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Remington 870: The Best 12-Gauge Shotgun Ever?

Remington 870 DM Magpul
Remington 870 DM Magpul. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Shotguns could be an excellent choice for anyone thinking about using a firearm to protect their home or property. What about the Remington 870? 

But what is the best choice out there? What is the best value? What has the best ease of use? Those are all, of course, key questions one must consider. 

We asked a top firearms expert with over thirty years of experience for his take. 

What the Experts Have to Say

Dearly beloved 19FortyFive readers, after nearly 10 months of writing firearms-related articles for this publication, it dawns on me that I’ve been remiss. I have written plenty of articles on semiautomatic pistols, revolvers, rifles, and submachine guns. But I have yet to do a single writeup on a shotgun. 

The oversight largely stems from the fact that I spend maybe 5% of my range time firing “shotties,” but still, shotgun proficiency is a must for any serious shooter and gun writer, and what better choice for my first shotgun article than the only such gun I have ever owned: the Remington 870 pump-action 12-gauge.  

Remington 870 Early History and Specifications 

My 19FortyFive colleague Steve Balestrieri includes the Remington on his list of “The 4 Top Shotguns To Secure Your Home.” In Steve’s own words: 

“The Remington 870 is an iconic and arguably…the most popular pump-action shotgun. It is well made, dependable, accurate, and functional. It uses a steel receiver, which while increasing its durability, it also increases the weight somewhat. It is also very affordable, coming in at about $450 to $500…The overall length is 38.5 inches with a barrel length of 18.5 inches. The 870 weighs in at 7.5 pounds…The tube magazine holds 6 +1 and can handle both 2.75 and 3-inch shells easily, so, there is plenty of ammunition for a home defense option.” 

The shotgun is manufactured by Remington Arms, which was headquartered for many years in Madison, North Carolina, before relocating in 2020 to Ilion, New York. It was designed by L. Ray Crittendon, Phillip Haskell, Ellis Hailston, and G.E. Pinckney in 1950, and it went into production that same year.

Since then, more than 11 million have been produced, a testament to the enduring popularity of the piece. In the United States alone, the myriad of domestic law enforcement agencies that have adopted the weapon include the U.S. Border Patrol, LAPD, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, California Highway Patrol, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

It’s also used by military and police forces in roughly 30 other countries, including the Irish Army Ranger Wing and the Sierra Leone Police.  

Personal Shooting Impressions 

To give you an idea how little time I put in with shotguns relative to handguns and rifles, I made my first handgun purchase in 1991 and my first rifle purchase in 1994, but I did not buy that first and so far only shotgun until 2008. I purchased it from a now sadly defunct gun shop in San Pedro, California, whose name regretfully escapes me.

As San Pedro is a beachfront town (part of Los Angeles Harbor), I wanted to make sure the gun had a finish that could stand up to corrosion from a saltwater environment, so I opted for the Model 870 Synthetic Tactical version, which features a single front bead sight, non-glare matte finish, and 5-shot capacity. 

Although I’ve done my fair share of skeet and trap shooting, I have yet to take my Remington out on any clay pigeon-busting forays. I have wielded her only against paper targets so far, at indoor and outdoor ranges alike, using rifled slugs, birdshot, and buckshot.

The gun has functioned flawlessly throughout, and though a shotgun will never be as accurate as a rifle, the 870’s ability to put slug loads on target at ranges up to 25 yards has not disappointed.

While a 12-gauge double-aught buckshot load isn’t exactly easy on the shoulder, it’s not excessively punishing either, as the extra weight that Balestrieri refers to helps tamp down the recoil at least a bit.  

Want Your Own? 

Tactical Remington 870 models are listed on the GunsAmerica website for as low as $379.99, which is an absolute bargain. For its part, True Gun Value reports that “A REMINGTON 870 TACTICAL shotgun is currently worth an average price of $486.77 new and $435.00 used. The 12 month average price is $485.58 new and $434.90 used.” 

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports. 

Note: The image is of a Remington 870 DM Magpul.

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).