Workhorse To Thoroughbred: Aftermarket Wonders On Mossberg’s 590A1 Shotgun And The Taurus 44 Tracker
By Payton Miller, GUNS Magazine
Getting a workhorse firearm slicked up is something a lot of shooters like to think about, but the majority of us either learn to live with it as-is “out of the box” or tweak things incrementally, usually over the passage of years. So it’s a good thing—particularly for us technically-challenged types—there are companies specializing not only in aftermarket enhancement gear, but total butt-to-muzzle renovations.
Our pair of cover guns this month shows what AIMPRO Tactical is capable of providing (in a complete package) in regard to a pair of very different platforms—an iconic pump shotgun and a big-bore double-action revolver. AIMPRO will either stage their Performance Packages on the base gun available or they will provide it.
Let’s take them one at a time:
Shotguns—because of their ability to digest and deliver a huge assortment of ammunition and projectile types—may classify as general-purpose “power tools.” But a single-purpose specimen takes a backseat to few other types of firearms in the specialization sweepstakes.
Thanks to a relentless aftermarket industry, shooters have long been tricking out tactical shotguns for competition, defense or to simply satisfy their own “wouldn’t it be cool if…” customizing whims. And in the words of Johnny Cash, it’s often “a one-piece-at-a-time” enterprise.
There are plenty of major gun companies vastly experienced in tweaking out dedicated slug guns, turkey guns, duck guns and clay-target guns. But AIMPRO specializes in serious upgrades to Mossberg’s menu of workhorse tactical platforms. What they’ve done with the humble M590A1 pump is pretty cool. It now features all the bells and whistles any devotee of the “social shotgun” could ask for—and then some. From the Hogue synthetic stock and the proprietary ghost-ring aperture sight to the slicked up action, magazine extension and Mag-na-ported barrel, right on up to the railed barrel clamp and ominous-looking Dragon breaching muzzle attachment, this “custom-shopped” pump is all business.
The fiber-optic front looms over the ominous-looking Dragon breaching
attachment and magazine tube extension (top). The AIMPRO Mossberg
features a fully adjustable ghost-ring rear sight (bottom).
The Hogue stock/recoil pad, in conjunction with the Mag-na-Ported barrel,
took a lot of the shoulder sting off those slug and buckshot loads.
The heat shield—a tactical touch—is there to spare your
tender hands during extended shooting sessions.
Slugs, Buck, Birdshot
I grouped an assortment of slug loads—1-ounce Federal Tru-Ball, Winchester Power Point and Dupleks steel Monolit28—at 50 yards, after initially trying them at 25 and getting disconcerting “two-fers” with each shot, thanks to the plastic wads. The ghost ring sights with their high-visibility green and red fiber optic setup proved very effective—my three selected slug loads printed 3-shot groups ranging from 2.5 to 4 inches—quite respectable from a smoothbore barrel.
All loads were, mercifully, 2.75-inch. (If, overnight, every 2.75-inch slug or buck load on the face of the earth were to disappear, I’d probably take advantage of the gun’s 3-inch capability. But not until then).
Evidently the AIMPRO crew did a bit of work on the trigger, as the one on my gun broke at a very clean (read: un-shotgun-like) 5 pounds. Maybe not a big deal on a bird gun, but very much appreciated when trying to group slugs with nice sights.
Moving the target frame up to a buckshot-friendly 15 yards, I tried some Hornady Critical Defense 00 buck as well as Winchester’s PDX-1 buck-and-ball load, consisting of a 1-ounce hollowpoint slug and three 00 buck pellets. Results with both were impressive. The Hornady buck dumped its entire 8-pellet payload—right along with the Versatite wad—into a fairly evenly dispersed 7-inch pattern dead center in a giant-size Shoot-N-C target. The Winchester PDX-1 spread its trio of 00 pellets a bit more erratically, but delivered its slugs with near 1-hole accuracy.
It should be noted I was using the cylinder-bore Dragon Breacher attachment for everything. To paraphrase the TV ads, as far as optimum buckshot patterning in any particular gun goes, results may vary. There really is no hard-and-fast pellet-size/choke formula. It’s still necessary to man up and hit the bench was a fistful of choke tubes and a shoulder-rattling assortment of different buckshot loads to find out what works best.
I even tried a bit of clay-bird busting using Fiocchi No. 8 target loads. Although a “tactical” item like this isn’t usually considered the ideal tool for a round of skeet, I’ve done a bit of it with defensive shotguns (simply because I’m more of a low-gun snap or “spot” shooter than a conventional sustained-lead type). And there’s nothing like regular sessions with target loads with which to familiarize yourself with a shotgun—any type of shotgun.
