Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Remington 870 - It Takes Getting To Know Others To Truly Appreciate It

Or maybe I should have said it takes getting to know a couple of other pump guns before you truly appreciate how well engineered was/is the 870. I've been shooting Remington 870 shotguns for what amounts to my shotgun shooting eternity - to date. (I added that to date so as not to give the Fates even an inkling of an idea that I want to cut my eternity short.) Indeed, a Remington 870 Wingmaster was the first shotgun I ever purchased back in the early 1980s at the Yellow Mart in El Centro, CA. In all that time, I have always liked them and appreciated the fact that they were well made and well designed. I just never realized how well designed, that is until recently after I obtained a couple of other pump action 12 gauge shotguns. The epiphany came upon me as I was doing to two other makes of pump action shotgun what, with the Remington 870, amounts to the simple chore of field stripping it for cleaning and then reassembling it. It turned out not to be so simple with the other two makes of pump guns.

In fact, in order to field strip one of them for cleaning it was so convoluted that I simply declined to do it. It's not that it would have been difficult but more that it would have been an outright pain in the neck to do it at that particular time. Field stripping an 870 would have taken less than a minute, probably even less than half a minute for someone who does it often; yet with the other shotgun, it most likely would have taken a few to several minutes because of the ridiculous amount of extra steps involved due only to the poor design of that particular gun. To have to remove the shoulder-stock (aka: buttstock) in order to be able to remove the trigger group, in order to remove the bolt and forearm, is not only time consuming but I think over complicated in its design.

The real kicker is that the particular shotgun is supposed to be a defensive weapon. It's not a bird gun, not a deer gun, it is designed as a weapon or at least is was redesigned from a hunting gun to a defensive weapon by the addition of a pistol grip and some, in my opinion, other worthless gadgets. If the gun did not have that pistol grip, it would be less complicated to take down, the reason for that being that the pistol grip interferes with removal of the trigger group which must be removed to allow for removal of the forearm and bolt. Not only is it bothersome that the design of the pistol grip interferes with the removal of the trigger group but it is, again in my opinion, a very poorly designed defensive shotgun when one has to remove the trigger group in order to be able to remove the forearm and bolt for field stripping. The day I was working on that specific brand and model of shotgun, I had to get somewhere to do something else so I decided to hold off on giving it a good cleaning until another date. In fact, since I am in the process of selling it, I think it will be the potential new owner who will be stuck with that chore. I did give it a cleaning of its exterior, the bore, the mag tube, and what I could reach inside the receiver with the bolt still in there but that was it. I suppose you want to know the make and model and I also suppose I may as well tell you: The Savage Stevens Model 320 Security (with pistol grip and barrel shroud). Oddly enough, that is not why I am selling it. I probably would have kept it for a plinker or as a backup except for the fact that firing it with the pistol grip always seemed to attract an old adversarial friend of mine - Arthur I. Tiss. You may know him too if you are as old as me.

I did mention that there were two shotguns that contributed to my epiphany so let me go over what I believe are the shortcomings in the design of the second as well. With the second pump gun in question there was no pistol grip to interfere with anything; yet, I think the design was almost as poor as the Stevens 320. Even though this other one - a Mossberg Model 835 Ulti Mag - is intended as a hunting gun, I think it takes way too much time and effort to disassemble it and then reassemble it for field stripping (and field stripping is all the Mossberg manual recommends you do). It is so much more convoluted than field stripping a Remington 870 as to make me think if that had been the only thing in which the Remington was better designed it alone would account for the fact that the Remington 870 is the best selling pump action shotgun, if not the best selling shotgun, in the United States. To take down the Mossberg, for field stripping, one has to again remove the trigger group (trigger housing assembly as the manual calls it) like with the Stevens; however you do not have to remove the stock to accomplish that step. It should be noted here that the Mossberg manual warns that the trigger housing assembly is complex and "...must not be disassembled". Is it really that complex and if it is then why is it in this gun!

