Why Does Everyone Love the Remington 870?

The unassuming Remington 870P (Police Magnum).

The unassuming Remington 870P (Police Magnum).

Check out the 870P at Remington: http://www.remingtonle.com/shotguns/870standard.htm

Buy one (or another) at GunsAmerica: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=remington%20870

Every year when waterfowl begin their annual trip south, hunters across America oil up their 870s. Countless cops have tricked out 870s, literally riding shotgun. And when something goes bump in the night, those who are serious about defending home and hearth reach for the 870. It is arguably the most common shotgun in America. There are millions of them in this country alone. How many millions? I doubt even Remington knows, for sure–but 10,000,000 is the safe estimate.

Even the box it comes in is pedestrian. This is a no-frills firearm.

Even the box it comes in is pedestrian. This is a no-frills firearm.

So what’s all the fuss? The pump action shotgun has proven itself more versatile and less finicky than the fickle automatics, so hunters trust the design.

Because of the wide assortment of aftermarket options, the 870 is easy to fine-tune and customize, which makes it appeal to tactical shooters.

And for home defense, the pump shotgun is a great deterrent weapon capable of firing a variety of loads.

But most of that list applies to all pump shotguns. Yet the old 870, a design that’s close to 65 years old, is still the standard by which all other pump shotguns are judged.

So what’s the secret?

I’ve been asking this for a long time. I haven’t drunk the proverbial 870 Kool-Aid. I’ve come to this review with a completely open mind. I’ve owned a couple of 870s, but it has never been my go-to gun. They come in, I mess with them a bit, and then I end up selling them to make room for something else. But here’s the rub–several people whose opinions I trust implicitly have 870s as the corner-stone of their tactical armories. And they think I should, too.

The walnut is clear and not highly figured. The wood gives the 870P a classic look.

The walnut is clear and not highly figured. The wood gives the 870P a classic look.

The wooden furniture has a warm feel to it that I prefer over plastic, but it will require maintenance.

The wooden furniture has a warm feel to it that I prefer over plastic, but it will require maintenance.

So I’m giving it a shot. I’m starting with this classic design and I’m going to see what I can do to it to make the 870 the perfect shotgun. This will be a rather involved process, and I plan on overhauling almost every piece of the gun. But my effort is also going to require new training. Even though most pump guns work in a similar fashion, each gun has a nuanced skill set required to make them run efficiently.

The receiver of the 870P is marked Police Magnum.

The receiver of the 870P is marked Police Magnum.

The basics

The 870 is the most common pump shotgun in America. I’ve gone one step further and opted for the Police Magnum. This is an 870 with a few robust improvements. Most companies offer something like the good, better, best model. This is more like robust, more robust, and ridiculous. I prefer the ridiculous end of the robust spectrum.

It is essentially an 870, though the receiver has been milled from a solid piece of steel. In the standard form, the gun comes with walnut furniture. This one has also been parkerized. These three simple improvements hide the standard dual action bars and a bolt which locks up with the barrel. It is a robust deign, for sure.

As far as options go, the 870 is almost as easily customized as a 1911 or an AR-15. From pistol grips, to sights, to furniture…lights, lasers, etc. Remington offers a wide variety of stock options, and the used market is full of custom jobs. But the basic controls of the 870 will stay the same.

One distinct feature of the 870 that I’m having trouble acclimating to is the placement of the safety. Where Mossberg has their safeties on the tang, where you can easily reach them with your thumb, Remington keeps theirs behind the trigger. The safety is easy to reach with your trigger finger. To make the gun safe (at least for those of us who are right handed), you move the trigger finger away from the trigger and roll the thumb over to the other side.

The finger sweeps across the safety and disengages it effortlessly.

The finger sweeps across the safety and disengages it effortlessly.

The safety is easy to engage with the thumb.

The safety is easy to engage with the thumb.

The other main difference in the controls is the placement of the action bar lock. To chamber that first shell, you have to wrap your hand forward on the frame. The Mossberg’s action lock is closer to where the 870’s safety sits. I’ve grown accustomed to hitting it with my thumb when I want to get the action in motion.

The action bar lock is forward of the trigger guard.

The action bar lock is forward of the trigger guard.

If you intend to hit the action bar lock with your right thumb, you have to reach for it.

If you intend to hit the action bar lock with your right thumb, you have to reach for it.

Neither of these are deal breakers. As I’ve spent a lot of time behind a Mossberg, I’ll just have to retrain my brain. But there’s a lingering question, I think, that makes this argument worth having. Is one set-up better than the other?

I like a tang safety. There’s very little chance that I’ll move it one way or the other unintentionally. With the 870’s safety, I can see how I might reach to grip the gun and push the safety off. Then again, that is precisely how it is intended to work. As you reach for the grip, your trigger finger sweeps the safety off. There is not extra step needed to make the gun operational. If your thumb is working the safety, you will need to wrap it back around before you pull the trigger.

So I’m going to call the 870’s safety a clear favorite. As for the possibility that I might disengage the safety accidentally, that is on me. And it goes back to training. If I can keep my finger off the trigger, I should be able to keep the same finger off the safety.

But I’ll be damned if I don’t really miss that Mossberg action bar lock. I have been working this 870 pretty hard for about a month now, and I still can’t get used to giving it the old reach-around. My thumb goes for its habitual position, and there’s nothing there. The action doesn’t open. The whole machine grinds to a halt.

I've loaded this gun a lot in the last month and I've yet to catch my thumb in the gate.

I’ve loaded this gun a lot in the last month and I’ve yet to catch my thumb in the gate.

But what about the reliability?

There’s no disputing the simple fact that the 870’s legendary reliability is at the heart of its popularity. Again we see the old triad of sportsman, LEOs, and home defenders…. They all want a gun that will work. That’s where the old workhorse 870 comes into its own. You can argue about which shotgun is most reliable, or which one is most durable, or which one is most versatile, but the fact remains that the 870 is sufficient for almost everyone. Durable enough. Reliable enough. Accurate enough.

And should the gun break down, the 870 is easy to repair. The very popularity of the platform means that there is a healthy aftermarket supply of parts. Anything broken can be easily replaced. As this is a gun that has moving parts, and one that suffers from the abusive kick of the 12 gauge shells, there are parts that wear out. Springs, mainly. Extractors. Action bar locks.

Some of the 870 issues I’ve seen are attributable to good-old-fashioned redneck gun-care habits. You know who I’m talking about. I have one relative who will complain that his 870 doesn’t work right. Never mind that the gun is older than I am, or that it has never been kept in a safe with controlled humidity. I doubt it has ever been cleaned. The rust you see on the surface of a gun should point to a much bigger problem on the inside. And the old 870 will rust. So do we call this user error?

As for the gun itself, I’ve rarely seen an 870 come from the factory with a noticeable flaw. If one element is sticky or stiff, a bit of polishing usually solves the issue. Tolerances on the guns are loose enough to allow for some modification. We’re talking shotguns, and not the hand-built Italian sporting models.

Accuracy

Again, we reach a place where it is difficult to find a clear winner. Most 12 gauge shotguns of equal length with the same choke will perform in a very similar fashion. But there are notable differences. Sights are the most obvious. This 870 has some crude sights. They are about as crude as you can get on any gun that actually goes to the trouble of adding sights. The front is a simple dot. The rear is just a wide grooved channel.

Yet it doesn’t really change how the gun shoots, and if you have any skill with a scattergun you will be able to put lead or steel where you want it. Check out these results.

The sread from buckshot at 7 yards.

The spread from buckshot at 7 yards. Devastating.

Buckshot from 25 yards.

Buckshot from 25 yards. A wide spread.

High brass steel shot from 7 yards.

High brass steel shot from 7 yards.

High brass steel shot from 25 yards.

High brass steel shot from 25 yards.

Bird shot from 7 yards.

Bird shot from 7 yards.

Low brass from 25 yards.

Low brass from 25 yards.

Two slugs from 25 yards.

Two slugs from 25 yards.

The end is just the beginning

For me, the 870P is a perfectly serviceable firearm. I blame my ambivalence on accidental brand loyalty. If I have a choice between a Coke and a Pepsi, I’m going to drink the Coke. I have no idea when I decided that. The same is true for the 870. But I’ve made a commitment to this gun. In the shape it is in right now, I can begin retraining my brain. And I’ll make the other changes one piece at a time, so the gun isn’t ever out of circulation for too long. And I’ll be back with updates.

So how about it? I know most of you reading this may very well own an 870. What am I missing? What makes this the standard by which all others must be judged? Is it the price? With the millions that are out there, fair trades are easy to find. Prices vary wildly depending on the options and model and caliber. The 870P in this configuration is often listed in the high $400–to low $600 range. But what about the other reliable options? Why not the old Winchester, or the Ithaca, or the Mossberg or Benelli? What is it that makes the 870 stand out as the first choice for so many of you?

The extractor is easy to access and service.

The extractor is easy to access and service.

The ejection happens on the right side and is clean and forceful.

The ejection happens on the right side and is clean and forceful.

The fit is about what you'd expect from a mass produced gun.

The fit is about what you’d expect from a mass produced gun.

The butt-pad is thick.

The butt-pad is thick.

While more intricate sights are available, this is functional simplicity.

While more intricate sights are available, this is functional simplicity.

The brass bead catches available light.

The brass bead catches available light.

The front bead.

The front bead.

The build is solid and the component parts are robust.

The build is solid and the component parts are robust.

