Tag Archives: firearms

USASOC’s URG-I for the M4

Thanks to SHOT Show and the good folks at Brownells, we can see what the US Army’s Special Operations Command is doing to improve their M4s. Let’s take a look. First, the product page.

Now, there are a bunch of things to note here. The upper receiver is unchanged. Still has that forward assist and that dust cover. The 14.5″ barrel is made by Daniel Defense, who have some excellent cold hammer forges for such things. The barrel has some unspecified improvements to work better with M855A1 ammunition, which has an exposed, hardened steel tip. I would expect these changes to be to the geometry of the feed ramp in the barrel extension, but I can’t confirm this yet. And I don’t know if there are other changes. The rest of the barrel is pretty boring. 1:7 twist rate, that government profile1, and a midlength gas system. The midlength gas system is a noticeable difference, being somewhat longer than the standard carbine length. A midlength gas system is somewhat softer recoiling, and probably leads to improved reliability when using a suppressor (which increases the gas pressure in the system). Note that they did not specify the medium-weight “Socom” profile barrel. Overkill for expected uses? Not proven? Weight Conscious? I’m honestly not sure.

The handguard is Geissele’s Mk 16, and is 13″ long and free floated. It has a picatinny rail at the top and Mlok slots all around2. This is a big improvement over the usual plastic handguard or the KAC RAS system, which has picatinny rails and isn’t free floated. Plus a longer rail means more room for one’s hand as well as accessories. The older handguards had room for lights and lasers or your hand, but not both. Geissele handguards are very nice, and have a well-designed attachment system.

The full length handguard means the standard triangular front sight block has to go. It’s been replaced by the Geissele Super Gas Block, which is low profile, and held in place by two setscrews and a taper pin. I like pinned gasblocks. They’re sturdier. Good choice here.

Geissele also makes the charging handle. It’s bigger, sturdier, and better suited to just grabbing or pulling at one side, like lots of modern guys do. It’s a fine choice.

The other difference in play is the muzzle device. The Brownells version (for civvies) has the Surefire S3F, which is a three-pronged flash hider that also serves as an adapter for the quick-detach mechanism used in Surefire’s silencers. The military is probably getting the S4F (with four prongs). I don’t know why the difference there. It’s still a suppressor adapter, and remember, Surefire’s silencers won the SOCOM testing.

Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty solid set of improvements, and results in a gun better than the previous PIP. I would like to see more if it were up to me, namely a better barrel profile and some bolt carrier group improvements. Both Lewis Machine and Tool and Knights Armament have some available improvements there, and I’d like to see some evaluations. Especially if suppressors are going to be used a lot.

Will I buy one? No. I don’t have much use for factory uppers these days. Building my own isn’t hard, and then I get to make all of the parts choices, and get things suited for me and my uses. And I don’t do clone builds. But it’s a solid upper if you’re in the market for one.

Finally, let’s do a quick weight comparison with the upper for a standard M4. The lower is separate, and needs no changing provided it has the safe/semi-/full-auto trigger group. Some of these weights are approximate because of what is and isn’t available on the market yet, but I wouldn’t expect them to change too much. I’ll update these as I get better numbers.

PartM4Weight (lbs)URG-IWeight (lbs)
Barrel14.5″ gov’t.1.614.5 gov’t.1.6
Upper receiverA30.6A30.6
Handguarddouble shield0.72Geissele Mk 14 (13″)0.75
Gas BlockFSB0.33Geissele sgb0.1
Gas Tubecarbine0.04midlength0.05
BCGstandard0.72standard0.72
muzzle deviceA2 Birdcage0.14SF3P0.24
charging handlestandard0.08geissele sch0.09
TOTALM44.23URG-I4.15

Notes: Upper receiver weight includes the dust cover and forward assist. Listed handguard weights include all mounting hardware. The Mk. 14 only has Mlok slots at 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00.

Not bad. Despite the stupid government profile barrel, a little weight was trimmed.


  1. Which I hate. A lot. It’s profoundly stupid, but that’s probably why it’s called the “government” profile. I guess we can’t expect them to fix everything at once. 
  2. “All around” being 1:30, 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, 7:30, 9:00, and 10:30. Also, Mlok is lighter than picatinny rails, woo. And some study found it tougher than the rival keymod. 

Parvusimperator Reviews the PX4C

Okay, this is Fishbreath’s gun, it’s true. And I’ve been pestering him to review it, but he hasn’t.

Fine. I’ll review it.

Don’t worry, Fishbreath. I’ll do my best to be impartial.

The PX4C (Compact) is a newish double action pistol from Beretta. Well, certainly newer than the Beretta 92, which is what you probably think of when I say “Beretta handgun”. The PX4C doesn’t have a ton of market share, partially because Beretta is bad at marketing, partially because Beretta hasn’t kept market share amongst law enforcement departments (see: Is Bad At Marketing), and partially because the PX4s came out a bit too late. The PX4s were released in 2004, when double-action triggers were going out of vogue. And there they have more or less stayed. If they came out in the 90s, back when double action triggers were Still Cool, they would have sold like crack, and you would hear lots about how nice they were.