Although open rifle-type sights are easier to work with, the aperture of the AIMPRO ghost-ring is generous enough to allow you to pick up the bird without feeling as if you’re peering through a keyhole. Malina Shirley of Angeles Shooting Ranges tried her hand with the gun and managed to go 8 for 10.
Shooting 2.75-inch max-dram slug and buckshot loads from the bench is not my favorite pastime (particularly from a pump), but the Mag-na-Ported barrel and Hogue stock/recoil pad made it pretty tolerable. Heck, the recoil characteristics are good enough on this one to even make me appreciate them when crushing clay targets with relatively docile target loads.
The heat shield seems more suitable for law enforcement or 3-gun competitors than a civilian homeowner. I really couldn’t envision shooting enough slug or buckshot loads in defense to heat things up enough to cause a problem, but you could during practice. The door-removal application of the “breacher feature” seems rather radical—unless an attacker gets too close in a home-defense situation. If you can’t get off a shot, it can be used to help prevent a takeaway.
The magazine tube extension gives you a total of 7+1 rounds on tap and the barrel clamp sports a pair of rail segments should you wish to add lights up front. This is a pretty impressive “hard-duty” pump shotgun. It’s sleek, slicked up, and bombproof enough to rate as a first-choice “Doomsday Gun.” But you can have fun with it too.
Taurus 44 Tracker
Taurus may have had the initial vision of coming up with a 5-shot .44 Magnum double-action revolver in something less than a large frame, but AIMPRO certainly tricked out the original template—specifically the Taurus Model .44 Tracker 4-inch. Frame-wise it’s comparable to a 4-inch S&W L-frame Model 686 in terms of overall length, and a couple of ounces less in weight—a .44 bore size means a bit less metal than there would be in a .357.
It is not a “hard use” .44 Magnum platform nor was really envisioned as such. The magnum capability is there for emergencies (just as there are lots of pocket snubbies capable of handling .357 Magnums). But a .44, in any guise, rates as a “big bore.”
AIMPRO’s intent was to add distinctive looking custom touches to the Tracker, not only for aesthetics, but to make it more “shootable.”
And it’s eminently shootable. The double-action trigger pull is indecently smooth, the jeweled hammer and trigger provide eye-catching counterpoints to the gray/black “tiger-stripey” X-Coat camo. The single-action trigger pull on my test sample was a whispery 3 pounds, while the double-action pull was very slick and short—barely 10 pounds.
The techs at AIMPRO have given the Tracker a “melt,” meaning they’ve smoothed out and de-emphasized edges and angles wherever possible, which rates as a good thing on any handgun, but is especially welcome on a large-caliber revolver. Particularly one intended for carry as opposed to, say, left on a nightstand.
The Hogue grips, to be honest, seemed a bit more efficient at reducing felt recoil than the original Taurus Ribbers. This being said, the AIMPRO-modified Tracker is considerably lighter in weight than the larger Raging Bull platform.
Here is Taurus’ main secret to offering a more packable .44—a 5-shot cylinder.
The under-lug rail on the AIMPRO-modified Taurus accepts lights or lasers.
As a cosmetic touch, the trigger and hammer are polished and jeweled. The fully
adjustable rear sight is easy to acquire and works well in conjunction with
the green fiber-optic front blade.
The Hogue grips were extremely comfortable and absorbed recoil well.
They are a definite improvement over the stock Ribber grips.
If you’ve been paying attention the past couple of years, there have been some very interesting attempts by several ammo companies to make the .44 Special a bit more “special.” One is Hornady’s 165-grain FTX loading, which, in the 4-inch barrel of the AIMPRO Taurus, clocked at 969 fps and delivered 1.5-inch 5-shot groups from a sandbagged rest at 25 yards. As you might imagine, this is an exceptionally controllable load in rapid double-action fire.
The other Special loads I used were from Buffalo Bore and show what this Montana-based outfit is capable of—namely producing “off the beaten path” ammo offerings for discerning hard-core types. The most interesting to me was one of their “Anti-Personnel” loads—a 200-grain hardcast wadcutter. Then there was a 200-grain Barnes TAC-XP “lead free” offering and a “heavy” 190-grain softcast hollowpoint.
