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Remington 870 Review: The King of American Shotguns?

In a long overdue review, we take a look at the iconic Remington 870 and see why it's remained as one of THE pump-action shotguns on the market.

With Remington’s recent rebirth, we’ve decided to explore one of the kings of American shotguns.

Remington and Mossberg ruled the roost of pump-action shotguns for the longest time now. Remington’s 870 has long been their flagship firearm, and today we are taking more than one for a run. 

Remington 870
Remington 870

The Remington 870 Express .410 was my first actual firearm. It was given to me for my 8th birthday, and I remember that evening my dad took me hunting rabbits in the orange groves near our home.

I can still remember toting this lightweight little pump gun as the sunset. It was cold, and while we didn’t get any rabbits that night, it’s still one of my fondest memories.

I’ve clung to that Remington .410 ever since and recently gave it to my own son. I’m certainly a fan of the gun, and I own five different models of the 870, and it’s easily one of my favorite shotguns. 

Remington 870
Remington 870

Table of Contents

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Remington 870 Review at a Glance

Pros 

  • Slick and smooth action 
  • Incredibly reliable 
  • Available in virtually any configuration you could want
  • Available in multiple calibers 
  • Rugged steel receiver 

Cons 

  • Dimpled tubes make mag extensions a pain
  • Factory LOPs are often too long

The Bottom Line 

The Remington 870 is an incredibly reliable and well-made shotgun designed to fill any role a shotgun can fill. It’s an awesome option for home defense, deer hunting, upland birds, ducks, small game, clay pigeons, etc. Clearly, the Remington 870 is a top-tier choice if you need a pump shotgun. 

Available Coupons

Specs & Features

Specs

  • Caliber: 12 Gauge (.410 and 20 gauge also available) 
  • Length: 40″ 
  • Barrel Length: 20″ (14 through 28″ also available)
  • Weight: 7.5 lbs
  • Capacity: 7 Rounds (4 to 6 also available)

Features 

  • Dual-action bars 
  • Raised bead sight 
  • Deep blued finish (Wingmaster models) 

The 870’s Background 

Remington 870 close up

Remington’s king of pump shotguns came to life in 1950, and at the time, it was rather revolutionary.

You see, Remington had the idea to increase the action bars from one to two and patented the concept of dual-action bars on a pump shotgun. Dual-action bars help prevent binds, increase reliability, and result in a super-smooth action.

Remington designed the 870 to compete with the Winchester Model 12, which was considered the king of shotguns in 1950. The 870 proved to be more modern, reliable, and affordable. 

Winchester Model 12 with bayonet
Winchester Model 12 with bayonet (Photo: Rock Island Auction)

The result was a pump-action, bottom loading, side ejecting, tubular magazine-fed shotgun. 

There are hundreds of different configurations of this gun, and in 2009 Remington stated over 11 million 870s had been produced. The various configurations include different calibers, finishes, barrel lengths, furniture, and more. 

Remington 870 (17)
My collection of Remington 870 shotguns

The most basic models are the Express and Express Tactical. These feature a matte black bead-blasted finish with wood or synthetic furniture and are available in .410, 2- gauge, and 12-gauge. 

The Wingmaster represents the company’s premier shotgun, and as the name implies, most Wingmasters are sporting guns. However, I own two tactical variants of the Wingmaster, so they’re not unheard of.

Wingmasters feature a beautiful blued finish and American walnut stocks and are premium-grade guns. 

Remington 870 (10)
Remington 870 Express

The Fieldmaster represents Remington’s latest line of shotguns and falls in between the Express and Wingmaster models.

The stock is matte black and reportedly more durable than the express finish. The gun also features improved action bars for a silky-smooth action. 

Beyond these three designs, we also have the Special Purpose Marine model, the TAC-14 firearms, the SuperMag, the Police Magnum models, and likely a dozen other models between limited configurations, military models, and distributor exclusives. 

Remington 870 (12)
Remington 870 Tac-14

Who Is It For?

The Remington 870 isn’t like the Glock 19. If I say Glock 19, you picture Gaston’s little polymer frame pistol. If I say Remington 870, you could picture many guns, from the military’s MCS to your grandfather’s bird gun. 

There is an 870 for everyone who needs a shotgun. I tend to prefer the tactical models and all but my .410 Express model represents various tactical 870s. I have the ONG military model, a retired Police Wingmaster, and two TAC-14s

Tac'd Out Tac-14
Tac’d Out Tac-14

That’s an excellent example of how versatile the 870 platforms can be. My two Wingmasters can be converted to hunting guns with the swap of a barrel, the removal of the magazine extensions, and the addition of a plug. 

