Review: Remington 870 DM Magpul 12 Gauge Shotgun

Review: Remington 870 DM Magpul 12 Gauge Shotgun
Reload and respond faster with the Remington 870 DM Magpul 12 Gauge shotgun.

While pump shotguns have been serving in a defensive role for decades, their Achilles heel has been the inevitably slow reload when compared to other platforms that feature a detachable magazine (DM). Feeding one round at a time into a tubular magazine is slower and requires some dexterity that may be unavailable in a stressful situation for some folks. For some of us, shotgun reloads can be timed with a sundial - until now.

Remington's new 870 DM pairs a detachable box magazine with the iconic and time-tested 870 shotgun. (Since 1950, more than 11 million have been manufactured.) Now with a detachable mag, the 870 shotgun is an even stronger selection for defense.

The detachable box magazine is constructed of polymer and steel, and carries six shells. Shield-graphic texturing provides grip during insertion or removal. G&A's testing showed the magazines will not drop from the receiver, but need to be pulled from the magazine well.

Changing the feeding system on a reliable-as-a-­hammer shotgun could be disastrous. A fast reload isn't worth the effort if it leads to inducing a malfunction that has to be cleared before the shotgun can fire.

When Guns & Ammo first saw and fired the 870 DM, we asked Daniel Cox, Remington's shotgun product manager, what type of testing they did to make sure the new feeding system was as reliable as the old.

Though the 870 DM features a detachable box magazine, Remington has kept the former magazine tube as a platform to mount the same slide action of the 870's forend assembly. However, now it wears furniture made by Magpul.

"We took 100 of these new shotguns, put 2,000 rounds through each of them, and recorded every issue that came up," Cox said. "That gave us a large sample size with a lot of rounds on each sample. We did the same thing with the legacy 870. The failure rate on the regular 870 was less than 1 percent. The 870 DM's failure rate was even smaller. We didn't think we could do it, but the 870 DM feeds more reliably than the original 870."

The results of the testing are pretty impressive, but a closer look at the shotgun reveals how they achieved such an improvement.

Shooters that prefer the Remington 870's style of crossbolt safety and bolt carrier release will feel right at home working the action on the new 870 DM.

Chasing Perfection

A classic 870 utilizes an elevator to lift a shell from the tubular magazine and move it up in front of the bolt. Pushing the slide forward forces the bolt to scoop the shell into the chamber. If history is any indicator, this is a very effective and reliable way to feed a shotgun.

The 870 DM's magazine presents the shotgun shells from a fixed position inside the receiver. The elevator is now gone and the static magazine replaces it. Anytime nonmoving parts replace moving parts, reliability stands a good chance of improving.

Besides black, Magpul offers color versions of its SGA stocks and forends in flat dark earth, gray and orange. Remington, however, will only be offering this Magpul configuration of the 870 DM in black.

Fitting a detachable magazine to the 870 required more than plugging the tubular magazine. (In fact, the hollow tube is still there to allow the forend to slide.) The forward trigger pin needed to be enlarged to support the magazine well, while the bolt also required modification.

The bolt on a standard 870 features a flat bottom. When loading, the lifter comes up and the bolt comes forward. When the bolt face is approximately 11/2 inches from the chamber, the elevator drops down and leaves the shell unsupported. This hasn't been a big issue for Remington given that the system has worked for a very long time.

The durable all-­steel upper assembly of the single-stack box magazine is designed for quick insertion, reliable feeding and easy loading. No rocking is required to secure the magazine in place. Shooters can pick up additional three- and six-­round mags for $35 at retailers.

The 870 DM's bolt has a lug fitted to the bolt face that extends approximately .42-­inch down towards the magazine. During the feeding cycle, the magazine follower maintains constant upward pressure on the incoming round while the lug from the bolt face scoops it out of the magazine and the bolt stuffs it in the chamber. The 870 DM's feeding arrangement maintains constant pressure from two directions (the bolt face at its rear and the magazine spring from beneath), leaving the shell no place to go but into the chamber. This is why we feel it is a genuine improvement over the traditional 870's action.