At 25 yards, groups ranged from 1.5 to 3 inches. All were exceptionally manageable, considerably more so than any of the .44 Magnum loadings I shot for comparison (which included Winchester’s 210-grain Silvertip loading as well as Buffalo Bore’s 180-grain “anti-personnel” offering.)
As I tried the magnums, I recalled the admonition of AIMPRO’s Mike Strain, “We really offer this gun as a dedicated platform for .44 Specials.”
During first couple of rounds I experienced cylinder binding and several instances of light strikes, which were generally solved by a second try. Then I began to have trouble getting the cylinder to index or even open. I shipped the gun back to AIMPRO and found out why—a missing firing pin return spring had left the pin remaining forward in the fired primer, not surprisingly tying things up.
The problem fixed, I again took the gun back to the range. The indexing problem was solved, however, I did still have a couple of light strikes—in double action only—with the Buffalo Bore .44 Special stuff I had left over from my initial session.
I had a ball shooting gongs out to 70 yards or so, and my aging eyes really appreciated the hi-visibility, fiber-optic sight arrangement. Although I really do prefer a flattop post front, this setup is very easy to acquire, although figuring out holdover at long yardage—and shooting photogenic groups at any distance—is easier with a flattop.
My main quibble with the AIMPRO Tracker is I would be happy to trade some of its amazing double-action let-off for enough hammer horsepower to ensure ignition with the whole range of primers out there. I didn’t shoot as wide enough of a range of ammo brands as I would’ve liked (who could these days?), but if I owned the gun I would certainly try as many as I lay hands on.
By Payton Miller
Photos By Joseph R. Novelozo
AIMPRO-Customized CRKT FTWS
Maker: Columbia River Knife & Tool
18348 SW 126TH PLACE
TUALATIN, OR 97062
Designer: Allen Elishewitz
Blade material: SK-5 Steel (57-58 HRC)
Blade length: 6.3 inches
Blade style: Modified spear, double edge flat/chisel grind
Overall length: 11.63 inches
Weight: 10.8 ounces
Scales: Black canvas micarta
Sheath: Glass-filled nylon
Maker: O.F. Mossberg & Sons
7 Grasso Avenue
North Haven, CT 06473
Customizer: AIMPRO Tactical
16015 W. 4th Ave., Unit 4
Golden, CO 80401
Action type: Pump Action
Gauge: 12 (3-inch chamber)
Choke: Cylinder bore
Barrel length: 18.5 inches
Length of Pull: 14.5 inches
Drop at Comb: 1.5 inches
Drop at Heel: 2.375 inches
Overall length: 41 inches
Weight: 7.25 pounds
Finish: Matte black
Base Price: $553
Performance Package: $876 extra
Custom extras include: X-Coat finish, Proprietary action and barrel job, Hogue stock and fore-end, Integrated ghost-ring rail rear sight with green-dot fiber optic and red fiber-optic front blade, Proprietary Dragon breaching/stand-off muzzle device, Nordic-Comp “Plus Two” magazine extension (7+1 capacity) with rails on barrel clamp, Barrel porting by Mag-na-Port, sling studs, hi-visibility red magazine follower.
Model 44 Tracker
Maker: Taurus USA
16175 Northwest 49th Avenue
Miami, FL 33014
Customizer: AIMPRO Tactical
16015 W. 4th Ave., Unit 4
Golden, CO 80401
Action type: Double-action revolver
Caliber: .44 Special/.44 Magnum
Barrel length: 4 inches
Overall length: 9 inches
Weight: 34 ounces
Finish: Stainless steel
Sights: Adjustable rear, blade front
Base Price: $693
Performance Package: $605 extra
Custom extras include: X-Coat camo finished frame, Brushed stainless cylinder, Hogue grips, Custom fiber-optic front sight, Re-profiled and slightly re-contoured frame, Hand tuned, DA components de-burred and polished, Forcing cone re-cut and polished, Trigger and hammer polished and jeweled, Full-length under-lug Picatinny rail, Barrel and charge holes chamfered to 45 degrees, honed and polished, Ejector star blended.
Buffalo Bore Ammunition
Box 1480, St. Ignatius, MT 59865
Century International Arms, Inc.
238 Bryce Blvd., Fairfax, VT 05454
Federal Premium Ammunition
900 Ehlen, Anoka, MN 55303
Hornady Manufacturing Company
3625 West Old Potash Hwy.
Grand Island, NE 68803
41302 Executive Drive
Harrison Township, MI 48045
600 Powder Mill Rd.
East Alton, IL 62024
Photos By Joseph R. Novelozo