Blue Line


November 9, 2012  By Dave Brown

Thank god for zombies!

If it weren’t for zombies, we wouldn’t have such a proliferation of tactical shotgun parts and accessories that weren’t around five years ago.

Yes, we joke about the upcoming invasion of the zombie hordes. Gun and accessory manufacturers are simply catering toward the tactical market more than ever before, and with careful selection, one can update existing police shotguns with some sensible accessories for use against zombies or otherwise.

When looking at pulling a dusty shotgun out of a patrol car rack and deciding to retire or upgrade it, one should remember three basic principles:

• No other weapon carries the same impact as a shotgun at short and intermediate ranges. It is simple, fast and with good training, can be easily manipulated by the average person with very few fine motor skills. Even with the increased use of patrol rifles, every patrol car should still be equipped with a good shotgun.

• There are a million accessories available for shotguns today. You don’t need most of them.

• Mission dictates equipment. The more you may need a shotgun in a hurry to save human life, the less junk it should have hanging from it.

The last point is critical to remember in the selection of accessories. One needs to select accessories that work under real combat conditions with 100 per cent reliability. What works for one agency or application will not necessarily work for another.

The four most common areas to upgrade a shotgun include lights, slings, stocks and ammunition carriers, but not every agency wants slings for example. Some officers find them handy should they need to suddenly transition to a pistol and others find they get in the way. Other agencies may find weapon-mounted lights useful while some find them bulky and distracting. It all depends on the mission.

With that in mind, I have selected examples of what I consider good quality accessories and will make suggestions, depending on the age and design of the shotgun currently racked in your patrol car. (All that being said, the BEST accessory one can buy for a police shotgun is still two cases of shotgun shells and a good training course.)

[ 1970s to 1980s-vintage Remington 870 Police ]

Remington has a reputation for manufacturing good pump-action shotguns, and the 870 has been around for many decades. There is a reason why this is the overwhelming favorite of police agencies around the world. Older 870 shotguns are solid guns and can still accept any parts and accessories made today. They usually came in a bright blued finish with a wood stock and either a simple bead sight or rifle sights.

Departmental armourers can easily upgrade these older shotguns with the simple addition of a brightly coloured follower for easier safety checking and a good synthetic stock.

Bead sights are simple, fast and amazingly accurate even as far as 40 or 50 meters, so an upgraded higher-visibility bead is all they may need.

One example is from XS Sights. The XS Big Dot (photo BROWN – Remington 3.tif) has a large white bead with a tritium insert that either replaces the existing bead or can be permanently bonded over top of a fixed non-replaceable front bead.

Rifle sights can be upgraded with Trijicon’s rifle sight upgrade (photo BROWN – Remington 4.tif ) that replaces both the existing front and rear dovetail sights with sights that have nice clear square corners for faster acquisition and tritium dots for low-light conditions.

A highly desirable upgrade for your armourer to perform is to replace the existing shell lifter with the new Remington shell lifter tab conversion kit. This adds a flexible tab in the middle of the shell lifter that allows one to rack the shotgun even if two rounds are jammed on top of the carrier. This seems like a small point, but if one has ever not inserted a shell all the way into the magazine tube and it jams on the lip of the shell lifter, it is almost impossible to clear this jam in the field. There is simply not enough clearance, and it is definitely a fight-stopping jam.

The newer design adds a small flexible tab in the middle of the lifter, allowing the operator to rack the slide to clear such a jam. It takes a great deal of force and almost requires “mortaring” the shotgun on the ground (slamming the butt of the shotgun onto the ground while holding onto the slide) but it will clear the jam and get the operator back into the fight.

1990s to 2000-vintage Remington 870 Police

(photo BROWN – Remington 5)(photo BROWN – Remington 6.tif)

These shotguns came from the factory in a parkerized finish and with the flexible tab conversion already installed, so good upgrades would include possible lights and mounts such as the CDM Mod-C mount that fits many small-cell police flashlights , magazine extensions if it doesn’t come from the factory with one and a brightly coloured follower.

( photo BROWN Remington 1.tif )

For shotguns that might be needed in a hurry, a shorter barrel will help speed and pointability, at the expense of a slightly shorter sight radius. A 14-inch barrel, such as manufactured by Dlask Arms of Delta BC is no less accurate than the standard 18-inch or 20-inch barrel. In fact, in tests, the Dlask 14-inch barrel on an 870 Police consistently put four slugs into a 6-inch circle at 40 yards.

The addition of a shorter barrel does not change the classification of a pump-action shotgun, provided the barrel comes from the factory at that length and provided the overall length of the shotgun is 26 inches or more. (Dlask clearly marks the barrel length on the side of their barrels just to confirm they are factory-manufactured at that length and not cut down by the end user.)

(photo BROWN – Remington 5 )

Some users add accessory shell holders on the side of the receiver but on a police shotgun, they can sometimes interfere with the fit of the shotgun in a rack.

(Photo BROWN – Remington 7)

Speedfeed stocks, which also come standard on some versions of the 870 and 11-87 Police, have spaces for two spare shells moulded into both sides of the stock. Regardless of the make of shell carrier of stock shell carrier, one should assume that there will always be a good chance some of the rounds will fall out onto the ground – Murphy’s Law, of course – in the middle of a gunfight and cannot always be relied upon for reloads.

Other than sight upgrades as previously discussed, there is not much else to worry about on these shotguns.

[ Recent-vintage Remington 870 Police ]

(photo BROWN – Remington 8.tif )

The Remington 870 Police shotgun is made in a different part of the factory than the regular 870 and 870 Express line, and Remington promises higher quality control and better finish. But Remington is also fighting for survival in a very competitive market that has increasing restrictions and liability concerns on gun manufacturers. Reducing manufacturing costs also mean quality has noticeably dropped on recent 870 lines.

Departmental armourers should be aware of this and be prepared to do some finishing and/or polishing to any Remington made in the last ten years. Chambers are made rougher than they were years ago, and while this has little effect on the majority of good quality police duty rounds, it can cause jams when firing cheap practice loads. If a low-brass shell seems to occasionally stick in the chamber so tight that the shotgun must be “mortared” on the ground to clear it, one should either return the shotgun to Remington for some chamber refinishing or chuck some 0000 steel wool on the end of a dowel rod into their cordless drill and run it up and down the first few inches of chamber for a minute or two.

Other problems have been observed with the two-piece magazine extensions where shells occasionally jam going in to the tube. Even worse, when fired very very quickly, they can sometimes fail to feed the second or third round out of the tube because a shell slows down very slightly as it jumps the lip from extension to tube.

While there are lots of proposed solutions out there, the only 100 per cent solution is to remove any problematic magazine extensions and replace them with a Remington end cap. This reduces the capacity by two rounds but I would much rather have four rounds that always work versus six rounds that almost always work.

(photo BROWN – Remington 9 )

Interestingly enough, Remington has started manufacturing a new model 870 Express Tactical with a one-piece full-length magazine tube. I consider this a very significant step for Remington to take, simply because it completely changes the aftermarket availability of replacement barrels. But based on my recent experiences with magazine feed issues on new Remington 870s, I am hoping Remington eventually equips all their police and tactical shotguns with the new one-piece tube design.

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