Shotguns can be swapped between various configurations with ease and put into various roles in half a heartbeat. Proper ammo selection goes a long way, and shotguns certainly give you many different ammo options. 

The Remington 870 can be configured for any roll and for nearly everyone. From kids with .410s to breachers with short PGO 870s. 

Fit & Feel 

Shooting the Remington 870

I’m a shotgun nerd, and I’ve experienced a variety of different actions — actions from Benelli, Mossberg, Winchester, and more. However, the 870 Wingmaster will always hold a space in my heart.

It has to be the smoothest and slickest action on any pump-action shotgun I’ve handled. 

Even the standard Express models are super slick and smooth. You won’t find the grit and slop that shows up in other pump actions. Working a well-honed, well-worn action delivers a tactile experience that’s just plain enjoyable. 

It’s so enjoyable that it feels like it should be fattening. 

This and the 870 Wingmaster Action are both right up there in terms of incredible experiences.

It’s hard to express a tactile feeling through text. It slides like it’s on well-worn and oiled ball bearings. The action is so smooth I can work it by rapidly moving the gun back and forth with just my firing hand.

Heck, maybe that’s why Sarah Connor chose the 870 to fight Terminators

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor with her Remington 870
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor with her Remington 870 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

What I don’t like and never will is the American shotgun maker’s obsession with long lengths of pulls. The first thing you should do for tactical guns is drop the 14.5-inch stock and toss on a Hogue youth or Magpul SGA stock. 

If I purchase a Wingmaster or Fieldmaster, I don’t want to remove my American Walnut stock for a polymer one. I’m 6-foot-5-inches, and a 14.5-inch LOP feels ungainly for me. So why is this the standard? 

Other than that, I don’t have much to complain about.

Remington 870 receiver
Remington 870 receiver

Ergonomically the gun is fine. We get a cross-bolt safety that sits at the rear of the trigger, making it a little less intuitive than desirable. 

The pump release sits in front of the trigger and is plenty easy to manipulate. Tossing on a pistol grip stock setup or an AR-like adjustable stock doesn’t create ergonomic issues.

How Does It Shoot?

Shooting the Remington 870

No shotgun gets far without being a solid shooter. Shotgun aficionados have long enjoyed shooting the 870, and it’s easy to see why. I’ve already gushed over the smooth action, but there’s more to it than that. 

First, let’s talk all about accuracy. Remington uses either a vent rib or a bead that sits on a platform. This raises the height of the bead and ensures accuracy and a proper point of aim/point of impact. 

Remington 870
Remington 870

If the bead sits directly on the barrel, the shotgun will appear to hit high and be difficult to aim in a pinch. A raised bead corrects that issue and makes sure your buckshot hits where your bead sits. 

(Rhyme unintentional, but I’ll take it.)

I’ve gotten tight groups with the bead sights with slugs, roughly 2.5 inches at 50 yards with a  supported position. They were Federal Vital-Shok and represent what most will hunt with. 

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Remington offered the famed rifle sights on the barrel, outside of beads, which offer great slug capability. Ghost ring sights are rare on Remington 870s but not unheard of. Sadly, most Remington 870s don’t come optic ready. 

Attaching a rail or optic isn’t easy and might require a trip to a gunsmith to properly install. 

Holosun Optics HS507C
Holosun HS507C on a Benelli M4…but it will work on an 870!

In regards to recoil, it’s like any other pump-action shotgun. The recoil can be fierce, largely on your load selection. Reduced recoil tactical buckshot won’t leave a bruise, but 1-ounce slugs at 1,600 feet per second might rattle some teeth. 

A good push/pull recoil technique can do a fantastic job of mitigating recoil and making the 870 plenty easy to handle. That slick action is more than nice and does make it easy to ensure you can quickly and reliably work the action. 

Remington 870
Remington 870 pump

Short stroking shotgun actions happen, but the smoother the action, the less likely you will short stroke the gun.

Regarding total reliability, the 870 eats standard 2.75 and 3-inch shells. It’s not friendly to 1.75-inch mini shells but functions perfectly with 2.5 and 2-inch shells. 

What Sets the 870 Apart 

If a pump-action shotgun is on your wish list, you should feel good knowing that a quality, basic pump-action shotgun isn’t an expensive weapon.

Remington 870
Remington 870

For less than $450, you can get a good pump-action shotgun, but inside of that realm of affordable pump-action, the Remington reigns supreme. 

Remington 870s give you the smoothest action, a steel receiver, a reliable design, a great bead sight, and plenty of modularity. It’s a tough-as-nails gun that can easily last you a lifetime. 

