I like the Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun. It’s solid, reliable, and in the right hands can work magic.

The first 870 I owned had been worked on by numerous individuals throughout the years. I had it for 32 years before the solid wood stock finally fractured.

I have no idea how many thousands of rounds went through it. It was used as a back-up for shotguns that went down during LAPD divisional training and most notably with Metropolitan Division.

Author with his reliable Remington 870 on this 2003 cover of S.W.A.T.

The fact that it lasted so long through full-house loads of 00 and slugs is a testament to its reliability. These were not the “low recoil” loads so prevalent today, but rather rhino-stopping charges that really let you know when you lit one off.

Parts were replaced, action arms bent back into position, and ejectors repinned. It still held up.

The action is glassy smooth. If the muzzle is raised up and the action release pressed, the action will slide open, which means that I can race it at speed. It’s accurate out to 300 yards and beyond, if you really get on it on a good day. It’s compact, and everything I need is anchored on it solidly and where it needs to be. It can be used day or night, moving or not, up close or at distance, and if I simply grab it, I have no less than 19 rounds at my disposal.

I’ve written before about the effectiveness of the shotgun. What I haven’t written about is how well you can work the 870 when it’s set up correctly and all the working parts come into sync with each other.

From a completely unloaded configuration and with the SideSaddle attachment, a round can be reloaded into the empty chamber, cycled forward and back on target in about two seconds in the right hands with the right technique. A select slug drill can be accomplished in about three seconds. Two shots can be triggered off so that two expended hulls are inches apart out of the ejection port. Although this is more of a cheap parlor trick than a solid defensive technique, it’s nice to know that it can be done.

The 870 can work with less lethal rounds or very low recoil birdshot loads, whereas a semiautomatic might not be reliable using the same rounds. Cut properly, it fits perfectly into the shoulder and can be worked with body armor. The steel receiver mitigates recoil more than an alloy receiver does.

Introduced in 1950, the Remington 870 has a long and distinguished history on its side, with over ten million sold. If it were introduced today, it would grace the cover of every shooting/ sporting/tactical magazine in the world as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

It’s versatile, powerful and reliable in the extreme. You can’t ask for more than that.

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