Remington Arms Company was founded in Upstate New York in 1816 and is one of the oldest continuously operating U.S. firearms manufacturers. The company has produced many legends, but none come close to the venerable Remington Model 870 shotgun. In 1949, Remington introduced a new shotgun to compete with the Winchester Model 12 and Ithaca Model 37. The Model 870 exceeded the designer’s expectations with sales that totally eclipsed those of all other shotguns. According to company information, more than 10 million 870s had been sold by 2009, making it the best-selling shotgun in history. A quick check of Remington’s website reveals 29 different Model 870s on offer.
For the first 25 years of my law enforcement career, the department-issued 870 was the only long gun available to patrol officers and investigators—when I was on patrol, I rarely hit the streets without an 870 in the front of my unit. Our 870s were stock 18-inch guns with bead sights and, for many years, wood stocks. We eventually upgraded to polymer Speedfeed stocks, polymer forends and slings. Our guns were all cylinder bore, so the department adopted Remington’s eight-pellet Reduced Recoil Law Enforcement 00 buckshot. This load patterned significantly better than the traditional nine-pellet did because of the use of a shot cup. When I ran my department’s training division, we had seven 870s signed out for range use. These seven guns were used in annual qualifications for over 400 officers. In addition, the guns were used for recruit training and advanced courses that we offered from time to time. My best estimate is that each gun probably had well over 1,500 rounds of duty ammo run through it each year. The guns never went down. In fact, I have never heard of anyone shooting an 870 to pieces.
At the heart of the 870’s durability is a simple design that starts with a solid receiver machined from an 8-pound block of ordnance steel. Dual action rods connect the pump forend to the bolt carry for a smooth and non-binding action. When in battery, the bolt locks into an extension on the barrel. The fire control assembly consists of a trigger group that will interchange between the 870 and the 1100/1187 semi-auto shotguns. A crossbolt safety is located at the rear of the triggerguard, while the bolt release lever is located in front of the trigger on the left side of the triggerguard. Unlike some designs, the 870’s fire control has a disconnector that requires a deliberate trigger pull for each shot. The tubular magazine is loaded through a bottom loading port and empty shells are ejected through a side port.