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Maverick 88 Defense Shotgun [Review]

The Maverick 88 is affordable but does it stack up to be an effective self-defense shotgun? Check out our full hands-on review.

You and I agree: the pump-action shotgun is probably the most widely recognized type of firearm there is.  Not just the look, but the sound of the slide being racked as well. No decent action movie is complete without it!

But what about at home? There is some significant debate as to what constitutes a good home defense gun.

Maverick 88
Maverick 88

Many argue pistol, other argue something like an AR-15 or AK-47.

To this day, however, if you walk into a gun store and say the words “home defense” the salesperson will shove a pump action shotgun into your hands before you can even finish the question.

So what can you get for around $200? The Maverick 88…but is it worth it?

Table of Contents

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Review at a Glance

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Reliable pump-action
  • Great for home defense

Cons

  • Made in Mexico
  • Not as nice furniture compared to Mossberg 500

The Bottom Line

Looking for a first pump-action that’s almost a Mossberg 500 but not quite…but is just around $200? The Maverick 88 is a great choice.

Background

Pump actions have a lot of advantages.

Anyone who’s seen any action movie probably knows how to use one. Here’s me with a Mossberg 590.

There isn’t much in the way of moving parts which makes it reliable…

…While the ammo isn’t the magic, bad guy disintegrating ammo that movies make it out to be, it still packs a heck of a punch.

12ga Shotgun Shells, Opened (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)
12ga Shotgun Shells, Opened (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)

Pump actions are also, typically, the cheapest style of shotgun you can get.  Semi-auto and over/under shotguns generally come in a couple hundred bucks higher than their pump-action cousins.

I remember going to a store and asking for an inexpensive shotgun to keep in a corner of my house.  The clerk handed me the Maverick 88 Home Defense.  The out-the-door price was $199, which was right in my budget at the time.

What a neat little gun this thing turned out to be.

Maverick 88 with FAB Defense Stock
Maverick 88 with FAB Defense Stock

Is the Maverick a Mossberg?

Back in 1919, a man by the name of Oscar Frederick Mossberg started a gun company with his sons with the creative name of “O.F. Mossberg and Sons”.

Anyway, Mossberg is currently the oldest family-owned firearms manufacturer in the country.

One of their most famous guns is the legendary Mossberg 500.  The 500 is quite possibly one of the most popular pump action 12 gauge shotguns out there.  At an average price of around $500 and with countless accessories and configurations, it’s a great gun.

Mossberg Retro Shotguns, 500 and 590
Mossberg Retro Shotguns, 500 and 590

But what if you don’t have $500?

What if you’ve only got $200 to spend and you still want a brand new, Mossberg 500?

The Maverick 88 is a Mossberg 500!

Mossberg 500 with Surefire
Mossberg 500 with Surefire

I’m not saying it’s some cheap knockoff made by some unknown company operating out of a storage unit in Bangladesh.  I’m saying this is a freaking Mossberg 500.  It is Mossberg parts, Mossberg design, assembled by Mossberg employees in a Mossberg factory.  The only way it could be more of a Mossberg is if they accidentally stamped the wrong name on the receiver.

So why is it only $200?

Maverick 88 with Pistol Grip
Maverick 88 with Pistol Grip

Well, for starters, the parts are manufactured in Mexico as opposed to Connecticut.  It also has zero options on it.

No nice front bead.  No nice wood stock.  No swivel sling mounts.  The furniture is bargain basement polymer.  The metal is just blued steel.

This shotgun is like the classic T-Bucket hot rod: just an engine, controls, wheels and a seat.  The absolute bare essentials that you need to drive.  However, like a T-Bucket, you don’t have to stop there.  More on that later once we get into the tests.

One of the best things about it? It’ll eat almost anything you feed it, even Exotic Ammo

By the Numbers

Ease of Breakdown: 2.5/5

I’ll answer this section with a little story.

Once upon a time, a Noob sat down with his Maverick 88 and said: “I’m gonna take this thing apart to see how it works!”  He then opened up the manual and started to read the steps necessary to disassemble the gun.  As he read on, his face changed from one of excitement to one of confusion.

