The Remington 870 Pump Shotgun-Time Tested Defense/Utility/Hunting Tool

Whatever version of the 870 you choose, you can't go wrong.

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Although I am not a deer hunter, the fact that deer season is around the corner hasn't escaped me, and got me thinking about the 12 gauge shotgun I've used more than any other-the Remington 870 pump.

The 870 has been a companion of mine for the past 35 years of law enforcement service, serving both as a personal defensive gun in my police cruiser, and as a training tool for training police academy cadets. Add in a few rounds over time for recreational shooting, and well, let's just say I have thousands of rounds under my belt with the particular shotgun.

The Remington 870 has been THE police standard duty shotgun here in the Midwest for decades. On the East and West Coast, the Ithaca Model 37 held sway. While SWAT teams may have fielded some more exotic shotguns over the years, for the officer on patrol, the Remington 870 reigned supreme.

There are four main qualities about the 870 that have endeared it to the law enforcement and sporting community. The first quality is its reliability. The 870 will take a hefty amount of abuse and neglect and still keep running. The second is its ease of maintenance and serviceability. Disassembly is simple. Dismount the barrel of the 870 by unscrewing the knurled magazine cap and sliding it off. Removing the bolt and carrier assembly is the next step if desired. Reassembly is just as easy. As a side note this system lends itself switching to different barrels for different missions. Third is the fact that since the 870 is a manually operated pump action gun, and is chambered for 3 inch Magnum Shells (which will also take 2 1/2 standard shells) you can shoot just about any 12 gauge ammo through it that you can find with total reliability. The same can't be said of all semi-automatic shotguns. The fourth and final quality is cost. The basic utility grade 870s are quite easy on the wallet, and purchasing a combo package for multiple use provides an even greater savings. Vance's has several of the Express Combo type packages that come with both a 20 inch rifled deer barrel and 26 inch modified choke vent rib barrel for birds or clays.

I owned an Express package for many years, except that the deer barrel was smoothbore rather than rifled, and was topped by Remington's excellent rifled sights. I chose smoothbore barrel for home defense as well as police academy training since shot loads pattern better through a smoothbore. I used the additional vent rib barrel for informal rounds of sporting clays.

Even in its basic guise, the 870 cycles smoothly through the feeding and ejection cycle. The two main controls, the crossbolt manual safety and the action bar release are easily accessed, and are easily learned with a bit of practice, and the length of pull of the stock seems to be right for most shooters.

If you are considering a shotgun for defensive use alone, take a look at the 870 Express Synthetic 12 gauge. Unlike the express combo packages, this version carries a shorter smoothbore 18 inch barrel with a bead front sight. The stock is of the standard sporting variety rather than the pistol grip style. Standard stock shotguns are easier to carry afield, and they allow the gun to swing more quickly on moving targets. However, a lot of people like the pistol grip style better. Try both styles and see what feels best for you. Of course, if you want to keep both stocks on hand for different uses, they too are easily changed out. Bead sights, while not as popular as they once were, still do the trick when firing shot loads in smoothbore barrels at close ranges, and also work well with rifled slugs at moderate ranges. Magazine capacity in the Express Synthetic is also up over the basic Express models-six rounds in the tube rather than four. While a second barrel doesn't come with this model, other barrels can be ordered as needed. Finish is tactical black. While defense is the primary mission of this particular 870, it works well for predator control on rural properties.

Of course Remington makes many other versions and grades of the 870 for various sporting, defense, and recreational uses. Whatever version you choose, you can't go wrong. I'd say that's not bad for a 64 year old classic design that still has loads of life left in it.