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Can a professional gunsmith only cut a barrel to 18.5" ?

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by KodeFore, Sep 6, 2019.

  1. KodeFore

    KodeFore Member

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    A while back I bought a used rem 870 20 ga for my wife. She hated it so I asked a dealer about having the barrel cut down to 18 inches to use it as a " truck gun / fun gun / range gun ". I was told that a dealer cannot legally cut a shotgun barrel shorter than 18.5. The law clearly states a shotgun barrel can be 18 inches without being considered SBS. Is there an an actual law about how short a gunsmith can shorten a shotgun barrel? If I was going to hack it down myself I would definitely want to err on the side of caution but if I pay a professional to do it I would expect it to be done correctly at what law allows you to have. (the gun I bought has a standard stock but even with a pistol grip there is no way an 870 pump with an 18" barrel falls under the 26" overall length requirement) I'm thinking the dealer was just blowing smoke erring on the side of caution hisself but I'm not sure. The gun currently has a 24" barrel (I think) with a replaceable choke that came IC I ibelieve. Would it really be a sin to hack that off? I don't think the gun could be considered collectable so I might make as well make it fun or "tacti-cool". Does some one make an 18" barrel with a bead sight or maybe rifle sights but smooth bore for the 870 in 20 ga? Thnx
     
  2. mcb

    mcb Member

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    The gunsmith, like you said yourself if you were going to do the work, is erring on the side of caution. He could technically cut that barrel right at 18-inches but if he makes a mistake he is in the same amount of trouble as you would be if you made the mistake.

    Very few gunsmith or even gun companies make barrels exactly 18-inches long. Nearly all, if measured, are a moderate fraction of an inch longer just too be on the safe side. They want to make it easy and assured that if an ATF agent or other LEO measures the barrel there is no doubt the barrel is legal.

    Do you really want a barrel exactly 18 inches long and have a LEO with bad eyes think it's 17.990 and give you a bunch of grief for it?
     
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  3. armedwalleye

    armedwalleye Member

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    Take the 18 1/4 and run with it, knowing you're legal. In terms of function, there is nothing to be gained removing the additional 1/4 in.
     
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  4. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    If money wasn't a problem -and I could have anything I wanted in a defensive shotgun... .It would still be a very plain jane Remington 870 12ga set up in standard riot configuration (bead sight, four shot tube, standard stock...). The only change I'd make is that I'd want a 20" barrel... still with an improved cylinder choke... 18" is the legal standard (and that's measured from the closed bolt face to the muzzle) -but a 20" barrel is just my sweet spot (and it's what I was lucky enough to be issued and carried on the street with me every day...)..

    You can bet that it was in my hands on any hot call (or any call where weapons were even a possibility...).

    Note.. far as I'm concerned any gunsmith not wanting to cut shorter than 18.5 inches is showing that he (or she) has been well trained, period...
     
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  5. KodeFore

    KodeFore Member

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    I did not get this gun for home defense. ( It was actually more of "consolation" type gift, along with with a brand new Mossberg .410 that she also hated, after I convinced her that I really "needed" a JM930 & then came home with a Benelli M2.... I ended up selling the mossy to a coworker for his kid at a loss so I want to get the most value I can out of the rem) I am not trying to convince anyone there is any advantage whatsoever to an 18" barrel over 18.5". I do think it is very reasonable to expect a higher level of competency from a professional gunsmith than from someone like myself with a 6th grade industrial arts education and "home depot" level tools. If a gunsmith, who is supposed to be able to make new guns even better than new, cannot be trusted to be able make a precise cut, what other services should they not be expected to competently complete? This guy did not say he just wouldn't do it for safety sake or whatever reason, he told me it was illegal for him to do that. I think that is possible but I seriously doubt it. I'm interested in having an 18" barrel 26" long shotgun for no other reason than "Because I can" and 20 ga makes a lot of sense to me for something like that. If money and department policy was not an issue, I would probably opt for a select fire Saiga 12 and lots of training and practice ammo along with it. In reality, in my world finances and department policy are always a high priority. As for professional use goes "Shotgun vs. Patrol rifle" is another debate for another forum that I steer well clear of....
     
  6. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    KodeFore

    Years ago I cut a 28" Remington 870 barrel down to 18.5" because I wanted to make sure that after the muzzle was cleaned up and trued, there was still enough barrel there to be slightly more than 18". Then I had a gunsmith thread it for choke tubes and add a brass bead front sight.

    I'm sure that any gunsmith could cut a barrel down to precisely 18" but as you said yourself, better to err on the side of caution. Best play it safe and not take a chance on coming up short and wasting a good barrel.
     
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  7. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    From a business perspective, you can only cut once and if it’s too short you just lost money on that job. From an owners perspective you might not want a barrel cut to 18.001” using a micrometer and have it measured by a law enforcement officer using a tape measure. You will win in court, if the micrometer was in spec. but would the hassle (confiscation, arrest, lawyer court hearing etc.) worth a few hundred thousandths of an inch?

    I think my Grandmother always said it, “better to be safe than sorry” and yeah, we had to wait an hour after we ate lunch before we could go swimming but I think that was just so she could do the dishes before we went down to the lake.
     
