Case Study: Versatility of the 870 platform

The Beginning

For the most part the pump shotgun game is divided into two main camps; 870 or 500. Although there certainly are other pump shotgun makers out there that maker cheaper and more expensive versions of the pump shotgun the big two are Remington and Mossberg. When I was in the market for a pump gun I was basically making a choice between these two. I did not want something super cheap with no aftermarket, and I couldn’t spend the type of money to get into the higher end pumps. I became familiar with shotguns using the Remington platform and was used to the controls. Although I can operate a tang safety just fine having learned from O/U skeet gun I had for a time I still preferred the button safety. So my journey with the 870 began. I started out with a standard 26″ vent rib rem choke 870 express and this was fine. I left it well alone for at least a year and it was my constant companion to me whenever I went clay shooting.

The Beginning

First Permutation

My descent into madness began with the tacti-itch, that difficult to resist urge that most modern gun owners have to remove and semblance of traditional practicality and turn it into a liberals nightmare of blackgunnedness. This descent began simple enough. It began with a great deal on a 18.5″ cylinder bore, single front bead barrel that I found in the Bargain cave of my “local” Cabela’s. Quick and easy to switch between the 26″ and 18.5″ barrels for whatever reason I had the 18″ stayed on 90% of the time whether it was for skeet or hand thrown clays. I look back at this stage with the slightest tinge of regret because the dirty 18.5″ barrel with wood furniture gives that patrol car aesthetic that is still kinda cool.

I began thinking of furniture though because as I said this was a descent and it could not be stopped. I still to this day am just accepting the mantra of buy once cry once. Being a resident of the great state of New Jersey, we still have an AWB and pretty much the only thing you can have a collpsible stock on is a pump shotgun. Therefore I felt compelled to do so. I had my mind set on the pinnacle of of tacti-cool, the pistol gripped collapsible stock. I found a Blakhawk! Knoxx stock set for a good price at a gun show and jumped on it. After playing with the collapsible function of the stock for a while I was just tickled by my purchase. I proceeded to buy a Choate +2 extension and Mesa Tactical combination side saddle and picatinny rail. After throwing it all together I marveled at the tacticalness it possessed. I thought I was good to go, that is until I finally take it to shoot after all this tinkering only to realize the side saddle interferes with the new forend and wont cycle the gun. After a few four letter words and some pouting I packed it up for the day. All I had to do was simply take a Dremel to the forend so it would cycle. All is right in tacti-world again. This was until i put a red dot on top and realized my comb height was not nearly tall enough to get a decent and consistent sight picture. I then ordered some CAA m4 style stock cheek risers which did not fit he blackhawk stock because it is thicker than an m4 stock even though it looks the same. They would stay but weren’t exactly perfect so my sight picture still stunk. I  gave in and chose to go down to the basic stock, no dot, and do some clay shooting with it. It felt as if the stock was made out of a cheese grater. This stock may work for some but sure wasn’t working for me.


Modified Forend

The Cut to Make It Fit

Second and Final Permutation

So I basically took a gun that I could shoot a 23 hit round of skeet with and made it useless, fantastic.Inspiration came when I took my certification for hunter’s safety. Even though buying a compound bow got me interested in hunting I wanted to have the added flexibility of being able to partake in shotgun seasons as well. I took stock and realized the biggest problem was… THE STOCK. I also wanted to ensure that this gun would have some flexibiilty in its philosophy of use. I basically wanted a do-all gun and the 870 is the place to start. I wanted to have a viable defensive shotgun that I could also deploy as a hunting gun. I was almost all the way there just needed to get it to fit me properly. I needed that comb height for using anything rail mounted so I turned to Magpul. With the Magpul SGA stock I can add .75″ using oem parts and adjust that further with a little ingenuity if needed, I am a big guy so the available long length of pull is also nice. Removal of the pistol grip also returned the gun closer to original ergonomics and worked with the controls a lot better.

With the ergonomics improved I turned to aesthetics. I always turn to black as a color choice in most everything and was kinda tired of it. Plus I wanted to get closer to earth tones for the previously mentioned hunting applications for this firearm. So I chose to go with the Magpul stock in FDE. Now that I was settled on FDE I could not just leave the gun black with FDE furniture. I decided to go for broke and try and locate a Cerakote Applicator near me. I found Gus from Dynamic Combat Solutions through Cerakote’s website and after filling out a contact form was contacted via email. After talking logistics and checking out his Instagram Page I was convinced his shop was a good fit for me. I decided to go with burnt bronze which is an interesting color because it goes well with the FDE but gives a clear two toned definition to the gun, once you add the original black accent pieces I felt the look would be dynamite. I wasn’t wrong it came out great, Gus’s work was top notch I have a gun that looks sick, is a little easier to camoflague, and will withstand some abuse. This color changes depending on lighting. it gets bright and gold in hue in harsh bright light and gets a deeper browner color in shady light.With the addition of wraps and some naturally aquired ghillie style camoflauge this gun can certainly blend in with the wooded hunting grounds of New Jersey. With the current complement of barrels, optics options of the rock solid mount provided by the mesa rail, and the adaptibiity of the stockset; I am confident that there is not an application whether it be hunting, defense, or otherwise this system cant handle.  It was a long journey and well worth it, I learned a lot.


Finish is a bit darker in subdued lighting.


