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The Remington 870: Greatest Pump Shotgun Ever Made?

The Remington 870: Greatest Pump Shotgun Ever Made?

This article, "Tops In the Blind & Field: The Remington 870," appeared originally in the September 2003 issue of American Rifleman. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select American Rifleman as your member magazine.


The beginning of the second half of the 20th century was a milestone product year for the Remington Arms Co. It was in 1950 that “America’s Oldest Gunmaker” introduced what many believe is the finest pump shotgun ever produced: the Model 870.

Produced in large numbers every year since, the Model 870 has become the most successful single firearm model in Remington’s more-than-200-year history and the best selling pump-action shotgun in firearms history. Remington calls it “the Wingmaster.”

Three years earlier, Remington design engineers began working on a replacement for the rugged, but outdated, Model 31 pump-action shotgun. Utilizing common parts from the sleek, new Model 11-48 autoloader, L. Ray Crittendon, Phillip Haskell, Ellis Hailston and G. E. Pinckney developed a new pump-action that would later be called the Model 870. Like the Model 11-48, the Model 870 Wingmaster shotgun, introduced in January 1950, had a breech locked securely in a hardened barrel extension, and a new locking block and slide were devised for a smooth and effective operation.

The following is a chronological history of the initial specifications and subsequent additions to this versatile and stalwart shotgun from 1950 up to 2003. The prices shown, sadly, are suggested retail for the year of introduction and no longer apply.

1950: Remington introduced 15 versions of the Model 870 shotgun, in 12, 16 and 20 gauges, including: the Model 870 AP Standard Grade ($69.95); the Model 870 BC Special Grade ($81.45); the Model 870 ADL Deluxe Grade ($79.95); the Model 870 BDL Deluxe Special Grade ($91.45); the Model 870D Tournament Grade ($295); the Model 870F Premier Grade ($585); the Model 870TC Trap Grade ($159.95); the Model 870TD Trap Tournament Grade ($388.55); the Model 870TF Trap Premier Grade ($678.55); the Model 870S Trap Special Grade ($89.95); the Model 870SA Skeet Grade ($79.95); the Model 870SB Skeet Special Grade ($91.45); the Model 870SD Skeet Tournament Grade ($325); the Model 870SF Skeet Premier Grade ($615); and the Model 870R Riot Grade with 20” barrel ($69.95).

1955: Remington introduced the Model 870 Magnum-AP Standard Grade shotgun ($88.30) and the Model 870 Magnum-ADL Deluxe Grade shotgun ($127.15), each chambered for 12-ga., 3” magnum loads, or 23⁄4” shells.

1959: Remington introduced the 12-ga. Model 870 RSS Rifled Slug Special with slug barrel and rifle sights ($95.95), and the Model 870 SX Skeet Grade, TX Trap Grade and ADX Field Grade shotguns with “Sun Grain” stock and fore-end.
The Model 870, such as this Model 870 Police, has been a staple of law enforcement agencies for decades. The 870 has also seen military service as the Model 870 Mk-1, adopted by the Marine Corps in 1969.

1960: Remington introduced the Model 870 ADX with Sun-Grain stock and fore-end ($162.65) and a 20-ga. magnum, chambered for 3” shells.

1961: Remington introduced the Model 870 AP “Brushmaster” with a 20” slug barrel, recoil pad and rifle sights ($109.70). It replaced the Model 870 RSS. Remington also introduced a 20-ga. magnum Model 870 ADL and the Model 870 ADX.

1963: Remington produced the Model 870 in a new “deluxe grade” for all field models with custom checkering and improved wood finish.

1966: In this year, Remington announced the sale of the 1,000,000th Model 870 shotgun. The year 1966 also marked Remington’s 150th Anniversary, going back to 1816, when young Eliphalet fabricated his first gun barrel, giving birth to an industry. Alongside local festivities in Ilion, Remington introduced several commemorative firearms with the 150th Anniversary seal stamped on the receiver, including the Model 870 150th Anniversary Edition Shotgun. Some 2,534 would be sold over the following two years.

1969: Remington introduced Model 870 field models in 28 ga. and .410 bore, which were issued with scaled-down receivers, and lightweight mahogany stocks and fore-ends. Remington also introduced Model 870 “Matched Pair” 20-ga. and .410-bore Skeet guns with walnut stocks and hard carrying cases, selling for $395 for the pair.

Over the following three years 1,503 pairs would be sold. Remington also introduced a 20-ga. Model 870 Brushmaster Deer Gun in Standard or Deluxe versions. The firm contracted with the U.S. Marine Corps to fabricate 3,231 Model 870 Mk-1 military-style, 12-ga. Model 870s with seven-shot magazine extensions and bayonet attachments.

