Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ballseye's Gun Shots 24 - Mossberg 535 ATS

When it comes to guns, I like them to be well made, durable, accurate and fairly simple at least to operate. I also like decent bargains. I don' t own any really expensive firearms yet most of the ones I own meet the standards I just mentioned above. So when I see Mossberg shotguns in gun shops or at gun shows I give them a good long look. My son has been wanting a Mossberg for awhile now even though I keep recommending a Remington 870 to him. I think he likes the fact that the Mossbergs are usually a bit lower in price and some come with a lot of extra doo-dads. Now, my definition of doo-dads for this piece is that they are unwanted and unnecessary accessories or glitz like parts - but remember that is just my opinion. I can quite understand though why a younger, less experienced shooter, would be taken in by doo-dads. Add to that the fact that Mossberg, like many other gun makers, advertises their wares in catchy ways so as to make them more alluring to certain types of shooters and you can understand why a younger shooter might be drawn to them while having no experience with their products.

For example the gun I am about to review is called the Mossberg535 ATS. Well, the ATS stands for ALL TERRAIN SHOTGUN. isn't that catchy in this day and age of all terrain vehicles, all terrain running shoes, and of young men who like to think they can tackle all types of terrain. Another example of glitz, though somewhat less glitzy and more practical is that Mossberg offers many of their guns in multiple finishes. So they appeal to guys who like black guns, guys who like camo guns, guys who like SS guns and guns who like more conventional wood/steel guns. The glitz just does not do it for me but as I said finish differences can also be practical. As I said, I prefer guns that are well made, durable, accurate and fairly simple at least to operate. Still though, the youngster keeps looking at those Mossbergs every chance he gets so I figured I would do a write up on at least one of them.

The Mossberg 535 ATS is currently offered as a combination gun or as a single style gun. As a combo gun it comes as either a turkey/deer gun, field/deer gun, or a waterfowl/turkey gun. Otherwise you can get it in the Slugster Version or the Field Gun version. It is available in a few finishes to include: classic wood/blued steel, matted blue/black synthetic stock, or Mossy Oak Break Up camo pattern. The 535 has an impressive set of features for a fairly low cost shotgun. According to the Mossberg site, here are the features:

XX-Full turkey tube models
Fully-rifled deer barrel models

Interchangeable Accu-Choke™ tubes
Wood, synthetic and camo patterns available
Receivers drilled and tapped for scope bases
Thumb-operated safety atop the rear of the receiver
Comes in a variety of barrel lengths: 22", 24" and 28
Accepts 2 3/4", 3" and 3 1/2" shells (they specify factory loaded)
Windage and elevation adjustable fiber optic sights on certain models

There are more features listed at:

If you want more information about the 535 you can look to the specs provided by Mossberg. There are just too many different configurations for me to include all that info here, so I'll just give you a link to their specs page for this model:

I took a fair look at the specs page and what I saw was that the Mossberg 535 ATS is offered at a wide variety of MSRPs from $375 up to $552, with the average MSRP for them being about $439. I had to wonder though - why the big difference in price for different versions of the same model gun. The lowest price was offered for both the All Purpose Field version (wood and blue finish) and the 535 ATS Waterfowl (with matte blue and black synthetic stock). Higher prices were shown for those with Mossy Oak Break Up finish, for those with a thumbhole stock and so on. Still that did not explain the price jump from a gun at $375 to another at $552. I took a closer look.

There it was right in the name of the more expensive model - was it that glitz thing again! The most expensive version of the Mossberg 525 ATS is the Tactical Turkey Series. Get that - a tactical shotgun for shooting turkeys! I suppose you never know when a turkey is going to jump out from behind a tree wearing a black ninja outfit while pointing a black AR15 (or some other heinous assault rifle) at you as you stroll through the fall or springtime woods, thus the need for a tacticool tactical 'turkey' gun. A warning was being screamed in my head in a robotic voice of yesteryear: DANGER - DANGER - WIL ROBINSON - proceed with caution. Yep, I just get turned off by what I feel is nothing more than glitz and if a tactical turkey gun is not glitz then nothing is in my opinion.

