Let’s talk about one of, if not the best-selling shotgun ever made in human history: the Remington 870. And then let’s customize a phenomenal gun to make it several levels better! Did I catch your attention yet?
And no, we’re not talking about some fancy bespoke, get-fitted type deal, several thousands of dollars later. We are talking about a ready made, off-the-shelf product that has been heavily modified and upgraded to do the same job. Only to do it way better! Today, we review the S&J Hardware Custom Remington 870. If you even remotely like guns, this post is for you!
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- Why Start With a Remington 870?
- S&J Hardware Customizations for a Remington 870
- Custom Tune and Polish
- S&J No Jam Follower
- S&J 1 Mil Cycle Spring
- Cerakote Finish
- Magpul Forend and Stock
- Scattergun Technologies / Wilson Combat Iron Sights
- Mil-Spec M1913 Optic Rail
- S&J Remington 870 Jumbo Safety
- S&J Dog Follower Spring
- S&J Plus 1 Mag Tube Extension
- My Thoughts on This Custom Remington 870
Before we get into the juicy customization details, let’s quickly look at the base model so we know what we are working with.
Why Start With a Remington 870?
Simple. A quick search on Wikipedia shows Remington has sold over 11 million 870s and counting. It comes in dozens of iterations, even shotguns for law enforcement such as the 870 Police. But this insane sales figure is not by accident, rather than a good design, reputation and reasonable price.
The other big player is Mossberg and their 500 series of shotguns. Wikipedia shows 11 million sold and you can make that 12 million according to Mossberg’s site. It’s also available in several iterations, from field to tactical. Mossberg has made it big in the military with their 590A1, meeting mil-spec MIL-S-3443E. In fact, it is the ONLY shotgun to ever do so.
I don’t think anyone knows with authority who’s in the lead. But you are looking at the two best-selling shotguns in human history. Both have their loyal fan base who thinks their shotgun is the best. Truth be told, it doesn’t matter – either model is a winner and a solid candidate as a base for customization. The good news, while we are reviewing the Remington 870 today, S&J Hardware customizes BOTH the 870 and the Mossberg 500 series! So brand loyalty wouldn’t be a problem, and the gun gods are smiling.
Solid Steel Receiver
The Rem 870 is indeed based on a solid steel receiver, and it’s a standout feature. It’s one solid block of steel, machined to size. NOT some stamped contraption nor an alloy of aluminum. The other shotgun that is famous for this was the Winchester Model 12, but only pre-1964 when it became too costly for them to manufacture this way. It was also when Winchester was no longer known as a “fine gun maker”. In fact, it was the 870 that defeated the Model 12. While I digress, a solid steel receiver is a big deal in world where cost consious consumers are at odds with corporations driven by profit margins and cost cutting measures.
Mossberg utilizes an aluminum alloy receiver. Not that there’s technically anything wrong with that – it’s just not solid steel!
Dual Action Bars
Both the 870 and the 500 utilize dual-action bars. Let’s face it – even cheap shotguns have dual-action bars these days. But Remington wins this round. Their shotgun is tighter than the Mossberg, which is a bit “sloppy”. The Remington is also known as a smooth pump shotgun, especially when polished/tuned by a gunsmith – but we’ll get to that very shortly.
Perhaps it’s only CON, the Remington 870 comes with a single extractor. While you may go a lifetime without ever breaking an extractor, Mossberg has an edge with it’s dual extractors. An 870’s reliability is legendary, so we’ll let this one slide.
With huge sales numbers backed by an equally huge repuation over several decades, the 870 is a beloved shotgun to millions of people. Add in a solid steel receiver, dual action bars and legendary smoothness. Now couple that with the fact that’s it’s a solid platform to build on and you know why we went with the 870 version for this custom shotgun review.
S&J Hardware Customizations for a Remington 870
Before we get on with the juicy part of customization, let’s address the EXACT base model. It would be a Remington TAC-14. It’s the only way to get a 14″ barrel on a Remington 870. So, what can you possibly do to improve one of the best shotguns in the world? A lot!!! Let’s get started:
Custom Tune and Polish
The Rem 870 is smooth right out of the box. Put that gun in the hands of a competent gunsmith who will break it down, polish everything and tune it up, and you’ll have an action silkier than silk itself.