Halfway through the steps, he wore a face of abject horror.  It’s not a simple process.  Granted, it’s nothing like trying to break down a Ruger Mark III pistol.  It’s not a Glock or AR-15 either.

As per my own guidelines, if you need to break out tools in order to take a gun apart it won’t do very well in this category.  For its nasty disassembly process, the Maverick 88 gets a 2.5 out of 5.

Maintenance: 5/5

Fortunately, because of the nature of how a pump-action works, you won’t have to break it down often.

There’s only one area that the gunk is going to get into and that’s the barrel itself.

Pass a bore snake through it a couple of times after you’re done shooting for the day and you’ll be fine.  Every now and then, you can pull it completely apart and give it a good cleaning.  There isn’t much to the gun, in the grand scheme of things.  Wipe and go is the way.  5 out of 5

Reliability: 5/5

It’s a freaking pump-action shotgun.  Pump-action shotguns are the revolvers of the shotgun world.  You pull the trigger, it fires.  Setting aside the chance of just a catastrophic failure, this gun is going to go bang. 5 out of 5

Safety: 3/5

There is a little button on the trigger guard that stops the gun from firing.  That’s it.  No internal safeties.  No grip safeties.  Just that little button standing between you and a hole in something.

Maverick 88 Safety
Maverick 88 Safety

Pretty much every pump-action shotgun in the world has that same thing.  The safety of this gun is almost entirely up to you.  Unlike some pistols, there is nothing on this gun that’s meant to save you from yourself.  3 out of 5

Poor Technique: 3/5

Rack it, point it, pull the trigger.  There’s not much to it.

The only thing to worry about is the dreaded “short shuck”.

If you don’t rack the gun completely, it won’t pick up the next round and your gun is going to go “click” when it should have gone “bang”.  If you get a pump action, and I mean any pump action, this is going to be an issue.

Also, keep in mind that you’re essentially putting a cannon up to your shoulder.  While it’s simple to learn good technique with a shotgun, poor technique can really punish you.  The results can be quite painful.  3 out of 5

Starter Kit: 4/5

It comes in a big cardboard box with some Styrofoam.  It does have a basic sling mount which you can attach yourself.  It also comes with your choice of stocks: shoulder stock or pistol grip.

In the grand scheme of things, it feels to me like you don’t get much with this gun.  Considering I take comparisons of other guns into account with my scores, my gut tells me a 4 out of 5.  What do you want for a $200 gun?

Accessories and Upgrades: 5/5

I may have mentioned in the opening text that this gun is a Mossberg 500.  That means that any accessory made for a Mossberg 500 will work on this gun…

Maverick 88 with FAB Defense Stock
Maverick 88 with FAB Defense Stock

Final Word: 4/5

Upgrades

Like we said above…the sky is the limit since all Mossberg 500 upgrades work for the Maverick 88.

And boy do we love upgrading our Mossberg 500s.

Mossberg 590 with custom forend
Mossberg 590

Check out our Best Mossberg 500 Upgrades article.

And since you saved so much on the actual shotgun…spend more on ammo for actual training. Check out our Best Shotgun Ammo.

Popular 12ga Shotgun Ammo
Popular 12ga Shotgun Ammo

Conclusion

The Maverick 88 is a solid tactical defense shotgun that shares a lot in common with the Mossburg 500. It’ll never fail you if you use it right. It will, however, kick you pretty hard if you don’t. But for an affordable home-defense shotgun it offers the best bang-for-the-buck.

When it comes to the best home defense firearm, the debate will never end.

If you’re wanting a shotgun for hunting or skeet shooting, I’d look elsewhere. If you’re wanting a shotgun specifically for home defense or range time fun, you can’t go wrong with this gun.

The nice thing is you can upgrade it over time to use for hunting or skeet shooting.  All in all, it’s a great gun for a great price.  The final verdict is 4 out of 5.  But if you’re thinking of the Mossberg 500, check out our Best Beginner Shotgun Guide.

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24 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    rameses

    I'm not understanding the ease of breakdown story/score. If this truly is just like the Mossberg 500, the 500 is incredibly easy to break down. All you need is a punch and takes less than a minute to fully disassemble and less than a minute to reassemble. Unless you are talking about a complete break down of the trigger control unit? Even then it's not difficult. There are some nuances with breaking down pump action shotguns that you don't have to deal with on an AR platform or handgun (it is a different mechanical operating system after all), but it's still pretty simple.