No Rem-Chokes for this one. Improved cylinder choke only.

No Rem-Chokes for this one. Improved cylinder choke only.

The walnut forend.

The walnut forend.

It pushes from the left to the right.

The safety pushes from the left to the right.

9 balls of OO Buck from the shells used above.

9 balls of OO Buck from the shells used above.

{ 97 comments… add one }
  • Me. Sparkles June 7, 2017, 2:42 pm

    Great review thank you. I shoot borh an 870 and a Mossberf 500 and will say that I have found the 870 to be more finicky when it comes to ammo and in particular reloads. I bought the 870 in 2010 when my daughter and I were going to shoot in a trap league together. I have her the new 870 and I took the 500. Very quickly we ran into issues with the shells failing to chamber correctly in 870 but not a single issue with the 500. I even ran the 870 rejects through the 500 to see if it was a shell issue. No problems. I ended up running some of the rejects through a micrometer and they were several thousandths larger so I will personally take the blame for not properly sizing them but it does cause me to give the 870 a 9.9 for reliability to the 500’s 10.0.

  • Dan June 7, 2017, 7:24 am

    I grew up in Ithaca country (Upstate NY) and when we boys were old enough, Dad got us each an Ithaca Featherweight shotgun. Great guns, however I was young and dumb and had my eyes on a single-action revolver (Ruger Blackhawk) and made a trade with a guy I knew. Incidentally, that handgun is still my favorite shooter. Anyway, several years later I bought an 870 Express and really fell in love with it. Simple to use, smooth action, trigger is okay (I’m particular about trigger pull), and it is pretty easy to disassemble completely for a thorough cleaning. Not long ago I bought a slug barrel for it and have tried a variety of slugs in it to get the most accurate load. Am still working on that accuracy thing (another one of my ‘particulars’). For hunting, home defense, or any other use I can come up with; yes, this is the gun for me. Oh, I did inherit my dad’s Ithaca Deerslayer and I will NEVER be trading that for anything! Sentimental value more than anything else. 🙂

  • Dan-K March 2, 2017, 2:08 pm

    Learned to shoot on an 870 wingmaster of my dad’s, then NEF single shot of my own. Dad sold that 870 eventually for a marlin pump 12 and as far as I know still uses it to this day. I bought myself a Mossberg 500 20 gauge for clays and loved it, but found a heck of a sale one day on an 870 12 gauge. Now I happily own and shoot both, and have no gripes about either. I find the 870 less intuitive to use as well, but overall it feels like more attention went into building it than my Mossberg. I wouldn’t feel under equipped with either gun, but if I had to start over, i’d probably start with an 870 and stay that way.

  • Argee February 17, 2017, 10:42 pm

    We have “one of each” – Mossberg 500, Remington 870, and Winchester 1300. The Mossberg is “sloppy feeling”, but all the controls are intuitive and all users instantly know how to handle it – it always goes bang, and feels natural. The 870 is the “best quality” and sights well with a smooth trigger, but the controls slow people up easily, and reloading is slow. It has been heavily modified by my son, with a tactical stock and pistol grip, so it’s actually the funnest to shoot. The Winchester 1300, my favorite, shoots the fastest and never jams, even with the shorties. The reach is a bit odd on the Winchester, but you get used to it. Bottom line: when we go out to shoot, I always shoot all three and I always enjoy the experience. Coke, Pepsi, and RC Cola!

  • T Spadaro January 14, 2017, 10:45 pm

    I too don’t understand the 870 craze. I do own a few Mossberg 500’s and an H&R pump ( basically an 870) and I pick the 500’s way more than the 870 clone. I have two complaints:

    1.The 870 lifter gate and the action release. As an HD gun, I will not be using gloves so I am not worried about being caught by the lifter. The problem I have had a few times is if the shell is not pushed all the way into the mag tube it can pop out and wedge its self between the top of the lifter and under the closed bolt (the only way to actually jam an 870. I don’t know about you but if for some reason I need to reload an 870 in the dark this is a fear of mine. The only way to fix the problem is to apply the safety (pull off the barrel off first if there is a shell in the chamber) then pop out the trigger pins and pull the whole trigger group out freeing the jammed shell. also loading in the dark is harder with a lifter in the way, compared to a 500 which has a cavity allowing the shells to fall up into the receiver.

    2. The Mossberg action release is in a great position because when in the shooting mindset, if for some reason you short stroke the gun and have an empty chamber, you can use your middle finger and quickly open the action while still indexing the trigger and maintaining sighting down the barrel. You literally only need to move one finger! With an 870 you need to take one hand off the gun and potentially un-shoulder the gun to get the pump open. This could cost you your life in a gun fight or you could miss a clay or bird in the field.

    In my opinion (and that is all this is) the Mossberg way of doing things is just far more efficient. Honestly the only thing the 870 has going for it is the extendable mag tube. I will say the Mossberg 500 is behind the times with that one feature…but the 590 isn’t. An 18″ 590 has the same style barrel cap like an 870. The only down side is the receiver is steel (heavier than the aluminum 500. In all honesty the typical shotgun user doesn’t need a steel receiver due to the fact that the aluminum is rust resistant, lighter, and just as strong since all the load is taken up on the steel breech bolt.)

  • Paul December 28, 2016, 10:19 pm

    I have 2 model 870’s when I was getting one of them (I already had one for hunting just a regular 870 28″) I almost got the tactical 870 receiver.I don’t know if the police model is the same but I am betting it is and (if it is you can not change out barrels with the regular 870 receiver. so I have my 870 for hunting and one for self defense( 18 inch barrel flash light and stuff) but I can switch out the barrels with most 870 something to think about. The only thing I would change on the 870 is the release to chamber the shell, I like what mossberg has, next to the trigger finger not on the other side.

    My two cents, IMHO

    Paul Jones

  • chris December 9, 2016, 5:39 pm

    I don’t know why people are complaining about the action “safety”.
    It is fairly easy to manipulate with either hand (I’m a lefty), The trigger safety takes a bit more thought…and practice.
    Besides, load up the tube, and when ready, rack the pump and you are good to go. The action safety is disengaged on the first round, and for every fired round after that.
    Unloading is where you have to be careful. This is where the action safety located at the front of the trigger guard comes into play. One can cycle shells through until empty, or leave the action open and dump each shell out individually.
    I initially bought a 12 gauge in 1992, but with a 28 inch barrel and larger receiver, it was too cumbersome to track moving targets easily. So I sold it to a trap shooter, then bought the 20 gauge magnum with an 18 inch barrel and replaceable chokes.
    Wow, So much better. The wood stock and forearm are very vanilla, but applying a couple of coats boiled linseed oil on them, allowing them to dry, then rubbing the excess with very fine steel wool gives it very nice and weather proof semi-gloss finish. Magazine capacity is 4 + 1, but if it takes more than two rounds of No.1 or “00” Buck, you are in big trouble because the 1st two guys are already down.
    Be safe out there.

  • Cg396 December 2, 2016, 12:00 pm

    In regards to the action bar lock button, instead of using your right thumb to depress the button use your trigger finger. You slide your right hand forward and wrap it down and around the bottom/front of the trigger guard. This action will cause your trigger finger to land right on the button. It’ll be much easier for you and you will have to contort your hand far less. Hope this helps!

  • Teddy October 31, 2016, 11:00 am

    Redneck gun care habits? Really? It has been my observation that those who do not take care of their weapons are either yankees or their offspring.
    At the dove field they are forever seeking help and advice. A few questions concerning where their great granddaddy lived and we see the problem.

    • Chris December 6, 2016, 10:31 am

      As to Teddy,My yankee grandaddy was a toolmaker at winchester for forty years devoloped more gun parts then your grandpappy ever saw. I will bet my Vermont yankee dairy farm that any gun you own was built in yankeeland and yes i lived and hunted in N.C for a couple of years and always dropped more doves with my yankee shotgun Than the redneck with the benelli

  • Willie October 16, 2016, 12:52 pm

    Is the Remington 870 12 gauge home defense any good for hunting?

    • Rem870 October 25, 2016, 12:01 pm

      My friend uses short-barreled Remington 870 for duck hunting. But you can always get a longer barrel specially for hunting.

  • whitfang September 9, 2016, 5:33 am

    An 870 was my first shotgun and I still own and use it occasionally. Not a fancy shotgun, but it’s light and always works.

  • Tim May 9, 2016, 8:51 pm

    Try reaching underneath with your trigger finger to release the action.

    • Nanjing03 September 17, 2016, 5:23 pm

      It is unusual, and even awkward initially if you are used to a top tang safety — such as found on the Browning BPS and Mossberg 500. When I taught at a law enforcement academy, we taught range students to view the action release on the Remington 870 as a sort of trigger in front of the trigger guard. The serrated front of the action release made it easy to locate without looking at it, even in the dark.

    • HSandMan November 27, 2016, 7:27 pm

      If you use it correctly and are a decent size male you should be able to utilize your trigger finger to manage every aspect of operation for an 870. I have over 30k rounds through mine. I love that with a simple ammo and barrel change it has defended my house, killed deer, killed ducks, killed doves, and taught people to shoot. I have the above mentioned Benellis etc. I often take my 870 with a Citori Lightning to shoot clays. One costs $500 and the other $2500. I still hit what I aim at more with the 870 I bought with lawmowing money at 12 years old than anything else. It’s like a Ford truck. You may be able to afford a Mercedes but a Ford feels right. As far as redneck gun cleaning I have choice words. You push the trigger slide release and work the slide and the whole thing breaks into non moving parts. Easy as my 1911 to disassemble and clean. Lazy people happen everywhere.