The why or how is simple – no matter how great an 870 is, it’s still a mass-produced, factory shotgun. The machining is good, but not perfect. In a cost-conscious world, not everyone wants to pay to own something hand-finished like that Winchester Model 12 we mentioned. And hand finishing is the ONLY way to remove those factory imperfections.
Hands down, the S&J Hardware Custom Remington 870 is the smoothest pump action shotgun I have ever cycled. There’s nothing even close to it. Not only is it a good feeling, but it’s also exceptionally fast and getting subsequent rounds off is effortless. Even that infamous pump shotgun “chuck-chuck” sound is very special on this gun.
S&J No Jam Follower
I don’t know about you, but I DESPISE black followers. Period! We constantly check our guns to ensure they are unloaded when we want them to be. It’s easy to check the chamber but not so easy to see the follower. Especially in low light conditions. S&J Hardware uses a bright green colour for their followers, guaranteeing it’s clear and safe in a split second.
S&J Hardware just so happens to be the world’s largest manufacturer of aftermarket shotgun followers. Not to mention, the best manufacturer! CNC machined from a 2″ block of DuPont Delrin – their followers are impervious to cleaning chemicals, do not crack, nor do they react to heat or cold. Delrin is also a very slippery material. Put it all together, and you have a “no-jam follower” that’s far superior than the factory follower.
S&J 1 Mil Cycle Spring
If swapping a follower, you might as well put a better spring behind it. A custom shotgun should come with a stronger spring of better material. I can’t tell you how many rusty springs I’ve cleaned from shotgun magazine tubes, even in new guns. It’s sad, and we deserve better.
The S&J 1 mil cycle spring is made of chrome silicon wire. It’s very likely why I couldn’t find a spec of rust on it. Chrome silicon wire has a high tensile strength and is one of the most desirable materials used in spring manufacturing. It’s also vastly resilient to high temperatures – and I’m sure these beloved custom 870s will see a lot of heat as we put ample rounds through on training days.
Heat treated and cold drawn, the “1 mil spring” means it’s rated for 1 million cycles. That seems like an insane number, but you get the point. It’s not a part of the gun you’ll ever have to worry about and feeding rounds from the magazine tube is vastly improved.
Blueing is basic, parkerizing is better. But it’s 2024, not World War 2. I’m sick and tired of being afraid to take a gun out in the rain or snow for fear of rust. We have better technology like ceramic coating.
Cerakote is a very durable, scratch, abrasion and even chemical resistant finish. If that’s not enough, it has hydrophobic properties meaning it sheds water! It also sheds dirt and even acts as a lubricant for firearms. What more could you possibly ask for in a gun finish? So it’s no wonder S&J Hardware cerakotes their custom guns. This one in particular comes in a very sexy and tactical flat dark earth colour.
I took a brand new iteration of their Custom Remington 870 and shot the sh*t out of it in the woods. Disappointingly, black lines showed up along the mag tube, as they always do. BUT only to prove I’m an idiot because I wiped it all off with my thumb in a second! The gun finish remains flawless, and I should have known better as I have a cerakoted gun that’s several years old but looks brand new. In fact, it’s been the only gun in the locker that NEVER rusts!
Magpul Forend and Stock
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Magpul, and I suspect that’s a very short list, they manufacture firearm accessories and gear. Think stocks, slings, magazines, grips, bipods and so on. Also, think tactical and high quality. So much so, Remington outfits the TAC-14 from the factory with a Magpul M-LOK forend. When the maker of one of the world’s top-selling shotguns trusts Magpul, so should you.
Without getting into too much detail, M-LOK is simply a system for adding accessories. Ie. A flashlight, laser and so on.
S&J Hardware takes this one step further, replacing the stock bird’s head grip with a Magpul buttstock. It’s about a $160 upgrade that pushes up the price AND the length of the gun. But it fundamentally changes the gun – in a very, very good way. Keep reading!
A “Useable” SBS or Short Barreled Shotgun
I’ve put countless rounds through a Mossberg Shockwave with a bird’s head grip. Like this custom 870, it’s one of my favourites to shoot. I’d also argue that a Shockwave is far more practical than what it gets credit for. But I can’t “aim” it worth squat and gave up on that notion a long time ago. What I’ve learned to do is hip shoot it with accuracy that would rival many a shotgunner sporting a typical shotgun with a buttstock and bead. It just took a very long time and a lot of spent rounds to get to that level. At 50 cents a round, a real buttstock would have been cheaper.
Here’s the problem: shorter guns are more tactical than sporting. And even so, how short is too short to be actually useful? Let’s also get serious for a second and consider something: In a real tactical situation, do you want to instinct shoot from the hip, or do you want to AIM with confidence? A tactical situation in your life is probably 99.99% close to zero, but at least your prepared for the zombie apocolypse, foreign invaders or whatever scenario where a tactical use may actually be legal in Canada. Hunting, wildlife defence, survival situation preparedness, clay shooting or just plain old target shooting for fun is however very likely in your future and mine. But the same principals apply, you need to AIM!
The Size Sweet Spot
By adding the Magpul buttstock to the Remington 870, we still have a 14″ barrel. We now also have a real length of pull at 12.5″ (with buttstock spacers removed). Length overall becomes 33″ or in other words, an extremely short but useable length! We’ve also modified the shotgun to be aimed with three solid points of contact with your body, exactly as it should. With confidence!
If size hasn’t set in yet, compare that to your typical hunting shotgun whose barrel alone is 28-30″ and length overall is 49″. This modified 870 comes in at a size sweet spot making for easy storage, transport, and most importantly: super easy carry. In fact, it’s an effortless gun to carry around the woods, perfect for hunting grouse, and an ideal wildlife self-defence tool. It’s also the first gun I’ll ever grab when I want to visit the range and just have some plain old fun!
Magpul Stock for Remington 870 – Specs and Features
The Magpul buttstock is ambidextrous while also being highly customizable. LOP can be changed between 12.5″ and 14.5″ by using spacers. Cheek risers are optional, meaning your aim will still line up if adding optics. Isn’t that exactly what a buttstock is supposed to do? To position yourself correctly when you mount.
Remember that bespoke gun we mentioned in the introduction? Well, you have it here, to a large degree save and except cast-on and cast-off adjustments. It doesn’t come with a well dressed English gentleman measuring you followed by a several month wait period. While that can be a phenomenal experience, your wallet and patience will certainly thank you by simply using a good stock.
These stocks come with built-in sling loops for slings up to 1.5″ wide. Actually, it has multiple slinging options. Though my favorite feature is the recoil-reducing butt pad. Don’t skip over that last bit! And yes, I know you’re a tough cookie and of course you can handle the recoil. Who else would read about a short-barreled 12 gauge? But go trap shooting in a t-shirt on a hot July day, and your shoulders will thank you the day after.
Scattergun Technologies / Wilson Combat Iron Sights
Every shotgun I own (or have ever owned) either has a bead or fibre optic front sight. The odd shotgun has a mid-bead, which doesn’t make much of a difference. We all get it: look down the barrel, place the bead, pull the trigger. It’s shotgunning. But we can do better, much better to be exact.
Turkey shotguns are quite often mounted with optics. Rifled shotgun barrels (deer hunting) ALWAYS come with sights or an optic. Why? Because they aim better. When precision counts, you don’t rely on a stupid bead and this shotgun should be no different.
The very first thing I did in testing S&J Hardware’s Custom 870 was to obliterate some stationary clay pigeons. Watch the video below – these clays turned into a cloud of black dust! That’s extremely impressive for a shotgun with a 14″ barrel and fixed choke of cylinder bore! It defies what we know about choke and barrel length, as the shot should spread fast and you would never think it has such a lengthy “reach” the way it does. But it also hammers home the importance of properly aiming with a real set of sights. I’ve never seen clay pigeons turn into a dust cloud like this before!
These sights are CNC machined from solid bar stock steel. Elevation and windage are adjustable with a single screw. And the design is meant for quick target acquisition. Right around now is when it should be mentioned the sights are a ghost ring design. But perhaps the best feature is the tritium insert in the front sight for low light conditions.
If you don’t know what tritium is, think glow in the dark without having to “charge” it first. It’s radioactive and generates its own light source. I first learned about tritium when looking at a compass made for the US military from a company called Cammenga. It’s some serious and magical stuff, and it works. These sights are incredible!
The owner of S&J Hardware told me they cost around $300. It’s not a run-of-the-mill product. When looking at models of their custom guns, all other specs being equal, the price gap between certain models is the addition of these very sights. Also bear in mind the gun needs to be drilled and tapped to mount the rear sight. The front sight mounts with some wicked epoxy. So there is some labour, and lots of skilled craftmanship involved.
