Remington 870
Travis Smola

Remington 870: Everything to Know About America's Most Popular Shotgun

The Remington 870 is an American Classic.

In the world of shotguns, few are as popular as the Remington 870 pump-action shotgun. It makes perfect sense too. This firearm is easily one of the most versatile firearms ever made. First manufactured in 1950, the 870 can be used to hunt everything from squirrels to deer. It has served in multiple wars, and it is trusted by many law enforcement agencies to this day.

The Remington 870 shotgun is also still a cheap pump gun. Combo packages can be had for under $400, and there are countless aftermarket parts and choke tubes to improve the performance of this firearm even more. Remington has also released dozens of variants for waterfowl, skeet, turkey, home defense, and more.

Every sportsman and woman should at least take a solid look at the Remington Model 870. Today we will detail exactly why this shotgun is so popular and answer some of the Internet's most burning questions about Remington's most famous firearm.

Why is the Remington 870 so popular?

Remington 870

Travis Smola

To understand what makes the 870 such a hot item, it helps to understand a little of the history of the gun. The shotgun was designed by John Pedersen. If you are up on your firearms history, you remember he designed the Pedersen device, a conversion kit for the Springfield 1903 rifle. He also submitted a design to the Army for a semi-auto combat rifle in the lead-up to World War II. His design lost out to the M1 Garand, as did many of his other military designs. However, there can be no denying Pedersen's skills as a designer. Even the legendary John Browning praised Pedersen's skills.

Pedersen's best design came in the form of the 870, a gun with a solid steel receiver with twin action bars and a smooth side ejection. It loads fast and easily through a bottom feed system into the magazine tube. The extractor is an excellent design and cycles shotgun shells quickly and smoothly.  The gun was officially launched in 1950. Part of what bolstered the success of the gun was the fact that they launched it in four different ammo chamberings of 16, 20, and 12-gauge shotgun models. In total, 15 different variants were released, and the new Remington could handle both 2 ¾-inch shotshells and 3-inch magnums.

The other big selling point was the fact that the barrels could be changed out for different ones by the user. Each one with a different practical purpose. Now hunters could shoot sporting clays one day, a turkey the next, and large game the day after that with a rifled slug barrel, all with the same firearm. Who does not enjoy getting more for their money? The 870 offered that. Add in the fact that the guns just looked good with their beautiful wood stocks and forends, and you had an instant winner.

That versatility continues today. The company still produces classics like the vent rib barreled Remington 870 Express, but they have expanded and improved upon it with variants like the Express Super Magnum for waterfowl, the Express Tactical for defense, and the Express Fully Rifled for deer. At the same time, they now also produce specialty guns like the SPS Superslug or Super Mag with thumbhole stocks and choked or rifled barrels specifically tailored for precision shooting on deer or turkey. These guns often have synthetic stocks in popular camo patterns like Mossy Oak that make them lighter and help you blend into your surroundings. There is even a Model 870 Express combo package that comes with the rifled deer barrel and a vent rib barrel for everything else. Chances are, no matter what you want a shotgun for, there is going to be an 870 to fill that need.

General Specs on the 870

Normally I like to run through the specs of the gun I am profiling, but the variety in the 870 line makes that near impossible without writing a whole book. The main thing to know is that Remington mills the receiver for this shotgun out of a solid billet of steel. This makes the receiver extremely tough and durable. It does add a bit to the weight though. Most 870s weigh anywhere from 7.5 to eight pounds. Having owned an 870 Express for 20 years now, I would say that is my one complaint with the firearm. It is a little chunky to carry afield for long periods. The barrel length on these guns varies from 18 to 30 inches and the barrel type varies depending on the intended use. For example, the SPS Super Slug has a 25.5-inch barrel that is fluted and fully rifled with a 1:35 twist rate for flat-shooting deer sabots to reach out great distances. You will see guns like this being popular in places like Illinois, which restrict firearms deer hunting to shotguns only.

Guns like the Model 870 Wingmaster on the other hand, are offered in 25, 26, and 28-inch barrel models with either a modified or Rem choke. The Model 870 Hardwood Home Defense has one of the shorter barrels at 18.5 inches. It is a fixed cylinder choke barrel designed specifically for buckshot home defense loads. As you would expect with a defensive gun, it is short, only 38.5 inches long. Almost all the tactical variants of the 870 have similar dimensions.

For the most 870 variants designed for hunting or range use, you are looking at an overall length between 42 and 48 inches. The models with rifled deer barrels usually have 20-inch barrels which give them a shorter length of about 40.5 inches.

Is Remington 870 a good home defense gun?

We have heard this question a lot the last few years. The 870 is an attractive option for someone looking for home defense because it is affordable, and it is hard to go wrong with a classic 12-gauge pump gun. Just racking the slide might be enough to dissuade a home intruder because everyone on Earth knows what that sound is when they hear it. So, to answer the question, yes, the 870 is a great home defense gun. Especially if you have no prior experience with firearms because it is easy to learn, and simple to operate when compared to using a handgun. The 870 also packs a hell of a punch if you need it, especially with modern self-defense loads.

Remington has really embraced the amount of people using this gun for home defense and it shows in their line of tactical variants designed for just that type of scenario. There are a few different models of 870 Express Tactical on the market now in both 12 and 20-gauge models that hold between four and seven rounds each. The company builds some variants with a tactical fore-end, and XS Ghost Ring sight rails. Some also have picatinny rails for mounting a red dot or other optic.

The 870 Express Tactical 6-position stock has a black Magpul CTR adjustable stock so you can tune the gun to fit your frame perfectly. This model also comes with a Hogue pistol grip. They also build a Magpul model with a more standard stock and forend. There is also the 870 Side Folder which turns the gun into a compact 11-inch package when the stock is folded. Perfect for tight quarters.

However, one can argue that the most popular 870 defense model right now is the 870 Tac-14. Only 14 inches long, this variant uses a simple bead sight and a Raptor pistol grip and M-Lock forend combined with the 870's smooth action to build a close quarters gun perfect for defense against things that go bump in the night.

The nice thing is, most of the tactical line has even more aftermarket parts to customize the fit and finish of your defensive gun to perfectly suit your needs.

Is the 870 a good gun?

Remington 870

Travis Smola

Overall, the Remington 870 is a great gun that you will stand up to years of use in the field. As I already mentioned, my 870 is 20 years old and helped me harvest some of the largest bucks of my life. It may have a few scratches, dings, and blemishes from that time, but it still operates like a dream.

If you are in the market for a shotgun that can do it all, you really cannot go wrong with an 870. It is one of the most versatile guns on the planet. There is a reason Remington has sold nearly 11 million of them over the years!

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels