction System looked and learning more about how it was proposed to work. I had studied the effects of harmonics on shotgun barrels and published an article "Harmonics in Shotgun Barrels" on that subject in 2013.

To get a look at that system, I pulled off the recoil pad. It most resembles a bar bell attached to both sides of the stock with bell portions extending through the walls of the stock to the exterior. On the outside, it looks a bit like a spoked wheel. As I understand it, the recoil is transferred to the system which, in layman's terms, kind of rolls up absorbing some it and then after the shot returns to its original position. (My apologizes to the design engineers of the system but that's how my mind conceives what I see and what I've read about. it.)

I wanted to take the 835 to the range and over a period of weeks, shoot more shells through it than the average shooter might in a few years. To do that, I selected a variety of shells, not just turkey loads since I wanted to put a number of shells through it to see just how tight it stayed when subjected to an onslaught of shooting over a pretty short period of time. Over the years, I've really only heard 2 complaints about the 835 Ulti-Mag. The first one is that “ kicks like a mule...” and the second was "...the forend rattles...” I really wanted to investigate both of these complaints.

I fully understand that most readers already know how well the 835 patterns. It seems to be one of those things that most shooters, who quite often have very strong opinions and express them readily, agree upon. I did however want to try a wide variety of turkey choke designs and spent a good bit of time on that matter. After looking at the information, I have decided to publish that information as Part 2 of this “Product Test” article.

When I removed the fire control unit I noted that the trigger was set at the highest setting. The trigger was good, crisp with no creep but I wanted to set it at its lowest setting to make sure everything functioned well at that setting. When I set it at its lowest point, it was smooth, light and all that I'd want  it to be. I also realize that this is a brand new gun and I'll continue to check it periodically even after this evaluation is completed to see how the trigger wears in after being shot.

Most of you, based upon the number of inquiries I've received,  seem to be very interested in how effective the Matthews System works to reduce the recoil of the 835. Many shooters today are skeptical of claims made my manufacturers for their products. Turkey hunters seem especially skeptical at times and with good reason. We've heard many claims from makers of all kinds of products that they will help us to be better hunters. Many just don't work or don't work as advertised and with the network created by Internet forums, word quickly spreads.

Does this new system work or is it just hype created by a very inventive marketing agency? That was one question I wanted to answer both for myself and for you, my reader. If I had to pick one part of my evaluation that would be the most important, that would be it.

So, let's get right to it. Since I have no sophisticated method of checking foot pounds of recoil generated, I did what I considered to be really important and that was to compare the recoil of this new 835 to a much older model, to a Mossberg SSi-ONE single shot with the same bore and to a Mossberg 935 gas operated semi-automatic shotgun.

I understand the subjective nature of this evaluation but taking those guns to the range on several occasions, I believed that I could get a very good idea of what was really going on with this new gun. It  would also be what most of us would do with any gun, take it to the range or the woods and field, shoot it and see how it worked and how it felt.

For this part of evaluation I shot only 3” shells. I shot some 3.5” shells in my evaluations of various chokes but decided that a series of 3” shells would tell the tale on how much, if any, decrease in recoil I felt with the new 835.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also note that there were differences in the barrels on the guns I used for this project. All have the same .775 inside diameter bore diameter but the 935 has a non-ported 26” barrel, the SSi-ONE has a 24” ported barrel, the older 835 has a 28” non-ported barrel and the new 835 with the Matthews System has a 28” ported barrel.

While, like many of you, I've always liked the patterns thrown by my over bored Mossberg shotguns, taming the recoil has been an issue. I have many times fitted a Limbsaver recoil pad to each gun and for extensive bench work would put a slip on Limbsaver slip-on recoil pad over that. For this evaluation, I restored each gun to its factory original status.

We all know that full power turkey loads produce some serious recoil, so I won't try to kid anyone by saying shooting  one with any of these guns is like a gentle nudge on the shoulder.

The recoil from the SSi-ONE is unpleasant. It's a direct hit straight back into the shoulder. In the field shooting a turkey, it's no big deal but at the bench, it can hurt you.

The 935 is much more gentle because of the gas system that it uses but you still know you've shot a turkey shell. I get more cheek slap from this gun than the others and have tamed that with a neoprene sleeve over the comb.

The old 835 is a workhorse that has proven it can take a good bit of use and abuse over a decade or two but it does get your attention when you touch-off a turkey load. This one does rattle a bit but after all the abuse my body has been through shooting over the years, so do I.

Now to get to the new 835 with the Matthews System. It really does help! I will not tell you that it's like shooting a 20 gauge gun, because it's not but the recoil has been pretty dramatically reduced. It's not at all unpleasant and I did not dread putting another shell in the chamber to fire it. How much is recoil reduced? Mossberg makes a pretty modest statement that it's reduced by 20%. I would not challenge that statement at all. As a matter of fact based upon my experience with other products that claim to reduce recoil, I'd say it could easily be more than that.

The closest comparison that I can make is that the new 835 has about the same recoil as the 935 but without the cheek slap from that gun. The 835 has a very equal weight distribution seemingly caused by the added weight of the Matthews system in the stock. Anyone who has owned or shot an 835 over the years will notice a real reduction in recoil with one of these guns.

After firing box after box of 3”  shells through the gun, it's still very tight with no rattles, no signs of any wear and it shoots to point of aim, which allowed me to use the beads alone for my shooting.

The LPA adjustable trigger added to the pleasure of working with this gun.  It is truly fully adjustable and at its lightest setting rivals that of a fine trigger on a very good rifle.

My final evaluation of the Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag with the Matthews Harmonic Damper Recoil Reduction System is that it is a fine gun in all respects. It is tight, solid, well balanced, well excellent fit and finish and the Matthews System along with the much improved recoil pad does what is claimed and maybe then some.

In a subsequent article, I'll discuss my findings with a selection of the more popular turkey chokes for this gun as well as patterns from a variety of shotshells.

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