By the Numbers 

Reliability: 5/5

If you make a pump-action shotgun that can’t cycle, I’m unsure what to tell you. The 870 cycles, fires, ejects without complaint and will do so for decades of trouble-free use. 

Ergonomics: 4/5

My main complaint on the 870 is Remington’s love of the 14.5-inch length of pull. It’s the first thing I’d change on my Remington guns. Other than that, the Remington 870 features a solid set of perfectly useable controls. 

Accuracy: 5/5 

The bead on the Remington 870 is properly set up to ensure the proper point of aim and point of impact. Within the range of a smoothbore shotgun, it’s as accurate as it gets. 

Customization: 5/5 

The Remington 870 is much like a AR 15 in terms of customization. Do whatever you want to it! 

Value: 4/5  

The Remington 870 isn’t the cheapest pump-action shotgun or even the cheapest American-made pump-action shotgun, but it still represents a good value. 

Overall: 4.5/5 

The Remington 870’s ruled the roost as one of the two kings of American pump-action shotguns and will continue to do so for many years to come. Heck, it’s outlasted Remington’s own attempts to release a newer pump-action shotgun. 

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Must-Have Remington 870 Upgrades 

Remington 870
For home defense or if you might be in the wilderness after dark, a weapon light is a good idea!

There are a ton of options for Remington 870 upgrades on the market. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Magpul SGA Stock

The Magpul SGA is the best shotgun stock on the planet. It’s adjustable for LOP, has sling points, has an optional riser for optics, and is made to last forever. It’s the stock for modern shotguns. 

Best Overall Upgrade
91
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Streamlight TL Racker 

Mounting a light and maintaining control of it can be tough with pump-action shotguns.

The Streamlight TL Racker replaces your pump with an integrated light. You get 1,000 lumens of bright white light for target identification with massive ambi controls and full control over the light and weapon. 

134
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Blue Force Gear VCAS Sling

A good sling can take you far, and the Vickers Combat Applications Sling is one of the best.

It comes with numerous attachment mechanisms making it easy to toss onto a shotgun like the 870. The VCAS is a quick-adjust two-point design that makes weapon retention a snap. 

54
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Mesa Tactical SureShell Carrier 

Shotguns don’t have a lot of ammo in the gun, so keeping some extra ammo on the gun is always smart. 

The Mesa Tactical SureShell side saddle is a very well-made design that allows you to keep four spare rounds tied to the gun. Mesa makes high-quality stuff, and they are well known as shotgun people. 

64
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Final Verdict 

If you have a task requiring a shotgun, then the Remington 870 can get it done in style.

Remington 870
Remington 870

Now that Remington is back up and running, the 870 will likely rise to the top. It’s a stellar option for home defense, hunting, trap shooting, and whatever else you need a shotgun for. 

What do you think of the Remington 870? Let us know in the comments below. Want to know whether the Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 is right for you? Check out our head-to-head between these two guns.

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3 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Bull o' the Woods

    Gotta say I love Travis's very old school bayonet lug.

    August 11, 2022 3:17 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bull o' the Woods

    I think it would be interesting to explore who exactly owns the Remington brand and the intellectual property behind the 870. My admittedly sketchy and incomplete information suggests that the Remington name was purchased out of bankruptcy by Vista Outdoor, who then split the name into two separate subsidiaries, Remington Ammunition and Remington Arms. I believe Remington Arms (or, as they like to call themselves, "RemArms") is headquartered in La Grange, Georgia. Are these shotguns still being manufactured in Ilion, NY, or has manufacturing been moved to La Grange or elsewhere? Who is building them? Are they former employees from Ilion or new hires? Recall the mess old Remington created when they acquired the Marlin brand in 2007, laid off all the Marlin employees, and moved the manufacturing of Marlin lever guns to Remington plants. Just because you own the IP does not mean you have the skills to build the product. The best 870s (in my experience) tend to have been made in 1960-1980 and trended downward in quality thereafter. Will the new RemArms get rid of plastic followers, the obnoxious dimples in the magazine tube, and other design changes driven by cost-cutting? Will they improve quality or maintain the bottom-feeder mentality that prevailed when the Freedom Group owned the brand? I'd say the jury is still out and we'll have to wait 5-10 years to see how RemArms performs.

    Also, I'd say the day of the side-saddle type shell carrier is over. That accessory has been supplanted by Esstac-style "shotgun cards" or their equivalent. It makes no sense to permanently attach a side-saddle when you can velcro one shotgun card to the receiver, one to the opposite side of the buttstock, and carry more in a chest rig.

    August 10, 2022 9:53 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    24and7

    They are great shotguns... but I would really like to have a vintage ithaca model 37 or high standard riot gun....

    August 10, 2022 7:54 am
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