There is some significant debate as to what constitutes a good home defense gun.
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.
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.
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?
The Maverick 88 is a Mossberg 500!
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?
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.
Ease to Breakdown
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.
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
Since the 500 has been around since 1961, that means you have a wide range of options. You can swap the barrel and turn this thing into a great skeet gun. You could tacticool the heck out of it.
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 fore grip does require a bit of finesse to swap out). You can treat this gun like a kit car and customize it however you want. That’s a solid 5 out of 5 there.
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. Final verdict is 4 out of 5. But if you’re thinking of the Mossberg 500, check out our Best Beginner Shotgun Guide.
Posted @ 8/19/2013 9:09 AM by Horax
Solid performer without the bells am whistles!
Function over form, exactly what the home needs.
Methinks my next fiream will be a maverick 88.
Posted @ 12/28/2014 4:20 PM by 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.