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Maverick 88 Defense Shotgun [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.

While I have my own opinion, I also can’t disagree with the choice.  It’s almost a movie/TV cliche at this point.

The Maverick 88

Pump actions have a lot of advantages.

Anyone who’s seen any action movie probably knows how to use one.

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
Maverick 88

A little history on Maverick.

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.

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?

Good news!

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

Now for 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.

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.

While I have yet to try shooting with the pistol grip, I have to say I like the way the gun looks with it on.  I don’t know why.  It’s a guy thing, maybe.  Other than that, there’s no tools, cases, or anything else.  You get a gun and your choice of stocks.  Have a nice day.

Here’s the thing, however, and I’ve been stewing over this for a while now.  In looking at what you get with other shotguns, even the expensive ones don’t give you much more.  You might get some shims for the stock or choke tubes… of which this gun doesn’t use.

Other than that, it’s only when you get to the absurdly expensive shotguns that you start to get some nice accessories (carrying cases, extra barrels in various calibers, etc).  So, while compared to others, you’re actually getting a nice setup with the multiple stocks and such.

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…

…You can swap the barrel and turn this thing into a great skeet gun.  You could tacticool the heck out of it.

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

You could turn it into the ultimate zombie gun.  The only thing that isn’t compatible with the 500 is is the trigger group.  Everything else is fair game (although the foregrip does require a bit of finesse to swap out).  You can treat this gun like a kit car and customize it however you want.  If you plan on using it for home defense, one of the best upgrades you can make is changing out the bead sight for something better, Find the best Shotgun Sight for You.  That’s a solid 5 out of 5 there.

Final Word 4/5


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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12 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    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

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

    November 15, 2018 9:31 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    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

    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

    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

      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

    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

    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