It’s the most pop­u­lar shot­gun in Amer­ica at more than 10 mil­lion units sold. Th­ese five mod­i­fi­ca­tions will make it per­fect for home-de­fense or tac­ti­cal use.

Gun World - - Contents - By Steve Sieberts

The Rem­ing­ton Model 870 shot­gun is one of the most iconic mod­ern firearms still be­ing man­u­fac­tured. Used by the mil­i­tary, law en­force­ment and civil­ians since 1950, it was de­signed by L. Ray Crit­ten­don, Phillip Haskell, El­lis Hail­ston and G.E. Pinck­ney. This clas­sic shot­gun has been made in many vari­a­tions by the Rem­ing­ton fac­tory, in­clud­ing marine, tac­ti­cal, and wa­ter­fowl and up­land game ver­sions. It is eas­ily the most pop­u­lar shot­gun sold, as mea­sured by to­tal numbers, with more than 10 mil­lion units sold.

There are many fac­tory vari­a­tions of the 870; one is Rem­ing­ton’s Po­lice Model. It has been the stan­dard-bearer of law en­force­ment shot­guns since it was in­tro­duced and has seen ser­vice all over the world. The Rem­ing­ton Po­lice Model is a bare-bones shot­gun with an 18½-inch, cylin­der-bored bar­rel with 2¾- and 3-inch Mag­num cham­bers, matte-blued or Park­er­ized fin­ish, and a syn­thetic stock. The shot­gun has beefier in­ter­nal parts in the way of a forged ex­trac­tor, a stronger sear spring and a car­rier latch spring. When I was the chief gun­smith for a DoD small-arms fa­cil­ity, we would heav­ily mod­ify the Rem­ing­ton 870 for use as a breech­ing shot­gun for var­i­ous mil­i­tary units.

Rem­ing­ton pro­duces many vari­a­tions but, as with any­thing pop­u­lar with con­sumers—whether it’s cars, mo­tor­cy­cles or

firearms—once the con­sumer gets hold of it, there are any num­ber of ways it can, and will, get modified. So, even though Rem­ing­ton makes the Po­lice Model, many civil­ians will use that model as a base gun to build their unique tac­ti­cal or com­pe­ti­tion shot­guns. The 870 has a ro­bust cot­tage in­dus­try that is cre­at­ing out­stand­ing cus­tom parts to enhance it one way or an­other.


If you look at the shot­gun sec­tion of the cur­rent Brownells cat­a­log, you will see that there is no short­age of parts and ac­ces­sories to mod­ify this iconic shot­gun, and some of the mods are ex­tremely pop­u­lar. The ques­tion is, Which mods are most use­ful to you?

The an­swer will vary based on the spe­cific needs of the in­di­vid­ual shooter—who needs to ask them­selves some ques­tions:

Will I, or will some­one else, be us­ing this gun that is re­coil-sen­si­tive? What am I go­ing to use it for—home-de­fense, com­pe­ti­tion or both? What is my budget? And fi­nally, Which mod­i­fi­ca­tions do I need to have, as op­posed to what I would like to have?

For the 870 in this ar­ti­cle, I started with a ba­sic Po­lice Model straight from the fac­tory. This gun would start out as a pro­ject gun for my up­com­ing book on cus­tom gun­smithing, so I was go­ing to throw ev­ery­thing on to it ... plus the kitchen sink. I also wanted to use this gun as a home-de­fense shot­gun, prob­a­bly loaded with #2 bird­shot—a good load for very close-range in­door use. The

gun would also be used as a 3-Gun com­pe­ti­tion shot­gun in the Heavy Metal Divi­sion, where only 12-gauge pump shot­guns with iron sights are al­lowed.


With­out fur­ther ado, here are the top five mod­i­fi­ca­tions I chose for the Rem­ing­ton M870 shot­gun—in no par­tic­u­lar or­der.

SIGHTS. Many peo­ple are un­der the im­pres­sion that a shot­gun is like a hand grenade: more of an area-type weapon than a pre­ci­sion firearm such as a ri­fle or even a pis­tol. They think of it as a point-some­where-in-the-gen­eral-di­rec­tio­nand-shoot type of weapon, when, in fact, the shot­gun is ca­pa­ble of great pre­ci­sion. This is true, es­pe­cially with the right loads and if the shooter has the right train­ing (as the late, great firearms trainer, Louis Awer­buck, demon­strated).