  • Steve December 14, 2015, 10:12 pm

    The secret of the 870 is it works and does not break. I worked gunsmithing for 15 years, and other than the occasional restaking the shell stops or replacement of extractor or springs these guns are dead reliable and will take more abuse and still work than any other design out there. The rugged quality build and dependability record of the humble Remington 870 – regardless of the model or embellishments is unparalleled in the shotgun world. Many designs are older and still being used, but no shotgun ever was more regarded as a good working man’s shotgun than the Remington 870. It is simply a timeless classic and no man who ever carried one was ever poorly armed.

    That is the secret of the Remington 870 shotgun.

  • don delisle December 14, 2015, 2:44 pm

    I just gave my son my 16ga wingmaster 870 I got it in 1954 put a lot of rounds thru it never had to do a thing to it my son loves it . his friend tried it and loves the feel of it shoots great

  • MR "G" (CWO 3, US ARMY, RET) December 14, 2015, 2:28 pm

    I bought my first 870, when I was stationed in Kitzingen, Germany, in 1974. A 12 ga Wingmaster with a 26 in Skeet barrel. I learned to shoot Skeet with that weapon and still do. I could not even begin to guess how many rounds have been thru that weapon, over my years of shooting Skeet and with out any malfunction. Since then I have aquired an 870 Wingmaster in 410, 28, 20 and 16 ga, with either a Skeet barrel or Skeet Choke’s. I have also aquired a couple of 12 ga Wingmaster in a trap version, a Scoped, 12 ga slug version and a couple of the Express version’s set up for house security. Yes, I have to agree that the Express version’s leave a lot to be desired, in the outward apperance, when you compare them to the Wingmaster’s, but the action is just as reliable. Just like a Timex, (They take a licken and keep on ticken). Over the years I can say I have NEVER had a malfunction,with the operation of any of my 870’s, other than a few operator errors.

  • JD December 14, 2015, 11:46 am

    I have had my 12 gauge 870 for probably 30 years. Not a lot of use. Clay pidgeons. Some duck hunting. Some pheasant/partridge hunting. Some slugs for deer. 1000 rounds all told? A few years ago one of my favorite deer hunting areas went to shotgun or muzzleloader I was considering buying another shotgun set up as a deer slayer with a rifled barrel. I was shopping in my local gun shop when I saw a rifled barrel with a 4 power scope attached in a sale barrel. $100 bucks. It looked to fit an 870 and was confirmed that it would by the counter guy. I brought it home, took off the bird barrel, and installed my “new” rifled barrel with scope. My range is only 70 yards so that is what I sighted in for. I use Hornady SST 2 & 3/4″ saboted shells. 300 grains. .45 caliber bullet. They kick as they come out at 2000 fps. The cartridge box recommends to sight-in at 150 yds. I have never shot a shotgun at anything at that distance thinking it is out of range. I was sitting waiting for deer the day after Thanksgiving. My brother in law drove out 5 does from a brush lot a long way away from where I was siting. I was looking at them with the 4 power scope and estimated 200 yds. Thinking back on the sighting in instructions on the box I raised the cross hairs 6 inches above the shoulder of one of the does and touched off. Then there were 4 does running. After my bro in law completed the drive I walked up to where the deer had been standing. I counted off my paces. 215 paces (yards) to a dead doe. When we gutted it the lungs came out in pieces. The sabotted .45 bullet had gone right thru both sides. Did not recover it. Only got the deer. I and others were amazed. 215 yards and 1 shot kill of the deer with a shotgun. I am wondering know now if I should bother with either of my rifles for hunting deer? I like carrying the short barreled 870 better than my rifles. Very easy to work the action and 200 yd. kill range. I hunt mostly in the north woods and rarely ever have a 200 yd shot. And if I do-the 870 and Hornady SST combination proved lethal.

  • ADG December 14, 2015, 7:56 am

    I am not sure what all the hype is about the 870 Remington, sure its a fine shotgun and it may be popular by police, but I find far from tactical. The Kel-Tec 12 gauge pump with the double feeder tubes under the barrel allow up to 12- 2 1/2″ shotgun shells, that is alot of fire power and with a sixteen inch barrel makes it ideal for tight places. It is the 12 gauge being reinvented ….. so long to to the 870 for tactical purposes…..

    • Ben February 15, 2016, 5:31 am

      “Firepower?” The KSG, and that other anomaly from another maker called the UTAS; may offer modern mall ninja’s the potential for “firepower,” but when they break constantly they would be considered useless. Plastic and pot steel have no business on a shotgun that shoots ammo that generates more than 40 ft./lbs of recoil energy. The original 870 out of the box was always a great shotgun, and has already been passed down from one generation to the next.

  • Bret December 10, 2015, 1:52 am

    Got my 870 express for Christmas 1987. I’ve had many shotguns since, but that same 870 is still my go to when it’s time to put meat on the table.
    In 28 years the only part to ever fail me was the spring, and that was 2yrs ago so I should be good for another 20+ years.

  • John Michael Steele November 19, 2015, 5:01 pm

    I’m 70, and I’ve owned and used lots of shotguns, including a half dozen different 870’s. Great shotguns and I still have an old 870 Deluxe goose gun with an extra improved cylinder barrel. I’ve swapped a couple I deeply regret, but…

    Nevertheless, IMO, the greatest pump shotgun ever made is the Model 12 Winchester! First gun I ever fired and it was as natural in my hands as my Mamma’s hand and it fed me for many years.

    The new 870s are ugly and cheap looking. Also we don’t do plastic in my family.

  • Lance Revell November 16, 2015, 5:14 pm

    On the 870, proper use of the action bar lock is to use the index finger UNDER the action. Easier and quicker to operate.
    I have four 870 shotguns of different variants. Got my first one at the age of 16, some 42 years ago. I carried one on security watch aboard ship in the Navy. The 870 has never failed me.

  • OFBG November 13, 2015, 9:27 pm

    “What is it that makes the 870 stand out as the first choice for so many of you?”
    First let me correct your statement that the 870P (Police Magnum) “… is essentially an 870, though the receiver has been milled from a solid piece of steel.” All 870s have a steel receiver, which is a deal-maker for many shooters. In my opinion, unless you intend to use your gun in a duck blind or other wet situation on a regular basis, or you are a weight freak, an alloy receiver gives no advantage.
    My experience with the 870 (and several other longarms) is mostly due to the largesse of my father-in-law (sadly no longer with us). After I was introduced to guns and hunting late in my life (early 30s) and was looking for an elk rifle, I was leaning towards a Rem 788. Although about as attractive and wieldy as a club, it fit my budget as a graduate student soon to be married. “Daddy,” as my soon-to-be (and now) wife called/s him, gifted me with both (TRIGGER ALERT: POLITICALLY-INCORRECT STATEMENT TO FOLLOW) one of his lovely daughters and a Winchester 670 in .30-06. The daughter is still the love of my life and the rifle has served me well. Later, he gave me his 1950s-era 870 Wingmaster 12g; it had been well-used, but not abused, showing only honest wear with a smoooooth action. So when my wife wanted a shotgun for turkey, we understandably went for an 870. She bought a new (early 1990s vintage) 20g Express “Youth” model (she’s a “petite” person) and it has served her well.
    Had it not been for “Daddy’s” influence, would these have been our first choice? Maybe, maybe not. I have always liked the bottom-shucking Ithaca design, and the Mossberg’s tang safety. Then there are the 870’s dual action-bars and (forgive me) steel receiver, as well as the same safety arrangement that I came to find “natural” from shooting my 10-22. Also, 20+ years ago there were many more aftermarket accessories available for the 870 than for other pump-guns.
    Is the 870 the perfect choice? Are there any things I might see to improve? Well, there’s that “action bar lock,” which on our two guns is truly a pain in the ass; not so much for me, but for my wife. There are, and have been, aftermarket replacement parts to remedy this, but only for the 12g. On the other hand, if all current 870s have a release that stands out as much as the one pictured in your article, it should not be an issue anymore. While it is not a problem for us, I understand the safety button is an issue for some folks. While there are aftermarket kits available to reverse the action of the safety, I should think that Remington could devise, and incorporate a reversible safety button. The only problem we had with the 20g showed up the first time we tried to load it; the soft plastic mag follower stuck to a burr on the receiver and would not budge. The (thankfully local) Remington service gunsmith corrected the problem, but if they have not already changed things, I’d like to see a metal (or hard plastic) follower in all 870s.
    On the back burners, I can see several minor improvements as well. One of the advantages of a steel receiver is the option of drilling and tapping for scope bases; why not offer the 870 with a factory drilled and tapped receiver? My vintage 870 had its magazine cap (inexpertly) drilled and tapped for an aftermarket sling swivel. We avoided that with my wife’s gun by buying a sling that came with a swivel-mounted end cap. If this is not currently offered, then why not? Another option I would like to see is non-flushmount Remchokes with a knurled ring. It would be nice to be able to change chokes without a tool.
    As for your question “Is it the price?” yes, that is perhaps the primary consideration. As I have not priced smoothbores recently, I don’t know what Mossbergs are going for, but I do know that Ithacas – if you can find them – command top dollar in the used market in my area. 870s, depending on their model, gauge, and vintage, vary in price, but “With the millions that are out there,” they are the bargain-hunters’ prize.

