Remington 870 Express
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- Last updated: 26/07/2018
There is nothing more iconic or recognisable in the pump action shotgun market than a Remington 870 pump 12-gauge. The advertising tag line used to be: “First name in pumps and the last word in dependability”.
Designed in the early 50s, the overall pump action design has changed little, with only external finish and stock designs really changing, apart from multichokes and some loading improvements. The practical 870 is really designed as a tool for hunting with an overall length of 47.75-inch with the 28-inch barrel and weighs only 6.25lbs. Available in 12, 20, 28 and 410 cals only in some models and a good choice of stock options and the Rem 870 is still a really good pump action.
In 12-gauge, you have a 26- or 28-inch barrel length options and I had the longer 28-incher. It comes with a single Rem Choke in ½ or modified, with a full range available. There is a 7mm rib with straight curved top to stop glare and has 11 vents to aid in cooling when the action gets hot. You have a single silver bead at the muzzle end and is finished in matt, almost Parkerised, blue like the action; so, practical and muted for hunting use.
You have a 3-inch chambering, so it’s good for all loads and steel shot too. Those wanting the 3.5-inch mag loads, can opt for the Express Super Magnum model. If fact, there are a good range of practical, wood, comp and Express 870s to choose from. The simple take down procedure for cleaning, or barrel change, remains the same. Unscrew the large knurled cap at the end of the forend anti clockwise and remove; now, simply slide off the barrel forward to disengage from the action.
That classic Remington profile, of a sloped rear section that adorns many a Remington firearm, remains and it is still machined from a solid billet of steel. That gives confidence in reliability and longevity of the action in my view. As with the barrels, the finish is utilitarian but very hunter friendly, being a very matt, almost Parkerised, blued finish, like the barrels. It’s good as a non-reflective surface and you are not worried about a few marks or scratches either. It’s not drilled or tapped for scope mounts, which is unusual for a pump but other models in their range are, so a gunsmith job or side or saddle type mount is needed if you want a red dot sight.
The bolt is a single unit with a non-rotating head but a good strong lock up into the barrel tongue and extraction is from a large single extractor claw. Ejection, like many a pump or semi for that matter, is a single spur from the inner wall of the action; the faster you pump, the farther the empty case is thrown.
The cartridges are loaded via a large, tongue-shaped lifter that raises as the action is operated and with its newer slot cut into it eliminates problems with binding. No fancy mag lifters, mag blockers or reload switches; just reliability.
Also, to aid smooth cycling, there are double action slide bars to stop binding or twisting as you cycle/pump the action. That term is banded around a lot, but it does stop that slight stop of the ‘pump’ that might cause a hesitation for a second shot. With practice, its amazing how fast you can operate an 870. There is also a new box mag feed 870 designed for practical disciplines, which looks really good.
The bolt locks in the rear position with an empty mag as normal and can be released by the small side lever to the left of the trigger guard when pushed upward.
The trigger is a one-piece unit that is easily removed by drifting out the two pins that retain it. This has always been a nice feature for cleaning and my old 870 could be fitted with a side mounted scope mount by replacing these pins with bolts, as stated earlier.
The safety is simplicity itself; a no-nonsense push button cross bolt that blocks the movement of the trigger blade. It works and that’s all you need!
The Rem 870 comes in many stock guises, wood, laminate fancy walnut thumbhole and synthetic, as here. It’s the most practical option.
You have a dual moulded black synthetic stock; the parent company Dupont helps in this respect. There is no cast to the stock and it’s a bit short at 13.75-inches but has a large rubber, very grippy Rem recoil pad called the Supercell recoil pad that absorbs recoil very effectively and seems to move the stock with you, so no jolt in the cheek.
There is a moulded in sling swivel loop and slightly raised, moulded-in stippled panels to the pistol grip and forend to act as grip instead of chequering. Balance is just in front of the action and has that heft of a solidly built gun; I prefer the Express stock for every day use. It’s exactly what you want on a work a day pump action, hard wearing and practical. The forend is a good hand filler, well rounded and broad with nicely scalloped finger grooves for grip, even in the wet.
With a shotgun, you need handling, pointability and especially with a pump, reliability and the Rem 870 has it all, it always has. I like the confident way an 870 manipulates a cartridge from mag to chamber regardless of make and size.
I chose a range of 12-gauge shells to pattern and started with the Hull Steel Game. These are well suited to the Remmy, as the 870’s lineage is well planted in the wildfowl shooting category. This load had 32-grams of FE4 steel pellets inside, and firstly, I was impressive with the mild recoil. I was even more impressed with the pattern – a lot of steel loads are iffy at best. This Rem 870 shot these Hull Steel Game the best I have seen
I had a total of 164 pellets at 30-yards on the board with a spread of 112 pellets in the outer sectors and a very good and dense 52 pellets within the 15-inches. If I were a duck or goose, I would be very scared!
Next up were the Lyalvale Express Supreme Game, a completely different cartridge indeed. Designed for game shooting, I had the larger No. 5 shot with a charge of 30-grams. A slight upward bias but good spread with a total of 99 pellet strikes, of which I had an even 7 pellets in each of the four inner sectors for 28 strikes and the remaining 71 pellets in the outer 30-inches. It felt soft on the shoulder.
I had some Remington Spurshot in No. 4 shot size and a 34-gram loading, so good and heavy. I had a total of 148 pellet strikes at 30 yards with the ½ choke with a good evenly spread pattern too. 25 pellets struck the inner 15-inches and 123 pellets to the outer regions. A good all rounder.
Finally, a good pigeon load. I had the Hull Special Pigeon. These are a longrange pigeon load and use 32-grams of No. 6 shot with fibre wadding. The 870 shot a total of 175 pellets into 30-inches and a slight upward bias but dense 48 pellet inner strikes and 127 outer pellet hits. A very good pigeon or pheasant load for that matter.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Remington 870 range remains a super dependable and very capable pump action shotgun. It throws some very good patterns and here, with its synthetic stock in the Express format, is ideally suited for everyday shotgun duties. It’s nice to see it back amongst the gunsmith’s racks again.
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