To aid in that pre­ci­sion, I chose a set of ghost ring sights with tri­tium in­serts from Scat­ter­gun Tech­nolo­gies. The rear sight is drilled and tapped into the re­ceiver; as a re­sult, it should be pro­fes­sion­ally in­stalled. They are rugged and highly vis­i­ble and can be ze­roed with spe­cific slug loads.

RE­COIL RE­DUC­TION. This is ac­tu­ally a com­bi­na­tion of sev­eral mod­i­fi­ca­tions, and you can pick and choose which ones to in­stall based on your budget and needs. How­ever, I com­bined th­ese into one cat­e­gory.

The first mod I added to the shot­gun was to have the bar­rel ported. When you’re talk­ing about bar­rel port­ing, there’s only one com­pany: Mag-na-Port. The se­ries of holes ma­chined into the bar­rel redi­rects the ex­pand­ing gas up­ward and rear­ward. Due to Newton’s Third Law of Mo­tion, th­ese holes force the bar­rel for­ward and down, greatly re­duc­ing the re­coil. It’s a process that has been around for decades.

The sec­ond mod was to lengthen the forc­ing cone of the bar­rel, eas­ing the tran­si­tion of the shot col­umn go­ing from the shell into the bar­rel. It’s a com­mon mod­i­fi­ca­tion that com­pet­i­tive trap-and-skeet shot­gun­ners have per­formed for decades. An­other re­coil re­ducer is a Kick-Eez re­coil pad, which is also pop­u­lar with shot­gun com­peti­tors. Th­ese are shoot­ers who fire tens of thou­sands of shot­gun rounds a year.

Fi­nally, I added a muz­zle brake/breech­ing de­vice. This per­forms two func­tions: In con­junc­tion with lock-bust­ing am­mu­ni­tion, the breecher works as a stand-off de­vice to de­stroy door locks, hinges and dead­bolts when a tac­ti­cal team is en­ter­ing a struc­ture. The stand-off de­vice also has muz­zle brake ports ma­chined into it to re­di­rect gas side­ways. To­gether, all th­ese fea­tures make for a very, very soft-re­coil­ing 12-gauge pump shot­gun.

CUS­TOM STOCK. There are many types and mak­ers of stocks for the Rem­ing­ton 870 shot­gun. The op­tions in­clude wood and syn­thetic, and man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clude Bill Davis, Hogue, Black­Hawk! and Mag­pul.

One of the main ad­van­tages of us­ing a cus­tom stock over a fac­tory unit is the greatly im­proved er­gonomics. This means the stock will fit bet­ter, the shooter can con­trol the re­coil bet­ter, and the shot­gun will not be as abu­sive to the shooter as a fac­tory stock can be.

If the stock can be cus­tom con­fig­ured for ad­justable length of pull and raised cheek­pieces—as can the Black­hawk! and Mag­pul—the felt re­coil to the shooter will be much less, and sub­se­quent fol­low-up shots will be quicker and eas­ier.

I chose the Mag­pul SGA butt­stock, which fea­tures a raised cheek­piece and a spacer-ad­justable length of pull. It was very easy to fit the Kick-Eez pad to the stock, and it looks great, to boot!

EX­TENDED MAG­A­ZINE TUBE. Adding a mag tube ex­ten­sion is a mod­i­fi­ca­tion many shoot­ers would put at the top of any shot­gun list, and I would have a hard time ar­gu­ing. More rounds on tap are al­ways a good thing. When in­stalling the ex­tended tube to the Rem­ing­ton 870, the mag­a­zine lim­iters (in­den­ta­tions in the tube) need to be re­moved. The tac­ti­cal model I started this pro­ject with comes stan­dard with ei­ther a five- or seven-shot mag­a­zine tube.

There are sev­eral ways to re­move the in­den­ta­tions. One way is to just drill them out, but I don’t like this method for two rea­sons. For one, it is an am­a­teur­ish way to do it, and it looks like hell. Two, there is al­ways the chance the rim of the shot­gun shell could catch on the open­ing of the hole. Ad­mit­tedly, this is a very small chance, but it is a chance, nonethe­less.

