The 870 Perfected? Nighthawk’s Shotguns

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The Nighthawk is an easy shooting gun, even with high brass.

The Nighthawk is an easy shooting gun, even with high brass.

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.

It all starts with the 870 Receiver.

It all starts with the 870 Receiver.

Nighthawk

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

The Remington Model 870 Express Tactical.

The Remington Model 870 Express Tactical.

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.

The Magpul stock is a great half-way between traditional shotguns and pistol grips.

The Magpul stock is a great half-way between traditional shotguns and pistol grips.

From the Nighthawk website:

The front sights are very robust.

The front sights are very robust.

SIGHTS

  • 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.

STOCKS

  • 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%
Length of pull is adjustable.

Length of pull is adjustable with any of the AR style tubes.

Or less easily adjusted.

Or less easily adjusted with fixed options, like the Magpul.

SHOTSHELL CARRIERS

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.

Need exrta ammo? EAch comes with a shot-shell carrier on the receiver.

Need extra ammo? Each comes with a shot-shell carrier on the receiver.

Look closely here and you can see the size of the safety button.

Look closely here and you can see the size of the safety button.

SAFETY

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.

ACTION

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.

The rear ghost-ring.

The rear ghost-ring.

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.

The Upgrades

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.

These target photos are screen-caps, and over exposed, but you can see the tight group. Shot placement with slugs is reliably easy.

These target photos are screen-caps, and over exposed, but you can see the tight group. Shot placement with slugs is reliably easy.

Sam and I both had favorites. He could shoot the hell out of the one with the pistol grip. I preferred the Magpul furniture.

Sam and I both had favorites. He could shoot the hell out of the one with the pistol grip. I preferred the Magpul furniture.

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.

The pair, together. The differences are easy enough to see.

The pair, together. The differences are easy enough to see.

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.

If you like big logos, they can do that, too.

If you like big logos, they can do that, too.

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

Even here there are options.

Even here there are options.

The front end.

The front end.

QD mounts on the barrel clamp.

QD mounts on the barrel clamp.

The SureFire forend is solid, and a great option for direct lighting.

The SureFire forend is solid, and a great option for direct lighting.

Part of the recoil reduction comes from staged porting.

Part of the recoil reduction comes from staged porting.

The escaping gases push the barrel down.

The escaping gases push the barrel down.

If you prefer more subtle marketing, you don't have to have the hawk.

If you prefer more subtle marketing, you don’t have to have the hawk.

Another tube of slugs, this time run more quickly.

Another tube of slugs, this time run more quickly.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Rem870 October 26, 2016, 10:13 am

    Remington 870 upgraded by Nighthawk is a fantastic shotgun. But you can always make the same setup a lot cheaper. It will take some time but the upgrade process is very interesting, believe me.

  • Robert Brooks October 10, 2016, 5:26 am

    I’ve got an H&R Pardner Pump. It’s an 870 clone. Been shooting it for years and would like to do something nice for it. Do they do upgrades or just total builds? That ported barrel would be nice………..

  • Rudy January 13, 2016, 7:03 pm

    If you don’t like it or don’t want to spend that much then don’t. Just don’t get upset that they are trying to make a product for a niche market. Some people pay 30,00 for a fancy shotgun to shoot clay pigeons. To each their own. Keep pointing them downrange y’all!

  • Ari December 15, 2015, 1:12 am

    That barrel porting is specific to Vang Comp Systems out of Chino Valley, AZ and porting is only part of the barrel work that they did. Its the only upgrade I made to my Winchester 1300 when I got it. I shoot trap better with that gun than I do any other shotgun including my Silver Pigeon.

  • Steve December 14, 2015, 12:34 pm

    Having been a police officer and armorer for many years I have experience with various gun systems (rifles, shotguns, handguns). What I have learned is that any change or add on can often have a negative effect on the function and reliability of a weapon. Be very careful when making any modification to a defense weapon. Things such as add on lights, ammo side saddles and grips, springs, etc. It’s not too important with a competition only or hunting only gun as a malfunction will only be a poor score or a lost game animal not someone’s life.

  • burns December 14, 2015, 10:46 am

    There is no reason to spend over $500.00 for a HD shotgun, . You can’t hunt with it so it’s a house gun, just buy a rem or Mossberg HD model with 18.5 inch barrel unless you just like tearing up dollars.

  • Rob62 December 14, 2015, 8:48 am

    I am not going to bash the price. Everything is getting more expensive all the time. Its something I will never spend money on. But for those that have an extra $1,400 and are looking for a good HD/Tacticool/Defensive/ shotgun go for it.

  • Dan December 14, 2015, 8:20 am

    For $1700, I could buy a Benelli M4. Or a used G19, 870 magnum, and still have enough to buy a 6920, all second hand. It looks really pretty, and if I was rich I would have a dozen with matching 1911s. At that price, it’s not practical for me, a working class guy. I do like 870s, I have an older magnum 870, and I added a Vang Comp barrel, total investment $600.

