Firearm of the Week #2
Posted by Trik Toral, 02 January 2014 · 2,504 views
Firearm: Model 870
Gauge(s): 12, 16, 20, 28 and .410 bore
Action type: Pump action
Capacity: 3+1 to 8+1 (8 shells in the tube magazine, plus 1 shell in the chamber)
History: For a long time double barrel shotguns had the highest capacity of a shotgun. Bringing more than one shot to a fight without reloading was very desirable. In the 1880-90s repeating shotguns such as the Winchester 1897 entered the stage, bringing 3 or more shots, and became incredibly popular. These early pump guns, while successful, were not entirely reliable, using only one action bar to hold the forend to the receiver among other issues and were not cheap. Various companies attempted to improve the design, creating shotguns such as the Ithaca 37, the Winchester Model 12 and the Remington Model 31. These were all somewhat successful, with the Winchester far outselling the others. Remington realized that the Model 31 was far too expensive to produce; requiring lots of machining and other work, it was not competitive enough to make an impact on the pump gun market.
In 1947 Remington authorized $790,000 for development of a new pump shotgun that would be in a family of guns with the new 11-48 semi auto shotgun. The new design was called the 870 and shared 60 interchangeable parts with the 11-48 out of a total of 73. This family also later included the 760-7600 pump action rifles. These new shotguns were designed for reliability, ease of use, and affordability. They succeeded in every way. With the 870 Remington patented the idea of using two action bars, one on each side of the forend. Twin action bars prevent the forend from being twisted, which would bind up the action and cause a jam. Remington also designed and patented a drop-in trigger group that was compatible with the 11-48. Any barrels for a certain gauge were interchangeable between either gun of that gauge. The 870 used stamped and cast parts so that less machining was required (the most expensive part of making a gun). In fact, it required only 1/5 of the machining of the Model 31! Remington used these new manufacturing methods of mass producing interchangeable parts to create a reliable, durable and light shotgun that was priced very reasonably for the time, costing $15 dollars ($134 after inflation) less than its primary competitor, the Winchester Model 12.
As time went on, the 870 was consistently more affordable than the Model 12, staying at an average of $150 cheaper. In 1964 Winchester dropped the expensive Model 12 and replaced it with the cheaply made Model 1200, which was an immediate dismal failure. It was made with inferior parts and still required excessive machining. It was later dropped, forcing Winchester out of the pump gun business, which only served to build the success of the 870. In 1966 the 870 broke 1 million sales, an incomprehensible amount in that short of time. 1987 brought the Express model, a budget shotgun with a matte finish and plain hardwood stock, further boosting sales. Today, over 10 million 870s have been sold, used worldwide by police, militaries and citizens. It quickly and firmly established its place as the most popular and well known shotgun in the world. Unless a new shotgun can come into the market to topple the 870 (unlikely, considering its exemplary track record), it will continue to hold the top dog position.
Variants: Wingmaster: Deluxe model with polished bluing and glossy wood stock.
Express: Budget model with matte finish and laminated or synthetic stock.
Police: Parkerized finish, stronger springs, extended magazine and inspected more thoroughly.
Marine: Nickel plated to prevent rust and textured synthetic stock to improve grip in wet conditions.
Date of manufacture: 1951 to present.
Users: Many militaries and police forces worldwide, too many to name. Private citizens.
What makes this gun unique: Most sold shotgun in the world, 10 million as of 2009.
My experiences: I have shot 2 different 870s, a modern 20 gauge Express youth and a 70s 12 gauge Wingmaster. They have both functioned flawlessly in my experience; I've never had a jam or fail to feed in either gun. The Wingmaster is a much nicer gun with a slicker action, but my Express has never failed me and the 18" barrel is much more maneuverable than the 30" on the Wingmaster. I've shot other pump guns, such as a Stevens pump action and a Mossberg 500, and I much prefer the controls and feel of the 870. The Wingmaster is one of my favorite shotguns, its beautiful and the action is smooth as silk. They feel great in my arms, swing nicely and are very accurate. Field stripping is incredibly simple, I can remove the barrel, bolt and carrier, forend and trigger group with ease, leaving the receiver an empty shell that is easily cleaned. If I ever wanted to/needed to replace a part, I would feel confident doing it myself. I love my 870s and highly recommend them for hunting/recreation/home defense or anything else.
Why you should own one: Very durable, reliable and versatile. Affordable, yet nothing is lacking in the quality, especially in the older Wingmasters. Their reputation precedes them as the most dependable shotgun in the world, and with easily swappable barrels, they can be used for any purpose at a moments notice. With plenty of aftermarket support in stocks, fore ends, shell holders, extended magazines, etc, they're very customizable for anything you can imagine.
Pictures: My dads Wingmaster he bought in 1974 :
It has a few battle scars from years of hunting.
Very nice polished blueing with stainless bolt and trigger.
Any comments, questions, concerns, gripes, complaints? I'd love to hear them.