Each 870 DM Magpul ships with one, six-­round magazine. The top of the magazine positioned inside the receiver is steel, while the lower mag body is polymer. After testing, Remington concluded that variations in shotshell dimensions made putting any more than six in the box problematic. Development continues to see if a reliable 10-round magazine is possible.

The reputation for strength of the 870 remains a priority in the 870 DM. Behind the walls of this ­steel receiver are a steel bolt, carrier, extractor and ejector. Remington proved its new model by feeding it 100,000 shells of 25 different loads.

The magazine slides straight up into the receiver and the magazine catch engages the front of the stamped steel. Releasing the magazine requires pressing the large lever at the front of the magazine well. Empty magazines do not drop free, but there is plenty of magazine body to pull on.

The magazine well is made from aluminum and attaches to the receiver by means of two large pins that screw into place. High-volume shooters that practice reloads a lot will likely experience some wear and tear to the magazine well as the steel upper on the magazine slams into the aluminum well. However, all that's required to replace a beat-up mag well is to remove the two pins, drop the old mag well and screw a new one into place. The job takes 2 minutes if you take your time.

The aluminum, magazine-well assembly box was the most challenging aspect for engineers. Not only will it accept mags loaded with 23/4- or 3-­inch shells, but the ambidextrous mag-release lever places the front hand in an ideal position when it's time to reload.

Sights get defensive.

Besides the removable magazine, the two 870 DM samples G&A were sent for testing came with many features ideally suited for a defensive role. We especially liked the XS Ghost-Ring rear sight and base with a white bead up front. Traditional bead sights are difficult to use with slugs and become invisible in low light. The steel base is a Picatinny rail that runs the length of the receiver and is secured to the 870 receiver by four screws.

Remington selected XS Sight Systems' quick-acquistion Ghost-Ring sight system designed for shotguns. It features a standard-­dot, single-bead sight up front that is drift adjustable for windage corrections. The rear ramp on the sight wears glare-reducing serrations.

The sights work well with everything from birdshot to slugs and the Pica-­tinny rail on the base makes attaching an appropriate optic a snap. Having sighting options on a shotgun still seems like a relatively new concept for some, but putting a red dot sight on this shotgun is an excellent idea. The Magpul stock and forend complete the package.

The Magpul stock and its adjustable comb height makes the shotgun shootable in a red dot configuration. Putting any type of sight on a shotgun pulls the shooter's head off the comb because every shotgun stock is designed around a bead or vent-­rib sight, which plants the shooter's head firmly on the comb. Lifting the sights off the barrel not only pulls one's head up off the comb, but it gives recoil a running start into the shooter's face. Magpul's 870 DM Magpul adjustable stock uses spacers to raise the comb enough that the shooter can still have a firm cheek­weld even with an optic mounted.

Anchored by four screws, XS' Ghost-Ring sight system can accommodate an optic. Without one, the rear aperture is hand-adjustable for zeroing windage and elevation. Only a small, flat-­head screwdriver is required to loosen and tighten the sight's locking screws.

The Magpul SGA stock also accommodates several sling mounting options. It has a spacer-adjustable length of pull, as well. The forend features tabs at the front and the back to keep the support hand in place for pumping, and M-­Lok cutouts for adding lights or aiming lasers.

The barrel's muzzle is threaded for choke tubes and the 870 DM arrived with a tactical extended Cylinder choke. The "extended" Cylinder tube allows the choke tube to host a muzzlebrake and gives the muzzle some standoff should you want to use this shotgun for doing things like breaching doors. We can't imagine that many will, but it can benefit everyone.

The muzzlebrake is a screw-in choke that functions as a stand-off breaching device.

The 870 pump-­action shotgun has often been regarded as the ultimate home-defense platform. The new Remington 870 DM could succeed that reputation in filling such a role. When viewed as a package, the 870 DM Magpul also represents an incredible value. It is a well-­thought-­out package that brings improved reliability and faster reloads to an already time-­tested firearm that has been defending American homesteads for more than 60 years.


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