I’m going to come clean. I’m not an 870 fan. The venerable Remington scatter-gun has a huge–massive–following. Deservedly. The gun runs under all conditions. There are numerous variations on the theme. The guns are inexpensive and easy to find. Typically this list of attributes would put a gun near the top of my favorites list. So why am I not a fan?
My best guess is the old Coke/Pepsi debate. My first shotgun was a Mossberg Maverick 88. As my skills improved, I moved up to a couple of 500s, then a 590A1. When I want to wrack the slide, my right thumb reaches for the Mossberg lever, behind the trigger guard. Always. Every-damn-time. Even when that lever isn’t there because I’m shooting an 870.
But now I’m questioning my old brand loyalties. I’ve finally found an 870 (a pair of them, actually), that could replace my 590A1. It is Nighthawk’s take on the 870. And it is what you would expect from a custom shop that specializes in perfecting timeless designs.
Just to be clear about this–I’m not on Nighthawk’s payroll. They’ve paid nothing for this review. They didn’t pay for the ammo I shot, or the range time, and they didn’t give me an 870 or a 1911. Nada. I got access to these guns through Jon Hodoway, a trainer who works for Nighthawk and writes reviews for GunsAmerica. We live in the same neck of the woods, which makes working together much easier.
Nighthawk’s brand has been built on the 1911. They’re pistols are rock solid investments meant for people who want to carry functionally flawless, purpose built single-actions. Their approach to shotguns is equally impressive.
Buy a Nighthawk on GunsAmerica: /nighthawk
It starts with a Remington 870
To begin, they need an 870. And let’s begin by giving credit to Remington. Here’s a version that’s all dolled up in tactical accoutrements. If you wanted an off-the-shelf 870 for home defense, this would be a legitimate choice.
Buy an 870 on GunsAmerica: /870
As 870’s go, this one is far from the entry level model. But it is a solid gun that will function well. So what could Nighthawk do to it that would improve on the design?
You have options. The receiver is a key component. That will form the cornerstone for the build, but here’s the rest of the list.
From the Nighthawk website:
- We use our own fully machined sights. They feature fully adjustable ghost ring apertures that are adjustable for elevation and windage.
- Front and rear are fully shrouded for protection against being knocked out of adjustment or damaged if dropped.
- Available with a red fiber optic or tritium front sight. With a light mounted on the shotgun the red fiber optic is a great choice. You can illuminate the target with the light during the late hours, and nothing is faster to acquire during the daytime. Competitive handgun shooters are leaning more and more towards a fiber optic front sight.
- Limited only by your imagination
- Hogue stocks are standard. They provide a sure gripping surface on the forend and butt stock
- Collapsible stocks made by Magpul industries, or any you prefer, available upon request
- Recoil reduction tubes for collapsible stocks available that reduce felt recoil by as much as 75%
Probably the first thing you will notice after you admire the finish is our side shell carrier. We say that because there is no need to remove it to read the serial numbers. It is made from a one piece aluminum billet that is hard anodized to military spec. (no more fear of plastic cracking if left in direct sunlight). They are available in your choice of four or six round configurations.
Rapid release of the safety can sometimes make the critical difference. We use the Vang Comp Big Dome Safety on all of our models. The dome on the safety is so pronounced that you can release the safety while acquiring the trigger in the same move.
A smooth action is essential for fast follow up shots. Not content to leave “as is out of the box”, we hand-hone every action for smoother operation.
OPTIONAL PICATINNY RAIL FOR RED DOT SIGHTS:
A Picatinny Rail can be mounted on the receiver which allows you to facilitate the use of various red dot sights. Combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that the use of a red-dot aiming device is the fastest way to acquire a target.
Any type of optional sight can be added per your request.
That’s a pretty long list. Some of what they do is optional–like the furniture–others are standard–like the action job. The overall package is impressive. Running a stock 870, or even some of the other pump guns, often requires a bit of muscle. You throw the shotgun to your shoulder and hold on tight. As such, it hardly ever strikes anyone as odd that shucking out empties and loading in new shells requires effort. But not the these. They are as slick as they look.
What do I mean by slick? Well let’s start with the action. The controls of most pump shotguns wear in. Over time (and lots of rounds) an 870 relaxes. But they sometimes get rattly, too. The Nighthawk guns feel much more precise. The action is noticeably smoother, and the controls move easily. There’s no grit in the action, safety, or trigger.