1970: The Model 870 28-ga. and .410-bore shotguns were offered individually, in place of the previously marketed “Matched Pairs.”

1971: Left-hand versions of the Model 870 were offered in Field, Magnum and Trap grades, in 12 gauge and 20 gauge.

1972: Remington introduced the Model 870 “All American” Special Trap Gun, advertising it as “the finest pump-action shotgun we’ve ever made,” and sold the custom, engraved gun with its protective case for $550. Also, Remington introduced the 20-ga. Lightweight Model 870 in both standard and magnum versions, with scaled-down receivers and mahogany stocks and fore-ends. It weighed only 5 lbs., 12 ozs. Prices ranged from $139.95 for a plain barrel version to $184.95 for the 3” magnum model with ventilated-rib barrel.
This humorous circa 1950 Remington advertising flier touted the virtues of the company’s “Lightweight Remington Wingmaster,” which tipped the scales at 63⁄4 lbs. in 12 gauge. During that same period, the plain-Jane Model 870 AP sold for $69.95, while the Deluxe Grade 870 ADL, with a checkered beavertail fore-end and pistol grip (and a ”decorative grip cap”) sold for $10 more.

1973: In October, Remington ­proudly announced production of
the 2 millionth Model 870.

1974: Remington produced 10,000 12-ga., limited-edition Model 870 DU (Ducks Unlimited) shotguns, “commemorating Ducks Unlimited’s many years of service.” These shotguns sold for $132.47 and featured specially decorated receivers and a selected block of serial numbers followed by a DU suffix. Due to a shortage of American walnut, in mid-year 1974, Remington began fitting some Model 870 Field Grade shotguns with lightweight mahogany stocks and fore-ends.
Trap guns have been a part of the 870 line since 1950. Production of the 870 “All American” Trap Gun began in 1972.

1976: Remington introduced limited edition, 12-ga. “Bicentennial Commemorative” Model 870 SA Skeet Grade, Model 870 TB Trap Grade and Model 870 TBMCS Trap shotguns.

1978: In May, Remington announced the production of its 3 millionth Model 870. In this year, the “All American” Trap Guns were discontinued. The Model 870 Trap line was altered to include three grades of increasing quality: TA, TB and TC. Remington also introduced a 20-ga. Model 870 LW-20 Lightweight Deer Gun.

1979: American walnut stocks replaced mahogany stocks on all 20-ga., 28-ga. and .410-bore Lightweight Field guns.

1980: Remington introduced a new stock styling and checkering pattern on all Model 870 shotguns.

1981: Introduction of the 12-ga. Model 870 “Competition” trap gun with 30” barrel and integral recoil-absorbing gas piston. Remington also introduced Model 870 20-ga. Lightweight Limited with 23” barrel and 121⁄2” length of pull—“for younger shooters and smaller-framed adults.”

1982: Remington discontinued the Model 870 SA Skeet shotgun in 12, 20 and 28 gauges and .410 bore, and the Model 870 TB Trap in right- and left-hand versions.

1983: Remington produced 4,000 limited-edition, 12-ga., 3” magnum “Ducks Unlimited Commemorative” Model 870 Mississippi Magnum shotguns. These had a special receiver decoration and a 32”, full-choke barrels. Remington also introduced a left-hand, 12-ga. Model 870 Deer Gun.

1984: Remington announced its 4 millionth Model 870. The company also introduced the Model 870 “Special Field” in 12- and 20-ga. versions, with checkered, straight English-style stocks (no pistol grips) and 21” ventilated rib barrels in improved cylinder, modified and full chokes. Remington also changed the name of the “Lightweight Limited” to the Model 870 20-ga. Lightweight “Youth Gun” with a change in barrel length to 21”.

1985: Remington introduced the Model 870 SP Special Purpose Magnum gun with 26” or 30”, full choke, vent rib barrels, a no-sheen, satin finish on exposed metal parts and a subdued oil-finished hardwood stock. This gun was designed for waterfowling and turkey hunting.

1986: Remington re-styled the Model 870 Wingmaster with a Bradley-type ivory bead front sight, and raised diamond style, cut checkering on the satin-finished walnut stock and fore-end. In 1986, Remington introduced the new “Rem Choke” system (with interchangeable improved cylinder, modified and full chokes), which became standard on 26” and 28” barrels.