    May 11, 2022 9:44 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Gordon

    I have to disagree with your ratings on safety and poor technique. That “little button on the trigger guard” has been a highly effective means of preventing a firearm from going bang for as long as I have been using guns, going on 60 years now. Those other safeties you refer to are there to satisfy the limp noodle ban the gun idjits.

    And ‘poor technique’ is not the fault of the weapon and never has. Come on, even you know, and say, the 12 gauge bucks like a wild bronc. The user gets a sore shoulder with 2 shots for poor technique, that on him or her, not the firearm. But I guess, you rate the 44 magnum. 454 Casul, 500 Smith & Wesson, et al 2 of 5 for poor technique.

    May 10, 2022 7:10 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Glen M Wiederholt

      I was thinking the same thing. I own a Maverick in 20 gauge I bought for my son when he started dove hunting, so when you talk about the safety as a little button, I'm not sure what you mean. Yes, the 500 has a tang safety while the Maverick is a cross-bolt safety, but it's still a safety that needs to be used. My son can rattle off shots with the best of them with this little trusty gun, so if you can find one for $200 (I think I paid $208), buy it. You won't be disappointed.

      May 11, 2022 6:36 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Ron

        Thanks for mentioning it comes in 20 ga. I need something my wife can fire for home defense.

        May 11, 2022 11:56 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Scott Harris

      Man I couldnt agree with you more. Ive been hunting with the same Remington 870 with the safety on the trigger guard for 20 years, and its always been insanely safe. So many people have gotten too used to be hand held with semi automatic shotguns, so they fear the short stroke without realizing that training prevents it, and they think if they dont have some type of fancy safety the gun isnt safe. I grew up hunting with an old slamfire shotgun that had no safety, an Itheca if i remember correctly.

      May 11, 2022 6:50 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mr. Mark

      I'm with you, Gordon. All of my 870s have the same cross bolt safety on the trigger guard and have worked well for my 50 years of using them and none have ever failed me. It is one of the reasons I bought the Maverick instead of the 500...I am used to that safety in that location. As for short shucking, that is never the gun's fault. It is ALWAYS the shooter and any pump gun can be short shucked, so I guess every pump gun should be downgraded for "poor technique?" If a semi-auto pistol doesn't fully cycle due to a limp grip, Is that the guns fault, too?

      May 11, 2022 9:32 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    KOldman

    Most of the negatives apply to any pump shotgun at any price point. Mavericks are a no brainer for a starter collection.

    May 10, 2022 6:06 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Thinblueline68

    I bought an 88 last year and love it! Got it for $219 at my local outdoor sporting goods store on sale. After doing some research, that’s when I found many of the 500 parts with the exception of the trigger module is interchangeable. I also found if you replace the slide tube with a 500 style, you can get one of the many aftermarket fore ends. I bought the magpul short stock and rubberized fore end. Also added the center barrel guard, hi-viz front sight, pic rail/shot shell holder and sling swivels for a tactical sling. Bought the adapter to allow use of short shells so, loaded up with mix of 15 shells of slug and 00 shot to be in my eyes, an awesome home defense gun.

    May 10, 2022 4:02 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mike Murphree

    Old but good review. I agree that it is an affordable but high quality firearm well-suited for home defense. I have the 88 with a Tactaload Flash 5 stock that gives me 13 rounds with no external saddle in the way. 7+1 in the magazine and 5 more rounds inside the fitted stock. Confidence in the reliability of the Mossberg and plenty of rounds aboard for the grab and go emergency.

    May 10, 2022 3:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Evan

    Don't know about the "Maverick 88" - but I've had a 590 Mariner for the last three decades. Reliable. Well built. Handles every charge I put through it - any size - any load... it's a pump gun. Not finicky... but Solid.
    If the Mav 88 is anything like the 590 series... Mossberg is dependable and inexpensive (not cheap).

