Bicentennial 870 Wingmaster Magnum


Fred Fuller
March 24, 2006, 02:48 PM
It followed me home, honest it did. I had nothing to do with it, didn't feed it any beef jerky or peppermints. It just followed me home.

My new Cinderella gun is a 30-year old working class 870 Wingmaster Magnum, courtesy of one of my usual FFL dealer haunts. I say working class because it had been used hard, put up wet and as near as I can tell, has never seen a fieldstrip level cleaning in all its born days until now. And the former owner scrawled his name and social security number in the left side of the receiver with an electric engraver (never mind the gun has a perfectly legible serial number prominently displayed). But I brought her home anyway, 'cause the price was right. How right? $150.

I keep telling people to look, and they will discover; seek and they will find, no need to buy Chicom copies or lesser guns when the real thing is out there for about the same or even less money. Friend Dave says goodnaturedly that maybe we should shut up telling people to go look for Cinderella 870s, or else they will all get gone and then there won't be any left when one of us needs one. Well, the supply might get thinned out a bit, but I kinda sorta doubt either one of us will ever be in a position to actually genuinely NEED another 870. I am not naming any numbers in either case, but Dave has said in passing here how many he has, and I don't actually really know how many I have but it's more than Dave, so that obviously means even by my own definition that I have enough.

Doesn't mean I didn't buy this one, and also a stripped receiver from another THR member (hey, that price was right too, and especially so since I can build that stripped receiver back up into a shootable gun out of the parts box without spending another copper-plated zinc penny on it) this week though. Don't think I was ever before profligate enough to buy TWO 870s in one week, so this is a sort of record for me.

Anyway, back to that bicentennial thing. Had to call Remington this AM to get the date of manufacture from the serial number. The gun didn't have its original barrel, somewhere in its checkered past that had gotten swapped off and a 28" VR MOD-choked 2 3/4" chamber barrel installed. So no hope of checking a barrel date code for a clue as to its birthday. I called over to Big Green on their toll free line, where after a few minutes on hold listening to Remington commercials (as if I needed to) a nice young lady informed me that Remington 870 Serial Number T426XXXM had been manufactured in the Year of Our Lord 1976.

Which for all you young sprouts who had not been born by then was the year of the much vaunted American Bicentennial, two hundred years since that momentous day in 1776 when The US of A came into being. Some manufacturers prominently marked their products that came off the line that year with special markings, including some firearms companies. What can you say, it was the 1970s and all sorts of things were going on.

Far as I know Remington did not get caught up in the red white and blue fervor that marked that particular year. There is nothing rollmarked on this receiver to indicate its date of birth has any more significance than that of any other 870. But knowing that this is a 1976 gun gives it a bit of extra panache for me. It guarantees I won't ever have any trouble remembering how old this gun is. It is pretty apparent from the wear and the superficial rust and the accumulated gunk that it had been around for a while, but it is often hard to tell how old a used gun really is just from surface appearance.

That matters with some guns. The nice thing about 870s is that unless a gun has some patently obvious functional difficulties, no matter what it looks like on the outside it will almost certainly run just fine. This is one book that you cannot read by the cover, the 870 design is so robust that it takes vast levels of abuse and wear to make one nonfunctional in a major way. Little things can be fixed easily. Almost always it is only little things that go wrong with old 870s, unless the shooter really messes up and does something like shooting with a plugged barrel. Only really bad 870 problem I ever saw was the result of a young man shooting a reload that had been through the wash and following it up quickly with another shot at a fleeting dove. Even though the first shot 'didn't sound right' he quickly pumped and shot again, and blew up the barrel that was blocked by the wad from the first shell that only made it about halfway down the bore. In spite of destroying the barrel of an almost new 870 Special Field, the young shooter came away unscathed save for the checkbook damage to replace the barrel.

Well, this old girl is due for a makeover. Her new wardrobe will consist of fighting garb, as long as she stays in this house her days as a field/sporting gun are pretty much over. This Cinderella already has teeth, she will be growing some fangs now. It would be nice to be able to get 'er done in time for Awerbuck's class in May, but time and money constraints will probably make a complete "do" impossible by then. I will likely take her along and shoot her for at least one day in the class, just on GP. I can get her to a workable state in a day with materials already on hand here, and backup guns are always recommended for classes like this anyway.

I have already started this Cinderella's rehabilitation- with a bath. In her original state she was just too filthy to handle without getting dirty hands. That's sad, I hate to see such neglect, though in this case it was relatively benign. There was a little superficial rust, some freckling on the receiver and some powdery orange cancer showing when I pulled the trigger plate and the stock off the receiver. After all, it was the rough surface appearance that let me get out the door with the gun in the first place, "nice" 870 Wingmasters around here fetch $250 and up (mostly 'up') no matter how old they are. Fortunately for my checkbook, this one wasn't "nice". If you want to protect your investment in polished blued steel and walnut, you'd best learn to take proper care of it.

First up will be changing out the lifter, bolt and slide with the parts from a Flex-Tab kit. She'll soon be wearing a different barrel, a plain bead sighted 18" parkerized Police gun barrel with a 3" chamber suited to her receiver's abilities. It will have to have the forcing cone done and it might just get choke tubes installed before all is said and done as well. She will eventually get a set of ghost ring sights from MMC, the front blade silver soldered on and a tritium vial inserted therein after the installation and refinish work are done, and the rear attached into drilled and tapped holes in the top of the receiver.

She will be getting a new skin, in this case consisting of a phosphate finish over a coarse bead blast, to get rid of the rust freckles and the previous owner's identifying scrawls. There might be a modern miracle coating applied over that, probably not since I like how a good parkerizing job looks all by itself. The shiny bright bowling-pin-finished walnut furniture with the oh-so-seventies impressed checkering will be going away, to be replaced with plain straight grained oil finished police gun walnut. That stock will be shortened by an inch and fitted with a new recoil pad, most likely a Remington R3 grind-to-fit in this case. There will be another stud for detachable sling swivels installed in the stock about three inches in front of the toe in the usual place, no fancy schmancy tack tickle slings on this one, just a carrying strap.

There will be a one shot Wilson magazine extension with a base for a detachable sling swivel in her future, most likely along with a Clark barrel clamp that is 'melted' a bit on its square edges so as to be a little nicer to fast moving fingers- just to make sure everything stays in place undamaged if the going gets rough. Inside the extension and magazine will be a Wilson magazine spring and follower. A six shot TacStar SideSaddle will find its way into position alongside the receiver on top of the usual thin coat of RIG grease, so it doesn't have to be removed and replaced for cleaning every time I turn around.

I'll have to come up with some way to mount a light, and right now I don't know exactly what that will be. Might be we take a piece of steel Weaver type base, fabricate a light rail from it and then silver solder it onto the bottom of the magazine extension for a Streamlight M3 or the equivalent. All we have to do is make sure there's enough room for the rail to clear the barrel when the magazine extension is screwed off for disassembly. Cheap/easy way to do it would be to use one of the ring type rails that goes under the magazine cap, but this is not intended to be a cheap/easy shotgun and so some other approach is likely.

And that will be it. Nothing left to do after that but shoot it, breaking in the new parts and the new finish and getting used to it along the way. It's not as if I don't know how to run an 870 already, or what I prefer to have on one as far as accessories are concerned. And it isn't as if this one won't get its share of trigger time as the makeover project progresses, nor is any of the above exactly graven in stone- I might still change my mind 8^).

Now then, back to work on her...


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March 24, 2006, 03:37 PM
I think the boy done found him something he is kinda partial to- whadda-ya'll think?


Yeah well , say want you my friend, still you'll shoot that thing better with a stick of jerky in your pocket - you can tell Awerbuck I said so...
...then the peppermints come in right handy when sent to the doghouse...

Congrats and enjoy, keep us updated if you will...the PhD of the house does know there is another mouth to feed - right? :p



Dave McCracken
March 24, 2006, 04:09 PM
I love happy endings...

A couple things for those who would strive to do likewise and rescue orphan 870s from the evil pawn and gun shops.....

Friend Lee is an experienced and knowledgeable shotgunner of long standing.

If a fairly new shooter told me of the stuff he was going to do to his rescued 870 like Lee has, I'd counsel him/her to shoot the thing first.

Lee's done his woodshedding. He has a good idea of what works for him and is proceeding at a reasoned pace.

In Lee's place, with a "Serious" 870 as the goal, I'd shoot it some,change it, shoot it some more, change it,etc.

Lee, pics are needed......

And while my parts and addon list would differ, I've no quarrel with what Lee plans.

March 24, 2006, 04:17 PM
Agree with Dave.

I too am honored to call Lee my friend.

We do communicate regular and joke and tease each other.

Still Lee , Dave and many others - are the folks I do searches under, send PMs and emails to - or speak on the phone with when I need to learn something.

I may joke and tease here sometimes, there is a serious respect for and listening ear to what Lee and others share.

Fred Fuller
March 24, 2006, 04:18 PM

The PhD of the house has in fact gotten her birthday present three months early, partially because there is a new mouth to feed and partially because I am too much of a kid to want to wait that long to see her get her present. Her b'day gift is a pair of approx. 1/2 carat total weight (I paid for 40 points and got a bit more) diamond studs set in 14K white gold I had made up for her from carefully chosen loose stones, been planning/coordinating/working on getting those paid for since about b'day time LAST year. You know how sorry the stones are in most diamond earrings, these are not sorry diamonds. I get to be happy over my new toy, she gets to be happy with her new present, I get to be happy watching her be happy and she gets to be happy watching me be happy. Yeah, we're both crazy, but we have a good time.

Haven't heard nary a word of complaint 'bout buying two 870s in the same week... other than she really really wants a pair of blue topaz/14K yellow gold earrings to match the pendant I gave her a couple of years ago... 8^).


March 24, 2006, 04:58 PM

I know for a fact better quality diamond earrings does make a lady shoot better.

I also know better quality diamond earrings makes a hubby a better shooter too. Little known fact - guys taking out the trash, running a vacuum, and putting the canned goods in the pantry - builds up forearm strength and such. Also a hubby shoots better without that toliet bowl brush stuck up nose obstructing a proper mount of gun to face.

I don't tell everything I know, or my experience, just sometimes passing forward is more than just passing forward how to shoot a shotgun - involves stuff like how come some fella has a hard time mounting a shotgun [meaning how to remove that brush up his nose] and how to get the darn shotgun into the house without getting fussed at.

"Honey, you need to leave out the front door , I pulled your car out of garage and rinsed it off, and I just mopped the kitchen floor"

" are such a wonderful husband"

Wait 3 minutes min, to make sure wifey did not forget something and returns, then get the pawn shop special out of the hidey hole in garage.

Hey, I just adapted what women do in getting new shoes in the house was all... all the guys are now suspicious of women rinsing off their trucks after have backed them out of garage...

I am not in trouble "again" - I just stay in trouble, easier to know where I am...

Oh - guys another thing I stole from women?

Repeat after me: This OLD thing?

No matter if something still has the tag on it, only been in the house 15 minutes a women when asked will reply "this old thing".

I mean a older, smelly, grungy shotgun/ any firearm is a piece of cake.

You are welcome.


Fred Fuller
March 25, 2006, 06:38 AM
Spousal report of comments from the first encounter with office staff, students etc. today after donning new earbobs:

1) "You better not let anything happen to him!"

2) "If you get tired of him, send him over my way."

Her theory is that there are more women who like to get jewelry as presents than there are men who like to give it. Happens we are compatible in that regard, I like to give it and she likes to get it.

In fact, our one and only family secret revolves around jewelry- specifically, the first engagement ring I bought her. Y'all promise not to tell my mom this, OK?

Before I got married I gave my mom jewelry (not having a wife to burden with it). She liked earrings, and pendants, and brooches, and the 12.5 carat pear shaped amethyst (her birthstone) surrounded by diamonds set as a pearl enhancer was a real big hit. But she always told me: "No rings- my hands are too ugly to wear rings and draw attention to them, just my wedding ring is all I want."

So, when the prospect of nuptials began to appear in the distant glimmering future, I commenced looking for an engagement ring. A friend in the jewelry business found me a genuine antique, an example of the first style of diamond ring to become popular in America in the early 1870s after the Kimberly strike was made in South Africa. Then it was called a bouquet style setting, what we would call a cluster today- one center stone surrounded by other diamonds of the sme size, set in 14k yellow gold, nice old European cut stones. The date engraved inside the ring was 1874.

Price was good, better than good in fact. I bought it. It was badly worn, 14K yellow gold prongs are not known for their hardiness and this ring was lucky not to have dropped a stone already- it badly needed repronging. Since there was a jeweler in my home town of Selma, AL with a great reputation, I decided to take it home next time I visited so I could get it taken care of. Turned out there were lots of 'honey-do's' this trip, and I never got the ring to Butler's. So I stashed it in my dresser drawer until the next trip home.

A few weeks later, talking to my mom on the phone, I hear, "Where did this ring come from?" Clueless me says "What ring?" "This diamond ring in your dresser, says she. "Oh," I said, "I ran across it and liked it, so I bought it. I was going to take it down to Butler's because it needs some work, but it didn't get there this trip." I wasn't ready to tell her it was supposed to be an engagement ring, because I hadn't asked The Question yet and I didn't know if it was to be an engagement ring or not.

"Well, can I wear it?," says Mrs. Don't-Want-Any-Rings. "I really like it."

So what am I gonna say? No you can't have it? So I said, "Take it down to Butler's and tell them it needs to be repronged, and tell them to size it to fit you, and then you can wear it." She wears it to church every Sunday and that's it. Meanwhile, back to the drawing board for me...

So my wife is wearing her second engagement ring, a sort of pre- Tiffany transitional semi- brilliant cut solitaire (not enough facets for a true brilliant cut but it still has its culet) in a 1920's or so white gold mounting. And my mom is still wearing what was to be my wife's first engagement ring.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, this tired old 870 Magnum has slicked up right nice. Turns out there was a polished blued 18" bead sighted Police gun barrel in the barrel box that matches the present finish better. It's marked CYL but that won't hurt, it can be changed later. A little 4/0 steel wool and Ballistol got off some of the surface rust freckling on the receiver, and a good cleaning and light lube did wonders for the feel of the action. And she's now wearing her new wood, a nicely matched set of 1960s or so plain quarter sawn walnut (buttplate, no recoil pad) that once graced an RCMP (Mountie) gun somewhere in the frozen north. I should get the first rounds through her today if all goes well.


Dave McCracken
March 25, 2006, 10:07 AM
Great story about the rings. Lee.

If you check that barrel, betcha you'll find 2-5 POC.

How about some pics?....

March 25, 2006, 10:22 AM
In 1976 twins were born.

I knew the parents and I suggested being a Special Year, in more ways than one:

Mom recieved E color VVS1 3/4 ct tw dia earrings set in Plat.
Daddy recieved a 870 20 ga
Boy and Girl 1100 20 gauges. Granted they preferred Mom's attention for a bit, still the guns were waiting for attentions to change...

Joke was, two years later, only reason Baby Boy was born , to get the matching 3/4 ct matching pendant for mom, the LNIB SX1 for dad, and another 1100 in 20 ga.

"Jewelry and Guns are less upkeep than the kids"

"You want to go for a strand of pearls?"

"Well we can go for the strand of pearls all we want - just fixed the plumbing and momma won't be birthing no more kids"

Momma got the strand of pearls , daddy got a Citori, and the kids got a new puppy.

"This having fun and anniversaries are great - now this Part A goes to Part C unless you have model XYZ then it goes to part E...."

FILs that are Engineers come in handy for wooden swing/play sets.