It was not available on 30” barrels, deer guns, target guns or as a retrofit. This patented system allows the shooter to use a wrench to change the shotgun to full, modified or improved cylinder chokes. Remington also added the 12-ga. Model 870 SP Special Purpose Deer Gun to the Deer Gun line.

1987: Remington introduced the lower-cost Model 870 Express, which differs from the standard 870 line only in exterior matte finish and low luster hardwood stock and fore-end. The Rem Choke system was now added to Model 870 12-ga. and 20-ga. shotguns. The Special Purpose line was ex­panded to include the Model 870 SP with a 3” chamber, ventilated rib barrel and Rem Chokes. In this year, the Model 870 Deer Gun was made available in right- and left-hand versions in “Wingmaster” style.

1988: Remington introduced a Model 870 Express Combo with a 20” slug barrel and a 28” ventilated rib barrel. The Model 870 TC Trap Grade shotgun received a new stock style and dimensions, and a new 31” overbored barrel with the Rem Choke system or a fixed full choke.

1989: Special Purpose stocks and fore-ends were changed to American walnut, and a cantilever scope mount option was added to the 12-ga. Deer Gun line.

1991: The Model 870 Express line was expanded with the addition of the Model 870 Express Turkey, the Model 870 Express Cantilever Scope Mount Deer Gun, the Model 870 Express Rifle Sighted Deer Gun, the Model 870 Express Small Gauge and the Model 870 Express Youth Gun. Remington also introduced the Model 870 SP Cantilever Scope Mount Deer Gun, the Model 870 SPS Special Purpose Synthetic and the Model 870 SPS-T Special Purpose Synthetic-Turkey Gun.

1992: Remington introduced the 12-ga. Model 870 Marine Magnum Security gun with electroless nickel plating, seven-shot magazine, 18” barrel, and a synthetic stock and fore-end ($439). Remington also added a fully rifled 12-ga. Deer gun and .410-bore shotgun to the Model 870 Express line. Also, Remington introduced a fully camouflaged version of the Model 870 SP-CAMO shotgun in Mossy Oak Bottomland camo ($425). Remington also introduced the Model 870 Express in .410 bore ($289).

1993: Remington announced production of the 6 millionth Model 870 shotgun. The company also introduced the Model 870 SPS BG-Camo gun with synthetic stock camo finish, 20” barrel and rifled sights ($443), and the Model 870 SPS-Deer (fully rifled) gun with synthetic stock ($385).

1994: Remington introduced a cantilever scope mounted barrel on the Model 870 Wingmaster in 12 and 20 gauges. Remington also introduced the fully rifled Model 870 SPS with cantilever scope mounted barrel and Monte Carlo style synthetic stock, and another with Rem Chokes. Also introduced was the Model 870 Express Small Gauge shotgun in 28 ga., and a 20-ga. Model 870 Express Youth Gun with or without the Deer barrel were added to the Express line.

1995: Remington introduced the Model 870 Express HD (Home defense) shotgun with an 18” cylinder choke barrel and checkered synthetic stock.

1996: Remington announced its 7 millionth Model 870 shotgun. The company also re-introduced the Model 870 TC Trap gun with straight-comb or Monte Carlo stock. Remington also re-introduced the Model 870 Express Small Gauge gun in 20 ga., 28 ga. and .410 bore. Custom-style, fine-line engraving was added to receiver panels of Remington Model 870 Wingmaster Field, Target and Deer Gun shotguns.

1997: Remington introduced a new Mossy Oak Break-Up Pattern on the Model 870 Magnum SPS Gun, and Model 870 Turkey Gun in new Realtree X-Tra Brown camo. Remington also introduced two new Model 870 Express Combos with a 26” ventilated rib barrel and a 20” fully rifled Deer barrel in 12 ga. and 20 ga.

1998: Four versions of the Model 870 Express Super Magnum shotguns, chambered for 12-ga., 31⁄2” shotshells, were introduced. The standard version had a hardwood stock and a 28” Rem Choke barrel. The Synthetic Super Magnum had a black synthetic stock and a 26” Rem Choke barrel. The Synthetic Turkey Camo gun had a synthetic stock with a Realtree Advantage Camo design and a 23”, extra-full Rem Choke barrel. The Super Magnum Combo gun had a standard hardwood stock, a 26” Rem Choke barrel and an extra 20” fully rifled deer barrel.