    May 10, 2022 3:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    ROBERTO

    Weird ive never seen a firearm manufactured in Mexico I know they are some but nothing like a review or in person pretty interesting.. aside from that im no fan of pump action im more of a semi user love reading this review tho.

    May 10, 2022 3:29 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Vulcan

      I've had one shoulder rotator cuff surgery fail and my right shoulder could use that same surgery now 5 years later. Good, strong, positive and controlled pumps takes fairly decent functional shoulders. This is why I too, am partial to the semi-auto 12 ga using the magazines of 5 or 10 rounds. Reloading is fast with the semi-auto where the pump guys will have zombies eating their heads by the time they reload 5.

      May 10, 2022 7:06 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John

    I would only add that I do not like the oem honeycomb fore end. It is rather short, with a long reach. I replaced that with one of the "sport" model fore ends from another Maverick 88. Fully extended, the sport fore end is easily at least 3/4 inch closer on the front end. I no longer own the oem honeycomb one, however I know for sure that the sport model is also significantly longer, so it is much closer to you along the whole slide.

    Just fyi

    May 31, 2020 7:09 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bill J.

    Unless you are Chris Browning, he sure directly copied several of your sentences for inclusion in his 2020 review of the Maverick 88.

    April 21, 2020 3:20 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      He and his website copy a lot of our content :(

      April 21, 2020 3:25 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Martin B

    The way to buy one of these, is to follow my example and buy the long barrel (28") version first, because it is much cheaper to buy the 18" barrel later.

    December 6, 2018 12:03 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Guncritic

    Thank you! I enjoyed your review, I learned a lot from reading this!

    November 15, 2018 9:31 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Steviebeef

    Cock point shoot. Over and over and over. Clean? Do the barrel, spray the chamber dust and clean--DONE. Fussy about rounds? NOPE. On point -- on target, loosens up nicely and now I have to pry it away from the wife. Jezzzzzzzeeeee

    February 14, 2018 6:46 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Vaffancula

    Read this review this week and bought a 88 on Black Friday, yesterday at Big 5 on sale. Waiting out the. CA ten day wait malarkey before I can take possession.
    Plan to put some ammo through it to become proficient for home and on the road in my RV for defense.

    November 25, 2017 3:11 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Sweet! Let us know how it's working for you.

      December 14, 2017 12:33 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Steviebeef

    It's a shotgun I can use, my wife or my kids--easy. And despite what you might think, its has a reasonable pattern should you need to hunt. But don't mind the snickers if you belong to a hunt club. Then again, this gun is anything but a "club" gun.

    September 1, 2017 9:03 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Steve

      I have 2 Mossbergs, it's true neither is a club gun.
      But in a pinch, they're a gun you CAN use as a club.

      October 26, 2017 7:36 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Tom

    Maverick 88 is NOT hard to break down and you don't need tools. If you can get your hands on anything like a nail or even a stick you can pop the pins out the reciever and that's all you need to do. The rest just pulls apart and is super easy to put back together after you've done it a time or 2. Also didn't understand the comment about "no nice front bead ". I have the 28 inch field barrel and an 18.5 inch barrel and both have a front bead just like any other shotgun. You also mention not using choke tubes...that may be true on the 18.5 inch barrel (also true on virtually every shotgun with an 18.5 inch barrel) but the field barrel uses the Accuchoke system just like the 500 and you can also buy a 20 inch barrel that is threaded for chokes. Also I don't see saftey as really being much of a criteria to judge on. It's no more or less safe than any other gun. It's as safe as the person using it. I will say they are very tough and reliable shotguns and probably the best deal for the money right now

    March 27, 2017 9:07 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    supdog

    First of all I enjoyed your review very much and got a lot of good information from it. Nicely done! I believe that personal preference will always drive this discussion of what is the best home defense weapon as you discussed in your article. I own the Mossberg Maverick 88 special purpose 20" barrel version and really like it. It was purchased for one of my home defense weapons as well as an array of pistols and other long guns. I also own a Remington 870 express and an H&R Pardner Pump and I love to shoot them all. They are all very good choices in my opinion and that is all this is my opinion. I think that everyone will have their own opinion of these choices as well, some good and some bad, and that is fine.

    December 28, 2014 9:20 pm
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