  8. herrwalther

    herrwalther Member

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    18.5" is the CYA (Cover your A**) measurement for shotgun barrels. 18" is the legal magic number, but manufacturers and gunsmiths typically will not cut right at 18" in case some ATF agent gets a burr and wants to measure unfairly to make an illegal SBS case.

    Much less likely could be job confidence. 0.1" is not a very big amount but can make all the difference legally. If a gunsmith attempts to cut right at 18" and takes off a little more at 17.9" purely because the width of a saw blade, they can be in for a world of hurt legally.
     
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  9. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    Like many, your gunsmith lied to you... but it was in a good cause... I learned long ago to discount excuses and do a bit of research on my own. You did right to raise the question here (not the first time I've seen it, by the way) - but your gunsmith also did the right thing (even though the excuse given wasn't exactly truthful....).

    Erring on the side of caution isn't a bad thing at all -particularly when dealing with bureaucrats... I'm a retired cop but have to admit that I was also a "good bureaucrat" at times in my career. I learned over the years that not every rule needs strict enforcement - but I did know quite a few who would never bend a rule under any circumstances.... By reputation, ATF guys fall into that category just about always.... so leaving that extra bit of length on your barrel isn't such a bad idea at all....

    Good luck with whatever you choose....
     
  10. #1buck

    #1buck Member

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    First off I wouldn't cut it. I'd swap the 24" barrel for the 18-18.5" (or whatever the factory length is) or just buy the extra barrel. https://www.brownells.com/shotgun-p...me-defense-20-ga-18-5-bs-cyl--prod102429.aspx
    Yes your dealer lied to you about not being able to cut it shorter than 18.5", 18" is what the law states. Yes the ATF has a history of being inflexible in enforcing barrel length regulations to the point that in this case a bit of paranoia is actually health for your business and continued freedom.
    Secondly unless your wife actually wanted a shotgun, getting one for her because you got one more expensive than you originally planned for is a failed plan to begin with. You'd have done way better catering to her interests whether it was gear for her hobbies or even a nice weekend date night or getaway.
    Finally, I can't figure what your department policy has to do with your truck gun unless you plan to carry it on duty. In that case you are severely limited in ammo availability as defensive ammo manufacturers focus on 12 gauge and neglect the others.
     
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  11. entropy

    entropy Member

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    I have always cut them at 18 1/2". I picked up one at the last shop I worked at that was an evidence gun that has the barrel at 18.125". I measured it three times in the exact same manner as the ATF measures them before I decided to get it.
    That said-
    For your situation, I recommend you leave the barrel at 24", that 6" is worth having the ability to change the choke. Makes the gun much more versatile that an 18.5" CYL. bore.
     
  12. alfsauve

    alfsauve Member

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    Buy the extra factory barrel.
     
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  13. George P

    George P Member

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    Just cut that barrel to 19 and call it good
     
  14. ABTOMAT

    ABTOMAT Member

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    Even real companies didn't used to be so anal about it. I have a 1974 High Standard Riot model and the barrel is slightly under 18-3/16" from the factory.
     
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  15. mcb

    mcb Member

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    The ATF was not so militant back then either.
     
  16. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Moderator Staff Member

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    If I had to, I would guess that the guy is really tired of arguing with people who were determined to make him skirt as close to illegal as he can get without going to federal prison and without getting the barrel too short during the cleanup/truing/etc. operations that come after the cut is performed. So he has come up with a response that gets all but the most annoying and bullheaded customers off his back with a minimum of debate.
    Yup.
     
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  17. KodeFore

    KodeFore Member

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    Finally found this. Turns out Remington does make 18" barrels just not for 20 ga. Guess I'll just look for one once of these days.
    ,
    870 EXPRESS FIXED CYLINDER BORE BARREL - 12 GAUGE, 18", BEAD SIGHT

    Right from thier website
     
  18. Robbins290

    Robbins290 Member

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  19. mcb

    mcb Member

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    Bet you a $.01 that barrel is actually a 18.5 or 18.75 inch barrel. Not a single 870 shotgun on Remington website say 18.0 inches in the fine print of the specification independent on what the title says. All of the barrels listed at 18" are either 18.5 or 18.75 in actuality.
     
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  20. Lucky Derby

    Lucky Derby Member

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    It's not the compatence of the professional gunsmith you should be worried about. It's the compatence and motivation of the random LEO you may run into years from now. Personally I like having at least another .25"-.5" as insurance.
     
  21. lemaymiami

    lemaymiami Member

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    Thanks Lucky... that’s what I was trying to say...
     
  22. m715

    m715 Member

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    A pipe cutter for steel pipe is all you need
     
  23. entropy

    entropy Member

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  24. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    FWIW, dad and I bought a dozen "riot" barrels from Remington back in the early 70's to make slug barrels by adding rifle sights. Mounted on receivers they all measured 17.75". We shipped them back immediately with a terse note. The next ones were 18.125". Slipped happen.
     
  25. 748

    748 Member

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    I cut mine down to 14 inchs and it was perfectly legal.
    Used a hack saw just like the informant that lied/ratted on randy weiver did.
    Over 18 inches is so pedestrian.
     
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