Remington also offered the Model 870 Express Turkey Camo shotgun with an Advantage camo-covered synthetic stock in 12 gauge and 20 gauge. Youth Turkey Gun versions, both with 21” Rem Choke barrels. The company also offered a Model 870 Express 12-ga. shotgun with a 28” Rem Choke barrel in a left-hand version. Fine-line receiver engraving was added to the Model 870 Wingmaster 20-ga. field gun.
Remington Model 870 SPS “Super Slug”

1999: Remington added 28-ga. and .410-bore versions to the Model 870 Wingmaster line. The company also introduced the Model 870 SPS “Super Magnum” Camo Shotgun and the Model 870 SPS-T “Super Magnum” Camo Shotgun, both featuring 12-ga., 31⁄2” chambers ($532). Remington also introduced the Model 870 SPS “Super Slug” Deer Gun, which featured a 23”, fully rifled, modified-contour barrel fitted with a barrel-mounted cantilever scope mount, and a black synthetic stock and fore-end ($520).

The company also expanded its Express line with the Model 870 Express Super Magnum Turkey Gun, featuring a 12-ga., 31⁄2” chamber, extra-full Rem Choke 23” barrel and a black syn­thetic stock and fore-end ($259) and the Model 870 Express Synthetic Deer Gun with a 20”, fully rifled barrel with adjustable rifle sights, and a matte black finish on all exposed metal parts and black synthetic stock and fore-end ($365).

2000: Remington introduced the 50th Anniversary Model 870 Classic Trap Gun as a tribute to the world’s best-selling pump shotgun. This 12-ga. gun featured a 30” vent rib barrel with Rem Chokes and a semi-fancy American walnut stock and fore-end. Remington also began making the Model 870 Wingmaster Super Magnum with a 28” vent rib barrel with Rem Chokes, chambered for 23⁄4”, 3” and 31⁄2” shells.

The company also manufactured the Model 870 SPS-T RS/TG Shotgun with fully adjustable TruGlo rifle sights, 20” Rem Choke barrel, black matte finish on metal parts and a black synthetic stock and fore-end. Remington also made a Model 870 SPS-T Super Magnum Camo CL/RD Shotgun, with a 23” barrel with Rem Choke and Leupold/Gilmore Red Dot sights, a Mossy Oak Break-Up camo finish on metal parts and on the synthetic stock and fore-end.

2001: In this year Remington introduced the Model 870 SPS-T Super Magnum Camo CL/RC Shotgun with cantilever scope mount and a 23” Rem Choke barrel and a Model 870 SPS-T Synthetic Camo RS/TG Shotgun with 20” Rem Choke barrel and TruGlo sights. Also new for 2001 was the Model 870 SPS Super Magnum Camo Shotgun with vent-rib, Rem Choke, 26” barrel and Mossy Oak Break-Up finish on metal parts and on the synthetic stock and fore-end.

Remington also offered a 12-ga., Model 870 Classic Trap Shotgun with 30” vent rib, Rem Choke barrel with a high-polish blue finish and semi-fancy American walnut stock and fore-end. Also new was a Remington Model 870 SPS-T Youth RS/TG Synthetic Turkey Camo Shotgun with 20” super-full-choke barrel and Rem Choke, and TruGlo fiber-optic sights and Mossy Oak Break-Up finish on the metal parts and the synthetic stock and fore-end.
Remington Model 870 SPS-T.

2002: Remington re-introduced the 16-ga. shotgun this year in four variations of the Model 870, including the Model 870 Wingmaster, the Model 870 Express, the Model 870 Express Synthetic and the Model 870 Express Synthetic Youth Shotguns. Also new for 2002 was the Model 870 Express Shotgun in
28 gauge and .410 bore.

2003: Recognizing the advances in 20-ga. turkey loads, Remington introduced the 20-ga. Model 870 SPS-T with a synthetic stock and full-coverage Mossy Oak Break-Up. Featuring a 20” Rem Choke vent rib barrel with a full choke tube, the 870 SPS-T also came equipped with a T3 recoil pad, TruGlo sights and a camouflage Cordura sling. Two new 12-ga., 31⁄2” 870s made their debut with the Skyline Excel camouflage pattern.
Remington Model 870 “Classic Trap”

With the Model 870 Express Super Magnum Turkey Camo featured full Skyline Excel coverage, while the Model 870 Express Turkey Camo had a camo stock and fore-end with matte black metal metalwork. A 20-ga. Model 870 Express Youth Turkey Camo with a 21” vent-rib barrel, full Rem Choke also in Skyline Excel camo was also introduced.

All in all, the Remington Model 870 shotgun has earned its reputation as the greatest selling pump shotgun in firearm history. This achievement was made possible by a rock-solid design and innovative Remington management, which has introduced dozens of variations over a 53-year history to satisfy millions of shotgunners. There are so many variations, it seems, that the Model 870 has become a collecting field all by itself.

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