  • Chuck Roast November 10, 2015, 8:34 pm

    Well fellers, I have a couple of 870’s one in .20 full choke from the 70’s I used for dove for years, and one in 12 gauge magnum I used mainly for goose hunting in plowed muddy fields down near El Campo Texas which is smack dab in the middle of the Central Flyway. We hunted in the mud, sleet, rain, mud and and then hunted in the mud. Then, of course there was the mud. I’ve run shells with mud thru it that would ruin high dollar semi-autos, which wouldn’t last 15 minutes on a hunt down there. The method of cleaning an 870 was a garden hose to wash out all the mud, and then of drench the entire gun, trigger group, etc. with WD 40 (The stuff which all the gun experts tell you not to use on guns because it ruins them?) Anyway, after years of salt water teal hunting, and flat land muddy plowed ground goose hunting, there isn’t a bit of rust on that gun, thanks to WD 40.And after moving from the Gulf coast to the hill country, that old 870 12 gauge has been a deer meat harvester for deer for the past 25 years. Remington 870, and WD 40. The best combo for hunting I know of. Just love it. I also have a Model 12 made in 1916 I learned to dove and quail hunt with, but I treated it a lot nicer cause it was Grandpas. : ) But for serious meat getters, the 870 is the tool to use.

  • Carl November 10, 2015, 8:32 am

    An armorer and you don’t know the 870 has twin action bars?? The “loading spoon”?? I assume you mean the shell lifter. BTW..any firearm can malfunction. Even your beloved Mossberg. In fact after 30 some years working on guns…mostly shotguns. The broken shotgun that I worked on the most was the Mossberg 500. Does it make them a “bad” gun? No, it just makes them more prone to malfunction. After all these years of gun work… the 870 seemed to be the least prone to malfunction. But since there were so many in use in my area… It was one of the staple guns of the waterfowl guides and hunters so it was one of the most often guns to be brought in to the shop…. to be cleaned! I own a few and they are one of the most intuitive pump guns in use.. But the 870 was the shotgun I used the least. The pump guns just have too much recoil for me. Many people like the tang safety on the mossy and I guess it is a good design. But the 870 is the standard which all pump guns are compared to. My favorite pump of all time is the M-12 Winchester. I have an early 12 ga(from about 1915) that I have personally put 225,000 shells through since 1960(when I got it) with the breakage of one firing pin. Oh the M-12 DOES have one action bar!

  • Allen Benge November 10, 2015, 7:16 am

    While I enjoyed reading your review, I will stick with my Mossberg 500, thank you. I have been a sheriff’s deputy, along with a job at the Arizona State Prison, where I worked in the armory. I notice you said something about the dual action bars. This puzzles me because every 870 I have ever seen has a single action bar, whereas the Mossberg has dual action bars, one reason for my choice. Another is the what I consider weird positioning of the controls. The tang safety on the Mossberg keeps one from wrapping his/her thumb around the stock and punching themself in the face. Every 870 I have seen has been butchered with a slot in the loading spoon. The reason for it is the 870, under stress, will allow the shooter to get a shell UNDER the spoon. with the slot, one can use a key to work out the offending shell, but without the slot, you are left with a very inefficient club at a crucial moment. A Mossberg will not allow a shell to get trapped under the spoon. When i first started working with the sheriff’s department, if you had a shotgun in your car, it was your own. Then the department bought one Winchester shotgun for each district, and the first deputy on a shift got the shotgun. Eventually, the department issued an 870 to each deputy. I told them to keep it and had the department armorer check and approve my Mossberg. So your statement about everyone loving the 870 is inaccurate, because at least one person does not love it.

  • DrThunder88 November 10, 2015, 12:48 am

    I don’t know either. I mean I’ve got one but only because I “needed” a shotgun for home defense and found a good deal on a 20″ 870 barrel with rifle sights. I knew finding a host would be easy since the racks of the local pawn shops were loaded with 870s. They might have been loaded with a proportionate number of 500s as well, but the accessory dictated the firearm. I’m thinking that I would have liked a Mossberg more, but I reckon it ultimately doesn’t matter much.

    Then again this is coming from someone who is not a dedicated shotgunner. My favorite scatterguns are a pistol grip-converted Saiga 20 and a 12ga Stoeger 3500. The only pump shotgun I’ve found that I’ve really taken an interest in was the Stevens 520 series. That’s more because it was such an interesting design from a bygone era by the undisputed king of gun designers than anything about how it functioned. The fact that there were so many store brand variations is also of interest to me. I’ve now got three of them now, and since they lack the status of the Model 12 or even the 870, they’re fairly cheap.

  • al cycle November 9, 2015, 10:53 pm

    I like my 12 ga. Mossberg 500 for all the reasons stated…but my old Ithaca ‘Featherweight’ M37 , 20 ga. is still my favorite….it is something special to shoot & handle!!! Checkered grip, with hunting a scene on the receiver……I prefer the 20 ga. #3 buckshot with 20 pellets over a 12 ga ’00’ ga & only 9 pellets…I feel that 20 rather large buck pellets, spread out 20″ are more effective than 9 slightly larger ones!! BTW, The 20 ga. is way easier, for me, to hold steady & pump really fast!!!

  • Richard Nickols November 9, 2015, 10:21 pm

    I have owned many 870,s never a bad one, 1 I’ve had for 40 years with 5 different barrels it goes every where I go from home defiance, birds of all kinds, back up for guiding hunters for Elk, Deer, Cats, Beer, Hogs, won many skeet and trap tournaments never never a let down. I’ve burned thousands of rounds through it I’v bent the single action rails on others when jammed . Use your Rt index finger in front of trigger gard for action release. I can load any shells mixed or not and it cycles efertlesly. My hunting buddies clam it will out last me when they bury it with me

  • BSLPops November 9, 2015, 9:42 pm

    Purchased my new Remington 870 Wingmaster, 12 ga, 2.75″ chamber, 30″ Full choke ventilated rib barrel, in 1976. Best $150 I’ve ever spent. It was perfect! The metal finish was the engraved, brilliant and brightly blued. The walnut stock finish (Forend/Butt Stock) was the Remington RKW finish which looked as if was 1/2″ thick! Function was/is flawless.
    The 30″ barrel was great for duck hunting, but being full choked, it left a lot to be desired throwing buckshot. So in one unthinkable moment of stupidity, I sent the barrel to Poly-Choke to be shortened with their adjustable compensated choke installed. Not that the Poly-Choke Corp. is bad….they were and I guess still are a fine company….I just should’ve purchased another barrel, instead. Since then, I’ve purchased an original, used, modified choke, 28″ vent rib, Remington Wingmaster barrel with the original finish and had been properly taken care of. Also, I recently purchased an 870 Express, vent rib, 28″ Rem-Choke barrel which of course comes with a 3″ Chamber. I know…I know…this combo (3″ chambered barrel mated with the 2.75″ receiver) can bring about bad tidings. First, I know better than to use 3″ shotshells with this combo. Secondly, the barrel has been marked as such! Thirdly, NO ONE uses/borrows my Wingmaster!!! I use this Express barrel, with the appropriate chokes, for turkey and rifled slugs. Put Tru-Glo Gobble Dot sights on the rib and can shoot very respectable 2″-4″ groups at 100 yds, from a bench using sand bags. I’m not saying that I’m that good of a shot. Just giving credit to the firearm and barrel with the open bore slug choke installed. And regarding the “Safety and Action Release” locations, it has always come natural for me to operate. I have used my son’s Mossberg 500 on occasion and having difficulty finding the Safety or Action Release has never presented a problem thus far. One should become VERY familiar with whatever firearm he/she uses BEFORE taking it to field. With that said, in the “heat” of the moment when a shot suddenly presents itself, confusion and excitement can effect one’s thought pattern. Speaking from experience here…..yes, I’m old…but can still present, aim, use proper trigger and breath control and discharge a firearm in a responsible way. I’m not by any means boasting. Being responsible just has to be #1 operating any piece of equipment…..so my Dad told me many times well over 50 yrs. ago. Support the Shooting Sports and those striving to keep our 2nd Ammenment Right alive!!!!! Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  • James Birdsall November 9, 2015, 8:37 pm

    The 870 is the most veristile shot gun ever preduced !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • keith schurter November 9, 2015, 7:11 pm

    We used the 870 in the Illinois Department of Corrections, back in the 1980’s, maybe they still do. Personally I prefer the Ithica model 37. I’ve been told they used 37’s in trench warfare in WW 2.

  • Doug November 9, 2015, 6:31 pm

    Whilst the 870 is a great shotgun I shoot left handed and my Itahca 37 is my go to shotgun . I own a 12 and 16 .Might be a bit harder on the shoulder but to me Ithaca,s deserve some praise so I say to Guns America do an article on the 37 . By the way my newest 12 guage 37 I got in 1982 which shoots 23/4 and 3 inch with 3 chokes . . Shot a lot of birds with the 37 and still droppin them . My point is I prefer the 37 .

  • Alan Schroeder November 9, 2015, 6:20 pm

    I bought my 870 Wingmaster in 1971 when I decided it was time to graduate up from my Ithaca single shot. My dad had an 870 so naturally I thought I needed one too. Its nothing fancy, standard 870, 28″ smooth barrel no vent rib, modified choke, 20 gauge. I fell in love with it right away. It’s light, quick, and reliable as the day is long. I’ve shot doves, pheasant, quail, prairie chicken, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits, and never failed me once. The only thing I ever had to do was change ammo loads. Everybody else shot 12 gauges in a variety of brands and they all had glitches of one sort or another. I consistently outshot and bagged more game with my little old 20. I tried several of their guns and don’t understand why or how anyone could knock the 870, it just works. It’s never jammed on me, never failed to perform. I’ll never own another shotgun unless it’s for home defense. This one will last me until I can no longer go out and hunt. Thanks Remington for building a great gun.

