In the last article I highlighted some of the major choices that must be made in choosing a shotgun. Having narrowed my choice to a Remington 870, I thought that I simply needed to find the best price on one and buy it. If only it were that simple. This article will detail some of the choices and options available for the Remington 870.
The first thing to understand is that the Remington 870 comes in four different models or levels:
This link has some nice information regarding the differences between the models although the information is a few years old and may be subject to change.
The most basic is the 870 Express. The internal workings are not as nice, the action does not slide as smoothly, and the finish is quite terrible (reports of it flaking off abound on the internet). Its major advantage is that it is 50%-60% of the price of a Wingmaster.
The Wingmaster has much more attention to detail than the Express, a much smoother slide, and high quality blued finish. The Wingmaster is considered vastly superior to the Express.
The Police model (870P) has even more attention to detail, is assembled in a special part of the factory to ensure quality, and features a parkerized finish. The 870P is also the only model to come with a 18 inch factory barrel (14 inch is also available if you want to go through the NFA hassle).
The other models include the Marine model which is identical to the Express but has a nickel plated corrosion resistant finish and is intended for salt water use. The HD and Tactical models are sold with home defense and tactical accessories. Some are based off the Express model while others are based off of the Police model, so care should be taken when choosing one of these.
Generally speaking, in order of desirability for home defense, the Police is preferred, followed by the Wingmaster, while the Express is deprecated. So now you have decided to get a Remington 870 12 gauge pump-action shotgun with rifle sights. Congratulations. But if you want an 18 inch barrel, it's only available in the Police model. You could of course, get 20 inch barrel and have a gunsmith cut down the barrel and resolder the sight. But care must be taken because a quarter inch too short will land you in trouble with the ATF not to mention that resoldering the sight means refinishing the barrel. (Also keep in mind that although you can use other 870 barrels with the 870P, the finish will not match.)
So you might decide to get a Police model with a factory barrel. But the police model is only available from authorized LE (law enforcement) distributors, which means your chances of finding a super discount are close to zero. On the other hand, you could keep an eye on the pawn shops looking for police trade-ins. In the four months that I looked, I was unable to find a used 870P for a decent price, and finally ended up buying a new one with the exact features I was looking for. Four days after I called in my order, I found a good deal on a police trade in on a local gun forum. (Customizing a used gun can end up being more expensive than simply buying it the way you want in the first place.)
This website has a decent guide to the various 870P models. I decided on the 4421 (includes extended magazine tube), although I was told by one distributor that the 4421 was discontinued (of course that same distributor told me they didn't know what the 4418 model was). Another store said they had no 4421s in stock but sold me a 4417 with a magazine extension tube for less than other stores' price on the 4421*.
The best price I found was from Firingline, Inc.
The next article will detail some of the possible accessories you may want to add to your Remington 870.
Update: Both of the models I mention above are synthetic stock shotguns. I originally went that way because I wanted the OEM extension tube, and it was only available on synthetic stock shotgun from factory. Because they were either discontinued or out of stock, I ended up getting the shotgun tube separately (although it's still OEM). Knowing what I know now, I would have gotten the 2505 version which is 18", rifle sights, but with wooden stock and then installed the magazine extension. Wood is prettier and also easier to cut to the correct length. (Cutting your shotgun down to size is the topic of a future article.)