Last year the editors of American Hunter magazine took on the daunting task of listing the top 10 shotguns of all time. From Browning to Winchester, Benelli and back, these shotgunners racked their brains to come up with one to top them all. Based on function, innovation, value, classiness and subjective personal fancy, Senior Associate Editor Kyle Wintersteen chose his No. 1—the Remington Model 870.
"The 870 is like a turn-of-the-century coal miner—it takes a lot of punishment and barely costs a dime," he wrote. "Toss it in the mud and it'll continue hurling lead shot with uber reliability. The biggest reasons it's on my list? Longevity and sheer sales volume."
Without a doubt, Remington 870 owners across the nation would join Wintersteen in his tough-tested, cost-effective refrain. This American classic has cornered the pump-action market for Remington since its introduction in 1950, gaining a loyal following of traditionalists and new schoolers alike. And today, thanks to the millions of Model 870 owners, it's the best-selling shotgun of all time.
Now, America's oldest gunmaker is geared up to celebrate an impressive landmark-the production of the 10 millionth Remington 870.
There's no doubt that such a milestone evokes nostalgia from those who've spent decades slinging this trusty bird-slayer over their shoulder. For most, especially those around NRA headquarters, it's much more than just a number.
"My first repeating shotgun that would actually repeat was a shiny, circa-1975 Remington 870 Wingmaster," said Editorial Director John Zent. "As the crows came down, my self-esteem rose, and after finally getting a double on rooster pheasants I cooked my first meal that didn't involve hot dogs or a can opener. In those days it was easy to find a used 870 cheap enough for a college boy's cashflow, so thanks, Remington."
Ever-frugal American Hunter Managing Editor Jeff Johnston admires the gun's bargain basement cost and versatility. "You can use them in a duck blind, in the bird field or even under your bed," he said.
"I love my 870," said Paul Rackley, Associate Online Shooting Editor. "I've dragged it through the woods and waters of six states to take a multitude of species. I've even dropped it in five feet of muddy water and still finished the day with it. It's tough, reliable and affordable."
Although Remington has introduced many variations and platforms of the "gun that always goes bang," the design has remained true to original form. Its strength, durability, smooth bind-free action and sleek classical lines have been a constant since the first 870 Wingmaster hit the market.
Another one of the 870's most desirable qualities, its reasonable cost, has also helped buoy the gun's popularity throughout the decades. In 1950, the Wingmaster pump was listed at $69.96 in standard grade with a $10 upgrade for the deluxe model. Today, you can grab an 870 Express in 12-gauge for a suggested retail price of $383 or a Wingmaster Classic Trap for around $1,039 MSRP.
As a tribute to Remington's signature pump-action, we've delved into our archives and pulled out the first "significant mention" of the Remington 870. The February 1950 issue of American Rifleman takes a look at this history—making shotgun as a part of the "What's new for 1950" edition of the Dope Bag.