The sights are perhaps my favourite part of the gun – and worth every penny!
Mil-Spec M1913 Optic Rail
For those who want to add an optic, it’s ready to go. Does it make sense for a tactical gun to add a red dot or holographic? Absolutely. Especially if your vision isn’t quite what it used to be and the iron sights don’t cut it anymore. Or perhaps you hunt in low light conditions, and even the tritium front sight doesn’t cut it for you.
So that begs the question, why bother with iron sights if you intend to use a rail? The answer is quite simple. It’s somewhat involved adding a sight which then requires sighting it in. But it’s super easy to remove one! Your optic can fail for a million reasons, and those iron sights are always there as a fallback.
Personally, I love the iron sights. No batteries, no caps to remove, nothing to have to turn on. Overall dimensions of the shotgun remain smaller as well. But I also love the fact that a sight can be added on a whim, without the need for a gunsmith. The rail is the hard part and it’s already done.
S&J Remington 870 Jumbo Safety
It’s a safety – which is never really exciting. Yet you see paragraphs here, so before rolling your eyes, forgetting the safety in the on position can cost you dearly on a hunt. I lost some geese on a couple of occasions, and there’s nothing worse than when you swing on the only flock dumb enough to fly over you that day only to wonder why the gun won’t go boom.
By the time you realize the safety is on, a tiny and often very stiff safety, you know you’re in trouble. Worse, you may need to remove your gloves and try to depress it quickly with your fingertips. That’s not the case with a jumbo safety! Being an S&J product, you also know it’s made well.
Always use your safety! No matter how you look at it, it’s an extra layer of gun safety. It’s just incredibly reassuring when you can operate it easily and quickly with confidence. With the jumbo safety, it’s no longer that massive nuisance that tends to get in your way.
S&J Dog Follower Spring
The Remington 870 also comes from the factory in an upgraded 870 Police version. One of their upgrades to this particular model is an improved carrier latch spring – otherwise known as a carrier dog follower spring.
Unsurprisingly, S&J Hardware upgraded the dog follower spring in their custom 870 models. It matters as this very spring is partly responsible for loading the next round. Each shell needs to be pushed out of the magazine tube and then lifted up before being pushed into the chamber. The dog follower spring helps the carrier in its up and down function. The upgraded spring is yet another improvement to the gun’s realiability.
S&J Plus 1 Mag Tube Extension
This one’s pretty straightforward. The mag tube extension gives the magazine tube the ability to hold one extra round. There’s the primary function.
The mag tube extension comes with a sling mount. A piece of metal that the strap can physically wrap around rather than just a tiny hole for a sling clip which will probably end up rusting on you. There’s the seconadary function.
As to looks, I love it when a shotgun’s barrel is the same length as its mag tube. At least on a short (or shorter) barreled shotgun up to 18 inches. It just looks right and regardless of what anyone says, looks matter. You should be able to show up to a trap shoot or hunt and actually be proud of what you carry.
My Thoughts on This Custom Remington 870
Look, it’s a shotgun. You can think of it as a simple defence or hunting tool, or you can love it as your favourite gun like I do. I think it’s the latter since you read this far. But a short barrel, if you haven’t fired one, is akin to a little fire-breathing cannon. It is loud, incredibly loud!!! On a darker day, you might also notice a fireball coming out of the barrel with every shot. What’s not to love?
In terms of size, we all seem to like a compact gun, that’s universal. The hunter’s prized carbine is a prime example. For ladies, young shooters or anyone with a smaller frame, the compact size is not to be seen as a bonus, it’s technically the correct fit.
Let’s not forget that a shotgun is also the most versatile firearm man has ever designed. So the best gun in the locker (and for those with only one) should be the shotgun. Far too many people dump thousands of dollars into fancy centerfires only to sport a beat up $100 shotgun. That doesnt make sense to me.
I’ll also wholeheartedly say that you will never walk into a gun store and find a nicer, smoother or more reliable shotgun on the shelf. What S&J Hardware has accomplished is incredible, and it is appreciated the same way an art collector would drool over the Mona Lisa. If it hasn’t already come across in the post, I believe their version of the 870 is flawless, expertly designed and simply the best on the market. It’s also hands down my favourite out of any gun I have ever fired.
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