Of course, you may be wondering just exactly what is it that makes a gun a tactical turkey gun. I was wondering just that myself and I had a look. It appears that the tactical version comes with some really tactical doo-dads! (Remember them - dod-dads. If not see above for my definition.) Those doo-dads consist of a telescoping buttstock, with integral or add on shell holder, what amounts to a hand sling/strap on the foregrip, and a pistol grip; all the things that I would certainly think were necessary to combat hunt tactical turkeys. Please pardon me while I get a good belly laugh, not so much at the expense of Mossberg but at the expense of some putz who would buy a turkey gun thinking he needed to be tactical while hunting turkeys. Folks, I can fully understand the want or even the need for a turkey gun to come in good camouflage but to have one that is a tactical version is a bit much for me. Sure you can hunt with whatever you want as long as it is legal as far as I am concerned, but then again this is my blog and I am telling you about what I think and I think that tactical for turkey is Glitz to the nth degree. I suppose though if you have the money it is yours to spend as you see fit. Anyway, I don't see how being tactical would effect the quality of the workmanship on these guns and they do come with a fairly impressive feature set for the price. Those features include that the receivers are drilled and tapped for scope mounts, they use interchangeable chokes, the deer models have rifled barrels, some have adjustable sights, and all utilize the famed Mossberg safety lever on the upper rear of the receiver.

Still though, features are not the bottom line, nor is glitz. The bottom line is performance, reliable performance at that. So how do the Mossbergs stand up in those regards. I have fired a few of them up at the NYPD Range at Rodman's Neck over the years, and maybe once or twice at the FLETC. I have also gotten to examine a couple belonging to friends of mine. So, all in all, while I have some experience, I do not have lots of firsthand experience with them. I liked the way they handled and felt. They also shot where I aimed. They seemed simple enough to take down for cleaning and minor repairs if needed. That is about it for my limited firsthand experience. Based on what I have heard from others who have shot Mossbergs over the long haul, I can say that they get a mixed review. Some people love them because of their low prices, others hate them because of what they said was their low quality, and again others praise them as always reliable and durable. As I said it is a mixed review. For the price they may be okay, but I might want to pay a bit of a higher price and get something I thought would be more reliable - but that is just me. Back to the reviews.

There was even a mixed review among the pros, at least in online reviews. For example, Guns&Ammo had this to say about the Mossberg 535 ATS Slugster version: "This dedicated, sabot-friendly slug gun is built to pump 'em out in the toughest conditions.". (1) The article in which that quote appeared went on to say that the test gun failed to extract four times during testing. So while it pumped em out, I guess it just could not get the empty cases out of the chamber with reliability. While I would like to think the author of that article was non-biased, objective and very smart regarding guns, and what with his use of words like 'affectation', I was somewhat taken aback at his praise for the 535 in spite of it failing to extract 4 times while he tested it. It could have been a broken extractor as he suggested, then again why did Mossberg ship a gun like that, and why did the tester not fault them for it - or at least try another gun from them to see if it too had the same problem?

On the other hand, Gun Tests Magazine did a review of the 535 ATS with thumbhole stock and compared it to the Remington 870 and the Benelli SuperNova. They did not rate it highly and while they thought it was a "...solid little unit fitted with several of the features that the innovative Mossberg line is known for." (2) they also said it "...wasn't in the same league..."as were either of the other two guns (3). When it came right down to their recommendation they picked the 870.

Maybe I should show that recommendation to the youngster before we next go to a gun show or gun shop. Heck, he is old enough to go on his own now, so maybe I had just best show it to him ASAP. (BBB - let me know if you read this.) As for me, I do not think the Mossbergs are bad guns, I just think that there are better values out there especially with reliability and function in mind. If you cannot affored a higher priced gun they are possibly a good choise. Then again, there is my doo-dad/glitz factor to consider and when I see things like a tactical turkey version, I can say without a doubt, it seems to me to be a bit of an affectation indeed!

All the best,
Glenn B