Thompson practices reloading Remington 870 from SideSaddle
Thompson practices reloading from SideSaddle. Slugs are carried brass up as reminder they are not buckshot.

Remington 870s tend to catch my eye. A couple of weeks ago I was in the Class III/LE Dealer’s shop that caters heavily to law enforcement here in St. Louis. I noticed that he had taken a group of Remington 870 Police Magnum shotguns in trade. I’m always interested in 870 tactical models, so I had a look at them and found they displayed some interesting features.

First off, some police-order 870s don’t have an 18.5-inch barrel but instead have one that is 18.1 inches. It’s still not an NFA shotgun but, if placed next to a civilian 18.5-inch barreled shotgun, the slight difference is noticeable. Many departments do order the 18.5-inch barrel, so I guess this is more a point of trivia for those who are interested.

The +2 extension tube was used on these shotguns, so they have a capacity of 6+1 with 2 3/4″ shells. As the “Magnum” designation implies, they will take three-inch Magnum shells. For most law enforcement agencies, that is really a six-round capacity, since few are likely to allow shotguns to be carried in the cruiser with a round in the chamber—bounce, bump, bounce, bump, bounce, BOOM! Additionally the 870 was fitted with a Speedfeed stock, which added four more rounds, plus there was a six-round SideSaddle shell carrier. That total of 16+1 rounds got my attention.

Thompson's experimental loading of buckshot, slugs, and less lethal.
Thompson’s experimental loading of buckshot, slugs, and less lethal. Less lethal rubber buckshot loads are in Speedfeed slots, but most agencies would not want to risk them getting mixed up with standard buckshot or slug loads.

Since the department had gone for the ability to carry a lot of shells, I didn’t understand why they had not ordered rifle sights for use with slugs. I would have preferred rifle sights, but I was interested enough that I bought one of the 870s with plans to figure out how I would employ the shell-carrying capacity. As I drove home, I kept thinking about what my “combat load” for the 870 Police Magnum would be. What follows are my conclusions.

I normally carry buckshot in my tactical shotguns, so I would load the magazine with buck. I like Federal 00 or 000 Buck Tactical loads, but I also shoot various other loads. I was trained to load SideSaddle carriers with the case heads down to speed reloading, so I considered loading six more buckshot loads, heads down in the carrier. That would leave the four carry slots (two rounds per side) on the Speedfeed for slugs. If the shotgun had rifle sights, I might have considered more slugs.

Thompson shot the Remington 870 from behind cover
Thompson shot 870 from behind cover and from various positions. Thick recoil pad on Speedfeed made it very comfortable to shoot.

Another possibility occurred to me, though, as I sat looking at the shotgun. I considered loading three buckshot rounds in the first three slots of the carrier with heads down, then in the last three slots carrying slugs with case heads up to remind me they were slugs. That left the Speedfeed available for less-lethal loads such as rubber buckshot or rubber slugs.

OK, I know what many readers are thinking at this point: that’s three types of ammo including lethal and less-lethal, and that’s a problem waiting to happen. I agree, and my buddy who was shooting with me when I tested the 870 Police Magnum argued that point most emphatically. He’s an ex-police chief and current attorney, so he immediately saw the possibility of lethal and less lethal loads getting mixed. I see it, too. In fact, I’m a great believer that agencies using less lethal ammo should have dedicated colored shotguns for those loads.

What’s another possibility for using the shell-carrying capacity? I thought of carrying 2 3/4″ Tactical loads in the tube, then carrying three-inch Magnum buckshot loads in the carrier. The Speedfeed slots could be for slugs. That would make some sense, but if the 2 3/4″ buckshot loads weren’t doing the job, wouldn’t it be better to go directly to slugs?

Remington 870 Police Magnum functioned smoothly and reliably.
Despite years of police usage, Remington 870 Police Magnum functioned smoothly and reliably.

I took various types of shotgun shells to the range to make sure the shotgun functioned well. Remington slide actions are incredibly reliable, even after riding in cruisers for years, and this one was no exception. Functioning with 2 3/4″ and 3″ shells was flawless. However, it did pattern just a bit to the left even at ten yards. I shot quite a few rounds, including some Magnum ones, and found that I appreciated the thick recoil pad on the Speedfeed.

I live in a two-floor condo, so I usually keep one shotgun upstairs and one downstairs. By my bed right now is a Remington 11-87P with light—another police trade-in I picked up at the same shop. I decided to use the Police Magnum as my other house gun for awhile, in case the zombies rise and I need lots of ammo. For now, I’m going with buckshot in the tube, buckshot in the SideSaddle, and slugs in the Speedfeed.

I’m hoping to run across someone from the agency that had the shotguns, to find out what their thinking was on that much spare ammo capacity. In any case, it’s a very interesting combat shotgun.

  1. Use #4 Buckshot for Home Defense – you will not be disappointed. I also use #4 buckshot for wild turkey, and on Ducks and Geese that are not flying over water.

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