The trigger itself has minimal take up and a clean break. I had no difficulty running the gun with either buckshot or slugs. The trigger is heavy enough that I had confidence moving and shooting, and transitioning between targets (keeping my finger on the trigger). Yet it wasn’t so heavy that I pulled shots with slugs.
While we’re on the subject of accuracy, I’ll say that this is the one area I’d expected to remain unchanged. A shotgun is a shotgun, in some respects. That’s the beauty of a tactical shotgun, or one meant for home defense. I don’t look for patterns or groups–just the basic performance question: did I hit what I was pointing at? Pointing. That’s how I tend to run a shotgun, and I’m damn good at it. But the Nighthawk has actual sights that make threading the needle much more realistic.
And shooting slugs can be punishing. As I was loading up one of these, Hodoway had a big smirk on his face. I’d halfway expected to end up with my right shoulder in a sling. It isn’t out of the question. I’m 6’4″ and weigh a good 250, so you’d think I could handle recoil. And typically I can. But I broke my collarbone a few years back when I threw myself into the very solid wall of a racquetball court. Shooting really hot 12 gauge shells tends to light up my shoulder and leave me rethinking my career choices. I’m happy to say that the recoil reduction on the shotguns works.
If you watch the video above, check out the muzzle flip. You’ll see what I mean. This is one flat shooting shotgun. Follow up shots with buckshot are lightning fast (as fast as you can cycle the gun) because you don’t have the extra time typically needed for target acquisition.
Hodoway swore that I could shoot all day and not end up with any recoil hickies on my shoulder. He was almost right. I ended the day with a slight line of broken capillaries, but nothing like I typically see when shooting half as many rounds.
Going back to the Coke/Pepsi thing again–I’m not in love with the safety of the 870 . The Mossberg puts the safety up on the tang. You hit it with your thumb, and can see if it is on or off. The 870 puts the safety at the rear of the trigger guard. The upgraded button on the Nighthawk is much larger. As your hand moves into position, your trigger finger sweeps across this button. You can engage it then, on the way in, or you can leave your finger out of the guard, with the finger resting on the safety. Either way, making the gun ready could not be easier.
After the first 100 rounds, I was convinced. The upgrades are serious upgrades. The smooth consistency of the action allows you to give that mental (and physical) energy to other aspects of the experience. The trigger is ideal for a shotgun that might be used to clear a house or reach out with a well-placed slug. The sights work like sights should. The extra capacity is a boon, too.
The rest is deserving of mention, but I’m not going to dwell on it. Any monkey with a toolbox can change out stocks and forends, and install a saddle. Those are customizations, true, but not on the same level with the rest of the gun. And the finish is nice, too. Nighthawk does a lot of their finish work in house, and they work with Hillbilly223 who does really creative Cerakote finishes.
So how much does perfection cost?
It isn’t cheap. This is a deep question. I guarantee you some of you will balk at the price and flame Nighthawk in the comments below. And why not? The 870 works as is. Why would you want to pay anyone anything to make it work better. It works–isn’t that good enough?
I guess. Maybe. Maybe not. How many of us have bought AR-15s and then dumped more than $1,000 into making them into the exact rifle we wanted from the start? 1911s? GLOCKs? I know some people who own GLOCKs with slides that cost more than a brand new GLOCK. Instead of owning three, or four GLOCKs, they own one that doesn’t run any better than the one they started with.
Pick-up trucks? Jeeps–that may be the best comparison. Guitars. Women. This list can go on forever. Just because you can’t see the logic in paying for upgrades when the gun runs fine as-is, doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t. Look at it this way. An 870 coming out of Nighthawk has about as much in common with a stock 870 as a NASCAR car does with the one you drive. There’s simply no comparison.
And if you have the money, why not get exactly what you want? The 870 Remington Express 12 gauge with 14” Length of Pull Stock − $1,450.00. An 870 Remington Police Magnum 12 gauge with 14” Length of Pull Stock − $1,750.00
So how do you buy one?Call up Nighthawk and get your order in.
If you’re looking for one that’s ready now, your choices are limited. Very few of these show up on the used market. Their owners have to die, and their descendants have to be completely clueless before they get resold. And that is just about the best praise a gun can be given.
There are more 1911s for sale, though: /Nighthawk
And you can always find an 870: /870