Maverick 88 Security 12-Gauge

Maverick 88 Security 12-Gauge

By: Dave Bahde

Mossberg’s workin’ man’s option

On Target’s Maverick 88 Security test gun wore a blue 20-inch Cylinder Bore barrel, chambered for either 2-3/4 or 3-inch shells and with a simple gold-bead front sight. The capacity of the flush-to-the-barrel magazine tube is seven shells plus one in the chamber.

While the “experts” and social media “influencers” continue the never-ending argument about the 12-gauge shotgun for home defense, consumers continue buying them in droves. The truth is, a simple 12-gauge pump shotgun remains one of the most popular first-time-buyer home defense weapons on the market today, and it remains so for a few reasons, the first being effectiveness. Decades of real-world use have proven how effective a 12-gauge shotgun is at any reasonable home or vehicle defense range. The second reason the scattergun is so prolific, and maybe the most critical, is cost. A simple and effective pump shotgun is one of the most cost-effective self-defense tools available to the consumer, probably anywhere in the world. For less than you pay for some handguards for your AR, you can get a 12 gauge that will get the job done right out of the box. The company leading this market for decades is Mossberg, and their high-quality Maverick 88 may be the best bang for the buck out there.

The most significant deviations from the Mossberg 500 platform, from which the Maverick 88 line is based, are a cross-bolt safety versus the 500’s receiver-mounted tang safety and a non-drilled and tapped receiver top — a fair tradeoff considering the gun’s $262 MSRP.

Mossberg Maverick 88

The beauty of a 12 gauge is that whatever is on the receiving end can’t tell whether it came from a $200 pump gun or a $3,000 tactical masterpiece. Buckshot patterns are about the same out of any defensive-style shotgun, making downrange performance levels and effectiveness equal across the board regardless of cost, features, fame, or popularity. Pump shotguns can run shells from short to long, brass to aluminum, and birdshot to 00 buckshot and slugs. They have ruled the farm and home for over 100 years, and as mentioned before — a point that’s impossible to ignore — the Maverick 88 Security line puts effective 12-gauge defense power within the reach of almost anyone.

The value-priced Maverick 88 is fitted with a utilitarian yet perfectly functional black-synthetic ribbed forend and 14.50-inch LOP buttstock wearing a thick, ventilated rubber recoil pad.

With a retail price of $262.00 and a street price of likely even less, the Maverick 88 Security is basic and simple but still highly effective. Critical features include dual extractors, steel-to-steel lockup, twin action bars, and an anti-jam elevator. Its safety is a standard cross-bolt style mounted just forward of the trigger guard, which is one of the significant departures from Mossberg’s 500/590 line that are fitted with a tang safety at the top rear of the receiver. Easy to access, the cross-bolt style is still one of my favorites. Multiple variations of the Security 88 are available; the one we tested here is fitted with a 20-inch barrel with a 3-inch chamber, Cylinder Bore choke, a simple bead, and a 7+1 capacity in its full-length magazine tube. A standard blued finish helps keep costs down. The trigger housing is polymer, but the action and trigger are both steel. The 14.5-inch length of pull of the utilitarian black-polymer stock will fit most, but the Maverick will accept most Mossberg 500 stocks, barrels, and choke tubes, allowing you to accessorize as needed. As of writing this, the Maverick 88 is available in fourteen different models, in both hunting and defense configurations, and in both 12 and 20-gauge chamberings — all of which represent the epitome of affordable effectiveness. Nothing fancy here, but everything you need.

Unlike many autos, the beauty of the pump-action is it will essentially feed any 12-gauge shell it’s chambered for without hiccup. Our Maverick 88 Security fed, fired, and extracted everything we shoved down the magazine tube.

Range Time

Having patterned 12 gauge shotguns by the dozen over the last four decades, there really is very little difference when using modern defensive ammunition — long gone are the days of being limited to “scattergun” patterns from high-recoiling buckshot. Each shotgun can be a tad different, but Federal Ammunition’s buckshot, using the FliteControl wad, generally provides a fist-sized pattern out to about 20 yards out of a Cylinder Bore barrel, and competitors using similar wad technology yield the same results. For self-defense using a pump gun, I prefer Federal’s 2-3/4” OO buck at running at 1145 f.p.s., and this Maverick produced consistent fist-sized patterns at 20 yards and tighter patterns at closer ranges. At typical “across the room” ranges it was basically a one to three-inch hole.   Rounds in the 1,100 to 1,150 f.p.s. range typically have less recoil and offer more control while still remaining devastating at practical ranges. The beauty of the pump-action is it will even run the 950 f.p.s. loads for those that may be recoil sensitive, whereas it might cause a hiccup in an autoloader. Brass shells also seem to work better in a pump, with hull design/material being much less critical. The Maverick 88 ran Federal’s Top Gun without issue, as well as several other assorted brands of “range” ammo from my catch-all bucket. So, in short, long as you “run it like you mean it,” this shotgun will kick everything out with authority and just keep running.

This fist-sized 00 buckshot pattern is indicative of what you can expect at 20 yards out of the Maverick’s 20-inch Cylinder Bore barrel.

Bottom Line

Over the years, I have used Mossberg pump shotguns for almost every purpose one could use a shotgun for, to include police work. They have always been simple, reliable, and extremely effective. Our first agency-wide issue shotgun was a Mossberg 590 A1, and they were used exclusively until we moved to rifles for all officers. This Maverick 88 is a prime example of a simple, effective, and priced-for-the-everyman defensive tool. After working several years in a retail gun store in what is a “less than affluent” neighborhood, I assure you not everyone can afford the most popular or best-equipped tool for this job. Yet, their need is not less and quite possibly significantly greater than most gun buyers. If you need something to defend your home, this Maverick 88 will handily do the trick, so make sure you give it a look! See the Maverick 88 line of shotguns at your nearest dealer, or for more information, contact O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.; Tel.: (203) 230-5300; Web:


Caliber/Gauge:         12-gauge

Action:                        Pump

Barrel:                        20 inches, Cylinder Bore choke

Weight:                      6.5 pounds

Sights:                       Bead front sight

Furniture:                  Black polymer

Finish:                        Blued

Capacity:                   7+1

Price:                        $262.00

With its $262 MSRP, the Maverick 88 will likely leave some money on the table for the best ammunition and smart upgrades. Here’s where we’d spend our money:

Federal Force X2 Buckshot: Released in 2021, the secret sauce in Federal’s Force X2 is its “splitting” buckshot. Upon impact, nine buckshot pellets separate and break up into 18 pellets, dumping more energy and doubling traditional wound channels to deliver the greatest terminal performance of any buckshot load currently available. For more info., contact Federal Premium; Tel.: (800) 379-1732; Web:

Mesa Tactical SureShell Aluminum Shell Carrier: Simple to install, Mesa Tactical’s SureShell Aluminum Carrier for the Maverick 88 and Mossberg 500/590 features lightweight yet rugged aluminum construction, a replaceable rubber elastomer for shell retention, either for or six-round capacities, and should be considered a must-have for any defensive shotgun. For more info., contact Mesa Tactical; Tel.: (775) 333-9800; Web:

Mesa Tactical LEO Gen II Telescoping Stock Kit: Mesa Tactical’s Telescoping Stock Kit allows attachment of an AR-style pistol grip for increased control and recoil mitigation, along with an AR-style six-position collapsible buttstock to fine-tune length-of-pull adjustments. They come complete (as shown) with the adapter, buffer tube, stock, and grip, or if you already have all the ancillary components, you can buy just the adapter. For more info., contact Mesa Tactical; Tel.: (775) 333-9800; Web: