I received my first gun when I was 3 years old. As a small child, it seemed I was destined for a love of firearms. My grandfather always carried a Remington 870 Wingmaster in the now politically incorrect rifled rack in the back window of the 68 ford pick-up. It was always a thrill to go farming with grandpa and I spent as much time as I could riding along on the machinery. One day, while Pap was talking with our fieldman, I figured out how to work the slide on the 870. It was unloaded but at the age of 3, I knew how it worked and took every advantage to work the action. When Pappy returned to truck, his grandson was standing on the seat, grinning from ear to ear, and working the action of the 870 still in the rack. He looked at me laughing and said, “KR, (my initials and family handle) that gun might as well be yours!”
The Remington 870 is the undisputed champion of firearms sales world wide, moving over 9 million models and variations by the end of the 20th century. At the end of WWII, Remington recognized the world of industry was changing. Labor costs were increasing and automation was taking hold. The Remington Model 31 pump action shotgun was one of the identified models as being too expensive to continue production and development for a quality replacement with mass-production potential began. Remington engineers realized they could save money by incorporating currently produced items so they began designing a pump shotgun which utilized parts from the already produced 1187 autoloader. In 1949, Remington announced the discontinuance of the Model 31. Later that year, they announced the production of the 870.
In 1950, the first 870’s began showing up in retail facilities. Remington knew they had a good product and wanted to capitalize on the economic boom of the middle class in the post war years. Instead of tentatively entering the market with one or two models, Remington launched 15 different variations of the 870 in 12, 16, and 20 gauges. The standard field grade 870 AP was priced at $69.95. Remington wanted to provide the gun for the entire spectrum of the hunting community so Deluxe, Tournament, and skeet grades were also introduced along with a Riot Grade pistol designed to be sold to police and military and compete against the Model 12 Trench Gun. Sales were explosive and Remington quickly began producing even more variations of the 870 to feed market. In 1955, the Magnum versions with 3” chambers were introduced and in 1959, the first rifled slug gun was produced.
The Remington 870 provided a perfect combination of affordability and reliability and soon became a favorite of sporting enthusiasts everywhere. Today, the 870 is produced at even higher rates with an even greater diversity of the models, features, and styles. The 870 has become the flagship of the Remington Firearms Company, out pacing the sale and production of all other models of Remington Firearms as well as becoming an icon of the hunting community. It has been challenged time again for the right to be called the most popular shotgun in the world by the likes of the Mossberg 500 and the Benelli Nova but while both have proven to be popular and affordable, neither have been able to rival production and sales. The Remington 870 is the reigning King of the shotgun world and doesn’t look to give up its title any time soon.
Kelsey Hilderbrand is an avid shooter, hunter, collector, outdoor writer, and founder of High Mountain Hunting Supply