At The Sixgun Journal, we have always been about ‘working guns’. We’re also very much about getting the most gun for the least money. Most of my Gun and Pawn Shop cruising is done with those concepts in mind. It was just such a foray that produced an excellent working shotgun.
While haunting yet another pawn shop, I asked the manager to keep his eye peeled for a used 12 Gauge Mossberg 500. He mentioned that he had the back half of a Maverick 88, which came in without a barrel. He got into it right but hadn’t put it out yet, figuring nobody would want to bother with finding a barrel. I was willing to bother.
For those unfamiliar with the Maverick, it is essentially a Mossberg 500A with a few cost-saving measures implemented to keep the price down. The primary difference between them is that the Maverick features a crossbolt safety mounted ahead of the trigger, whereas the 500’s safety sits atop the receiver for easy access by left-handed shooters. The Maverick also has a pinned-on forend, which prevents it from being easily accessorized like the Model 500.
So what to do with my half of a shotgun? Well first, I inspected it action components. It was not only sound- it had hardly been fired at all. I’m guessing the original owner moved at some point and the OEM barrel got lost, but whatever they case I needed another one. I originally intended to slap an 18 ½“ barrel on it, but after pricing around I discovered I could buy a 20” bead sighted barrel and 7-shot mag tube direct from Mossberg, for very little more money. The deal was done and while waiting for delivery, I gave the OEM tube a few shots of PB Blaster. I’d read Internet tales of woe from several others who swapped out mag tubes, finding the Mossberg/Maverick OEM component quite difficult to remove. When the barrel & mag tube arrived three weeks later, changing out mags tubes was accomplished without grief. The 7-shot tube came with the proper spring and the OEM shell follower was simply re-used for the conversion. I was relieved to discover that follower was made of metal instead of plastic.
The first outing proved the gun reliable, feeding and ejecting fiedl loads as fast as it could be cycled from the hip. produced some really good results with 2 ¾” Super-X slugs and 00 Buck; so good, in fact, I thought they were a fluke. Today, it proved otherwise, keeping all nine pellets of 00 in the chest of a B27 at a measured 25 yards- and all but two of those in the 7 ring. I can’t tell you how many police shotguns I’ve fired over the years and most of them won’t do this. My 870 Special Purpose, with the improved cylinder tube installed, still wouldn’t pattern 00 buck this well. I was also elated to discover that the bead-sighted barrel was regulated perfectly for Super-X slugs.
And just to make sure THAT wasn’t a fluke, I fired another Super-X slug from 50 yards. That shot is highlighted in red.
These are splendid results from a ‘price point’ shotgun.
Comparisons are inevitable and fortunately, I’ve had a number of Mossberg 500’s and 590’s through my hands.
My first thought is that Mossberg’s barrels are getting better and better. I bought a half-dozen 590-A1’s for a little Sheriff’s Dept., 20 years ago, and spent an afternoon zeroing them at 50 yards with 2 3/4″ Super X slugs. None of them shot a bit better than this shotgun- and none of them would pattern as well with buckshot.
Second, the actions on Mossberg’s pumps have gotten better. This 88 don’t rattle much and I’m convinced it has a shorter stroke–cycles faster–than the 870’s I’ve become so accustomed to.
At six pounds, the 88 is light for an 8-shot 12 Gauge shotgun. This is a two edged sword. It makes the Maverick handle much better than a $225.00 shotgun should. When fired with high-brass shells, you can certainly tell when it goes off.
Finally- Mossberg is flat stocking them better these days. Those damn 590’s all had a sharp mould line down the top of the stock and in 15 minutes I looked like I’d been boxing with Sugar Ray Leonard. The synthetic stock on this Maverick 88 is smooth and when mounted, the bead appears precisely centered on the sighting plane for an instant hit on anything unfortunate enough to be behind it. The forend falls under the leading hand and feels good to it. These are well thought-out, practical shotguns.
There are a couple of things about the 88 that run contrary to my tastes. While they’ve become common, I do not like plastic trigger housings. I had durability concerns about these, somewhat allayed by the fact that problems with them seem to be few. The recoil pad could be better, but this is an easy fix. The safety on the Maverick is small, slick and just might be easy to miss under stress. But overall, the Maverick is a well-engineered shotgun from a major manufacturer, at a price that’s hard to beat.