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M.O.A.'s minute of angle pistol.

While we're literally swamped with an array of high velocity and super powerful handgun cartridges intended for use in specialty handguns and for hunting everything that walks the face of the earth, there aren't that many handguns around designed to handle these cartridges and the rifle-like pressures they generate.

The M.O.A. Maximum, however, is just such a pistol. Manufactured by the M.O.A. Corporation, 110 Front Street, Dayton, Ohio 45402, the Maximum pistol is unique in that it's a falling block with interchangeable barrels, plus you can get barrels for just about any reasonable cartridge you can think of.

Constructed entirely of 4140 steel, everything except the barrel is treated with Armoloy, giving it a dull, brushed-silver color. The barrel and iron sights are blued, as is the special aluminum scope mount offered by M.O.A. The grips and fore-end are walnut with no checkering. With factory installed iron sights the M.O.A. Maximum pistol tips the postal scale at 4-1/4 pounds, so it's no lightweight. I removed the iron sights from my pistol and installed the M.O.A. scope mount and a Redfield 4X pistol scope. This raised the total weight of the pistol to 5-1/4 pounds. With a 14-inch barrel the Maximum is 18-1/4 inches long overall.

As I mentioned, the M.O.A. Maximum is a falling block pistol operated by an underlever, like most falling block designs. The breechblock itself contains the firing pin, which is spring loaded so that it automatically withdraws into the block when pressure is released on it. A part called the operating lever link connects the breechblock to the operating lever. The lever itself has been redesigned a couple of times since M.O.A. first announced the pistol, and presently looks very much like those used on lever-action repeating rifles. When it's closed, placing the breechblock in the raised position, the rear of the operating lever nestles in a channel milled in the front of the grip frame and is retained by a couple of tiny humps that act as detents. Pulling forward on the lever breaks it free from these detents, and as the lever pivots forward and down, it draws the breechblock down to expose the chamber.

The extractor is attached by a pin to the front of the operating lever and a small coil spring, which hooks to the front of the extractor and a pin located in the bottom of the forward receiver extension. This keeps tension on the extractor so that it always rises to engage the extractor groove of a case in the chamber. As the breechblock is drawn down, the extractor is cammed rearward by the motion of the operating lever. Both primary and secondary extraction are functions of operating lever movement. This is an extractor only--not an ejector--so the fired case is withdrawn only far enough so that it's free to slide out of the chamber.

The firing mechanism on this pistol is different, a design that makes the pistol safe to carry in the field with a loaded round in the chamber. The system begins with the external hammer, which is powered by a curved, flat mainspring set in the grip frame. Ahead of the hammer, extending through the receiver from the right side and pinned so that it pivots up and down, is the safety transfer lever. This lever is capped on the outside of the frame with a knurled button that affords its manual operation. When the button is in the up position, the inner end of the transfer lever is down, positioned below the hammer and firing pin--low enough that the hammer can't hit it and it, in turn, can't hit the firing pin. Pushing down on the button raises the transfer lever so that it's directly behind the firing pin and can be struck a blow by the hammer nose. When the trigger is pulled, releasing the hammer, it drives a spring-loaded pin in the transfer lever forward, hitting the firing pin and pushing it forward to fire the round in the chamber. Actuating the operating lever with the hammer down automatically returns the transfer lever to the down, or safe, position, then the hammer is cocked to expose the chamber for reloading, and the hammer can be lowered to touch the frame. In no way can the hammer contact the firing pin, so the pistol can be carried in perfect safety.

To fire the pistol, cock the hammer, push down on the safety transfer button to raise the transfer lever so that it's between the firing pin and the hammer nose, and pull the trigger. This is a simple firing system, yet very safe for the shooter.

