The timeless Remington 870 is 60 years old and has seen 10 million units produced. Wiley Clapp takes a look back at this legendary — and still relevant — defensive shotgun.
To anyone who asks the standard gun-writer question, “What’s the best gun and ammo to use in a fight,” my answer is, “a shotgun and #000 buck.” No handgun can ever equal the on-target performance of a fighting shotgun. The question then becomes, “what shotgun do you prefer?” My answer would be equally emphatic, “a Remington 870.”
A Remington Model 870 “Wingmaster” – in (legal) short-barrel “riot gun” configuration (it had formerly been used by the Newark City Police Department), with wood stocks – was the first “serious” firearm I ever purchased. It is still, bar-none, my favorite.
The friend from whom I purchased it included a longer, ribbed barrel with interchangeable chokes as part of the package, but I generally leave “Ol’ #103” in its rifle-sighted, cylinder-choked “defensive” configuration. With the magazine plug out, it can hold five 2 3/4″ rounds of #1 buckshot (16 .30-caliber pellets per shell, vs only 9 .33-caliber ones for 00 buck): more than enough to ruin the day of any would-be malefactor.
I know some would prefer the slightly greater penetration and range of 00 or 000 buckshot, but I’ll stick with the better spread pattern and larger number of wound channels of the (slightly) smaller but more numerous #1 pellets. If I were expecting to fight armored targets, or at ranges greater than home-defense range, I most likely wouldn’t choose a shotgun as my weapon, anyway!
I hope I never do, but if I ever need to conduct an armed defense of myself or my loved ones, it’s my 870 I’d reach for first.