"We know how to make kids, take care of kids, dogs, jlry, and guns...backyard play sets, now that is over our heads" :p

Fred Fuller
March 25, 2006, 12:09 PM

Don't have a digicamera yet, it's in the offing but too many other things on the pay-for-first list (like the rest of the tuition for Awerbuck's class). Will try some shots with a disposable and get the CD when developed, maybe that will work. I really like the way the makeover job looks 'as is' right now, gonna enjoy it that way for a while yet before i do anything else to it save shoot it. After all, I already have the requisite Ninja-fied version, ready to go. No need for me to be in a hurry here.

Stay tuned...


March 25, 2006, 05:29 PM
Great story (already with a happy ending

Does it look like this?

from A Guide to Collecting Remington Model 870 Shotguns (

btw 76 = high school graduation year


Dave McCracken
March 25, 2006, 09:09 PM
Copy on digicam, I use Son's if needed.

Do go shoot it as it is. Savor it.....

Fred Fuller
March 26, 2006, 12:16 PM

Nope, no spreadeagles on this one- it's just a plain field gun. Good link there, though- thanks.

edited to add:

Cha-cha-cha-cha-changes... started with a different barrel more suited to the purposes for which this gun is to serve, and continued with a change of furniture that is also more suitable- swapping the glossy polyethelene finished impressed checkered walnut to older, straight grained oil finished police gun wood. Other than cleaning away years of accumulated crud, that was it at first.

I have gone ahead and changed out the bolt, slide and lifter to a Flex-Tab version, not that it is absolutely necessary to do but because I had the kit waiting ("for just such an emergency," to quote Foghorn Leghorn) and it is IMHO a Good Idea to upgrade to those manufacturer designed improvements meant to increase reliablility in a serious shotgun. This modification does improve reliability by making a jam easier to clear, I have never shortstroked a pumpgun so far nor have I let a shell slip in loading- but there is always a first time for anything.

And the original magazine cap, magazine spring and follower are also gone to the parts box, replaced by a Wilson Combat one-shot magazine extension, spring and lime green follower. It was interesting to note that the follower on this gun- apparently OEM- was heavy black plastic. That was a bit of a surprise.

The Wilson extensions are solidly built little buggers, and pretty heavy for their size. Rooting through the parts box looking for other things, I turned up a 4" long chunk of steel rod of a diameter to fit perfectly in the bolt hole in a Remington wood stock. So I unscrewed the buttplate and padded the bolt hole with clean dry paper towel, then slipped in the weight and padded the other end. Upon reattaching the buttplate, the change in weight distribution was noticeable, making the gun a touch butt heavy. That will even out with rounds in the magazine, no doubt.

With new parts in place and properly lubed, I ran the action for a while to begin loosening things up. Then it was time for some more cosmetics, so the old girl got a wax job- the Johnson's paste wax is always handy hereabouts. Two coats applied and left to dry, will buff it off with a soft cloth later and see how it looks. Still no SideSaddle, haven't wanted to put one on until the gun had been run a bit. But it's shaping up nicely so far.


Dave McCracken
March 26, 2006, 09:19 PM
Sounds good to me, Lee, your Frankengun taking shape. Have an urge to pick up a beater and set up a truck gun.

Fred Fuller
April 14, 2006, 02:55 PM
Well, the bicentennial baby is back to retro configuration- it has shed the magazine extension, and had the FlexTab-cut black bolt replaced with a chrome one of similar configuration I ran across in the parts box. With its polished blue finish, plain police style wood, bead sight and no recoil pad it now looks like a throwback to the 1960s. And I will likely keep it that way, on the outside at least. I just can't handle the 18" CYL-bore barrel though. Even if it does have a few points of choke, I have enjoyed too many years of being spoiled by an ImpCyl or even Mod short barrel now, and I can't always be shooting Hornady TAP buckshot to get the patterns I want. We have the technology, we can make it better, and it won't really change the looks much.

So I have yanked off the barrel, and packed it up for mailing to Colonial Arms in my hometown of Selma, AL. Into the package also went a Mod RemChoke tube and a replacement tritium bead from Meprolite, which will be installed if all goes according to plan. Unfortunately my favorite barrel pro 'Red' Lyles is no longer there, being laid up with back problems, but the rest of the cast of characters at the shop does good work too. Prices are up there as almost everywhere these days, getting choke tubes installed is now $75 plus the cost of the tube(s), getting a forcing cone extended is now $45, but getting the barrel drilled and tapped for a tritium bead is only $3. Good thing there is no inflation in drilling and tapping.

