A Kitchen Table 870, by Dave McCracken

Back around '93 or so, I entered Guns R Us with the intent of getting some minor repair done. A short conversation with the gunsmith ( a longtime friend) ensued during which he mentioned that they had received a massive amount of firearms from the inventory at the Maryland Penitentiary and would be shortly selling them. Since I was then working for the MD Prison system, my ears perked up. He mentioned that some 870s were pretty bunged up (no surprise) and they would be parted out. He then threw in a zinger: they were getting some receivers "Parkerized" with a phosphate finish and selling them separately. Price was $65,and included no separate parts but the stock bolt. Little wheels in my head started turning as I mentally inventoried all the leftover 870 parts at my home, and I realized I could put together an inexpensive turkey gun w/o bending the budget all that much.

A little haggling, a bit of whining and begging, and I had the parts I needed coming my way. Besides the receiver, I bought a trigger guard/group for $20, the forearm metal, and they threw in the worst, ugliest, most abused piece of stock wood in MD, probably just to get it out of eyeshot. I had everything else, including a matte finish 870 bbl shortened to 21" and threaded for Colonial tubes, with a lengthened forcing cone.

As a favor, the trigger group went through ultrasonic cleaning and relubing before I picked it up.

So, during some down time at home, I sat and put together my Frankenstein shotgun. I'd fiddle with it a bit, then leave it alone, but still managed to assemble it within a week. I wanted a fairly light shotgun for turkey, upland hunting, etc, and did some modifications to lighten it a bit.

First, since a lot of weight left with the other seven inches of barrel, I hogged out some wood from that ugly stock to move the balance point forward. Then, the wood got spray painted flat black, two coats with light 0000 steel woolling first and in between. A couple spacers were added between the stock and pad(Remington standard) to lengthen the stock to about 14 1/2".

Then, I lightened the front end by shortening the large nut that holds the forearm wood and metal together,and hand-filed new notches before reassembly. All metal parts got the moly grease treatment before assembly.

Using the bolt from my oldest 870, which had been Flextabbed, I put together the action and found I had an acceptable slap trigger, and little slop.The original mag spring, mag cap with sling swivel stud from that oldest 870 (ca 1956) and a plastic follower completed the package, and I put it all together and stood back to admire it.

That didn't take long. The contrast between the phosphate receiver, the blued secondary metal and the matte finish barrel wasn't pretty. I reminded myself that cheap beat pretty sometimes and headed for the institutional range. I took along some tools and aluminum foil.

Setting up a patterning target at 15 yards, I used the foil to shim the stock until I had more of the pattern over the bead than under it. I then repeated this at 25 yards and liked the results. Switching between Extra Full and Skeet I tubes gave the same POI, so I knew I was "ON".

The Lieutenant running the range was interested in the project and when I was done patterning, he broke out the trap and some clays. With both of us shooting, a box of 8s and some white flyers went to show that the gun worked well, and shucked smooth. The toe of the pad did need a bit of rounding, but that was the only glitch. I did reduce the weight of the mag cap by sanding it flat and cold bluing it, but that was just a bit of nitpicking about the balance and swing. A Redneck Jamboree shoot held at a friend's Eastern Shore hunt club a month later showed me,and varied onlookers, that I had a pretty good general purpose shotgun that should serve for anything flying. Since then, I've killed lots of clays, some dove, pheasant, quail, geese, and the odd ground game with it.

In summation:

I'm no gunsmith, but most of this doesn't call for a smith.

870s can be taken apart like Erector Sets, and mixing/matching of parts isn't hard, nor dangerous. According to Remington, all 870 parts interchange within gauge. Caveat: since the 870 has been around since the early 50s, some parts out there may be worn past use.

Total cash outlay was about $140, but that doesn't account for the barrel.

And it was fun...

Dave McCracken has been shotgunning longer than many shooters have been alive. He regularly posts on TheHighRoad.org and TheFiringLine.com. This article is reprinted here with his permission; reprinting or redistributing this article without his permission is expressly prohibited.

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