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Bring the Noise: Mossberg Maverick 88 Security 12-Gauge Pump-Action Shotgun

Every person who intends to guard home and hearth and kith and kin ought to have a minimum of three guns — a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun — for defensive purposes.

The 12-gauge pump shotgun in particular is incredibly versatile and has a fearsome reputation amongst bad guys. Even though the AR-15 has stolen some of its thunder, the pump shotgun is still more than capable of “bringing the noise” when called upon. But with the wide variety of pump-action 12-gauge shotguns on the market, which one would be a good choice for someone on a tight budget who wants the best gun for his or her money?

The Mossberg Maverick 88 Security 12-Gauge Pump-Action Shotgun is an affordable example of a basic tactical pump-action shotgun — and it’s made in the USA to boot!

Fed from a standard under-barrel tubular magazine, the Maverick 88 evens the odds in a fight with a total capacity of six rounds. The 18.5-inch smoothbore barrel is cylinder-bored, so it will handle all 2.75-inch and 3-inch 12-gauge rounds with aplomb.

The Maverick 88 is finished in a deep blue. There is no rib or railing to clutter or complicate things. The stocks are black synthetic fixed, although desert tan stocks are available. The forend “pump” is ribbed for solid gripping in the traditional fighting shotgun style, and the sights consist of a simple brass bead up front. (If you younger readers are unfamiliar with brass-bead sighting systems, they are the simplest and quickest shotgun sights to use. They also don’t catch on anything.)

When you shoulder the gun and look across the top of the receiver, you should see that bright brass bead laying on the top of the receiver. That’s all there is to it. The brass bead is visible in a wide range of lighting conditions, including low light.

Here’s a tip about using a shotgun against a dangerous human target: Aim right in the middle of the person. I describe this as a “belt buckle” point of aim. I have trained a lot of police officers and police cadets over the years in the proper use and application of shotguns. Most users, unless they are very well-trained, end up letting a shotgun’s recoil carry the round over (or high into the shoulder of) a silhouette target. Had they simply aimed at the belt buckle, any rise of the shotgun’s barrel because of recoil would have resulted in a hit in the center of the chest. If the shot remains under control and lands in the area of the belt buckle, it’s an effective hit.

In the stress of a critical situation, you will likely see the threat as a big indistinct “blob” shape in front of you. All you can hope to do in a rapidly evolving situation is to get a hit somewhere in the center of that blob. There are plenty of vital areas in the human body to be damaged there, especially with a direct hit from a 12-gauge shotgun with eight to nine pellets of 00 buckshot. Before I retired from the Union County Ohio Sheriff’s Office, one of our units had an encounter with a potentially armed suspect. He ended up firing one round of Remington Reduced Recoil 8 Pellet 00 Buckshot into the suspect’s lower abdomen as the suspect advanced on him. That round instantly stopped the suspect; all eight pellets penetrated him and ended up embedding into the dirt hillside behind him. Amazingly, the suspect survived.

The Maverick, while still ultimately a product of Mossberg, does not use the well-known Mossberg ambidextrous safety. Instead, a crossbolt safety is located at the front of the trigger guard. The slide release button is located at the rear of the trigger guard.

The Maverick 88’s weight is 7 pounds, which is good for a pump shotgun since the manual operation of the action does nothing to mitigate recoil. Less weight equals less fun while shooting. At this weight, the Maverick 88 shoulders and points naturally and swings onto the target easily.

I went to a friend’s backyard range to test the Maverick 88 with my “gun test” buddy. I put the Maverick 88 together for the first time right out of the box — without additional lubrication. After fitting the barrel to the receiver and sliding the barrel “ring” over the magazine tube, I tightened the magazine tube nut and we were ready to shoot.

While the Maverick can shoot 3-inch shells, I felt no reason to fire any. 2.75-inch 12-gauge shells are all you need against human targets, and I really don’t like heavy recoil much anymore. Don’t beat yourself up unnecessarily by using 3-inch Magnum loads.

The first load we tried was Remington’s HD Ultimate Home Defense BB shot load, which is one of several Remington home-defense loads no longer in production.

We set up a standard silhouette target at 25 feet. The BB shot payload, which weighs 1.75 ounces,  traveled at 1250 feet per second. I had forgotten that the Remington HD load kicked pretty solidly, but my memory was refreshed as soon as I pulled the trigger. When I fired the first shot, I thought, “What the heck?” I fired the remaining three rounds and decided to switch to lighter-recoiling loads.

I fortunately had two of my favorite shotgun loads along: the aforementioned Remington 8 Pellet Reduced (Managed) Recoil 00 Buckshot load (the tightest-patterning 12-gauge buckshot round I have ever fired) and Remington’s Managed Recoil 1-Ounce Rifled Slugs. Both loads have a velocity of 1200 feet per second, with recoil like a standard trap and skeet target load.

I fired four of the 8 Pellet Managed Recoil Buckshot rounds in succession, and the difference in recoil was readily apparent. All pellets landed dead-center in the silhouette target. It was time for my shooting buddy to take a turn.

My partner has become quite a shooting enthusiast but still lacks experience, so he is not likely to have any preconceived notions. He had not fired a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun before, so I started him out with four of the Remington 8 Pellet loads. After firing them, he had a huge smile on his face. All his pellets also hit in the target’s center.

I loaded up a single Home Defense load, followed by three rounds of the Managed Recoil Rifled Slugs. I wanted to see if he noticed the difference between the loads like I had. He fired the Remington Home Defense load and said, “Ow.” He fired the three remaining Reduced Recoil Rifled Slug rounds and noted they were pleasant to shoot by comparison.

The Maverick 88 cycled smoothly with the three different loads and ran with total reliability, which is what I’ve come to expect from a Mossberg-related product.

Here is the best part of the story: The MSRP of the Maverick 88 is currently $231. I’ve even seen it with a 28-inch field barrel (as a combo package) in stores for $219. With a Maverick 88, you can “bring the noise” and defend yourself at bargain pricing.

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