View Full Version : Different grades of 870 Wingmaster?

March 15, 2002, 09:03 PM
There are 3 wingmasters that I'm looking at buying - well actually, I can only afford one. They are all fixed choke - two full one modified. two of them have the white spacers between the grip cap and the buttplate (and have rubber cushioning) the other one is a little more plain jane. It has no vent rib on the barrel and has no white spacers (plastic buttplate). It may also be older, it is the 2.75" chamber only. The other two say magnum and will take the 3" shell. Price is one consideration. The nicest of the three has nicer wood and appears to be lightly used. They are asking $279 for the really nice one. $219 for the other two. I'm leaning towards shelling out the extra bucks for the nice one. Question is, did they make several grades of Wingmasters? I don't really need the use of the 3" shells. Not sure how much of an advantage the vent rib is? I could always add a cushioned buttplate to the stock.

Any comments - how important are vent rib barrels? Do they really help? I have shot very informal trap before, but have never owned a shotgun.

March 15, 2002, 09:59 PM
Mostly just a matter of product changes. For some reason people want 3" chambers even though 95% of them will never shoot a 3" shell. Everyone demands a rib today, so they added one.
Years ago, people liked white spacers, then they deleted those to hold price down.
There is nothing wrong with having the prettier gun even if it is an older gun. Years ago, the wood and bluing was usually nicer than the newer guns anyway. If you prefer it, the lack of the 3"' chamber and rib won't be noticed.

The only real "grades" of Remington shotguns are mostly the differences in the cheaper Express and the top-of-the-line Wingmaster. The Remington Custom shop will make fancy engraved guns to order, and Remington does, on occasion make limited edition higher grade guns.

March 15, 2002, 10:14 PM
Raised, ventelated rib gives a slightly higher sight plane and a little less mirage from heat waves coming off of a hot barrel.

Functional for some, pretty for most.


March 15, 2002, 11:29 PM
Thanks, the one without the rib or the spacers is also the one with the 2.75" chamber which I would assume would be the oldest model, but also as mentioned lacked the white spacers. Not a huge issue for me. One has noticeably nicer walnut than the other two however, which made me think maybe it was a higher "grade" than the other two.

- Makarov

March 16, 2002, 01:46 AM
Nope, just luck of the draw. My brother-in-law gave his two sons each a Marlin 39-A rifle for Christmas when they were boys, that were consecutive serial numbers. One has rather plain walnut, the other looks like something that was hand selected for fancy fiddle-back grain.
Ah'd git the purty one!

Dave McC
March 16, 2002, 07:00 AM
Sam nailed it on the rib,but let me expand on it a bit. Post WWII there was a surge of interest in shotgunning, and many former GIs bought more upscale guns than formerly. Exhibition shooters like Herb Parsons toured the country, and used vent ribs on their guns to cut down on mirage.

Trouble is, it takes some fast firing to develop those heat waves, and most guns used for hunting nver get to that frequency of fire. The ribs also add a bit of front end weight.Ribs make sense on gamer guns, but are just cosmetic on field guns.

Older 870s tend to have better fit and finish, but there are exceptions. I saw an upgraded WM yesterday, brand new, with very nice wood,LC bbl, sumptous blue, great wood to metal fit, and some decent engraving. The guys at the shop said it was a catalog item. Never seen one before.

As for 3" chambers, it's your call. Unless waterfowl or turkey are contemplated for this, there's no advantage to the longer shells.

All three of those guns sounds like decent deals,. Follow your heart...

Lone Star
March 16, 2002, 08:13 AM
Keep in mind that Remington was sued several years ago for the low quality of their barrel steel, which supposedly caused some blowups not involving bore obstructions. The steel was something called, "marraging" (sp.?) steel, which apparently isn't as strong as conventional chrome-moly ordnance steel. As I recall, there was a class-action settlement.

Presumably, recent guns would have improved steel, if only for legal liability reasons. Nonetheless, the M870 was introduced in 1950, and the number that have given trouble must be very small.

Generally speaking, the later the gun was made, the more features it will have, such as checkering (impressed checkering gave way to "cut" some years ago), recoil pad installed, vent rib standard, etc. The later guns also have interchangeable choke tubes. However, skeet or trap grade guns have usually had better wood than standard grades.

The bulk of M870's available today are the economy grade, with the title "Wingmaster" now evidently being applied to what we used to regard as the standard model. Frankly, one often has trouble finding a dealer who stocks a Wingmaster. They tell me that pump gun buyers want the Express. If they'll pay more, they buy an auto... Bugs me: when I can afford a shotgun to replace the 20 ga. M870 that I had to sell, I want the prettier gun. Maybe I'll think about an Ithaca M37...

Lone Star

Dave McC
March 16, 2002, 09:34 AM
Lone Star, whether or not the bbls were dangerous has never been satsfactorily settled. Some folks probably had plugged up the bll with mud, snow or a spent wad from a blooper roind, others used ammo suspect in origin and power. At least one blowup I heard about second hand was due to a 3" handload fired in a 2 3/4" chamber.

My oldest 870 is a 1950 gun, and it has had maybe 8-10K rounds through it. No probs.

And, there's plenty of older WMs out there, keep your eyes open and your plastic handy. Since 870s just don't wear out, you'll find one sooner or later that you'll cherish.

March 16, 2002, 02:06 PM
Thanks for all the replies. Is there a quick way to tell year of production by the serial number?

March 16, 2002, 08:32 PM
If you have your heart set on a new Wingmaster--you can always have the dealer order one in for you.

Even though the 3 in chamber is hardly ever used--it's nice to know its there if you need it. I'm even considering buying the camo 870 3 1/2in chamber Supermag for that reason----even though I know that big chamber will hardly ever be used. Heck---I have 2 other 12ga's that have 3in chambers---1 O/U and 1 semi-auto----still thinking I need an old reliable 870----might as well get the biggest one.

Dave McC
March 16, 2002, 09:07 PM
Makorov, the serial number isn't the date determiner. Remington uses a complicated letter code to tell when a given bbl was made. Unfortunately, they never did this on receivers, hence a bbl swap takes away any chance of dating the shotgun.

Kuhnhausen's shop manual for the 870 has the list. According to the list, my 870 TB was made in 1988, tho the TB model was discontinued in 82.


Lone Star
March 18, 2002, 08:02 PM
The problem with having a dealer order a gun is that you can't examine it in advance for fit of wood-to-metal, reddish undertones to the blue job, smooth operation, quality of wood, etc.

The three-inch chamber has its uses if you hunt ducks, fox, or turkey on occasion, and that holds especially true if the gun is a 20 ga. My 20 ga. magnum M870 did kick a bit with three-inch shells, but not too bad for field use. I wouldn't fire too many three-inch shells at game in the U.S., where bag limits are pretty tight. In Argentina... well, if one needs that much power often, he probably should use a 12 ga. in that role. But I'd be mainly hunting rabbits, squirrels, dove, and quail. Occasional pheasants might need a three-inch 20 ga. dose and at least Modified choke.

I really like the 20 ga. for most upland use, other than for turkeys, which I personally haven't yet hunted.

Lone Star