Sarges Roll Call

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Friday, March 25, 2011

The 'Short-Block' Maverick 88

At Sarge's Roll Call and The Sixgun Journal, we have always been about 'working guns'. We're also very much about getting the most gun for your money. Most of my Gun and Pawn Shop cruising is done with those concepts in mind. It was just such a foray that produced an excellent working shotgun.

One of my favorite haunts is Muttly's Gun & Pawn of Knob Noster, MO. The manager, Joe Slater, is a first class guy and a number of the guns featured on this site were bought or traded from him. So while picking up my Charter Arms Undercover, I asked Joe to keep his eye peeled for a used 12 gauge Mossberg 500. Joe mentioned that he had the back half of a Maverick 88, which came in without a barrel. He got into it right and shortly thereafter, so did I.

For those unfamiliar with the Maverick 88, it is a product of Mossberg Arms. The Maverick is essentially a Mossberg 500A with a few cost-saving measures implemented to keep the price down. The essential difference between them is that the Maverick features a crossbolt safety mounted ahead of the trigger, whereas the 500's safety sits atop the receiver for easy access by left-handed shooters. An excellent, photo-rich review of the 8-shot Maverick can also be found here.

So what to do with my back-half of a shotgun? Well first, I inspected its action components. It was not only sound- it had hardly been fired at all. I'm guessing the original owner moved at some point and the OEM barrel got lost, but whatever they case I needed another one. I originally intended to slap an 18 ½“ barrel on it, but after pricing around I discovered I could buy a 20” bead sighted barrel and 7-shot mag tube direct from Mossberg, for very little more money. The deal was done and while waiting for delivery, I gave the OEM tube a few shots of PB Blaster. I'd read Internet tales of woe from several others who swapped out mag tubes, finding the OEM component quite difficult to remove. 

When the barrel & mag tube arrived three weeks later, changing out mags tubes was accomplished without grief. The 7-shot tube came with the proper spring and the OEM shell follower was simply re-used for the conversion. I was relieved to discover that follower was made of metal instead of plastic.

The finished product appears below; it is essentially an 8-shot Maverick with the 'field' style forearm.

The first outing proved the gun reliable, feeding and ejecting field loads as fast as they could be cycled, from the hip.  Deliberate shooting produced some really good results with 2 ¾” Super-X slugs and 00 Buck; so good, in fact, I thought they were a fluke. Today, it proved otherwise, keeping all nine pellets of 00 in the chest of a B27 at a measured 25 yards- and all but two of those in the 7 ring. I can't tell you how many police shotguns I've fired over the years and most of them won't do this. My 870 Special Purpose, with the improved cylinder tube installed, still wouldn't pattern 00 buck this well. I was also elated to discover that the bead-sighted barrel was regulated perfectly for Super-X slugs.

And just to make sure THAT wasn't a fluke, I fired another Super-X slug from 50 yards. That shot is highlighted in red.

These are splendid results from a 'price point' shotgun.

Comparisons are inevitable and fortunately, I've had a number of Mossberg 500's and 590's through my hands.

My first thought is that Mossberg's barrels are getting better. I bought a half-dozen 590-A1's for a little Sheriff's Dept., 20 years ago, and spent an afternoon zeroing them at 50 yards with 2 3/4" Super X slugs. None of them shot a bit better than this shotgun- and none of them would pattern as well with buckshot.

Second, the actions on Mossberg's pumps have gotten better. This 88 don't rattle much and I'm convinced it has a shorter stroke--and cycles faster--than the 870's I've become so accustomed to.

At six pounds, the 88 is light for an 8-shot 12 Gauge shotgun. This is a two edged sword. It makes the Maverick handle much better than a $225.00 shotgun should. When fired with high-brass shells, you can certainly tell when it goes off.

Finally- Mossberg is flat stocking them better these days. Those damn 590's all had a sharp mould line down the top of the stock and in 15 minutes I looked like I'd been boxing with Sugar Ray Leonard. The synthetic stock on this Maverick 88 is smooth and when mounted, the bead appears precisely centered on the sighting plane for an instant hit on anything unfortunate enough to be behind it. The forend falls under the leading hand and feels good to it. These are superbly thought-out, practical shotguns.

