The Remington 870 Express Project

7 May 2000
By peteR

This is kind an unusual topic for a tactical rifle oriented website such as Sniper Country, but has been a real Hot Potato on The Duty Roster a number of times in the recent past.

A Single Well Placed Shot is the credo of this particularly unique shooting website, so the I.T.A.P.P.D.S. (Individually Targeted Anti Personnel Projectile Delivery System) is matter of personal choice.  While not normally carried by the members of a Sniper Team, various permutations of the short barreled scattergun are commonly found in civilian, law enforcement, and even on occasion in military hands.

The vast majority of the posted concern is the viability of a short barreled shogun (a.k.a. Riot Gun, Trench Gun, Street Sweeper) over the current en vogue weapon of tactical teams, the short barreled AR-15 /.223 caliber family of carbines.

For home defense the Shotgun may be legitimately argued to reign supreme especially down a short hallway, or across the Boudoir.  Multiple pellet loads like the Remington Reduced Recoil Buckshot, or even a simple "Dove" or trap load, will accomplish their task awfully decisively.  The vast majority of the resultant semantic debate involves "stopping" power and ammunition interchangeability/versatility.

Those interested in some really informative reading on the subject of exotic shotgun ammunitions should acquire a copy of Thomas Swearengen's definitive text "The Combat Shotgun".  This tome covers shotgun load development for the US military, and a few other nations very comprehensively from geriatric Buckshot loads to trendy beehive and razor blade type flechette rounds.

The Birdshot/Buckshot/Rifled Slugs vs. "conventional" rifle ammunition is an ancient and invalid apples/oranges comparison and is best left to the gunrags.  Again, our goal is to strive for "A single well placed shot."

The Purchase

I went into the local WalMart on 30 December 1999 to obtain a couple boxes of Federal Personal Defense ammunition in .38 Special, .45ACP, and .44 Magnum, all of which for some strange reason were out of stock.  Somehow, I left with a Remington 870 Express shotgun, greatly due to the lack of spousal supervision on the shopping trip.  Funny how things work out sometimes...

Well the CAREFULLY marketed, and orchestrated, Y2K scare came, and went, as predicted, no riots, no civil disturbances, and most importantly to me personally - NO RAPTURE- Whew!

The sporting arm in question was the generic chain store model (stock #RMA25587), 12 gauge - 2 3/4" & 3" Magnum chambering, 28" inch vent rib sporting barrel, modified REM screw in choke tube, black checkered panel synthetic stock and forearm, and that wonderful matte black metal finish.  A true working shotgun for the people, Simple, Spartan, and Effective.

Yep, I know that The Big Green also offers both a 870 Express HD (Home Defense) and the very, very popular "Express Combo's" hunting package replete with 28" barrel and 20" rifle sight equipped Deer Hunting slug barrel.

Answer - "Out of Stock" - and I don't believe that for my simple dual uses, a smooth bore rifled sighted barrel offers any meaningful advantages, and the additional 2" length is just something else to fight with during house clearing exercises.

Never being one to leave things alone, the action was quickly field stripped, cleaned, inspected, and the bolt carrier and pump bars lightly lubricated with Shooter's Choice FP-10.  This made a noticeable difference in the cycling of the action and reduced the dry gritty out of the box feel to a negligible level.

Accessories

Brownells Inc. supplied me with a Post Armageddon Day (1-01-2000) goodie box containing some aftermarket accessories including; a Scattergun Technologies bright green magazine follower, a ventilated metal hand guard from TacStar Products for attachment to the matte finished, silver bead sight equipped 18" HD (Home Defense) barrel that also just happened to be in the box.

Ventilated Hand guard

At face value, a hand guard sounds kind of obtuse, and even bordering on - gasp - "Wannabee", but my experiences over the past two decades of combat shotgunning beginning with a Winchester M-97 Riot gun, a 20" barreled Charles Daly clone of the Browning A-5, a 20" barreled Rossi Coach Gun, Mossberg 500 20" bbl., a very brief and painful affair with a pistol gripped Mossberg 500 Persuader, the pre-requisite IPSC modified Remington 1100, 20" RS, Choate stocks, 8 shot extension, tactical sling, blah-blah-blah, and a 1990 vintage purchase of a conventional stocked Benelli M-1 Super 90 have taught me a little about fast shooting, hot shotgun barrels, and burnt fingers.

That, and the obvious fact most military adaptations of the short barreled scattergun since the inception of the Winchester Model 97 "Trench Gun" right on up to the current Mossberg 590 versions most have some type of barrel shroud.  The chances of scorching a finger while holding and cycling the pump are moot, however carrying, handling, or loading, are prime times for heat inflicted pain.

