View Full Version : 870 Barrels.......

Dave McC
August 11, 2001, 08:09 AM
Over the more than 50 years that Remington has made the 870, there's been several "Generations" of barrels on these fine shotguns.

The early fixed choke bbls were made wonderfully light and balanced well even when 30" long. Proof that Big Green was not perfect then either was the fact that all 870s came with a solid steel mag plug that weighed 1 1/2 lbs. This destroyed any balance and feel the light bbl created. Once this was removed from the shotgun, one was left with a nice handling pump gun of infinite utility.

Even the vent rib bbls of the time were light,not always true even on such designs as the Ithaca 37.

But things change, and the advent of the choke tube craze saw Remington take the easy out and increase the bbl thickness to have enough steel at the muzzle to handle threading for these.
Naturally, this not only made the piece heavier, but since the weight was all forward, made it more muzzle heavy than the classic WMs. Some folks like this, most don't.

And then, Remington lost a class action lawsuit over their barrels, some claimants and their lawyers stating that the old thin bbls were dangerous. Little evidence existed that the bbls were defective, and the blowups came from blockages and not blockheads at Ilion, but reality meant less in court than the perception of reality. So,Remington paid off big time. You know what happened next. Lawyers had more input into those bbl dimensions than engineers or shotgunners. Bbls yet thicker came off the line and into our lives.

The bbl on Frankenstein, my home built and overpublicized parts 870, is one of these. I bought it as a 28" bbled Express bbl at a gun show, and found when I mounted it that it was lots heavier than the old ones. For various reasons, including weight,I had it bobbed to 20", and it's now well balanced for my purposes.

And, the Light Contour bbls currently advertised are basically similiar to the first bbls in dimensions, and maybe even quality of steel. A nice marketing ploy, and a nice bbl.

FYI,since both my 1950 made bbl and Frank's Express bbl have been shortened,a brief perusal shows the bbl wall is about twice as thick in the newer one.

So, you may ask, which is better? There's no Tablet of Stone about this,so....

It's a personal decision. No variant is a lemon, and people do fine work with all of them. I'd recommend,all else equal, the Light Contour bbls or the early ones for upland hunting, and the thicker bbled versions for turkey, waterfowl, "Serious" shotguns, and other uses where heavier loads are needed, and/or shorter bbls are used.

One small caveat, the currently popular mod of overboring may be best handled by the thicker walled versions, since they have more steel to begin with. Some competition bbls made since the 80s have an overbore from the factory. This includes trap bbls, my 870TB mikes at .733", a mild overbore, and some recent TBs and Cs go as high as .740.


August 11, 2001, 02:56 PM
I have one warning regarding old Remington barrels. I have been sent old ( pre-magnum ) barrels that the owner wanted cut to 18". I have been somewhat surprised to find that SOME of these barrel were dangerously thin on one side. One more then one the barrel was less the .03" on one side. I have seen this on 870,
1100 and Winchester '97 barrels.

I often wonder why these barrels didn't burst. The steel used back then was not as tough as what is used today.

I'm not saying that these old barrels are un-safe, but I sure wouldn't want to do anything that would remove any metal.

Dave McC
August 12, 2001, 04:58 PM
DML, I've also seen non concentric bores on a number of shotguns other than the ones mentioned. Cheapos have a lot of them, but I can recall one Ithaca 20 ga(remember that little single shot with the western style lever?) that ran way off. The prob, even if there's plenty of metal and it's safe, is....

All shotgun bbls flex when fired. One with more metal on one side will tend to flex more in the plane of the fault, and loads of differing ballistics can mean widely varying POIs.

The big lesson here is that even top quality shotguns have production probs sometimes...

August 12, 2001, 05:51 PM
The interesting thing about this is that the barrels are concentric at the muzzle. I don't know if it's still available, but Brownell's used to sell a fixture to measure wall thickness of shotgun barrels their entire length.

As you say, they are probably safe, but with a wall thickness of less the .030", I sure wouldn't even consider back-boring one of these. The other problem comes with trying to silver solder a MMC type front sight on one of these. The barrel tends to conform to the sight and becomes oval. There are some other problems. I tell our customers to leave these alone and shoot them as they are.

Benelli barrels are pretty thin, but they are made of much tougher steel then these old Remington barrels.

Dave McC
August 13, 2001, 12:35 PM
I'm not terribly excited about overboring. Taking off bbl metal rings little alarms in my head. Shotguns and grenades have similiar working pressures. The .733 mild overbore on the TB is probably as far as I will go, unless I hit the Lottery...

I know that people report wondrous things indeed from overboring, but I do fine with my more or less standard stuff. I'm not terribly sensitive to recoil, and that's a big plus for the procedure.

January 13, 2006, 11:19 AM
This oldie but goodie seemed the best place to ask....

Does anyone know the approximate years of the barrel changes from Big Green?

I have recently aquired a 30" VR fixed-choke barrel from '85 that seems very heavy. Even the VR itself looks heavier duty.
I have also picked up a 28" VR fixed-choke barrel from '69 that appears to be much lighter, more so than the two inches would allow.
The 26" VR Express rem-choked barrel from '92 is heavier than the '69 for sure.

Any idea of the time line for these events?


Dave McC
January 13, 2006, 07:34 PM
The barrel for the TB is from 1978 and it's not the heavy type. I believe the lawsuit was settled in 81.


January 16, 2006, 01:15 AM
Thanks Dave. That sure seems to fit what I've got here at casa del 9mm.

January 18, 2006, 01:11 AM
Posted wrong area - Sorry