by Phil W. Johnston
The 17-4 pH stainless steel receiver is based on a design that is over 100 years old, but the execution of the design and choice of construction materials is state-of-the-art, to be sure. It's the MOA Maximum falling block, a single-shot handgun from MOA Corporation, 2451 Old Camden Pike, Dept. GWK, Eaton, OH 45320; phone: 937-456-3669. And it's a honey, indeed.
This past week as these lines are written, we had the pleasure of working with one of the finest handguns we ever had in our hands. While MOA handguns are a common sight in and around IHMSA happenings, most often showing up in winner's circles to boot, they are less than commonplace in the field and that's a real shame.
This rig should be in everyone's collection, especially where accuracy is of prime concern. Should you happen to have some spare change, do give Richard Mertz at MOA a call and have him build you an MOA Maximum, then head to the range and challenge some riflemen to a 5-shot, 100-yard match "for group." You'll make money doing this.
After running 175 rounds through this .223 Remington sample, we managed to account for an average group size of 1.27 inches, while five of seven loads managed to account for groups well under an inch. In fact, the best group was-are you sitting down-a mere .280 inch, center-to-center! That's the best 5-shot group we've ever fired, with anything. Read on.
Falling Block Design
In a nutshell, the MOA Maximum consists of a stainless steel receiver that relies on a falling block design. Moving the lever forward lowers the block. The MOA Maximum has an exposed hammer that must be cocked for each shot, and a unique safety that positions a transfer bar to contact the firing pin in the "fire" position and well clear of the hammer when in the "safe" position. The hammer must be cocked and the safety in the safe position to load the pistol. In addition, this pistol may safely be carried with a round in the chamber, since the safety/transfer bar cannot be moved into the fire position without cocking the hammer.
The trigger on our sample is as good as it gets, period. There's none better. This one breaks like ice somewhere between 12 and 16 ounces, we guess, and it has no take-up or over-travel. This trigger defines what a trigger should be. Webster's, take note.
The MOA Maximum comes equipped with a Douglas barrel chambered in anything you'd like, ranging from the .22 rimfire to the .454 Casull, including .375 H&H magnum. Barrel lengths run from 8° inches on our sample, to 10° inches and 14 inches. Special lengths are available upon request. The barrel is fully floating, as well. The 8°-inch, .223 barrel on our sample has a 1-10-inch twist. And the 8°-inch Maximum measures 18 inches from front to back and weighs about 56 ounces.
The MOA Maximum is also somewhat a switch-hitter, in that one receiver may be ordered with several barrels, and barrel changes can be accomplished at home with a good barrel clamp and a spanner wrench available from MOA Corporation. While the switch isn't T/C quick, it is fully possible to switch barrels in minutes at home, once you learn the procedure. The scope remains attached to the receiver in any case.
The Maximum sports a walnut grip and forearm, and it may also be ordered with a new 17-degree finger groove grip as well. This rig speaks understated quality all the way through. Fit and finish is first-rate. The receiver is investment cast and then hand-machined to tolerances within .0005-inch. That it shoots is no surprise.
When MOA Corporation isn't building Maximum pistols, they're machining precision parts for Cummins Engines or General Electric for use in GE's jet engines. It's easy to see why the MOA pistol is so great, right off the bat. Combine a precision receiver with a fine, fully floating Douglas barrel, and it's got to shoot.
The MOA is targeted for silhouette competition, and as such is available with excellent, adjustable open sights that might work just fine for younger eyes. Fortunately, MOA also offers a great, one-piece scope mounting system that made attaching a scope to the MOA "duck soup" as they say.
We opted for a crystal clear Burris 10X I.E.R. scope with target turrets and the choice was a natural. Attaching the scope was easy, and it took but minutes to level the reticle with the action using the Reticle Leveler from Segway Industries, Box 783, Dept. GWK, Suffern, NY 10901-0783; phone: 914-357-5510; on-line: www.segway-industries.com. With the scope cinched down, we bore-sighted the rig with an image-reflecting PLX Boresighter, available from PLX Inc., 40 West Jefryn Blvd, Dept. GWK, Deer Park, NY 11729.
On the range, the MOA was nothing but a pleasure all the way. We rested the Maximum on a huge Dog-Gone-Good shooting bag (from Dog-Gone-Good, c/o Don Scott, 575 Collins Crest Court, Dept. GWK, Gladstone, OR 97219) and set up Data-Targ targets (from Rocky Mountain Target Company, 3 Aloe Way, Dept. GWK, Leesburg, FL 34788-7924) at 100 yards downrange. The Oehler 35P skyscreens were set up 15 feet from the muzzle.
With the barrel clean and dry, and working our ammo in alphabetical order, we got it on. The first five Black Hills Ammunition 50-grain VMAX loads left just shy of 3,000 fps, and slipped into a beautiful .936-inch cluster, 100 yards away. It was possible to see each shot through the bright, sharp Burris 10X scope, as well. While eye relief is critical with this scope, it made this semi-bench rest work much easier.
Over the course of two days, we managed to run 35 5-shot groups downrange with all of them managing to account for an average group of 1.27 inches, center-to-center. With the exception of the Cor-Bon loads, which hung around an inch or so, every brand of factory ammunition accounted for sub 1-inch groups.
Winchester's fantastic Ballistic Silvertip 40-grain loads averaged a mere .99 inch, center-to-center, leaving the 8°-inch barrel doing 3,222 fps. I have used these loads on prairie dogs this year and can report that they are "effective" there, as well. Right on the heels of WW, Black Hills Ammunition's load stuffed with 40-grain Barnes VLC bullets left doing 3,215 fps and averaged 1 inch. The Black Hills ammo also accounted for that fantastic .280-inch, 5-shot group mentioned previously.
This One's Accurate!
A total of 11 5-shot groups (30%) measured under an inch or better throughout the testing, and this only tends to whet the appetite. If this rig works this well with factory ammo and but 10X magnification, can you imagine what it might do with carefully crafted handloads, with cases trimmed to a uniform length, necks turned to a uniform thickness, and weighed powder charges. Top that with a 20X or larger scope and-well, you get the picture. Out-of the-box, it appears that an MOA Maximum may indeed be one of the most accurate arms available at any price.
If that isn't enough to hook you, then this should be: the MOA Maximum carries a suggested retail price of $799 with a blue Douglas barrel, and $883 with a stainless steel barrel to match the receiver. If you've done any serious shopping lately, you'll quickly note that indeed, this is a bargain. If you're looking for a rig that'll outshoot everything else on the range (unless you run into another MOA, of course), look no further. This is an understated gem, believe me.
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