Installation of this 14" long hand guard entailed cleaning and degreasing it, and then sliding the rear down along the length of the barrel.  The front band, which clamps around the muzzle, is then slid/tapped over the front bead.

The instructions called for sliding the rear clip as far back as possible onto the chamber area and then securing the front bolts into place.  I left about one quarter inch of space to allow the barrel to be lifted out of position, or re-installed, after maintenance, or field/hunting type use with the 28" sporting barrel.

If I was to find a gripe with the hand guard it would be the fact there is no spacer between the two folds of metal that act as the clamp around the barrel.  A simple little spacer made from thermo-molded plastic or cast metal would go a long way towards increasing the strength of the joint.  All martial shotguns from the earlier part of the last century have a nice little reinforcer strip incorperated into the "bayonet lug" for just this purpose.

Four 1/4" diameter inward facing "dimples" are placed at about 4 inches from either end to prevent the hand guard from bowing or flexing inwards under pressure, or accidental dropping.  Mention is made in the installation paperwork of ensuring that the hand guard clears the forearm and does not bind it.

No problems were noted here and the spacing is also tight enough to prevent fingers from being pinched.  The corners and edges of the barrel shroud were rounded and deburred enough to prevent lacerations.

Supplemental Ammunition

I had initially contemplated complimenting the existing tube type magazine with an extension to bulk up the 4 +1 capacity in the gun, but the addition of a TacStar "six pack" ammunition side saddle from an earlier Brownells order makes it unnecessary for simple personal defense.

There is also another more serious reason discovered during my clean and inspect, that you should be very aware of:

The "Express" line of shotguns have a pair of rectangular stakes about 3/4" from the muzzle end of the magazine tube.  They serve two purposes, first being to secure the new style magazine spring retainer.  The new style part is made from a synthetic, and is pressed inwards with a standard screwdriver, rotated 90 degrees and then pops out the end.  This is a good thing, and anyone familiar with prying the "old" type plug retainer knows all about this.

The second purpose being to preclude the use of law enforcement/aftermarket magazine extensions.  The result of this was the Scattergun Technologies High Visibility follower part #71019 had to be slightly modified to circumvent these stakes.

I accomplished this in about five minutes with a Hobby type miter saw and Mototool with a rounded carbide bit to clean up the depth and edges of the cuts.  The grey plastic OEM follower grooves were measured and used as a template.

I suppose careful application of a milling machine, dividing head, and 3/16" ball cutter could be used to the same effect for those perfectionists out there.  Maybe Scattergun Technologies will come up with a variation for the Express line of shotguns.

The TacStar Ammunition Side Saddle was installed by individually tapping out the trigger group pins with the supplied bolts using a brass headed hammer, then placing the base on the left side of the receiver and then tightening the bolts up snug with an Allen wrench.  It took me about five minutes to do this from opening the package.

Before the 870 action would fully cycle the synthetic Express fore end also had to be slightly modified.  Notching the left rear side was accomplished with a fine toothed hacksaw blade and approximately a 1" long by 1.2" deep was removed.

This involved a couple of "remove the forearm assembly, trim a little from the left wing and then replace and cycle the action to make certain that the pump will stroke all the way and shell follower will cycle too".  The edges of the notch were carefully radiused and blended with a Mototool.

The 870 Police models, and some of the older 870's, have shorter pump handles that will work without any extra modification work.  Brownells also sells both aftermarket and Remington OEM replacement parts for the entire Remington line, so you could purchase a shorty handle and not alter the original.  The modified forearm on mine mates with the ventilated hand guard and the extra length helps to prevent me from short stroking the action.

I also found a pair of additional goodies in yet another Brownells shipping box, two Choate manufactured "Combat Speed Strippers" which gives me the option of carrying an additional six rounds each, of any type 12 gauge 2 3/4" shells clipped to either a belt, or pocket.  To use it you simply slide the round out by grasping the center and palm it into the shotgun's feedchute or ejection port.

The rounds are held in the clip body via a pair of looped head spring wire clips and seem pretty secure. Note: A sample of Federal 00 Buckshot with the rolled crimp overshot wads were measured at 2.395" OAL and would not fit the 2.375" opening of the Speed Strippers.

Safety Swap

A .435" diameter domed head Combat type trigger safety from my Remington 1100 - IPSC days, came out of a spare parts tray and was popped into the trigger block making the job almost complete.  The larger safety obviously gives you a better index for the trigger finger.

Installation is accomplished by carefully driving the safety out from right to left side (as viewed from the bottom rear of the receiver); a 1/4" diameter brass drift pin and gunsmith hammer was used to perform this task.

