View Full Version : What to look for in a used Rem 870

October 9, 2002, 09:08 AM
I may be looking for a used 18 inch barrel 870 at gun show. This would be for the house and my first shot gun (not first gun though :) ). I like the 870 for the number of them, reliability, price, parts, aftermarket upgrades(although I would not pass up a cheap 18" Mossberg with folding stock).

So what should I look for in a gun to tell me to keep walking? What should I try with it when I look at it? Is it ok to pump it? (or is that a no no)

October 9, 2002, 02:22 PM
I'd check the action, or I wouldn't buy it. On a used 870, the action ought to be pretty smooth. Any hitches may be tell-tale signs of a problem.

If possible, I'd also remove the barrel and look down it for pitting. If removal isn't possible, I'd at least inspect it with a bore light. A lot of dealers will have a bore light they'll lend you.

Look at the fit of parts (stock to receiver, receiver to barrel) and make sure all is snug. You'd prefer a barrel without any play.

If the dealer seemed friendly and willing, I'd even break the gun down so I could check out the action and the trigger assembly. Here, of course, you need to know exactly what you're doing. A lot of dealers would frown at this request, however.

Dave McC
October 10, 2002, 04:41 AM
YZguy, I haven't seen many recent bargains on 870s at gun shows, but one can still hope.

Here's the checklist, starting from the muzzle. AND, of course, we check the chamber and mag for safety beofre anything else.

No dings or dents in the crown. If it has a choke tube setup,ask to see the tube screwed in and out to make sure it's not rust welded in place.

Make sure it has a bead or other front sight. Lots of police turnins do not.

No dings or dents in the bbl. Minor dents can be smithed, but the price should be adjusted. Bulges are an automatic turndown.If it's a vent rib bbl, check the vents for rust.

Loosen the mag cap and check the threads on the end for dings. Retighten, then grasp the bbl in one hand and the receiver in the other and see if there's play.If so, there may be headspace probs, fixable but the price needs adjusting.

Check the mag tube for dents, and also uneven wear marks on one side. A crooked tube is also fixable, but you know the rest. Pump the action a few times, and see if it feels smooth and easy.

Look inside the ejection port and note the condition of the metal you see for rust, grunge, etc. Using a finger, feel the edge of the ejector mounted on the receiver wall,sometimes these have broken edges. A factory fix.

Check the serial number. If it ends with an "M", it can shoot 3" mags. If not, it's a 2 3/4" gun regardless of what it says on the bbl.

Look through the bbl, checking for rust, pitting, and dings. Look along the bbl to see if there'a any obvious bends.

Cycle the safety, it should move with a positive click. Also,close the action, pull the trigger with the safety on, let off the trigger and take off the safety. If you hear a click, forget this one.

Next,check the wood for cracks and so on. Look the whole thing over again for rust,etc.

Grab the pad,if so equipped, and see if it's loose. Same with the stock.

I think that about covers it, but I haven't had my coffee yet.


Al Thompson
October 10, 2002, 06:25 AM
The only thing I'd add is to check the interior of the magazine tube for rust. My last police trade in had a problem with it, which I did not detect at the store. Best way is to have a small flash light with you and take a look, but simply running your finger in there would probably work also.

October 10, 2002, 09:52 AM
Thanks for all the info...

Just to get an idea, I stopped by a few gun stores to see what they had. No 18" 870's at all, but a total of 4 mossbergs (1 used).
the used one was only $179 but had some rust on the side so I passed on it...

I was under the impression that the 870's were more common and thus more inexpensive. Do I have this backwards? Is the Mossberg the more common one?

I don't really care one way or the other, except that there seems to be more aftermarket stuff for the 870, but just barely...

October 10, 2002, 10:04 AM
I was just 870 shopping at the gunshow this weekend. There are no great bargains out there on used 870s in my market. There are TONs of 870s with 28" barrels availible for $225-250 brand new, but the big retailers do not carry the 18" barrel. I just paid $285 for a new synthetic 870 with a 18" barrel and no add ons. Remington is now making a 870 with a factory extended tube that I have seen selling for around $300-325. I found 3 used 18" 870 barrels at the gunshow Sat and none of them would take under $100, I thought that was pretty high.

October 10, 2002, 10:30 AM
Lots of good comments on the 870. For defensive use, the gun should have a flexi-tab. The newer ones have it but older ones may not. It is about a $100 retrofit to add it.

October 10, 2002, 12:06 PM
ok, what is a "flexi-tab"? and why do I need one?

Dave McC
October 10, 2002, 03:05 PM
The Flextab is basically a lifter with a slot cut into it, This allows fast clearance if a second shell comes back behind the follower.

Good loading technique is the best method to avoid these, but there may still be Flextab kits available at Valley Gun Shop near Baltimore,Md. The kit includes a new bolt and firing pin.

The former smith at Valley did my two "Serious" shotguns.

It's 410-668-2171, they had them last year and maybe still do. Kuhnhausen's manual has how to stuff,any decent smith or good amateur can handle the switch.


October 10, 2002, 05:32 PM
I believe Brownell's has them so any gunsmith should be able to get them for you.

October 10, 2002, 10:03 PM
how do I tell if it has one already or not? (not knowing what it is)

Dave McC
October 11, 2002, 04:32 AM
If the lifter(Shell carrier)has a U shaped slot cut in it,yzguy, you're set.

A note about Flextabs....

For a dept weapon that may be deployed by marginal and unmotivated personnel and worked in a lackadaisical manner, a Flextab is mandatory.

For a conscientious and capable shotgunner who employs good loading technique, it's not.

I had shot many 870s over a coupla decades and never had the prob the Flextab was designed to fix. A short period as an instructor for MD DOC had me seeing this on most any range day.

While both my "Serious" 870s were set up with Flextabs, if I were tweaking one now I might skip it.

It's your call on this...

October 11, 2002, 08:55 AM
ok, now I know if a gun has one or not, exactly how can the problem is designed to fix happen? I saw improper loading, but what exactly can you do wrong? I mean all you have to do is slide each shell in all the way, right? I have only done it a couple of times so far (with friends shot guns) but aside from backwards, incorrect shells, and possibly not pushing it in far enough, how can you do it wrong?

or does the problem also have to do with slow or less than deliberate pumping action?

and the problem is that the next shell slides back under the lifter and holds the lifter up when loading the previous shell, right?

October 11, 2002, 10:45 AM
Usually the problem happens when you don't insert the shell all the way into the magazine. So you load one round into the chamber and then as you are loading the magazine if you don't insert the round all the way into the magazine it can come back onto the lifter. The net result is you can't cycle the shotgun.

Although I basically agree with Dave McC, I would not have a defensive shotgun without it . . . I figure it is cheap insurance. And, under the stress of a gun fight, I figure "a conscientious and capable shotgunner" can do just about anything. Back to Murphy.

I have had it happen to me once with an 870 without a flexi-tab and it is a pain to clear the gun. Certainly not something I would want to have to do under stress.

I don't have a digital camera but if someone has one and can post a picture of the flexi-tab that would probably be helpful.