Remington Model 870 SPS Marine Magnum Shotgun
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Remington has made the 870 pump gun for so long that most of us cannot remember a time when it was not the best selling pump gun in the world. Remington introduced the Model 870 Wingmaster shotgun some 60 years ago. Over 10 million sales later, the 870 is still going strong and in 2012 is offered in Tactical / Home Defense (seven variations), Express (17 variations), Express Super Magnum (five variations), Express Combo (four variations), Special Purpose (four variations), Competition (one model) and, oh yes, standard Wingmaster field (four variations) configurations. Available gauges include 12, 20, 28 and .410. You can find the Guns and Shooting Online review of the Wingmaster field model on the Product Reviews page.
The 870 that is the subject of this review is one of Remington's Special Purpose models, the salt water resistant Marine Magnum riot gun. This is essentially the same as the seven shot version of the all matte black 870 Express Tactical, but with electroless nickel plating covering all metal parts, including the inside of the barrel and receiver. This gives it a matte silver metal finish that contrasts with the black synthetic stock and forend (pump handle) common to both models and makes the Marine Magnum better looking than the standard Express Tactical shotgun. Of course, no riot gun is a thing of beauty, but the 870's clean lines help. Functionally, except for the Marine model's increased corrosion resistance, they are the same gun. The Marine Magnum will serve for home defense or to dissuade rioters just as effectively as the Express Tactical. Since several of us on the Guns and Shooting Online staff are sailors and own boats, the Marine Magnum can serve for both home and boat defense.
Over the years, most 870 versions have slowly devolved into economy pump guns with lowered quality and finish throughout. Only the Classic Trap and Wingmaster field versions feature a polished and blued metal finish, gold plated trigger and genuine walnut stocks. The 870 was originally designed for comparatively inexpensive manufacture and most parts have always been formed from sheet steel. They still are, with some plastic additions, and the stampings seem less refined than we remember from our 1970's and 1980's vintage Wingmasters. Certainly, the Marine Magnum's dual action bars are rougher, with completely unfinished surfaces. Pumping an 870 is not as smooth as it used to be; the feel of a "ball bearing action" is gone. However, the twin action bars still prevent binding. No matter how we pulled and twisted the handle as we operated the action, the gun would not bind. The streamlined look shared by all 870's remains.
The barrel, of course, is ordinance steel and the receiver is still machined from a block of steel. The trigger guard is now plastic, instead of metal. The crossbolt safety button, located in the trigger guard directly behind the trigger, blocks the movement of the medium width, smooth faced trigger when pressed to the right. Press the safety to the left for "fire" and a red ring shows. The release that allows the action to be opened without pulling the trigger is located at the front of the trigger guard. The trigger housing is retained in the receiver by two large pins. Punch those out and the trigger assembly is easily replaced. Our test gun's trigger pull measured a commendable and consistent 3-3/4 pounds per our RCBS pull scale. The trigger has a little smooth creep that caused us no problems. Our Marine Magnum's trigger pull is better than most of the autoloading pistols, as well as shotguns, which we review these days.
The extended, six round magazine is essentially as long as the barrel; it is only a fraction of an inch shorter. (Curiously, the Remington promotional photo of an 870 Marine Magnum at the top of this review has an improperly installed magazine, which is why it juts out beneath the barrel.) The magazine follower is bright orange. Shells are loaded from the bottom and fired hulls eject to the right. Load the magazine, pump the action to load the chamber and slip another shell into the magazine to achieve the gun's full seven round capacity. The magazine can be "topped-up" with the chamber loaded and without taking the gun out of service during a tense encounter.
The hollow plastic stock has textured gripping surfaces at the pistol grip, instead of checkering. The matching black plastic forend is grooved for a secure grip. Both have visible mold lines, with the buttstock's mold lines being very obvious. There is a black plastic pistol grip cap, identical to the rest of the stock, bearing a molded "R." A soft, black recoil pad terminates the buttstock. What passes for a sling swivel base is simply a small loop molded into the buttstock. This deplorable economy is appearing on more low-end rifles and shotguns. There is a (real) detachable sling swivel stud attached to the underside of the front barrel/magazine band. A sling can be handy on a boat gun.
The 870 is, of course, a pump (or slide, if you prefer) action shotgun. Most of us own a manually operated shotgun for self-defense. An autoloader, if gas operated, helps reduce the effect of recoil, a nice feature for trap and skeet shooters who fire hundreds of rounds a day. However, when it comes to defending life and property, it is hard to argue against the reliability of a pump gun. With practice, a pump gun can be fired approximately as fast as an autoloader and the chance of malfunction is less. A failure to feed or a jam is NOT what you need when fighting for your life. Our Marine Magnum experienced no malfunctions during this review.
The Marine Magnum is chambered for 3" shells, which is where it gets its name. However, we strongly recommend using 2-3/4" shells for defensive purposes. 7.5 pounds is simply not enough weight to temper the recoil of 12 gauge Magnum shells. The 3" Roman candle magnums kick too hard and this slows recovery time for subsequent shots. Riot guns need to be controllable. Buckshot is the most common defensive shotgun load, although bird shot is sufficient at typical indoor ranges and Foster type rifled slugs can be used in the cylinder bore barrel if you need more penetration or longer range, for example to punch through the fiberglass hull of a would be pirate vessel. G&S Online owner Chuck Hawks kept a bandoleer with all three types of ammunition available aboard his small cabin cruiser.
Like most 870's, our test gun fits most shooters just fine, without stock shims or other gimmicks. The soft Remington recoil pad not only moderates recoil, it helps keep the butt on the shoulder, where it belongs. Do not attempt to shoot any shotgun from the hip. Even with a short, cylinder bored barrel, a combat shotgun must be aimed at a specific target, as if it were a rifle.
Because of the hollow buttstock and extended magazine tube, and despite its short barrel, the Marine Magnum balances approximately where the front of the receiver meets the barrel. We found this slightly weight forward balance surprising in a shotgun with an 18" barrel. A balance point about an inch farther back would speed handling and pointing, at the cost of slightly increased muzzle jump.
Coastal waters, confined seas and even major rivers are dangerous places these days. There were 440 acts of piracy in 2010 and they cost between $13 billion and $16 billion U.S. dollars, according to Wikipedia. Robbery, kidnapping for ransom, hostage taking, sexual assault, battery, torture and murder are common acts by modern pirates and vessels of every description, from small pleasure boats to cruise ships, are targeted. Pirates are criminals and terrorists and every boater should be armed for self-defense. We regard the Remington Model 870 Marine Magnum a top choice for both boat and home protection.
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