Although I make no bones about being an advocate for a lightweight precision rifle for first responding patrol officers, I never said such a weapon should replace the patrol shotgun. Both are valuable tools for the officer on patrol.
One of my instructors in the LAPD academy was Jim Dougherty. Jim was Marilyn Monroe’s first husband, but that wasn’t his only claim to fame. Jim was not only a great guy, but also a real gun guy who was adept with both the pistol and the shotgun. I’ll never forget him telling us that if “someone was worth shooting, they were worth shooting good!” That was the first time I’d heard that old saying, but in the 45 years since, I’ve used it hundreds of times in training and conversation.
What this phrase means is that, if one must shoot someone, then it’s an extremely serious crisis and the assailant must be stopped instantly! Even with a well-placed shot, a pistol won’t always stop the fight instantly, but a shotgun or a rifle almost always will. Depending on the circumstances, I believe, time permitting, the trained officer should be able to choose what weapon to use.
During my career, I was issued six models of shotguns, four of which were Remington. The most common were the prolific Model 870, with the Model 11-87 next. For a variety of reasons, these two guns are among the most popular with American law enforcement today. They are also the guns I prefer and while much of what you’ll read below will apply to other shotguns, we’ll concentrate on some things I’ve found very useful on the Remington 870 and 11-87 law enforcement shotguns.
You are free to disagree, and you should also understand that all of the various after-market products illustrated might not be necessary for your needs. Consider this a smorgasbord and don’t forget to try the stringbeans.
First, we have to convince officers to use the shotgun. As a police firearms instructor, I’ve had officers tell me that, because of its recoil, they would never take the shotgun out of the patrol car, and no amount of discussion or training could sway them. Because of the gun’s recoil, there was a confidence issue, and I concluded that they were right in deciding not to use the gun. However, this was shortly before the appearance of “low recoil” 12 gauge ammunition and the KNOXX! Stock, now offered by BlackHawk.
The felt recoil of the Remington Model 11-87, like most other semi-automatic shotguns, is relatively nil. This is because much of it is taken up during the movement of the bolt and its slight bottoming out, as it stops its rearward travel. Not so with the Model 870.
Like other slide action shotguns, the Remington 870, despite all of its great attributes, “kicks,” especially using buckshot and slug loads. If you forget to pull the butt into your shoulder pocket you will not be happy. While recoil is somewhat abated when using low recoil loads, which have proven quite effective, many officers simply don’t like the shotgun’s recoil at all. A great solution for the 870 and other slide action shotguns is the KNOXX! stock.
The KNOXX! stock comes in two versions: the Comp stock and the SpecOps stock. The Comp (compensating) stock consists of a well-shaped, conventional type butt stock and the SpecOps stock is shaped much like an M4 butt stock and has a separate pistol grip as part of its apparatus. Each stock has a mechanical device that works by a combination of leverage and spring tension to soften felt recoil by allowing the stock to telescope into itself during recoil. The result is what seems to be about an 80 to 90% reduction in felt recoil, maybe more.
The KNOXX! SpecOps stock uses the same mechanism in the pistol grip in addition to another spring in what resembles the recoil spring tube in an M4 carbine, with the whole thing sliding forward about an inch. The SpecOps stock also has a thick rubber butt pad, M4-type sling mounts, a cheekpiece with a spare ammo carrier and a spare battery tube and an additional snap-on cheekpiece. It is slightly more expensive than the Comp stock.
Carrying spare ammunition for the shotgun isn’t a bad idea. Just how much spare ammo is questionable, depending how one is built, where he or she is assigned, and so on. I like to tell officers that if they need more than 10 rounds of shotgun ammunition, they went to the wrong address. Of course, it’s a joke, but just how much spare ammo do you want to carry on your gun? For gun-mounted ammo carriers, I prefer those that mount on the side(s) of the receiver, and after using these for 30 years, my favorites are from Mesa Tactical.
These come in several different styles and capacities, but I settle for the 6-round model that mounts on the left side using the standard triggerguard retaining pinholes and bolts furnished with the carrier. The rounds can be carried base up or down at your preference, depending on how you prefer to load the gun.
I’ve used firearms many hundreds of times in training and on duty in low light, including two shootouts; having a light mounted on a weapon is a good idea. That’s not to say I think a light on a weapon should always be used to illuminate the surroundings, but only that a light on a gun can be a useful tool.
If there’s one thing I’ve come to hate, it’s remote pressure switches, Velcro and wires on lights mounted on weapons. I promise you they will get tangled, pulled off and/or result in accidental light if you use them. I’m not talking about standing on a firing line, but running, crawling or making your way through a heavily wooded area searching for some felonious “Adam Henry.”
The solution is a fixed pressure switch you can operate with your support finger(s) or thumb. A light with a rubber end cap rigged on your forend can work by using one of the Mil-Std-1913 curved back rails from Mounting Solutions Plus. However, mounting a light on one side may not let you transition using the light very effectively if you use this technique. What I’ve found to be the best light systems for Remington 870 and 11-87 shotguns are the lighted forends from SureFire. Recently upgraded to use powerful LED lights, they can be so retrofitted, or used with the equally bright incandescent lights they have been furnished with for years.