I have put in an order for a 6-shot Sidesaddle and a two shot TacStar magazine extension, as I intend to carry this gun as a backup to the upcoming Awerbuck shotgun class in Durham, NC. Since the magazine extension isn't shipped with a barrel clamp, I ordered an 870P style clamp from Uncle Mike's to take care of both securing the magazine extension and offering a firm mount for the front sling swivel. The rear swivel stud will be installed into the toe of the stock in the usual style. It remains to be seen whether the gun will stay in that configuration or not- it'll depend on how it feels and handles.

I have had a great good time fiddling around with this old 870 already, and I look forward to years more of the same. It's likely I'll wear out before it does...


April 14, 2006, 06:42 PM

Sometimes a real shooter don't need da Switch *snicker* private joke

Lee, as we shared on the phone about this gun..."you done good son".

60's era...Too bad you cannot rent a '66 Stingray to arrive in style at Awerbuck's class...:cool:

Dave McCracken
April 14, 2006, 06:46 PM
Sounds good to me,Lee. A couple things...

Your Retro 870 needs a sling. May I suggest one of the old GI canvas straps?

Fred Fuller
May 14, 2006, 05:00 PM
And yet more changes to the bicentennial Cinderella...

A recent perusal of eBay turned up yet another set of plain, straight- grained walnut police gun wood, this one of mid-1970s vintage if I read the signs right (a red rubber recoil pad being one of the signs). The new furniture has been stripped of its damaged factory finsh and refinished with tung oil, then heavily waxed with Johnson's paste wax. The recoil pad is still pliable enough to be useful as is. The steel plug that was in the original stock as extra ballast fits the bolt hole in this stock too, and has been installed with wooden spacers to avoid pounding.

A set of Uncle Mike's sling swivel studs has been installed to make a home for a sling. The front swivel was factory installed in a replacement magazine cap of the type suited for 870s with detents on the barrel ring (Part #1801-0 Rem-870 CAP), and the rear stud was installed in a carefully drilled hole in the toe of the stock. I have mounted a prototype sling of my own design (only color webbing I could get was black) to test for a bit to evaluate before taking it along to the upcoming (next weekend) Awerbuck class. The sling is sewn onto 1 1/4" Uncle Mike's Quick Detachable Super Swivels (Part #1403-3).

The smidgen-over-18" factory issue Police barrel came back from Colonial Arms with the forcing cone done and the Modified RemChoke tube successfully installed. Patterning and checking zero for slugs will happen this week, it's been function fired with birdshot but not yet patterned with buckshot or checked for zero with slugs.

It's also wearing a Tritium bead now as well, which works a lot better than the white handkerchief knotted around the muzzle that COL Charles Askins used as a night sight on his Winchester '97 in the bad old days of the 1920s down on the border.

After a bit of thought, I replaced the magazine spring and follower with a heavy duty magazine spring and aluminum follower from Brownells (Part #080-000-083, ). As near as I could tell, the 30-year-old magazine spring and the plastic follower that came in the gun were OK- but no need to take chances. The magazine is one of the most critical and yet one of the most failure prone areas in tube-fed pump shotguns- proper attention to it is a must.

Finally I have given the gun one last field-strip cleaning and installed a 6-shot TacStar Sidesaddle over a light coat of RIG grease on the side of the receiver underneath, with blue Loctite on all the screws. It's not uncommon for things to work loose on guns under the stress of any shooting class, and I want this one to keep all its bits together.

And that is it for this iteration of the Bicentennial Cinderella. It looks positively Seventies in its current garb, and would appeal to any traditionalist who has a thing for blued steel and walnut. But underneath it is as modern as modern can be. I will get to work on that camera thing and see if I can't get some pictures up soon.


May 14, 2006, 06:52 PM

Dave McCracken
May 14, 2006, 09:26 PM
Eagerly waiting on pics, Lee.

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