There are a couple of things about the 88 that run contrary to my tastes. While they've become common, I do not like plastic trigger housings. I had durability concerns about these, somewhat allayed by the fact that problems with them seem to be few. The recoil pad could be better, but this is an easy fix. The safety on the Maverick is small, slick and just might be easy to miss under stress. I expect that sooner or later, an enterprising individual will offer a 'big button' replacement. There are lots of these guns in circulation and a market almost certainly exists.

The Maverick is a well-engineered shotgun from a major manufacturer, at a price that's hard to beat.

Monday, March 14, 2011

'Old Pickup Trucks': The 1986 Dodge W250  4x4

I like old trucks and especially those that haven’t been neutered with EPA garbage. They are gutsy old workhorses from a time when pulling power and payload were the prime desideratum. You can still find them in usable condition; this old 86 W250 (¾ ton) has a carbureted 318, 4 speed and NP-205 transfer case. Front diff is a Dana 44 and the rear is a 60. Anyhow, here’s ‘Old Blackie’. I stand just short of six feet and my nose just misses the top of the side mirror. The 35” BFG A/T’s & 4” body lift stand it up pretty good.

The old 318 is real healthy and thankfully, doesn’t use oil. Lawdy... the abuse we heaped upon 318s as teenagers was awful and the victims were usually old 59-65 Mopar's, often with push-button trannies. We'd goose them backwards for 50 feet, then punch the L button and just stand on it. Chrysler built some bomb-proof stuff over the years and the 318 is a prime example. This one has an Edelbrock four-barrel, hi-rise intake & chrome valve covers…

Someone added in buckets, tach & dig that hot-rod steering wheel!

And finally… ‘surfer sitckers’… we’re only about 600 miles from the nearest saltwater!

Kids have had ahold of it and needless to say, I’ve found a few things I’ll be fixing- but it’s also nice to see of kids taking interest in old iron. Blackie is a tough old truck  that spews enough carbon to make Al Gore cry, each time the secondaries on that Edelbrock s kick open.

An early February blizzard provided some snow-wheelin’, and Blackie ain't a-skeered of no snow. We still had over a foot on the ground at the time of this photo, and with the few days we had above freezing, it was hard on top and powdery underneath. Now I had a perfectly valid reason to venture off down below the range... the burn barrel needed dumped.

I knew it was would get interesting when I had to lean on the throttle a little going downhill--and it got real interesting coming back up--but in second gear at about 3200 rpm all four of those 35's were throwing snow and we came right back out. This is the fourth set of Goodrich A/T's I've had and I remain seriously impressed... I've used several other brands with supposedly more aggressive tread and I don't think they would have chewed uphill through this mess.

Improvements to the old truck are underway. Wiper arms/bushings have been rebuilt/replaced and I'm almost done sorting out the wiring abortions committed over the years. A general ignition tune-up and fine tuning of the Edelbrock are also in the works.

To eliminate steering slop, I installed a Borgeson Steering shaft (Part# 000940), new ragjoint and adjusted the steering box slack, all of which helped immensely. Dodge's pre-94 OEM steering shaft 'universal' was a design screw-up and only good for about 4000 miles when brand-spanking new. The other justification for the Borgeson was this- you never know what you're going to find, when a bunch of kids decide to do a body-lift.

The Borgeson shaft as 4" of flex to accommodate  those body lifts, and is exactly what Dodge should have used in the first place. 

I've gotten Ol' Blackie off in the boonies a few times and it's proving to be a tank. Washed out creek crossings were easily handled. The trick is make sure you get up on what's left of the slab, after chugging across the gravel bar.. 

Mileage is holding around 17-18 mpg so long as you stay out of the 4 barrel and hold highway driving to about 2000 rpm.  In this the big tires are a help. Next up are creature-comfort improvements to the cockpit, which is also short of suitable places to stow firearms... all in good time. I'm having a ball with this old beater and liking it better all the time.