When steel shot was mandated I sold my Winchester Model 12 and Model 21 Duck Guns that were chambered for the 3-inch 12-gauge and bought one of the early Model 835 Mossbergs chambered for the new 3 1/2-inch shell. The reason for this change was so that I could thrown enough steel BBBs to kill geese, as the lighter-weight steel pellets in no. 2 size did not carry sufficient long-range energy to do the job.
I quickly found that this gun was terrible to shoot with these loads and even worse with lead turkey loads. As described in an earlier post, “A Man’s Gun for a Man’s Work,” I added lead shot and beeswax to the butt and put a piece of steel rebar in the magazine tube to give the gun sufficient weight to make it shootable.
Since then, Mossberg has vented the 835’s barrel to reduce recoil and also offered a pistol-grip stock. These changes help, but in my opinion more weight is still needed. It is one thing to fire maybe three shots a season at a turkey and shoot 10 or more rounds a day at ducks or geese.
I like the gun’s ability to digest any length of 12-gauge shell, and I have never had any troubles with it (or with Mossberg’s Model 500s). The only fault that I see with these guns has been more cosmetic that functional. The aluminum receiver is easy to scar up, and the finish is not as durable as on steel-framed guns; although this has improved in recent years.
I have used a variety of after-market turkey and waterfowl chokes. Some are heavy enough to add a little weight to the end of the barrel to help tame it, but the addition of more weight to the butt and magazine tube is the best practical way to reduce recoil. If the gun beats you up so badly that you start flinching, you will start missing turkeys or making poor shots.
Various spring-piston recoil-reducing mechanisms have been tried on light-weight guns, but with many designs it is arguable if the greater part of the recoil reduction was from the mechanical operation of the mechanism or from the added weight of the parts. More recently, compressible “polymer buffers” have been added to stocks. This makes for more complex, and more costly, stocks.
To my mind, the best solution was to make these guns weigh at least 9 1/2-pounds to start with, or if you already own a Mossberg 835, add some weight to it.
If you want a light-weight gun, go to the 20 gauge, put a scope on it and shoot the new HeviShot loads from 3-inch shells. These loads pattern very well in the 20-gauge Model 500 when used with appropriate chokes.