The other way to re­move the in­den­ta­tions is to pur­chase a mag­a­zine tube dent raiser that “irons out” the de­tent from Brownells. Once done, clean it out with a Dremel or Fore­dom

tool, along with a sand­ing drum, to make sure the de­tent is com­pletely re­moved. Func­tion-test with dummy rounds first; then, head to the range to test with live am­mu­ni­tion.

TIMNEY SEAR AND TRIG­GER JOB. This mod­i­fi­ca­tion might (or might not) be high on ev­ery­one’s list. The fac­tory trig­ger is fine for a com­bat shot­gun, but for precise shoot­ing with slugs, a qual­ity trig­ger is hard to beat. The Timney unit is easy to in­stall and comes with three sear springs: soft, medium and heavy. I chose the medium sear spring. And with a lit­tle additional pol­ish­ing on the in­ter­nal parts, the ad­di­tion of the Timney trig­ger gave me a nice, crisp, qual­ity 3-pound trig­ger with no creep and very lit­tle over­travel.

HON­OR­ABLE MEN­TION: TAC LIGHT. I went back and forth be­tween the sling and the Sure­Fire tac­ti­cal light. In the end, the tac light won out. As use­ful as a sling is, the tac­ti­cal light gives the shot­gun day/night ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and the Sure­Fire 6v light—with per­ma­nent on/off and a mo­men­tary pres­sure switch—gives the gun much more flex­i­bil­ity.

As with any cus­tom gun, the mod­i­fi­ca­tions I chose might not line up ex­actly with ev­ery­one’s idea of a “per­fect” cus­tom gun, and my top five mods might not be ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. But with the mod­i­fi­ca­tions I made, this Model 870 would be right at home as a near-per­fect civil­ian de­fen­sive shot­gun, as well as ideal for tac­ti­cal use. GW



The Tico tool, while not a mod­i­fi­ca­tion, is a great tool for per­form­ing a quick clean­ing of the shot­gun bar­rel’s residue. It will re­move 90 per­cent of pow­der foul­ing. To re­move plas­tic residue from the shot wads, how­ever, scrub­bing is re­quired. The Mag­pul SGA stock in Flat Earth fit my son and me well, mak­ing for a bet­ter-fit­ting stock. As a re­sult, we took less of a beat­ing than if

the stock were ill-fit­ting. The breecher, front sight post with tri­tium in­sert, ex­tended mag­a­zine tube, Mag-na-Port­ing and Sure­Fire tac­ti­cal light to­gether make for a well-modified 870 tac­ti­cal shot­gun. One note: If this gun were to be used for breech­ing, I would opt for a shorter, two-shot mag­a­zine ex­ten­sion, be­cause I would want to have some space be­tween the end of the breecher and the end of the mag­a­zine tube.


The au­thor’s son fires the modified M870 at the range. Note the vents of pow­der gas form­ing a “V” shape com­ing out of the Mag-na-Ported


The Mag-na-Port­ing on the au­thor’s Rem­ing­ton Model 11/87 3-Gun shot­gun shows how the ports are an­gled to vent the ex­pand­ing gas up­ward and rear­ward.

This coun­ters the ef­fects of the heavy re­coil of a 12-gauge


The forc­ing cone reamer from Brownells makes short work of length­en­ing the forc­ing cone of the Rem­ing­ton 870—or any shot­gun—mak­ing it a much softer-shoot­ing firearm.

The Sure­Fire 6v tac­ti­cal light lit up the tar­get, even at dusk, when the light was just start­ing to fade.

The mag­a­zine lim­iter de­tent must be re­moved in or­der to in­stall an ex­tended mag­a­zine tube. The de­tent can sim­ply be drilled out or ironed out with a dent raiser swage.

The Kick-Eez re­coil pad is a snap to in­stall and greatly re­duces

the amount of felt re­coil. The re­coil pad­fit­ting jig, also from Brownells, is the only way to prop­erly fit and in­stall a re­coil pad on

any firearm.


The 870 trig­ger group with the car­rier re­tain­ing pin re­moved, along with the “Sil­ver Bul­let” shown above it. You will def­i­nitely want to get the “Sil­ver Bul­let” from Brownells if you are work­ing on any Rem­ing­ton

shot­gun. It makes get­ting the car­rier back to­gether much,

much eas­ier.

The Timney sear, with the three sear springs of light, medium and heavy, will al­low the shooter to se­lect the de­sired weight of pull. The au­thor’s medium sear spring gave a pull weight of about 3 pounds.

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