August 2010

Economy Pump 12 Gauges: Maverick 88 Vs. H&R Pardner

These two popular shotguns won’t break the bank, and both covered the basics. Our team clearly preferred one over the other, but your preferences may be different.

The pump action is a very popular shotgun type, mainly for its ease of operation and its ruggedness. While a self-loader may be a bit faster in trained hands, the point is debatable. Expensive autoloaders are reliable, but in the end a dirty or well-used pump is always more reliable than a dirty autoloader. We recently tested two affordable pumps—the Mossberg Maverick is a cut-down version of the Mossberg 500, and the H&R Pardner is a basic copy of the Remington 870 design beneath the humpback receiver. Our raters are familiar with the Mossberg 500 shotgun and the Remington 870, but we had to cast aside any preconceived notions of the base platforms because the Maverick and Pardner we were testing were completely different from their stablemates. They were made to sell and to offer reasonable performance. The shotguns tested had similar features, and there was little to recommend one over the other as far as the specification sheet went—even the length of pull and drop are similar. But once the shooting began, we began to form opinions on each shotgun. We took turns quickly mounting each shotgun and firing. When firing a shotgun, your eye is the rear sight and handling is everything. A rough action or problems with the hardware detract from smoothness of motion and ergonomics.

We bought the guns at Academy Sports, a giant sporting chain that offers rifles, pistols, and shotguns as well as other sporting goods. We were surprised to see these two pump-action shotguns listed for less than $200 in an Academy Sports sales paper.

When we saw the sale sheet in the Sunday paper, the Maverick was listed at $170 and the Pardner at $180—not much difference. However, we waited two weeks to purchase the shotguns and found that the Maverick’s every day price is $170, while the Pardner was off sale and commanding $200—an 18% difference. The helpful clerk assured us that the Pardner would go back on sale within a few weeks, but we went ahead and purchased the Pardner at full price. Watch the sale sheets, but the Maverick, it seems, is always at the lower price, even when both are on sale.

Our team gathered and shot the guns using 2.75-inch Winchester Super Target loads (1-ounce charge of No. 8 shot, 2.75-dram equivalent, 1180 fps muzzle velocity) and also a new steel trap load, the Winchester Xpert Game/Target load WE12GT7, a 2.75-inch 12 gauge with 11/8 ounces of No. 7s, Max dram, developing 1280 fps, according to Winchester.

The trap load was heavier, but neither generated uncomfortable recoil. Both burned clean, with comparable performance in both shotguns. Here’s what our testers learned about the guns:

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