  • GHS November 9, 2015, 6:18 pm

    In the 1970s I bought an 870 and the very first time I shot it or I should say I tried to shoot it, was on a cold winter day and I was wearing a heavy coat. Well my buddies and I had come up with some full size mannequins and we decided it would be great fun to blast them to smithereens. Well being somewhat young and anxious to do the most damage I racked the action back and my coat sleeve gets caught between the wood grip and the receiver. It took about five minutes of pulling and yanking to finally get my sleeve free and by then the mannequins were basically gone. I thought man I would sure hate for that to happen if I was actually in need of some sort of personal defense. Well I went and bought a rubber front grip that no longer overlapped the receiver when pulled back and have never had another problem since. I still have my 870 and 45 years later I still fully depend on it for whatever may come up.

  • Mark C November 9, 2015, 6:08 pm

    I cut my teeth on my Dad’s Model 12 Winchester, 30″ barrel, full choke. He was a duck and pheasant hunter, but had pretty well given it up by the time I was old enough to hunt. I loved that model 12, except it wasn’t ideal for quail, or some other smaller animals. I bought an 870 Magnum for myself, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it. I then went to an Ithaca M 37 with 2 barrels. I did well with it, but had reliability problems with it. (Read operator error) This was all before I was 20 years old. After several other shotguns, I tried a Remington 870 Special Field. The only gun I ever doubled on quail with. I came upon hard times and had to sell it. To make a long story short, an old friend of mine sold his vintage, 1979 870 Wingmaster Magnum to me. 28″ barrel with Rem Chokes. As I can no longer hunt due to health problems, I put a 18.5″ barrel on it, cylinder bore. I am not planning on getting rid of this gun. It could use a new Recoil pad, but is like new & hasn’t been shot much.

    Thanks,
    Mark

  • Wil November 9, 2015, 5:58 pm

    I bought an 870 Combo Express back in 1987 from a coworker I worked in a LGS with. Back then, IIRC, the Express guns were simply full up Wingmasters with a sand blasted and Parkerized receiver and barrel. Thusly the action was/is as smooth as any of the Wingmasters I have ever shot. I have both barrels for it and have used it on ducks, turkey, dove, quail, hogs, deer, and Trap and Skeet. It is set up for choke tubes so I have the added versatility for all uses. I have Browning Auto 5’s in 3 gauges that my Father brought back from our time in Germany (49-60) that I still use today. Love my old humpbacks. I have had BPR’s, Model 37’s, and a couple of Winchesters. The 870 simply WORKS every time, no matter what. The only 870’s I have ever worked on were guns that had gotten so full of garbage they wouldn’t cycle anymore. Can’t say that about a lot of the other brands out there. The newer Express models benefit greatly from a dis-assembly, douse the moving surfaces with 3000 grit valve grinding compound, cycle 400-500 times. Clean out the innards VERY THOROUGHLY, and re-assemble. That usually slicks up the action very nicely. (I understand that that should not be necessary on a new gun, but when you pay less than 1/2 the price of a Wingmaster, you don’t get to expect that level of fit and finish).
    870’s rock because they are simply to use, very robust, and dependable. That being said, I won’t buy anything from Rem-Marlin until they get their QC back under control.

  • DON CONDON November 9, 2015, 5:06 pm

    I HAVE AN ETHICA FEATHER WEIGHT 12 GA. I WOULD NOT TRADE IT FOR ANY 870.

  • Bob November 9, 2015, 3:04 pm

    I bought an 870 express and got 3 choke tubes with it for $200 right before we had to switch to steel shot for waterfowl so that’s been a while back. Still my go to gun when the weather is nasty. It’s never failed me and I clean it religiously, at least every couple of years. The wood looks like crap and there’s a little surface rust but the old blunderbuss keeps on going!

  • Paul November 9, 2015, 2:03 pm

    How does someone who writes about guns favor a trigger blocking safety over a firing mechanism safety?

  • Chuck La Chance November 9, 2015, 12:39 pm

    I have two 870 right now, a Wingmaster ,and a870 Competition trap gun . I’ve put thousands of rounds thru the trap gun with no trouble even hot loads from the 27 yard line. And the Wingmaster has never let me down in all the time I’ve owned it, I could have cheaper models of the 870 but the worked better then the cheaper models. And the Competition was my first trap gun but far from the last but its still fun to shoot.

  • ThatGuy November 9, 2015, 12:36 pm

    I agree with the other comments on handling an 870. You aren’t doing it right….
    You can’t handle a 870 like you handle a Mossberg, or any other for that matter. I ONLY use the slide release when unloading a shotgun. I can’t think of any other time I’d need to use it.

    Here’s the thing about 870’s: I am an instructor and coach of one of the largest youth shotgun programs in the country. I see LOTS of shotguns – from Grandpa’s hand-me-down-Christmas present-you’re dad shot this just fine-look what I just bought for my little kid, etc. I see bad ones and good ones. I see TONS of 870s. They are cheap, come in youth sizes, and everyone loves them. I see them even in upper-class competition, and they work great. Additionally, the 870 is not terribly expensive if the youth decides not to continue competition. No need to spend thousands on a gun that won’t get used or doesn’t fit correctly.

    In trap/skeet, guns have to hold up to many, many thousands of rounds. The top of the line Krieghoffs, Kohlars, Perazzis, etc. are usually the guns of choice for those that shoot high volume – mainly because of durability with the ultra-high round count.

    I can tell you that I wince almost as bad when a parent brings a kid in with a brand spanking new Mossberg almost as much as when he brings in Grandpa’s classic 1933 H&R Topper. The Mossberg won’t kick the living crap out of the kid like Grandpa’s gun, but it will break. Guaranteed to break with the kind of round count we do in competition. I have NEVER seen a Mossberg go through the round count that the 870’s do. I literally see them break, and much more than they should. Not because they are necessarily “junk”, but they aren’t able to stand the abuse.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the Mossbergs. I’m not an 870 lover – I shoot a Browning for competition, and that isn’t even top of the line in this sport. I own two 870s for truck guns/defense use. Mossbergs will serve MOST EVERYONE just fine for home defense, hunting, casual clay sports, etc. I doubt most people that buy a shotgun go through more than 4 or 5 boxes of shells per year. Trap/Skeet shooters go through at a minimum 4 or 5 boxes a day, more go through 20+ boxes per day. Last year I shot 2000 registered targets, plus as many or more practice and unregistered targets, and I’m NOT a high volume shooter compared to a lot of other guys. My experience is why the good old 870 is still on the competition fields beside the $10k to $100k guns….

  • Evan November 9, 2015, 12:23 pm

    The first pump shotgun I ever shot was a Mossberg 500 in the Corps. I bought one for myself when I moved off base. I’m trying to remember, but I don’t believe I’ve ever shot a pump shotgun that wasn’t a Mossberg 500 or 590. I know one time my friend lent me his Remington 870, but I never got around to shooting it before I returned it.

  • JtothaK November 9, 2015, 12:19 pm

    I own both an 870 and a 500 and I would place both on an equal plane: You can’t go wrong with either just practice/train with one and it will do the trick.

    That being said, I prefer the Mossberg 500 because basically, I’m just used to the manual of arms with that platform. I also prefer the tang safety, dual extractors, dual action bars and the thumb friendly load port. That said, one could easily become as adept with the 870 platform and objectively, the rate of failure for the 870’s single extractor and single action bar probably isn’t significantly different from the 500/590 I would presume (correct me if I’m wrong), otherwise LE and others would not choose the 870’s design.

    Once again, this is another firearm comparison where, within the context of a defensive/offensive weapon, the hardware is almost identical but its the software (i.e. training/practice) that matters most.

  • Wayne Clemon November 9, 2015, 11:56 am

    the main appeal of the 870 is very simple. it’s the sound of the action. if you where in a house you weren’t supposed to be in and you heard that sound you would leave as quick as you could.

  • jolee November 9, 2015, 11:41 am

    I think as always it goes to personal experience as to what you like. My dad was a Remington fan so I started at 12 with 20 gauge Wingmaster. ( 1954 was age 12 cake year ) Still shooting it, great gun. I think if he had been a Mossberg guy I would sing its praises and still be shooting same. I always back up long gun with pistol.Two guns is one they say. Even a club can break and fail. jolee

  • Danny Williams November 9, 2015, 11:28 am

    During my 21 years of LE, the trusted 870 has always been my go to long gun. Undercover narcotic assignments, uniform patrol, and plain clothes assignments, with both, the 18″ full stock model and the US Marshall Service’s 14″ Witness Protection model with pistol grip. And then the one time of an armed fugitive apprehension, whom felt the effects on a wooden stock “butt stroke” to the back of the neck and shoulders. If he didn’t understand the commands, Mr Remington clarified the communications. The delivery felt like Hell, I’m sure; but on my end, it felt good to know the 870 was ready, willing, and able to do whatever job it was chosen. My home defense gun is still a tricked out 870 with Surefire forearm, Speedfeed pistol stock, hi-vis Mag tube follower, jumbo safety, and magazine tube extension. Keep up the good work Remington.