View Through ability of Mesa Rail


The Finish Looks Brighter and More Golden In Harsh Bright Light


The Gun

Conclusion and Future

I certainly did learn a lot about my buying habits and what is important in the gear we buy. My advise would be if you are interested in a bit of kit that you arent already familiar with get some range time with it first before you put your time, money, and sanity into it. Currently all I am running is the standard comb height and bead and fiber optic from sights. I am upgrading the 26″ barrel to a  more robust light pipe fiber optic system to make it more distinct while viewing through the rail. As for the mounted optics I am looking at getting a rail mounted ghost ring system either through LPA sights or Hi-viz. These would provide back up to a Vortex Optics SPARC 2.




Upcoming this week

Getting my shotgun back from cerakoting at Dynamic Combat Solutions so I will be writing up a little piece on my 870 Multipurpose project.


Hopefully by end of week I will have my brownells order in. That will be amazing as im in the parts aquiring process of a LR-308 build.


Just watched heat in preparing for recording a podcast for Guns Of Hollywood my show I Co-Host with Allie Howe.


Last but not least I want to breathe a deep sigh of relief for the news last week coming out of trenton. Christie vetoed the gun ban/mag ban bill on his desk.

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat.

For some it takes years to perfect their range bag. There is so much to factor in; size, volume, configuration, contents, material, etc. that I have found the best way to manage is learn through doing. My range bag has gone through a few iterations but I have become comfortable and confident that I have settled into a method that maximizes effectiveness as well as ease of use. That is exactly what each sportsman should do as well. Just as we each have different interests, the needs of the range bag may differ from person to person. My bottom line is do not hesitate to throw the status quo by the wayside and start fresh from scratch. Even with this configuration every month or so I may take everything out and shift things and add or remove them as I see fit.

The Bag.

It seems that almost any tactical accessory company you turn to will offer a bag of similar design, all strappy and MOLLE’d up. For me the keys are as follows; backpack, scalable, at least two major compartments and two small to medium pockets. You can find a pack from most any company ranging from Condor to 5.11 to Blackhawk!.  For me I went with a 40 dollar gun show special. I honestly don’t know the brand as it is not really branded from what I can tell. That being said after a fair amount of time being into the outdoorsy stuff I know what to look for in the construction of a pack. This seemed sturdy enough so i went for it. Some of the useful things that I  find with this bag is its scalability. I can use it as a range tool and target bag with nothing but some ammo or let the straps out and fit two pistols in hard cases, two more in soft pouches, ammo for all, and much much more. This is of course adjusted by the 6 cinches located on this bag. Another thing I find incredibly useful to me is the velcro/molle. I have not taken advantage of the molle aspect put the velcro is awesome. I simply put some velcro onto my range id and voila it goes where i go no digging in my pocket for it, not hanging it around my neck, or dangling it from my pants. I can also put my dopey patches on it. The top carry handle is comfortable enough to carry this thing from home to car to range and back however why do that when it is a backpack. The straps’ comfort and fit of the pack are not critical in my opinion. Let us not forget that it is a range bag not a B.O.B. not a G.H.B. not a 72 hour pack its to get guns, ammo, and supplies to a from the range effectively. I say this to bring something to your attention. You can get something slightly less ergonomic for a relative steal however if you are not dedicating the bag to range duty you may want to go for something pricier and more comfortable that can serve more than one purpose.


The Main Compartment

This is in my opinion one of the greatest advantages of utilizing a design like this as a range bag. This compartment can do anything you need it to. You can cinch the pack tight and keep targets and other thin items of let the pack out and pack several handguns in this one compartment. I choose the latter typically I will bring one or two handguns in hard cases like my plinking .22 with red dot or my P226 with tactical light. Things stay in cases that are otherwise not able to be slipped easily into thin padded cases. So one might say well that seems full already… nonsense my experience in camping and backpacking has shown me that there is typically more vertical space than you initially realize. Even with two standard sized hard cases I typically slip in another 1-3 handguns in soft cases and gun socks on the sides or in front of the hard cases or even on top.  The rest of the vertical space I have left I will put the corresponding ammunition as well as any rifle ammunition I intend to use on that trip.


The Middle Section

The middle section is thinner in design than the main compartment and thats fine considering we have placed the bulk of our load in the main compartment. This is a great place for many things since its a full length compartment I put all my targets within a big ziploc bag and that goes in there along with other longer items such as a 3 piece cleaning rod in case of obstructions or any other use. I use the little mesh pockets to hold my staple gun, extra staples, sometimes a marker is in and out of my range bag from time to time as well. This is also the place where I keep a medium sized nylon ditty bag for collecting my brass in, this is also the place the bag ends up at the end of the day.


Top Front Pocket

This is my smaller items pocket/tools pocket. In it I keep replacement batteries, a metric and standard set of allen keys a pocket screwdriver, a bore light, and a small bottle of gun oil.


Front Bottom Pocket

Eyes and ears and flags oh my!!! I keep one pair each of tinted and clear safety glasses, ear plugs and a pair of muffs, as well as a ziploc filled with assorted chamber flags.


In Conclusion

This has been an overview in the philosophy and packing list of my range bag. I hope that it can be helpful in gaining mastery over your range packing woes. If you feel I missed anything mission critical don’t hesitate to comment.