The Mossberg manual then cautions that prior to going any further with the disassembly one take time to study how the internal parts of the receiver are arranged. That's good advice with any gun but considering what happened in the next step or two, I fully appreciate them having noted such. The manual also cautions about paying close attention to the bolt, bolt slide and action slide action bar positions. You would think if these were so important that would have given excellent diagrams showing there positions but in my estimation the diagrams they included are lacking in that regard. Those cautions have the effect of making one wonder should I b taking this thing apart or not. I did this gun today and had plenty of time to get it done since I started on it at about 0600. Anyway, after removing the trigger group, you are supposed to remove two internal parts from the receiver. The particular Mossberg 835 on which I was working is a fairly new gun and while fired before it has not been fired a lot. I am guessing less than 50 rounds have gone through it, it is that clean. The part that I had to remove in this step were the cartridge interrupter and cartridge stop; as it turned out I had to do almost nothing because when I tilted the receiver to better be able to see inside, one of them fell off. When I fished it out, the other one also fell off.

The next strep was to align the bolt in a certain manner so that the bolt slide could be lifted out of the receiver. Only then could the bolt be slid forward and removed from the front end of the receiver and after that you could also remove the elevator. The manual cautions that that's it for field disassembly and further disassembly should only be done "...by an Authorized Product Service Center or a qualified gunsmith". Putting it back together was not the reverse of the disassembly again making this more complex than need be. With the Remington 870, if it is not merely doing all the disassembly steps in reverse order, it is darned close to it.  Did I mention the illustrations for disassembly in the Mossberg manual were lacking in my estimation? Let me tell you, the ones for reassembly are much the same as far as I am concerned. Now mind you so you don't get me wrong, the Mossberg was not very difficult to disassemble or reassemble but it was what amounted to a time consuming pain in the neck because of what I believe is piss poor design.

In fact, both the Stevens Model 320 Security and the Mossberg 835 Ulti Mag are overly time consuming pains in the neck to disassemble and reassemble. While I only actually disassembled the Mossberg and then reassembled it too, just looking at he number of steps involved to disassemble and reassemble the Stevens makes it obvious that it too is a time consuming pain in the neck to field strip and reassemble - so much so that I did not do it at the time I had planned to do so. One other note about a vast difference between the 870 and the other two has to do with what amounts to an operational design feature, specifically the superiority of the placement of the slide release. On the 70, it is located so as to be accessible at the outside forward end of the trigger guard and thus easily depressed by the trigger finger. The slide release on both the Stevens and the Mossberg is, to me, in an awkward place at the rear left side of the trigger guard. It is not nearly as easily accessible to operate as is the one on the 870 and that could possibly mean you unnecessarily fumbling with the gun in a combat situation and winding up the loser because of it.

I did mention appreciating the design and construction of the Remington 870. I like it so much that I have owned two, sadly I sold a very nice 870 Wingmaster when I needed money less than a month after getting married. That was especially sad since I was only able to afford an 870 Express Combo when I replaced it about a year and a half later but don't take that wrong - the Express Combo has served me well it's just not as expensive a model as was the Wingmaster. While I have appreciated the 870 for all those years, to say that I now appreciate the Remington 870 even more so, after acquiring these two other pump guns and trying to do basic maintenance on them, would be a gross understatement about how much I prefer and acknowledge the 870's superiority.

The Remington 870 is, in my opinion, so much better designed than the other two as to have convinced me I that it is very unlikely that I will ever use another brand or model of pump action shotgun as my primary defensive and hunting shotgun. Not only can I take down the 870 with fewer steps and much faster but I can do it without that pain in my neck that comes with maintaining the other two. I also can, at least partially, disassemble the trigger group for maintenance, then reassemble it, without much difficulty if any at all. While there are some parts Remington urges the user not remove, such as the extractor saying that is best done by a gunsmith, the Remington 870 is the hands down winner at best design, at least among these three guns. There may be others out there better designed than the Remington 870 when it comes to being user friendly, in the maintenance or use departments, but I would be hard pressed to believe it. Besides that, I have owned my current 870 since about 1987 or so and have to say it has not failed me with literally thousands of rounds fired though it. The Remington 870 is withut a doubt in my mind one of the most excellent weapons and hunting guns ever produced.

All the best,
Glenn B