  • DOUGLAS HAMMOND November 9, 2015, 11:26 am

    I have two Mossburgs, my friend has two 870s. Both of his went back for repairs as they both failed to function properly right out of the box. I had a lot more trouble with them then he did, but trouble is what both of them gave. They were two different models, one 2 3/4″ – 3″ and one 2 3/4″- 3 1/2″, bought at two different times from two different “gun” stores. I have not had any problems with my 500s.

  • SGT. Pop November 9, 2015, 11:07 am

    Dave, I think any problems you have with manipulation of the 870 could be addressed by a 250 round course of Sporting Clays. If you still have issues, well they still make single shot break-opens. Anyhow, to carry a shotgun in Bear country with my agency in Alaska, all had to qualify at 50 feet shooting 5 slugs in 10 seconds with one shell coming from a pocket or belt or… all rounds had to be in the 8×11 paper, all did. All ages (25-60) both sexes within that age group and most picked up the 870’s to qualify. A little practice and a little of it under pressure (peer or other) will have you shucking empties with the best of us. Have been using 870’s since I bought one in the Rod and Gun Club in Germany in 66, gave both my sons same as they grew up, working on grandkids now….

  • gold40 November 9, 2015, 11:07 am

    We’re still using the same Remington 870 Deluxe 12 gauge that my father (now deceased) bought new in 1955. It has taken ducks, geese, squirrels, quail, pheasants, and rabbits in six different states. Never a single problem, or replacement part. Two years ago, I bought a less expensive Express version in 20gauge. While it is “rougher finished’ and has a less attractive laminate stock, the function has been flawless. If our family is still hunting 50 years from now, those two 870’s will probably be the mainstays.
    gold40

  • Tommy Barrios November 9, 2015, 11:02 am

    I don’t Love the 870 and consider it to be a POS shotgun!
    The Ithaca 37 and the Browning BPS are far superior guns and that is FACT not OPINION!
    My 37’s will out shoot and outlast and function better in any environment than any other pump gun especially the 870!!

  • Kim November 9, 2015, 10:54 am

    The first season I went bird hunting I used an 870. I missed shots on too many birds because I was fumbling to find the safety. The second season, I had replaced the 870 with a Browning BPS, witch has the safety on the tang. Look out birds. 🙂

  • Mike November 9, 2015, 10:29 am

    I’ve got an 870, and a Benelli SuperNova. The Benelli is better in nearly every way – except, it’s much more expensive to get parts, and modify it. The 870 makes a great “truck gun” – throw it in the back, when you need it – it’ll work. It’s like a shovel, or an axe, except it goes BANG.

  • redneckcowboy November 9, 2015, 10:21 am

    I was on a large police department that had Winchester Model 12 army surplus shotguns that everyone but the chief loved. He decided to go to the 870, because they were modern. All the officers wanted to buy the Model 12s for their personal use, but no, the chief decided we couldn’t be trusted with them, and had them melted down. We found the 870 to be unreliable and finicky to use. In the heat of a gun battle, if you fail to get a shell pushed up far enough for the retention catch to hold it in the magazine, it can pop back under the shell carrier and you have a jammed gun. The solution is to use something like a knife blade in beside the carrier and push the shell forward until you can raise the carrier enough to get the shell pushed up into the magazine. This sounds slow, and it is slow. The only reason in my opinion that they are used by police departments are that they are cheap, have the hype of being the go to shotgun as advertised by Remington, and the buyers for the police departments don’t have to depend on them for their own protection or in a firefight situation. My personal pump shotgun is the Mossberg Maverick 88 that I bought lightly used for $75.00. It is built on the old tried and true Model 31 Remington shotgun that I believe is a much better design. If you miss getting a shell completely in the magazine, it simply pops back out into the open area beneath the bolt and can be pushed into the magazine again or dumped on the ground. I’ve never in the timed runs for qualification had a jam because of the design on the 88, and the Sheriff’s department I qualify with has many deputies that have bought their won 88s and carry them in their cars on patrol, and to qualify with, rather than the 870s that the SO furnishes. 870s are great guns for hunting small game, ducks, or geese, but if I am hunting an armed man, give me a Mossberg, a Winchester Model 12, or some other shotgun that does not have a built in jam design.

    • Jack April 3, 2016, 11:42 pm

      The 870’s have had anti-jam modified shell carriers (and bolts) since the mid-80’s. The malfunction you describe is now a non-event. If a shell goes under the carrier, one pump, and it’s clear.

      • PatrickG April 15, 2016, 4:17 pm

        I remember the first time I did that as a kid. It’s a pretty rough pump, but that was how I handled it the couple of times that it happened. I just racked the pump and it was clear.

  • Riedog November 9, 2015, 10:12 am

    So I have spent a bit of time selling guns, and this is my spiel. The 870 Vs. 500 conversation is as you said is a Coke Vs. Pepsi. In that both go bang and what not BUT 870 has a few advantages in the after market world. 1st as you noted everybody and there dog makes parts, and if you need work most smiths can knock it out quickly. 2nd the magazine tube construction makes it easy to expand capacity. 3rd. if you wake up day and want to run a AR pistol grip / collapsible stock, such as a Mesa Tactical LEO set up that safety and slide release are in the correct spot. This last issue for me as a huge selling point. If you turkey hunt, or have a gun that has more than one user the pistol grip / collapsible set up has big advantages; this set up with a 500 for a right handed shooter means the safety is not reachable with out moving way off the trigger, and working the slide release pretty much requires you to take your and off the trigger and roll the gun. Just food for thought.

  • David Grimes November 9, 2015, 9:59 am

    I actually have an 870 Police Magnum exactly as the one pictured in this article hanging within two steps of my bed.

    I was persuaded some time back the “the whole discussion over whether stopping power has to start with a ‘4’ is silly. For REAL stopping power it starts with a ’12.'”

    I carry a Colt Defender in .45 acp.

    But for my home defense I have that 870 with an extended magazine tube so I have 6 loud bangs available at need. Nothing in the chamber deliberately. Not a safety issue, just that I think that distinctive “clack clack” sound to chamber number one will make most home invaders do two things – 1. dirty their didies and 2. run like hell.

    That’s all I want, just get the f*ck out of my house.

    But if I HAVE to knock him down then I damn well have the tool to do it.

    Only shot the thing six times. It was used when I got it so I wanted to make sure it went bang. And I installed the tube extender (Remington branded) and wanted to make sure all six would feed. Yes to both.

    I had never shot a short barreled shotgun before and wanted to see what it would do. On the man sized silhouette at 7 yards, maybe three number 6 birdshot pellets outside of the 8 ring. And virtually no paper at all left inside the 9 ring. I call that REAL stopping power.

    • T.J. October 12, 2017, 6:15 am

      Only time an intruder should hear click clack is immediately after a shotgun blast

  • john creveling November 9, 2015, 9:43 am

    As other posters have said simply use your index finger to disengage the slide.Wrap it around the front of the trigger guard then back to a shooting position.I find it much easier to use than the Mossberg which as memory serves is smaller and at the back of the trigger guard.Also the tang safety on the Mossberg is fine until you pot a pistol grip on it then you can’t operate it with out moving your shooting hand.Both are fine guns but I prefer the 870’s controls.

  • evan November 9, 2015, 9:40 am

    The 870 is by far my favorite shotgun overall. I am also partial to beretta autos and o/u’s. I have used the 870 for hunting targets and tactically. Reliability has never been a issue. They always work. Granted quality is not as good on the express models as the wingmaster. With a little polishing the express can be as smooth. As far as controls are concerned the 870 is superior. It is adaptable to any situation and has a very short learning curve. Try saying that about a mossberg with a tactical pistol grip. Your thumb would have to be 3 times longer. Steel receiver vs aluminum. Steel will always wear longer. The 870 also has a better feel/balance than the mossberg. Lets call that pointability. Very important when considering a scattergun.

    • dhamilton November 9, 2015, 2:41 pm

      Hmmm… could this be apples and oranges. why not put a “tactical pistol grip” on an 870 and do the comparison? perhaps this has more to do with trying to avoid the issue that the US military chose the Mossberg over the Remington. why did the military, after huge amount of testing, choose this inferior Mossberg as a battle weapon even though it is built with aluminum even though “steel will always wear longer”. both the Remington and the Mossberg had been around for many years when the time of testing arrived. neither were a new kid on the block.
      my “scattergun” 20 g 500 bantam is not a gun that scatters. it is amazing what it does w/ 7s/8s at 30 yds. it just wont scatter. strangely much of the shot is within a 7″ circle? anyway, I’m impressed. re the popular 870 here vs my bantam, the lifter does not catch and pinch my finger or grab ahold of my glove as I am loading it?? and my 500 has, for me personally, a beautiful balance. I have owned rifles/shotguns since I was 6yr. am now 69 and that little bantam w/ 3 buck is all I need when i go out into my front yard at midnight. because coyotes have even been up on my porch, my small dog and I have some need of protection. with the 500 being quick and easy to the ready, the dog and I have little need for concern here in the mountains of east WVa. btw, I have an h&r single 20 g which I cut back to 19″. thus i do have a “scattergun” to shoot alongside my pump for comparison.

  • Jim November 9, 2015, 9:14 am

    I have owned the same 870 Wingmaster since 1970. It was one year old when I bought it used.
    It had had one box of shells shot though the gun. My 870 is a 20ga. and the guy who owned it
    bought a 12ga. 870 to replace it. I will never sell this gun. The gun is in new
    condition. I use the gun for bird and rabbit hunting. This gun has never jammed. It has
    performed 100% for forty five years. I’m actually thinking of purchasing another to use to shot trap
    or for sporting clays.