These lights come with stick-on blocks that reduce the possibility of accidental light. They can also be used by either left- or right-handed people and so can be used in transitioning from one side to the other. The downside to any lights mounted on weapons is that, like spare ammo, they add weight to the gun and few of them can totally prevent accidental light. They are not inexpensive, but most agree that the advantage they bring offsets the negatives.
As with rifles, shotgun sights range from open to reflex, to optics, to lasers. As with most things, I like to keep them simple. In my seldom-humble opinion, I think anyone who mounts a telescopic sight on a LE shotgun should consider buying a carbine. Although I really like reflex sights, I’ve never felt good about them for CQB work. Where shotguns are concerned, 50 yards is really stretching it, even with a Vang Comp barrel and slugs. Yes, I think I can make better hits faster out to 25 yards with a reflex sight on my shotgun if light conditions favor my reflex sight, but lighting conditions can change rapidly. Excellent reflex sights are Aimpoint, C-More, L-3 EOTech, Trijicon and the new Fast Acquisition Sight (FAS) from Ferfrans, and there are a couple from Millette and Mounting Solutions Plus that look good too.
However, I tend to favor open sights on shotguns with the exception of a bead sight. For most, the factory adjustable barrel sights are fine, but ghost ring sights work even better for many, including me, at any “shotgun” range. That’s where eyesight comes in, and the importance in learning what works best for us.
Having tried a number of ghost ring sights on shotguns, I prefer the LPA rear sight for a variety of reasons. It is both extremely well made and has precise click adjustments for windage and elevation. That is why this sight is also very popular on some rifles, especially Marlin lever action rifles. However, for my eyes, this sight is generally positioned too far forward on the receivers of Remington 870 and 11-87 shotguns (and others) to be a true ghost ring sight.
In talking with a number of other experienced shooters, I was somewhat surprised to find that they were of the same opinion. Thus, several years ago I designed a base that would mate with the curved contour of the rear of the receiver of Remington shotguns, and some of the company’s rifles.
The design allowed a standard flat-bottom LPA rear sight to be mounted roughly two inches farther to the rear than the curved bottom LPA is normally positioned. After no luck in giving the idea to anyone, I discussed it with gunsmith Lew Bonitz, owner of Grizzly Custom Guns, who immediately saw its potential. I sent him my 11-87 and a rough sketch that included a Mil-Std-1913 type rail extending forward along the top of the receiver. Lew made a prototype base and sent it back with an LPA rear sight mounted on it and a separate Mil-Std-1913 rail extending forward to the front of the receiver. The separate rail was Lew’s idea to allow one the option of the rear sight alone.
I told Lew I thought the result was ideal and he told me he had written a program to CNC machine it and asked my permission to apply for a patent. I gave him my blessing and told him it was all his, as all I wanted to do was to design a better tool for cops. More recently, I had Lew put his production version of the sight system on a Remington 870 for me. The front sight Lew Bonitz uses is his own, but one can have the LPA front sight if they prefer.
While Lew had the gun, he had Hans Vang “Comp” the barrel by back-boring it for improved patterning. Lew also installed a Vang 1-shot extension tube and did one of his super slick action jobs on my gun, as well as installing a KNOXX! SpecOps stock and SureFire Lighted Forend.
There’s not much to tell about my Remington 11-87. With its Vang Comped barrel and Big Head Safety, Grizzly No-Slip cocking handle, modified Dave’s Metal Works Easyloader from Brownells, Blue Force Gear Vickers Sling and the LPA sight mount I designed, it remains my favorite social shotgun after some 20 years and thousands of rounds of 12 gauge ammo. However, my new Model 870 is a close second. Smooth as silk, its SureFire forend light system works as well as that on my 11-87, but has to be “pumped” between shots. Yeah, I’ve done that thousands of times too, but I’ve been spoiled by my 11-87, and it has never malfunctioned using hi-brass standard or low recoil 12 gauge ammunition. What’s more, only when very dirty has it malfunctioned with low brass target loads, which it wasn’t designed for.
One thing I was surprised about was that, with all its features, the KNOXX! SpecOps stock didn’t seem to thrill me as much as the early KNOXX! SpecOps stock I used. To verify my own suspicions, I went online and ordered a current Comp Stock from BlackHawk! When it came I noticed some ergonomic improvements to it and replaced the KNOXX! SpecOps stock with it. Maybe it’s an “old dog, new tricks” thing, but I honestly prefer the conventional KNOXX! SpecOps Stock. It’s as if you’re not shooting a shotgun at all. With this stock I’m almost as fast as with my 11-87. Almost.
We’ve tried to cover some of the most utilitarian accessories and upgrades for popular shotguns. There is also a myriad of other accessories available from Brownells and Midway on which you can spend your money.
One way you can spend your money wisely is by first looking into what Grizzly Custom Guns can do for you. From Remington and other custom tactical shotguns, to custom rifles, to custom 1911s, Hi-Powers and most other pistols, Grizzly Custom offers some innovative, no-fat options.