I am well acquainted with Lew Bonitz’s work prior to his move to Montana and the establishment of Grizzly Custom Guns.
The 1* (One Ass to Risk) line of weapons has been well known for many years as well has his rather masterful work. Bonitz is known as one of the top gunsmiths around, and having the pleasure to own some of his work, I knew this to be a fact. It was pretty certain these would be incredible firearms. Upon their arrival I was not disappointed.
Grizzly Custom Guns is a true custom gun shop. They can build to your specifications if you would like. But as is often the practice today they have a couple of standard packages. You can send them a gun or they can supply one as needed. These two Remington 870 Shotguns are examples of their 1* and Home Defense Package, both with 18.5-inch barrels. The 1* Package is a full ride tactical shotgun sporting all of the additions one would expect and that includes a pistol grip stock, full extension, tactical light, and ghost ring sights. The Home Defense gun had a shorter extension, and the Hogue short LOP (length-of-pull) stock and forend.
Both of these guns come with custom-made Picatinny rails with LPA ghost ring sights. The Home Defense has an optional full-length Picatinny rail and rail mounted LPA ghost ring sight, instead of its standard LPA Sight. With the 1* the sight is attached to a custom mount at the end of the rail putting the sights a bit lower. The Home Defense had a front sight with an optional tritium insert while the 1* had a black serrated sight, both are silver soldered to the barrel.
The 1* would be at home on any tactical team, but the Home Defense gun is about perfect for patrol work. I became quite fond of that Home Defense Package. By the end of the day it was affectionately termed the “little Griz.”
The first thing I noticed when handling these shotguns is the custom work. These are not simply Remington 870 shotguns with add-on aftermarket parts. They have that feel that comes with a well-made firearm that is sculpted by a professional as opposed to slapped together from parts. The fit and finish are excellent, and the attention to detail is clear. One quick operation of the action and you become keenly aware of the work that took place on the slide action.
Each gun was equipped with custom-made magazine extensions and safeties. The magazine extensions are machined from solid barstock and they have an integral sling attachment that is incredibly strong. Both come with Wolff extra power springs and a follower machined from aircraft aluminum that has been hard coat anodized. It’s a bright green for clear identification when you reach the end of the tube. I liked these “button safeties” as they were not as big as others. My trigger finger wrapped around the safety without affecting my grip. Moving from on safe to off from any ready position became almost second nature. The rails look as if they are a part of the receiver, and they turned out to be flat, true and solid.
Both include complete dehorning, trigger jobs, barrel honing and a complete satin reblued. These are well built and thought out shotguns. All the custom touches enhanced how the gun worked.
I started with the 1* shotgun and ran it in both my full tactical gear and what would be a typical felony enforcement attire. The adjustable stock came in handy since it could fully collapse with my tactical vest. It sports plates and soft armor so fixed stocks can be problematic. The action was incredibly impressive. Just a bit of pressure and you are bottomed out. It was smooth. The sights are fast and easy to see. The thinner blade allowed for far less of the target to be obscured. The trigger was crisp and again, the action was like glass. With pressure to the rear and the press of the trigger yielded an almost immediate ejection of the shell.
Having been running primarily semi-autos for awhile, the rust was evident. After only a few rounds this gun loaded incredibly fast. After a couple hundred rounds of practice ammo I never had a single issue with feeding or ejection. Using Federal Tactical Buckshot (LE127) I was able to get what are typical patterns for me. I was at about 7 inches or so at 25 yards. I was easily able to stay inside 6 inches at 20 yards — practical accuracy for a tactical shotgun.
Next I moved to the “little Griz.” The name was based on the lightweight and the short LOP stock. A side-by-side comparison with the 1* shotgun, made it look like 1*’s little brother. After running a fully equipped shotgun with the heavy stock, the Home Defense felt incredibly comfortable. After just a few rounds it became a part of me. I found myself going back to the ammo box time and time again.
Running out of the ammo allotted for the test warranted a dip into the reserve. It was a blast to shoot. Just like on the 1* model the action was incredibly smooth. After 100 rounds or so, I was trying to remind myself why I use an autoloader. I shoot a ton of shotguns and this was the most fun I have had with a Remington 870 in a long time.
When you first look at the sight and rail, you may think it would pose a problem. I thought my eye was going to be too close to the sights, but that was not the case. They lined up easily and were incredibly fast. I did notice it worked better if I kept my strong hand thumb on the side instead of wrapping it around though. When running it with the tactical gear that was not an issue, but with plainclothes it was more comfortable. For a guy with short arms, this shotgun was perfect. For an officer with a vest on it should be equally squared away.
After a good solid day and lots of ammo there was never a failure to function. It does not have issues with different kinds of birdshot, which was surprisingly comfortable to shoot. This is where this gun really shined. Knowing the pattern of your shotgun at various distances is critical, especially in patrol work where you may encounter distances closer to the 25-yard mark.
This shotgun was put through a simple standard test. Using a standard B27 target, the head area was engaged at 5, 10, 15, and 20 yards. The idea was to provide some comfort that you can take an immediate incapacitation shot at typical patrol distances. The Federal Tactical LE 127 was used as our deployment round. Most shotguns do fine out to 15 yards, some even 20 yards. The patterning on this gun was so close out to 20 yards, I could barely perceive a pattern. The widest spread at that distance was 4 inches, well within the needed target area.
Lastly, I fired a single shot at 25 yards to center mass. It was pretty much dead on and measured at about 6 inches with the spread being up and down. I would not hesitate a second to engage someone with this gun at 25 yards with this buckshot. This is about as accurate as I have been able to get with any other shotgun and this ammunition. The practicality of this weapon for patrol use is without doubt. Add a simple and lightweight tactical light and you are good to go!
I took the time to install my Trijicon Red dot on both guns and test the consistency of the rails. The sight attached easily and moving it up or down the rail netted little change. The rails are flat, true, and level. An Aimpoint Comp was added for a few rounds and that worked well also. Both of these guns will accommodate any sighting system you would choose to add.
Nothing shook loose after a day on the range. The only change to consider (for me) was the sling attachments on the Hogue. Although the Knoxx Spec Ops stock on the 1* can accommodate some tactical slings at both ends, the Hogue only sports a bottom mounted sling stud. A sling attachment that mounts between the stock and action would allow the gun to ride without rolling over. It also makes the beautifully made sling attachment on the magazine extension that much more useful.
As the patrol carbine and entry rifle continue to supplant the tried and true shotgun, fine examples like these become more rare by the minute. A well built and equipped shotgun in the hands of a practiced and competent operator is a fine thing to watch. In most cases 00 buckshot at the appropriate distance adds actual credibility to the one stop pseudo science that exists out there.
When struck with buckshot the threat pretty much stops what it is doing about immediately. With shotguns like these, built for true combat functionality, the increased accuracy of ammunition and a good operator, the shotgun is as practical as it has ever been. It simply should not be overlooked or dismissed in the tactical or patrol environment simply because it takes practice.
The guns as seen, built on your shotgun, are priced at $1395 for the 1* and $985 for the Home Defense Package. If you need all the goodies, don’t hesitate to go with the full tactical package. On the other hand, after a day with “little Griz,” sometimes less is better!
I am well acquainted with Lew Bonitz’s work prior to his move to Montana…
by Paul Markel / Nov 14, 2009