John, I think you've made my point. Ruger no longer cares about attracting name recognition as they did in 1949. People buy Rugers because they are an industry leader, not always because they make the best product. They don't care about people who know the difference because so many people don't know or don't care.
dgludwig, the extractor on the 870 express is one part that is changed out by places like Vang Comp and others who customize the express models for reliability. I know there has been a move away from aluminum and towards plastic in the Remington Express trigger guards as well as Ruger 10/22 trigger guards. I am not sure of other parts that vary on the express, but it's generally recognized that the Express models are rougher and take more breaking in than the old wingmasters. We can argue economics vs. quality all day long. I would concede it's not just Ruger cutting corners as I have already indicated, but they are one of my favorite gun makers and I'm sad they have drifted from their traditional production standards. rc