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Saturday, September 10, 2011

870 101 - Part 2 - Add-ons

We've established already that the 870 is an excellent, multi-purpose platform. You can take one off the shelf and build a gun that is not only personal to you - but a gun that can serve multiple uses. From a dedicated deer gun to a weapon system, the 870 is an excellent starting point for both amateur and professional shooters alike.

In this section, I'll attempt to cover a lot of the available options for the 870 platform. Almost every part on the gun is interchangeable with an after-market piece that adds some sort of additional functionality. Some kit will be better designed for certain tasks while others will have multiple uses. I know that I'll miss quite a bit here - and as this list ages, it will become outdated but as of this writing, I'll try and make this as complete as possible so that when someone is considering the purchase of this system, it will hopefully be all laid out here.

So, let's get into it.


Pistol grip or full stock - there are many options for the gun builder in this category. Some stocks, like the Houge Overmoulded, have a non-slip coating on them to keep it close to the shoulder at all times. The only problem I can see with this is the abrasion you'll catch on normal clothing. Even my Remington Factory stock gets caught on my sleeve sometimes, in dry firing drills.

Some stocks, both full sized and collapsible will have additional shell carriers on them. The Speedfeed stock has built in shell storage - just in case you're all out. This also fits well into most people's 'second kind of cool' criterion.

Stocks are generally divided into two groups, pistol grip and full sized - as mentioned above. ATI produces a lot of budget-series stocks. Some love them, others despise them.

From the S&J Hardware website.
Most will agree that the creme of the crop for pistol grip stocks comes in the form of an 870 stock adapter. This device allows the user to attach any number of mil-spec AR15 stocks and grips  to the device. It opens the door to tons of different stock options - for those who want a pistol grip.

You need to figure out what you want from the gun in order to pick the right stock - I kept the factory installed stock because I didn't need anything else. The other thing I liked about the factory full stock is the storage space it allows through the back. There's all kinds of room back there for firestarters, paper work or other must-have items. Probably another thing that should be considered when looking at stocks as an upgrade option.

There are also folding stocks - both side folding and top folding. These make the weapon really tight to move around and also give the benefit of allowing the 870 to function as a pistol grip only (PGO) firearm. For some, that's a major bonus, and a 'cool factor' as well.


If you don't know what the 'choke' on a shotgun is, I'm not going to attempt to teach you - it's something you should have learned in your firearms course. That being said - the choke you elect to deploy in your shotgun has a number of different effects on the way you're able to use it.

Everything from a slug gun to a trap gun will have a different barrel - it's built for a different purpose.

It's for that reason that I went with an open choke, smooth bore barrel. For me, it was the most versitile choice that presented the best bang for my buck - no pun intended.

Some barrels will have sight systems built onto them - others will have a rib that enhanced sights can be clipped onto.

Barrel size is another consideration that plays into barrel choice. Shorter barrels are built for different tasks. Likewise - a longer barrel will be harder to move with but arguably more accurate. Another thing to look out for is vented barrels - a lot of competition shooters will opt for this type of barrel to help reduce recoil.


Most 870's you find will come stock with a bead sight. This is the most commonly found sight on the 870 shotgun - though it's far from the only sight available.

Some guns will come stock with ghost ring sights. Ghost rings allow the shooter to reach further, more accurately. They consist of two pieces, a front and rear sight. The rear sight is usually a small circle to focus the front post sight through. Good ghost rings will have some kind of night sighting system built in.

If you don't want full ghost rings / rifle sights, there are replacement beads. I was considering the purchase of a replacement bead but elected not to based on other priority purchases. Most replacement beads will slip right over the factory bead and get JBWelded into place. I'm not sure about the longevity of this solution and have seen online reports of negative experiences with these kinds of add-ons - but that can be said about anything.

Then, there's rails.You can get receiver mounted rails or rails that are built into the stock adapter mentioned before. You can also get rails that are machined as a part of the side saddle unit. On these modular mounting systems, you can attach anything from a magnified hunting scope to the latest holographic combat sight - the choice is yours.


Your average shotgun, depending on the model you decide on, will come with one of a few different types of forends. Some might be wood - others synthetic but a definite personal recommendation of mine would be to upgrade yours first, before anything else.

There are forends that have light mounts built in - especially those models from surefire; who's main purpose is to add the functionality of a weaponlight to your system. Other forend's will have multiple rails to allow the user to add their own attachments - light, laser or otherwise.

Some are simple, some are very rail-y but they all provide the same function in the end. They rack the next shell into the chamber.

Small stuff:

Where to begin?

You can get; sling adapters, extended safties, extended mag tubes, mag tube caps, followers, bayonet mounts and detachable shell carriers to name just a few of the common items people will look at for upgrading an 870.

I'd like to touch on a few things in more detail however; side saddles, ammo selection and muzzle breaks.

Side saddles attach directly to the receiver by using the pins that keep the trigger assembly in place. They hold shells for fast reloading and usually come in loads of 4, 6 or 8 shell-spots. Some have open backed designs while others are solid. Some side saddles have integrated rail systems to attach optics to the top of the gun. Some are made of steel - others from plastic. It depends on your philosophy of use concerning this kit.

It's hard to look at shotgun add-on's without considering the type of ammunition that you will use. Slug guns will handle differently than bird guns and different kit can make a difference while deploying your gun. You can get low-recoil loads and less-than-lethal loads as well - adding another layer to the things you should consider when loading up your 870.

Muzzle breaks add both function and form to a shotgun. I once had a particular muzzle flash's job described to me as being strictly for 'knockin' down doors'. Muzzle breaks aid in recoil management and definitely add a scary-looking addition to the business end of the boomstick.

I know that I've likely missed some things here - but I have covered pretty much everything that can be bolted onto an 870 to enhance it's function in the right hands. If I've missed anything major - let me know.

If you haven't read part 1 yet - click here.

If you haven't entered our contest for FREE 870 upgrades, sponsored by S&J Hardware - click here.

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