Interchangeable barrels are all the rage these days, particularly with handgunners who do a lot of hunting and want different cartridges with which to take game of vastly different sizes. M.O.A. caters to this trend by supplying barrels that can be removed from the receiver and replacing it with another. Of course, each barrel must be headspaced to the action. This is a factory job, so if you decide to add a barrel to the Maximum after a year or two of shooting, you must return the receiver to M.O.A., along with your order so they can headspace the new barrel to your gun.

How do you screw a barrel in and out and maintain the proper headspace each time? It's simple. On the bottom of the barrel are two shallow round holes drilled into the steel. The rearmost hole engages the barrel lock pin, which enters from the bottom of the forward frame extension and is held against the barrel by spring pressure. When the barrel is screwed in nearly all the way, it gets tight and can no longer be turned by hand pressure. At this point you take a spanner wrench supplied with the pistol and engage the pin in it in the forwardmost hole drilled in the bottom of the barrel. By exerting slow, steady pressure, the barrel will turn in until the barrel lock pin engages the indexing hole. The barrel is now properly positioned for correct headspace and cannot move. To remove the barrel, pry up the barrel lock pin with a small screwdriver or knife blade, engage the spanner wrench, and turn out the barrel. Caution! When removing a barrel from the M.O.A. Maximum pistol, the action must be all the way open so that the extractor will clear the slot in the rear face of the barrel. Should you forget to open the action all the way, both the barrel and the extractor will be damaged.

As you'd expect, a single extractor won't work with all of the cartridges for which the Maximum pistol is chambered. Therefore, it's necessary to change extractors whenever cartridge head size is changed. This is a very simple operation requiring only the removal of a pin, the extractor spring and the extractor, then replacement of same with the new extractor. M.O.A. makes extractors for various head sizes available, so if you have any doubt as to which will work with a particular cartridge, just contact the manufacturer.

Changing barrels requires removal of the walnut fore-end fromthe Maximum pistol. This is accomplished by simply removing the two small hex-head screws set in the bottom of the fore-end. The fore-end is then free to removed by sliding it forward off the front receiver tang. The fore-end screws seat in brass escutcheons inletted into the wood of the fore-end. When replacing the fore-end, do not overtighten the rear screw. Because of the depth to which the escutcheon must be inletted, the wood under the rear screw is very thin and will break out if too much pressure is aplied to the screw.

I am very impressed with the trigger on the M.O.A. Maximum pistol. It's a simple setup: the upper, or sear, end of the trigger engages a notch in the bottom of the hammer. Pulling the trigger simply moves the sear surface forward out of contact with the hammer notch. For this to work properly, the engagement surfaces of both the hammer notch and the sear must be smooth. They obviously are on the Maximum pistol because there is absolutely no creep in the trigger. You must apply prssure t the trigger until it breaks and the hammer falls. On the M.O.A. Maximum the trigger pull is adjustable. Turning a small hex-head screw located in the upper rear surface of the trigger makes the adjustment. Turning it clockwise reduces the trigger pull, while turning it counterclockwise increases the pull weight. Actually, what this does is alter sear engagement by limiting forward return of the trigger. I experimented with the trigger on my pistol and found the maximum pull weight can be set at six pounds, and the minimum safe weight is 1-1/4 pounds. For my range tests and varmint hunting I set my trigger pull at 1-1/2 pounds. For big-game hunting I'd set it at 2 or 2-1/2 pounds.

You have a choice of three difference open front sights on the Maximum barrel, blades .063, .078 or .093-inch wide with rear sight blades to match the front width. You can order the sights of your choice, and extra sets are available from M.O.A. at $10 per set.

M.O.A. Corporation sells a special scope mount for the Maximum pistol. It retails from $39 and is made of aluminum. The open rear sight must be removed from the received before the mount can be installed. Two screws are used to anchor the mount to the receiver and these enter holes drilled and tapped at the factory. The most impressive feature of this mount is that on the bottom there are steel studs that fits into recesses drilled in the top of the receiver. These should keep the mount from tending to move under recoil and shear off the screws. Thus, no epoxy glue is needed to bond the base to the receiver. I realize that aluminum is used in the mount to reduce weight, but I don't like aluminum, particularly when steel screws are used to clamp the top halves of the rings down over the scope. A pistol scope, particularly on guns chambered for cartridges that develop considerable recoil, must be clamped down very tight to keep it from sliding forward in the rings under recoil.