  • Jim Miller November 9, 2015, 9:06 am

    About 20 years ago, I purchased an early 50’s Wingmaster for $149 due to first owner installing a Cutts on the full length barrel. After some easy hacksaw and file work, I had a fine grouse gun with a 22″ cyl. bore barrel. Shortly thereafter, a friend had his 870 stolen, but lowlifes left his extra barrels so I was able to purchase an old Buckmaster barrel in the original box (18.5″ with rifle sights) and a 28″ modified barrel for virtually nothing, as the insurance company reimbursement nearly covered what he had invested in the package. It has served me well over the years for ducks, deer and birds.

  • Jim L. November 9, 2015, 8:57 am

    I looked hard at the 870 tacticals vs the Mossberg 590 A1 – Reliability, cost and after market options being equal, I choose the Mossberg for the tang safety and bar release since I could actuate both without having to move my hand from the shooting position it just seemed right for me…

  • bthomas November 9, 2015, 8:55 am

    Got no problems w/ the 870. Been using one since 1967. Faultless regardless of when, where and how used. Works on deer, birds. Couple of times, it has worked on home intruders. In many ways, it was to shotguns what the Glock is to pistols. When introduced to the market, it changed everything for everyone. As pistols are now evaluated in terms of how they stack up to a Glock, so practical/tactical and hunting shotguns are evaluated in terms of how they stack up to a Remington 870. Cool.

  • Jim W. November 9, 2015, 8:43 am

    I’ve owned both a Remington 870 and an Ithaca 37. Of the two, my (slightly) personal favorite is the Ithaca, but it would be a real dilemma for me to have to choose between them. The Ithaca is WAY smoother, but the Remington seems to shoot a little “softer”. I love the bottom-ejection of the Ithaca, but the Remington is far, far easier to fully strip and clean. Both are fast, both are accurate, and both have never failed to function….and that’s even after some glaring omissions in maintenance. Like a lot of posts here have indicated, each gun has its pluses and minuses, and in the end it’s a matter of personal preference. I’ll still take my 37. I think.

    • Vince B November 9, 2015, 12:23 pm

      I’m glad to see a little love for the Ithaca 37. I own a 20ga, 16ga and a12ga after selling an 870. The 870 is a fine shotgun but the Ithaca 37 just comes to me like nothing else I’ve tried. The 16ga is my favorite and would be the last gun I would ever let go of. because it just becomes part of me when I use it. When you find a fit like that the rest comes easy.

  • George November 9, 2015, 8:23 am

    My first was a 16ga. Wingmaster. I have carried 870s from Cape May NJ to Alaska. So covered in Ice, I used a tree truck to open the action after firing on Mallards in Valdez. Through muck, mud, snow, ice, glazier silt the gun never fails.

  • jeff neal November 9, 2015, 8:16 am

    What you’ve got in the 870P is an 870 Wingmaster with a parkerized finish. And this is the premium variant from Remington. All 870’s have a receiver machined from a solid block of ordnance grade steel, but the extractor on the Express models are MIM as opposed to the solid steel of the “P” and Wingmaster models, however this is an easy upgrade. The Police model also has a metal trigger guard, the Express goes with synthetic (which is actually preferred by many as it sheds grit and junk better than the metal). It should also be noted that Express models finished is bead blasted and blued as opposed to the more durable parkerized finish on the gun above. The gun pictured in the article also has a fixed improved cylinder choke, while the Express has a cylinder bore.

    The reason I mention this is that most readers will wind up purchasing the Express model in lieu of the considerably more expensive “P” model, and should be aware of the differences. Also, I haven’t seen an Express HD barrel in years that didn’t have the bead-on-base sight soldered in the 12 0’clock position. They’re all canted at 11 o’clock. Ironically, the solution comes from Mossberg in the form of an 18.5″ cylinder bore barrel with a matte finish and threaded brass bead sight in the correct position! Those Mossberg boys don’t miss an opportunity.

  • Pete November 9, 2015, 8:10 am

    The rise in popularity of the 870 really didn’t have much to do with reliability or being able to accessorize it. It became popular because of price. The winchester Model 12 was the gun of it’s day, but because of all of the hand fitting and manufacturing processes of the time it was way more expensive. The Remington 870 basically priced the Model 12 out of production. The ability to add lights, grips and other things came much later. Not to take away anything from the 870. It is a great firearm. I however also prefer the Mossberg because of how it is laid out. Oscar Mossberg was indeed a genius and doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a designer.

  • Luke K-Ski November 9, 2015, 8:06 am

    I’ve used the 870 for years in the Corps, excellent weapon, but I like the Mossberg 500 “controls” better, I find them to be more user friendly, and reliability on par with the 870. It’s a hard decision to make, so I own both.

  • Andy Bill November 9, 2015, 8:02 am

    I shouldered my first shotgun in 1962, an Ithaca mdl 37. Now, 53 years later I still have that beloved Ithaca, but my Go-To shotgun is the Mossberg 590. I own a Remington 870, and in fact I’ve owned several over the years. I can see no difference in reliability between my Mossberg and the Remington, but just in my own opinion I find the controls on the Mossberg are inherently easier to use. Now, bear in mind I have hands that call for a large size glove, but this is due more to the width of my palm an the fatness of my fingers than it is to the length of my fingers. Under stress, the safety on the Mossberg is far and away superior, and again that’s my opinion. I’ve installed an over-sized safety on my Mossberg. It is ridiculously easy to find and use and nigh on impossible to miss. Right thumb, push forward for safe, pull back for fire. Same thumb. With my 870 I have to use a completely different motion for safe and fire. Under stress, and for the average homeowner, this could be a serious issue. Now, regarding the action bar lock, on my Mossberg I use the middle finger of my right and I still have a decent grip on the stock whilst doing it. It’s quick and easy. The Remington requires longer fingers for the wraparound approach and a very dedicated motion. So, we all have our preferences, and I’m happy to go shooting with anyone who loves the 870. I just hope they won’t hold it against me that I’m bringing my 590.

  • Benny Teague November 9, 2015, 7:54 am

    I bought my FIRST 870 in the early 70’s for $149 where as I could have bought a Mossburg for $99. As a young Man, the weight of the 870 was never a issue because it was the most reliable shotgun made. Over the years, I bought some fancy over/unders, Light Weight Remmington Autos to cut down on the weight and went to a ultra heavy Browinng Autos (big mistake). Now pushing 70, my 870 is STILL my go to shotgun and most of the rest sold quickly.

  • Fred Gasperino November 9, 2015, 7:52 am

    As a young lad I worked at a gun club for 5 years. In those 5 years I can honestly say I never saw a broken 870. I did see several broken mossberg 500’s. IMO the Mossberg is not nearly as smooth to operate as the 870.

  • elloyd_tunt November 9, 2015, 7:51 am

    Why an 870? In thirty-five years of hunting ducks & geese in some of the worst Texas slop, mud, gunk, hydrilla, you name it,
    I have never had the 870 not chamber and fire a round The same goes for dove hunting in sand, dirt, and dust. I also own Winchesters’ and Mossbergs’, .which are also fine pump-action guns, but day in and day out, the 870 is the winner.

  • Carl November 9, 2015, 7:42 am

    I used 870’s in my police career and my second career in close protection. I am also a Remington 870 armorer. I was always satisfied with the 870’s from the P.D however Joe has it right. The last ten years Remington has turned out a poor quality product. We had constant malfunctions while training and shipped the guns back to Remington for some fine tuning. They still malfunctioned. The action bars bent, the extractors wore out, the roll pins in the receiver fell out during use, etc. Personally I own an old Mossberg 500 and have been extremely satisfied with it.

  • RetiredFCC November 9, 2015, 7:22 am

    Use your trigger finger to operate the action bar lock. I’m able to reach it with my trigger finger going around the front of the trigger gusrd. I would think that unless you have very small hands, you should be able to do the same!

  • Slight November 9, 2015, 7:02 am

    Nice review on the 870; personally I have never owned one. My mother did and at 5’2″ and 105 wet in her twenties, used it as here go to when she was being stalked by a psycho. Her dad was in the pd and taught her how to use it on the farm. I elected to purchase the 1187 instead and it is my go to competition fire arm. It is tricked out a bit, but that wasn’t difficult or expensive to do. If you are going to keep your remington, here is a list of things you might want to do. Grab the oversized safety, oversized charging handle, side saddle, the oversized load ramp, and possibly go to the 8 shell tube; which is easy to screw on, but requires a special tool or some light dreamil work do to dimples. These mods turn the remington into a race car, and help in stressful situations. There is one thing negative I will say about Remington. They use deletions with different distributors and not all of their same line up contain all the original parts as the original design. This is the reason a mom and pop may be 600 and Walmart is 400. I didn’t believe it until, my local gun store showed me. He had two same 870s that day. One felt amazing and the other felt like a piece of crap; so buyer be aware, deletitions aren’t an old wives tale.

  • Mike in Maine November 9, 2015, 5:56 am

    Seeing that 25 yard target, with those 2 slug’s, tells me that someone needs to go see the eye Doctor. 870’s are notorious for being accurate with a slug, and at ranges well beyond 25 yards. If there was any one thing that the 870 does need is a far more aggressive forearm grip. The current walnut is simply not cut deep enough to ensure a good, positive gripping surface when racking the 870 while duck hunting. Granted the forearm grip can be replaced, but why when a simple factory production alteration, that Remington can easily do, and at no greater cost than what the 870 is costing them already, can be done in the normal course of building the 870.