One difficulty is replacing the safety button detent ball, which rides in the center of the trigger guard flange.  My answer was to carefully press it inwards with a small electrician's screwdriver and then push the safety home.  Trust me it is usually easier said than done taking about four attempts.  Do this in an area where finding a VERY small ball bearing on the floor won't be a problem.

An integral Surefire Model 618 flashlight type forearm was initially passed over in the interests of project economy and additional bulk to the package.  Costs for one of these is bordering that of purchase of another shotgun or carbine!

However, the ability to IDENTIFY a target as friend, or foe, is a very important consideration - especially for home defense applications.  I will try to evaluate one before finalizing a decision on their worth for my Home Defense shotgun.  I carry one of the Surefire 6-P flashlights at work, and would not trade it for any conventional style aluminum flashlight.

The HD Barrel

The abbreviated matte finish 18" Cylinder Bore barrel is chambered for both 2 3/4" and 3" Magnum shells.  The bead sits on a small ramp on the front and seemed easy to pick up under most lighting conditions.  The only change here would be to mount a large white bead or a Tritium night sight.  My druthers would be going to the white bead, and the remainder into ammunition instead of the radioactive element sight.

I will certainly pass on the use of 3" Magnum shells due to the excessive muzzle blast, and the loss of recoil recovery for follow up rounds.  Having fired plain old vanilla 2 3/4" Magnum OO Buck rounds both indoors, and both from/through a vehicle, was almost more fun than I am capable of handling, and the 3" Magnum loads would have to be far worse.

Here's some information on calculated recoil energies, for some of these rounds:
12 ga. 2 3/4" 1oz Rifled Slug 34.2 fpe
12 ga. 2 3/4" OO buckshot load 20.0 fpe
12 ga. 3" OO Buckshot load 55.4 fpe
.223 Remington 55 grain projectile 3.70 fpe
.308 Winchester 150 grain projectile 14.80 fpe

The general rule of thumb with a cylinder bore shotgun barrel is between 1 1/2" to 1 3/4" diameter of radial spread per yard of distance from the muzzle.  With the "average" torso being about 20" across at the shoulders, you get the idea that for maximum pattern densities the optimal range should be under 20 yards.

My limited testing has given me the firm belief that either buckshot or birdshot will be where I wish it to be out to 25 yards. To me that's PUSHING it, with most use being practice for engagement distances of well under 50 feet.

A trip to the local range with some various loads showed the patterns were very good for use against single antagonist targets within the intended parameters of such a Home Defense system.

My largest concern on this issue is the patterning on hostage type targets, and the lack of perceived "real world ability" to quickly replace a shotload with a rifled slug, and negate a problem. Situational Reality check: "Hi there Mr Dirthead, could you please hold still while I replace this OO buck shell with a rifled slug to blow your head away..."

The pattern testing followed the industry test standard of ten rounds fired on 10 individual targets.  Each target pattern was then covered with a "modified" transparent overlay using the 20" outer ring and 14 1/2" inner ring divided into eight quadrants.  (This is a reduction of the 30" outer circle and 21 1/2" inner circle normally used for shotguns, and better suits the needs of tactical anatomical correctness.)

Remington's Shur Shot #8's Field Loads (Stock # R12H-8) gave solid dense patterns at ranges up to 10 yards.  The Remington Reduced Recoil #OO Buckshot 8 pellet load (Stock #RR128B00), and the Express (Stock# 12B4) #4 Buckshot loads all delivered consistent patterning.  Federal's 2 3/4" Magnum OO buckshot load (Stock # F127OO) and Winchester-Westerns 2 3/4" OO buckshot load (Stock # XB120012) were also fired for ten shots a piece to check patterning at 15 yards and 25 yards.

This particular shotgun had a distinct affinity for the Remington Reduced Recoil Loads and patterning with the OO buckshot was very consistent.  This would be my choice for home use over the others based on the results.

Remington's Law Enforcement Reduced Recoil 1 oz. slugs (Stock # RR12RSR), Federal's 1 oz. (Stock #F127RS), and some Winchesters (Stock #X12RS15) 1oz. slugs were fired and point of aim/point of impact verified at 7 to 25 yards.  I could distinctly feel the difference between the Reduced Recoil and Max Dram Equivilent slug loads.

Absolutely no functioning problems were noted during patterning and field evaluations, and with the handguard in place firing each 10 round patterning series was done without a single scorched digit.

Summation

The total cost for this Home Defense project shotgun was less than many of the packages offered for Home defense, Tactical shooting use, and still allows quick conversion for the option of politically correct "legitimate sporting" purposes


870 Shotgun    $244.87
18" HD barrel  $150.55
Side Saddle     $ 29.98
Follower          $  10.00
Hand guard     $ 24.98



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