It’s interesting how perspectives and opinions change overtime. Sometimes one’s appreciation for something changes dramatically. Other times it just hardly changes at all. However, the passage of time is constant and quite a bit of time has passed since I acquired a Remington Model 870 Express.
The Model 870 was my first shotgun. Come to think of it, it was also one of the first few firearms I owned. I remember obtaining it when my primary focus as a new gun owner was self defense and many self-proclaimed firearms experts on the internet adamantly preached that a shotgun was the ultimate home defense weapon. They praised its versatility, its reliability, its ease of operation. “Load it with bird shot”, some said. “Load it with buck shot”, other said. “Just point and shoot”, they said. I bought into all of it. When I came across this pump-action 12 gauge shotgun at a pawn shop for around $200, I took it home, cleaned it, and thus began my experience with shotguns.
I ended up only taking the shotgun out to the range a few times to try it out. First time out, I shot some steel targets and sporting clays one time. Another time, I took my wife and kids to try it out. One time, I accidentally purchased 20 gauge shells and thought something on the shotgun broke as the the shells fell straight through the barrel and onto the ground as I was trying to load one in the chamber. After that I staged it at home for home defense and let it collect dust.
There really isn’t anything remarkable about the 870. Most of the wear on it came from the previous owner (or owners). The wood stock has scratches and a greenish stain (might have been water damage). The finish on the barrel has some surface rust that likes to return after I wipe it off and lubricate it. But it works. Every time (assuming I feed the right gauge shells). Even when I neglect it. And that’s why I think it’s a wonderful shotgun.
Starting MSRP on the Remington Model 870 Express is under $420. Street price is about $300 brand new. Of course, I didn’t know this when I came across it at the pawn shop or I would have negotiated it down. This is about as low as the price gets for what I consider to be a reliable and quality shotgun.
Let me be clear, I have no hesitation in recommending Remington Model 870 series shotguns. I think they are fantastic pump-action shotguns. They are easy to maintain and easy to operate. There are several variants available with different finishes, bores, gauges, barrel lengths, magazine capacities at reasonable and budget friendly prices.
I think the Model 870 Express is a great option for anyone who is looking for a value priced shotgun to get started hunting or shooting sporting clays. However, the long 28″ barrel doesn’t make it ideal for a home defense shotgun. Not to mention the magazine tube capacity is 4 shells (only 2 with the magazine plug installed for hunting).
If I was looking for a value priced pump action strictly for home defense, then I would consider either the Model 870 Hardwood Home Defense (MSRP $420) or the Model 870 TAC-14 Hardwood (MSRP $499). Both of these have much shorter barrels (18.5″ and 14″ respectively) and larger magazine tube capacities (6 and 5 respectively) making these options better suited for home defense applications.
If I was looking for a value priced multi-purpose shotgun (hunting, shooting sports, and home defense), then I may consider looking at the Model 870 Express Field & Home Combo (MSRP $550). This value priced variant comes with two different barrels. One 28″ barrel for hunting or sporting purposes and a 18.5″ barrel for home defense purposes. The magazine tube capacity is limited to 4 shells, but that can be remedied by purchasing a magazine tube extension.