Once I was completely familiar with my M.O.A. Maximum pistol and all of its operations, I was ready to test it at the range and in the field. My test pistol was supplied with four barrels: .223 Remington, 6mm.223, 7mm Bench Rest Remington and .30 Herrett. All were in 14-inch lengths. I should mention that barrels for the M.O.A. Maximum pistol are available in 10-inch lengths, but for the four cartridges I was testing, 14-inch barrels are far better ballistically. The main reason I opted for these four cartridges was that I've had a lot of experience with them, and I wanted to compare the M.O.A.'s accuracy with other pistols I have chambered for these same cartridges.

Where accuracy is concerned, I found the M.O.A. Maximum to be good. I was not able to get the super groups from it that I've been able to coax from some of my custom, bolt-action pistols, but the results were about the same as the accuracy I have achieved from most Contender barrels. Keep in mind, though, that accuracy is a function of each individual barrel. Where one .223 Remington barrel may produce nothing better than 1 to 1-1/4-inch groups with good handloads, the next one might turn in 1/2-inch groups all day long. I found that the .233 Remington and 6mm.223 barrels, with handloads developed specifically for this pistol, would give me 100-yard groups running from 3/4 to 1 inch. My groups with the 7mm B.R. barrel ran a little larger--1 to 1 1/2 inches. With the .30 Herret I was never able to get anytning better than 1 1/2 inches, and 2 inches was just about normal.

I was curious to see whether changing the barrel on the Maximum would have any effect on the point of bullet impact, so I ran a few tests to find out. After sighting in with a barrel, I would fire a 5-shot group at 100 yards. Then I would completely remove the barrel from the pistol, reinstall it, and fire another 5-shot group at 100 yards. On occasion there would be no measurable shift, but most often the point of impact would shift about 1/2-inch both in elevation and windage. I then tried shooting a group, removing the barrel and replacing it with another, then after shooting 20 or 30 rounds, I'd replace the original barrel and shoot another group. The effects here were no different than when the barrel was simply removed and replaced.

Obviously, there is some shift in the impact point of the bullet due to the barrel changing operation, but the shift isn't significant enought to be a problem. This is important to the shooter because it means that he can sight in with one barrel, then replace it with another and note the click changes necessary to sight in for the second caliber. To return to the original and get back on target (at least fairly close), you simply make the necessary clich changes on the scope. This can be done with any number of barrels as long as you keep a record of the scope adjustment changes required. This seemed to work very well with th 4X Redfield pistol scope I mounted on my Maximum, but be aware that a slight error in both barrel switching and scope adjustment changes could produce an impact change on an inch or more--still no great difference.

The M.O.A. Maximum pistol performed very well for me in the field, and I had no trouble with mechanical malfunctions whatsoever. Changing barrels in the field is not difficult--just as long as you remember to throw that spanner wrench into the tool kit before leaving home. Without the wrench, changing barrels is impossible.

M.O.A. appears to build quality into every piece of the Maximum pistol, so you can expect years of satisfactory service from it. It's probably the slowest of the specialty pistols available when it comes to rate of fire because of the way you have to load and unload the gun, but it's certainly a safe pistol--and an accurate one. M.O.A. sells direct, but all shipments must be to a dealer with an F.F.L. To order, you can write to M.O.A. Corporation, Dept G&A, 110 Front Street, Dayton, Ohio 45402, or if you prefer, you can call 513-223-6401 and discuss your order with the manufacturer. The M.O.A. Maximum pistol with one barrel and iron sights retails for $499. Extra barrels are $129.
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Author:Milek, Bob
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Jun 1, 1985
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