  • John Turner December 14, 2015, 4:15 am

    I have a Benelli Super Nova Tactical, 12 ga up to 3 1/2″ shells. I’m familiar with it and it works. These guns are produced to perform a certain duty, the tactical shotguns that is. They all work. It’s the nut behind the butt that gets these things working properly, They’ll work if you will work. Features can be added if one discovers it’s needed.

    BTW, Front Sight, Pahrump NV offers an excellent 4 day tactical shatgun class with superb instructors. You’ll shoot roughly 500 rds of 12 ga over 4 days and they provide great deals on ammo and also can rent guns for your course. I’ve taken the 4 day defensive handgun and 4 day AR course and say that I learned more in those courses than I learned shooting for over 50 yeas

  • boomer August 5, 2015, 2:07 pm

    Horrible treatment of the 870, like pimping for your grandmother.

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude August 4, 2015, 12:03 pm

    I hear a famous brand company is coming out with an entirely new carbine style folding stock weapon that is 6.5 pounds empty, and does everything a shitgun can do in terms of CQB power and terminal effectiveness, everything a sub gun can do in terms of dominating firepower, takes all kinds of high capacity magazines, options, and accessories, Can easily deliver MOA accuracy, Good enough energy for just about any North American game with the appropriate bullet/cartridge load, AND, can be had for under a grand! In other words, The legendary beast of lore… the ultimate OGDIA (One Gun Does It All) Any Takers?

    • James M. August 5, 2015, 2:56 pm

      I’ll take three, as long as they come with the new infinity round mag.

  • James M. August 4, 2015, 3:09 am

    Yet another tacticool firearm thats main purpose is collecting dust in a safe. Owned by the same guy that show off his “guns” more than he shoots them. Nighthawk should open up a custom shop for farm trucks. Slam it to the ground, toss a wicked paint job, and add 1,000 hp. Yeah its functional, but defeats the purpose.

  • 'ol shooter August 3, 2015, 3:21 pm

    I like the 870 safety, because in times of duress, pushing the safety and then putting the same finger on the trigger requires less thought and movement. The opposite applies to the unlock being away from the grip area. It takes a deliberate act to unlock the action, and cannot be accidentally engaged. I do like an oversize safety button on a home defense gun.

  • Doc August 3, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Am I mistaken, or does the sling wrap in the stock put the shell holder flat on your back where it will rub you raw, while the smooth side with the action is on the the up-side of your back? (Think SMLE). Wouldn’t that sling wrap slot be FAR better served on the opposite side of the butt? Just a thought. This is one of the bangers behind the seat of my pickup when I’m out in the Great Basins and Ranges. Like my old Land Rover Series IIa – it’s never not worked.

  • Alan August 3, 2015, 1:07 pm

    WOW! I can buy the hotter auto’s for those prices! Really? Talk about lipstick on a pig!
    Don’t get me wrong, the 870 is great. but NOT at that price level.

  • James A August 3, 2015, 1:06 pm

    Well, a lot of us are monkeys when it come to building what we want – mostly because it’s fun and CHEAPER.
    The Mossberg 590A1 is a great gun for $600 (love the tang safety too) or better yet, get the 500 combo with a ribbed 28″ and 18″ interchangeable barrels for less than $500.

    $1,800.00 for a massaged 870? Nope – don’t think so.

  • Jay August 3, 2015, 11:57 am

    Those prices are.. .. “Profane”!!

    A very slick move to have those prices were posted at the end of the article, else it likely wouldn’t be read by as many that might otherwise. Smart fella!

  • Craig Ramsey August 3, 2015, 11:42 am

    $1400? Prolly look pretty silly in a rice field shooting ducks with this.
    Why would you try to make a rifle out of shotgun? People are just too complicated these days.
    I grew up shooting a 870. When I was about 16 my little brother stuck his 1100 barrel in the mud and it blew the last 4 inches up like a cartoon. He bought a new barrel and I sawed that puppy off at the end of the stock and it didn’t cost me anything. My kids are still shooting the 28″ barrel at ducks and dove 30 years later. So what do you use this for? Killing people? 3 weekends a year? And unless you’re trying to shoot thru something, why wouldn’t your defense load be #2 or #4 in a pattern as big as a trash can lid?

    • Bob Fairlane August 11, 2015, 3:17 am

      If I was an 870 fan, I’d buy it. If it’s a home defense gun, it would be worth every last cent the first time you used it. If you only get to shoot 3 weekends a year, why not something luxurious? And if you want it for defense, zombies, riots, etc, of course you want it to shoot holes through everything, exactly where you aim. Like taking pictures with a hammer.

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