It used to be that there was one shotgun in my household, the Remington model 870. It was the same brand and pretty much the same model as the ones I had been issued at work in my jobs with the Border Patrol, Customs Patrol, then as a Customs Agent and finally also as an agent in DHS. As for the shotguns I was issued at work, like the ones I had bought for use across the board as home defense, hunting and fun shooting guns, they were all Remington model 870s. There are 4 shotguns in my household now but none that I like as much as the 870.
Throughout my time as a government LEO, I changed and so too did the shotguns I was issued. Not big changes (except maybe for my weight) but changes indeed. Perhaps, the changes the 870 went through over the years, since I bought my first one back in the early 1980s were not all that significant to most shooters but they made quite the difference to me and because of those changes I prefer the somewhat older versions to the newer. My biggest point of dissatisfaction with the newer ones is that Remington did away with part number 45, the magazine spring retainer. There were other changes that came along with over the years but none so annoying as that one which allows the magazine spring to pop out each time you disassemble the gun for a good cleaning or to change the barrel. Still though, if my older 870 ever needed replacement, I am pretty sure it would be with a new 870; I just like them that much.
The Remington 870 is a versatile gun that comes in a good amount of model variations, some of those variations being utilitarian and others merely cosmetic. You can see the different variations here:
While all 870s are pump action shotguns the differences among the 870 can be fairly significant. Some are geared toward tactical use, others toward turkey hunting or waterfowl hunting and yet others toward deer hunting and still others toward trap shooting. Some come with a magnum chamber and can take 3" shells, others only 23/4"shells. They come with a variety of barrels and stocks too. You can get them with black or camo synthetic stocks or with subdued finished wood or with American Walnut stocks with a high gloss finish. They even have a nickel plated marine version. There is a pretty wide price range on them, the Express version has a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of about $411.00. The Remington 870 Wingmaster Classic Trap has an MSRP of $1081.00. There are lots of different prices on the various versions that fall between those two.
The one I originally owned, that I bought way back when I was a Border Patrol Agent was a Remington 870 Wingmaster with American Walnut stocks and a high gloss finish. It was a nice gun, one I wish I had never sold. The one I bought, to make up for selling that one and to refill the niche left by its absence, was a Remington 870 Express Combo. That version has changed some over the years. Mine is a 12 gauge (you can also get them in 20 gauge) and came with a 2 3/4" chamber (some have magnum chambers and accept 3 or 3 1/2" shells, mine does not), a dull non-reflective matte finish on the metal, wood stocks (dull finish), and two barrels - a 2" improved choke deer barrel with rifled sights (smooth bore) and a 28" vent ribbed barrel with interchangeable choke capability and a single choke. Today the deer barrel, of the newer 870 Express Combo is rifled and the larger barrel has been shortened from 28" to 26". I am going to guess that I bought my second 870 in about 1987. I think it was within a year of me getting married and selling the Wingmaster. It did not take me all that long to realize that selling the other 870 had been a mistake; yet, it was too long - I never would have sold the Wingmaster if I had realized soon enough what a mistake it would be. Oh well, live and learn.
As I said, there are 4 shotguns in my household right now (actually 5 but one is a wall hanger) and of them all I prefer the 870. The others are a New England Pardner 12 gauge single shot, my son's Mossberg 500 with pistol grip and no shoulder stock, A Browning Citori Lightning O/U - all of those in 12 gauge. There is also the wall hanger which is an Iver Johnson Hercules Grade 16 gauge SxS. I have also fired other shotguns than those I have owned. They have included Mossberg pumps, an Iver Johnson SxS, various Remington, Winchester, Franchi, and Benelli semi-autos and so on, and some other single shot shotguns and even a bolt action shotgun (cannot recall the make). None of those others have ever made me feel confident enough to use any of those other guns as a one gun for all situations for hunting, target shooting and self defense - only the Remington 870 has been the gun that has covered all of those for me and that continues to do so today. Sure, I will use others for hunting or others for target shooting or maybe even another for personal defense (if I am forced to do so in an emergency and the 870 is not there) but I have never found a shotgun as reliable and as versatile as the 870.
In all the years that I have owned my current 870, which is about 25 years now, I have never had any problems with it, that I can remember that required fixing. Yes, there was the time that I forgot to screw the end cap back onto the magazine, when I took a shot at a goose, then watched my part45 and the magazine spring sale through the air about half way across a pond until they splashed down to be lost in the depths but that was shooter error. Nothing on the gun has ever broken. That is fairly amazing when you consider modern manufacturing standards- which for the most part mean you are buying junk today. It just is not true with the 870, or at least was not the case in the 1980 when they made mine nor was it true of those I used at work up until a few years back. It is an excellent gun and I say that after having put mine, and some at work, through their own personal hell.
As for my own Remington 870 Express Combo, I have I have taken it on hunting trips, camping trips, and hiking trips. I have brought it along, as my long arm of choice, on tens, if not, hundreds of law enforcement operations. (While in Customs, I was, for years, allowed to qualify with and carry my personally owned 870.) I have had it bouncing around in the trunks of cars, in the backs of SUVs, have traveled with it in my luggage by air a few to several times, have dropped it down a flight of stairs, have fallen on it while hiking/hunting (bending the screw that holds the stock in place, only to straighten it out and reuse it). I have scratched it and dinged it (refinished the stocks too) and just used and shot the heck out of it. I have literally fired at least 5,000 rounds of slugs through mine, probably much closer to double that, and lord knows how many thousands of rounds of buckshot and numbers 6, 7, 8 & 9 shot. Then there is the shooting my son has done with it. Yet, it still shoots as good as the day I bought it and seemingly is just as reliable now as it was back then. I wish my shoulder could have taken that beating just as well as did the shotgun. (My doctors could readily confirm that my right shoulder did not hold up as well to all those 12 gauge slug and buckshot rounds. I affirm the gun stood up to them much better than did I.) Once, while at the range, the primary firearms instructor ran it over with a van. We all thought, for sure, that it had been ruined but it was undamaged as far as we could tell when we inspected it and as far as I could tell in all the years of shooting it since then. Thank goodness the van did not run over my shoulder! I have taken deer, squirrels, and game birds with it, shot holes into lots of paper targets with it, and countless clays and metal silhouettes have fallen to it. My 870 certainly has taken a beating and just keeps on functioning and shooting as reliably as it did 25 years ago.
Now, while I hope someone at Remington reads this and sends me some free stuff - like maybe a new 870 in a magnum chambering, I know it isn't gunna happen. To tell the truth though, such a hope is not why I wrote this piece. The truth is, I wrote this because the Remington 870, at least the many with which I have had experience - especially my own Remington 870 Express Combo, is simply an amazingly reliable and versatile workhorse of a gun.
All the best,