Converting my 1977 Remington 870 Wingmaster to a tactical shotgun.
I just wanted to add a flashlight. Then, I decided, what the heck, and I am going all out.
So, where to begin? What distinguishes a "tactical " shotgun from any other shotgun? Shotguns are meant for short to medium range game hunting, 25 to 35 yards. Excepting, of course, the deer slug guns which can reach out to 100 yards or better with pretty good accuracy. Long barrels keep the shot bunched together longer and allow a better aim at distance. Shot capacity is minimal for various reasons. Weight is one consideration as well as game laws which restrict the number of allowable shells. A long length of pull resulting from the way a hunting shotgun is aimed and fired. Usually held and fired from the firing shoulder across the chest allowing your body to line up laterally with the winged game. But when we switch to tactical, we shorten every thing up. We want our body more abreast to the prey and the shotgun more perpendicular to our chest. A shorter barrel makes the gun easier to bring to bear on our target and facilitates movement through close quarters better. More shot capacity means fewer reloads in danger situations and more rounds available to put on target in the initial encounter.
Length of pull is a personal issue. It has to "feel" right and yet allow for the proper placement of cheek to stock for aligning the sight picture. Contrary to some beliefs, you do still have to aim a shotgun. Although at very close range, pointing may be as effective if you can train yourself to use it as an extension of your pointing finger. In most instances, we would still want our length of pull shortened up a bit for tactical versus hunting applications or lengthened a bit for comfort. I want to be able to pull that butt right up against my chest and have a good sight picture quickly.
First thing is to shorten the barrel. It's the classic style 870 with the excellent wood stocks and beautiful checkering. It has a 28" barrel with a vent rib and full choke, chambered for 2 -3/4" only. Although I have shot 3" magnums through it with no problem ( I do not reccomend you do that, but it works fine for me) but, I see no reason for 3" magnums in a tactical shotgun. I added Tru Glo front bead sights and a butt stock shell carrier from Cabelas. Yes, I taped it on and yes, it is on the wrong side. That's the way I like it and it suits me fine. You can add your shell carrier anyway you want.
So what size barrel? 18" or 20" would be appropriate. But, it depends on the shot capacity I want. An 18" barrel should be a max of 7 shots as we don't want the shot extension to protrude beyond the barrel. Ideally (for me) I want the REM Choke so I can add the DNA collector but I can't justify the added cost (about $150 extra over the 18 or 20 inch fixed choke barrels). But I have plans to build my own DNA collector down the road. I could just cut the barrel off and de-solder the rib, but I want the option of being able to convert it back to a hunting gun. If you are thinking about this, remember, you don't have to hack that rib off. Just heat up the mounts with a propane torch to loosen the solder and snap 'em off with a channel lock pliers. Then cut the barrel to length with a hack saw and file/sand and paint or blue the barrel. I found a Remington 18" Cylinder Bore Bead Sight barrel at Cabelas for $125.00 so I picked it up. I ordered a 7 shot extension from Wilson Combat for $50.00
Next, a butt stock. I decided on the Knoxx SpecOps NRS (no recoil reduction) adjustable stock from Blackhawk.
I considered the Recoil reducing version but I have been shooting 12 gauge for 40 years and never had an issue with recoil. I plan on porting the barrel myself, which will help. I don't plan on ploughing 100 rounds through it in one day like trap shooting so I expect there won't be a problem. If I do experience an issue I'll replace the stock with a regular AR15 style and a buffer tube made for the shotgun or I'll just slip a gel pack recoil pad over the butt and tape it on. I chose the Blackhawk for quality and the adjustability will allow me to select the correct length of pull that feels comfortable with whatever I am wearing. I'll proably add a shell carrier to the stock so I have more rounds available like I do now.
So that's the essentials. A proper barrel, a good butt stock and a shot shell extension. Now for the cool additions.
Sights. The simplest is the bead sight. It is, afterall, a shotgun. Bead sights are effective and easy to bring on target. They have worked for years. Of course I could choose rifle sights or ghost ring sights. I have an issue with how fast they could be brought to bear though. We are talking very short range here. 25 yards or less. But there is an option that allows the use of bead or rifle sights in conjunction with something a little more modern and first and second kind of cool. I can go with a saddle mount sight. The proper saddle allows space between the receiver and the mount to see the hard sights while allowing a holographic sight to be added. Holographic sights with no magnification have proven extremely effective in short range for the ability to bring them to bear quickly and accurately. So that's my choice. But I want to do this without spending a lot of money. So pass on the expensive ones from Eotech and etc. UTG imports a good one for about $30.00 and also has a saddle mount for a good price. It's also available in a quick mount version for slightly higher price. In the event of battery failure on the dot sight, there is enough room between the mount and receiver to line up the bead sight or rifle sights and still have a good sight picture quickly and easily.
Forend. It seems like everybody and their dog makes a "tactical" forend for the 870. My idea of a tactical forend is one with rails. So I selected the MAKO tri-rail forend. This forend has a full length rail on the underside and a short rail on each side of the front end. The rear has ridged grips. It's of polymer construction and well made. I also selected a UTG RB-FGRP170B PRO Foldable Foregrip. This unit has removable slats to allow insertion of pressure plates for lighting options and a removable bottom cover for strage of extra batteries, etc.
Sling. Of course, being tactical, it has to have a sling. After looking at all kinds of single point, 2 point, 3 point, combination and convertible slings from just about every sling manufacturer, I settled on the simple SuperSling2+. A common 2 point sling with fantastic adjustability. Will suit me fine. It has Talon quick release swivels and is 1 and 1/4 inches wide nylon strap. The Blackhawk stock has a swivel stud built in, but I needed a way to attach the sling to the front. I picked up a rail mount sling adaptor from Shooter's Ridge.
Lights. Back to the original intention. To add a flashlight mount and a flashlight. There are as many light mounts as there are lights. From simple barrel clamps to rail mounted clamps. But I found a light and laser combo. The utility of a laser on a shotgun is questionable but the coolness factor is awesome. So I picked up another UTG product, the ELP38 Tactical LED Flashlight / Laser Combo. I decided to go with a 2.4" Tri-Rail barrel/magazine clamp for mounting. The laser can be locked into several positions and has elevation and windage adjustments so it can be aligned with the dot sight for better accuracy.
The Finished Item. Still need to adjust the location of the fore grip, but I'll need to practice with it to find the proper location for me. Here is "Brutus".