    • Rocky Thomas November 9, 2015, 9:14 am

      Right and low would indicate he’s anticipating and leaning into recoil just prior to squeezing the trigger, more commonly referred to as flinching!

    • Oaf November 9, 2015, 1:22 pm

      The 870 he used had a bead front sight with basically no rear, only the grove on the top of the receiver. I’d say an inch and a half at 25 yards is not a bad group considering the lack of a proper slug sight.

  • wayne wright November 9, 2015, 5:33 am

    Bought my first 870 approx. 63 years ago. Cost $69.00 at Arlington Tx Goodyear store. Was a flawless hunter. I liked the corncob shucker better than the later one. Also the wood was much better than now

  • Michael E. Hensley November 9, 2015, 4:17 am

    Between the Rem 870 series and the Mossberg 500 series why would anyone desire more, Besides being a dyed in the wool Ruger Fanatic from what I have seen it is the only thing Remington did correct. At least it does not place holes through the side of one’s PU cab when no one is in the PU to pull the trigger, True there should not have been a round left in the chamber and NO it was not me or my PU. 77’s do not do stuff like that nor do 870’s

  • jack November 9, 2015, 3:27 am

    Having used the 870 for the 25 yrs as a LEO and now as a home defense weapon I will call it my 2nd best favorite 12g. I also own a Saiga 12g. that has been modified to a folding stock and having the trigger group moved to it’s proper forward location. With a 10 or 12 round magazine it has performance factors superior compared to the pump gun. If quick shooting is needed the Saiga cannot be beat. Pattern of pellets of both 9 pellet and #4 pellets in both shotguns place about the same pattern at 7 to 25 yards. The Saiga has a lot less felt recoil as well when using the magnum loads and the heavy slugs. The Saiga is a bit lighter and not needing to pump the Saiga has made it my #1 shotgun for most occasions. The 870 is now enjoying semi retirement in the gun safe all cleaned oiled and ready to go whenever needed again. Having the crazy black pistol gripped long gun that drives the anti’s wild makes my day as well. So the Saiga wins for the time being.

  • Thomas M Reyburn November 8, 2015, 10:50 am

    I was given my 870 in 1958. I have over 5,000 rounds thru it; mostly in the duck blind. It has never been to the shop. I clean it and put it back in its waterproof floating case. Perfect shotgun.

  • Will Drider November 7, 2015, 12:18 am

    Dave stop! Please Stop. You are teaching your self very poor methods of handling the 870. Between yur time with the Mossy and trying to convert to the 870 you are bastardizing the manipulation of controls and creating your own difficulties. These faults will kill your times to engagement, combat reload, tactical reload, single special munitions change, malfunction clearing to nam a few pitfalls. I pass this to you as a Remington Factory Armorer, State certified LE Range Master anf Firearms Instructor for which the 870 was a primary firearm. Your strong side finger tip is the only thing that should engage the action release or the safety (never throught the trigger guard, under it to the apex of the guard and stock). I highly recommend you contact a LE firearm Guru to show you the how to properly utilize the 870 to its full potenial. You should also have the full load plus 2 of snap caps. You must rack the slide hard like you want to break it in both directions, a soft stroke will get you killed. If you want further information contact Admin for my email address.
    Semper Fi,
    WR

    • Joe McHugh November 9, 2015, 6:52 am

      Will, as a Remington factory armorer, perhaps you might address the Remington 870 reliability issues of recent years. Dave Higginbotham was right about the great reliability of the Model 870 from the early 1950’s until the mid 2010’s. The basic design is good and the fine people at the Ilion, New York Remington Arms factory are excellent gun builders. However, something happened that showed up on the gun review forums, namely reliability issues with new Model 870’s. One can still find these reports about the Remington model 870 review web sites.

      Remington uses steel receivers instead of the aluminum metal used by Mossberg. This makes the Remington shotgun more expensive to make than the popular Mossberg. I suspect that Remington was trying to cut manufacturing costs by skimping on quality control efforts on the production line, and especially at the final inspection stage.

      I have a nephew who loves his Remington 870 that he purchased in 1998. I have a Mossberg Model 590A1 pump shotgun that suits me to a tea. Will, has Remington addressed the quality control reports that showed up on the Internet forums?

    • Rocky Thomas November 9, 2015, 9:09 am

      Couldn’t agree more Will. Sounds like Dave has a few Mossberg bad habits ingrained, that he needs to overcome. I’m not sure why anyone would even consider using the thumb to apply the safety on an 870, except that they’ve been Mosberg trained, and can’t kick those bad habits.

      Having owned both, having hunted both I wouldn’t hesitate a second to say… the Mossberg is really a sweet gun, it fit me well, felt great, the safety was just wonderfully in the right place when you pulled it up in the field bird hunting.Unfortunately, it is also in a very convenient place to be bumped into the fire position in a number of routine carry scenarios. The Mossberg was first shotgun, the 870 my second, so no, I can’t say that ingrained 870 habits may have influenced my position on that matter. It was more one of experience in the field with both.

      I’ve since added a BPS to the lineup, love the bottom eject, as it doesn’t send brass flying into your buddies’ laps, sitting in the duck blind; don’t necessarily find the safety in the right positions for other applications. It’s too convenient, too easy to make it not safe.

      I won a Stoeger side by side with plastic furniture in a game of chance, price didn’t even factor in to that purchase, never unwrapped it but far enough to lock it together, and pull it to my shoulder.Everything about it screamed it was gonna kick like a mule. Didn’t like the way it felt, put it back in the box, carried to the local gun shop and traded it off the next day. On the other hand however, I’ve shot a Stoeger Over/Under with wood stock, and found it amazingly sweet.

      The quality control problems Joe refers to were found predominantly on the 870 Express to my knowledge; buy budget, expect budget; yes corners are cut to reduce price, occasionally quality doesn’t meet what one would expect from the 870. While fit and finish are certainly not the quality of that on my Wingmaster, I own an 870 Express in 20 gauge and 12 gauge, and I’ve never encountered so much as a hiccup out of either; they’ve both performed flawlessly. And, likewise to the best of my knowledge, yes… Remington has addressed those issues in Quality Control Joe.

      • Jeff November 9, 2015, 2:10 pm

        Rocky I personally believe you are correct, the issues some had with 870’s were the Express models that were made for several years around 2009 – 2011. My neighbor bought his son an 870 Express when he turn 12 years old after graduated from Hunter Safety in 2012, they have had nothing but problems with it, I told him to return it when they had problems right out of the box. Apparently like many others, that is not the route he took and instead choses to bad mouth the 870 in general to anyone that will listen and has had it repaired a half-dozen times…
        I personally have had a Remington 870 with the “Deer Slayer” slug barrel since 1976, my dad bought it for me a few days before Deer Hunting Season opened that year. From about 1978 until 1985 that gun got one heck of work out, Deer, Rabbit, Pheasant and Grouse were the main targets and they were all very plentiful here in WI and we were very active hunters. After my “glory days” of hunting, I used it only for the annual Deer Hunt and it performed just like the day my Dad handed it to me. After untold thousands of rounds, I have replaced only a couple of springs, a firing pin, and an extractor. About 10 years ago I had to give up on Deer Hunting, the 870 is now my go to home-defense weapon.

    • Bernie Doyle November 9, 2015, 5:30 pm

      I concur as a fellow LE range master and Federal instructor where the 870 was the primary “front country” long arm for Rangers of the US Park Service. Now that I’m retired I keep a personal 870 for the house as much out of familiarity and confidence than anything else. Have owned the Mossburg with no issue but fall back on decades of training and use on the 870. Price and reliability are important for me now that I buy my own. I concur with the handling assessment recommendation of Mr. Drider.

      Go Air Force
      BD

    • Hoff November 10, 2015, 6:02 am

      Semper Fi happy birthday. Hit me up WR I got some Q

    • Larry C December 14, 2015, 10:37 pm

      Will, I agree with you on the handling controls. I release the slide with the fingertip of my “Obama salute finger”. At the same time my trigger finger touches the front of the trigger guard. It is very quick to slide the hand back and now the “salute finger” takes off the safety and simultaneously the trigger finger is in position to fire if so desired. The entire operation is under 1/2 second.

  • Martin B November 6, 2015, 4:40 pm

    I spent an hour in the gun shop looking at shotguns. The owner showed me a Turkish side by side, but I found the twin barrels unnecessarily heavy. It reminded me of my cousin’s gun that I had failed to hit a rabbit with when I was 13. I then tried Mossbergs and Remingtons, but couldn’t feel the love. None of the controls were natural to me, just like Nikon cameras. They might be great cameras, but my fingers don’t bend in ways that let me operate the controls. The same with these shotguns. I then picked up a Mossberg Maverick. It might be cheaper and somewhat nastier than the premium guns, but the controls felt like coming home. Everything worked in an ideal fashion. I note that recent FNH shotguns use the same control setup, and those guys are not idiots.

    So I now have a shotgun with two barrels, one 18.5 inches, the other 28 inches, that is relatively light, and fits me like a glove. I have installed a Limbsaver recoil pad for comfort. I can use the controls in the dark or with eyes closed, I can reload without risking my thumb, and I can operate the safety and bolt release without any contortion or discomfort. I have what I need.

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