Which brings us to an obvious point. These are double action semiautomatics. I am not a fan of these, personally. If you are not either for whatever reason, then (1) these will probably not make a convert out of you and (2) these can’t be turned into something that they aren’t: a striker-fired or single action only pistol. If you want something else, get something else.

On the other hand, if you are a fan of double action pistols, then the PX4C is a great choice, because it is about Glock 19 sized and polymer framed. The Glock 19 size (roughly) is big enough that you can easily get a good grip on the gun, but small enough that most people won’t have too much trouble concealing it with a modicum of effort. You can get good shooting smaller pistols, and you can conceal bigger pistols with a little more effort, but the Glock 19 is the sweet spot of balancing concealability and firepower. This gives you the same size package, the same fifteen round capacity, but a double action trigger. It’s also the only game in town if you like the double action trigger and want something in the Glock 19 form factor (and don’t feel like giving up a couple rounds). That’s really cool.

Oh, and polymer framed because it’s nicer to carry less weight around on your belt.

The PX4C has the Beretta-standard safety/decocker on the slide. I’m not a fan of this location, but it’s easier to reach with your strong hand than on a Beretta 92. You can convert it to a decocker-only lever with a really easy parts swap, and these parts are easy to come by.

I’ve also heard some occasional stories of issues if these pistols get dry, like in high round count classes. To the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t happened to Fishbreath, but he doesn’t do 2,000 round marathons of shooting. The PX4C might be a little needier of lubrication than, say, a Glock. I don’t know enough about this to know how big an issue it is. The occasional story comes up. I can’t confirm the cause either. The rotating barrel system is different, for better and for worse. It does make the pistol a bit softer shooting, but 9 mm isn’t all that stout to begin with. It might be more interesting to try one in .40, but I don’t have access to one.

The PX4C comes with interchangeable backstraps, which is nice. They could be grippier, but I say that about everything. This is easy to fix with some stippling or skateboard tape. Or maybe you like a smoother grip, in which case the PX4C is perfect for you as-is.

There’s actually a decent amount of Beretta parts support for these. There are low-profile safety/decocker levers, low profile slide releases, and a variety of sizes of mag catches. You can also use the mainspring from a Beretta 8000D to improve the double-action trigger pull by a significant amount. And, unfortunately, there is where the support stops. With searching you can find holsters. It is very difficult to find sight alternatives, though Trijicon does make both their standard three-dot tritium sights and their HDs for the PX4s. Stock sights are three-dot units.

So there you have it, readers. The PX4C is a great option for you if you like to carry reasonably-sized double action pistols. In which case, you owe it to yourself to give these a go. They’re pretty easy to overlook given all of the fancy Beretta 92 variants of late, but these are quite a bit easier to carry.

Also, if you’re on the fence, there’s an Ernest Langdon Custom Carry Edition, with actually good sights and all of the low profile controls added right out of the box. It also even comes with some grip tape. This is the version I would suggest you get, dear reader.

On Glock Safeties

A few weeks ago, Fishbreath and I were looking at another striker-fired pistol1 being found to be not drop safe. Fishbreath commented that he’d really like to see these barrel-up-at-30-degrees drop tests done to the Glock 43 and the M&P Shield. I promptly obliged him with a video. Glocks have three safeties designed to work together to prevent firing when dropped at any angle. Let’s take a look at how they work. An understanding of the trigger mechanism and the safeties it employs is also useful when attempting to modify that trigger system.
Continue reading

SIG P365

The market for small single stack (and staggered-single stack) pistols for concealed carry is huge. In my eyes, they’ve neatly usurped the old S&W J-Frame in the small concealment weapon space. Perfect for NPEs and the backup gun role. For my money, I’d much prefer striker fired triggers to heavy double action revolver triggers. Plus, the sights on the Glock 43 and M&P Shield are easily interchanged. Sights on most J-Frames aren’t. And what comes on the gun are atrocious.

So it makes sense that SIG would try to get in on this market. Using the same sort of striker-fired action as in their P320, they’ve come out with the P365. It’s sized in between the Glock 43 and the M&P Shield, as seen below

Glock 43, P365, M&P Shield
From left to right: Glock 43, P365, M&P Shield.

What makes the P365 special is the capacity. Where the Glock 43 holds six rounds with the standard, nonextended basepad, and the Shield holds seven rounds with the standard, nonextended basepad, the P365 holds ten rounds with the standard, nonextended basepad. It’s still thin and small, so it will still conceal very well. But more bullets. More bullets is better. Otherwise, ergos are very much a slimmed down P320. I’d expect the trigger to be like the P320 as well, so short and heavy and doing its best to resemble the single action trigger of something like a P226 or P229. Eminently shootable to be sure, and way better than the trigger on a J-Frame.

This idea sounds like a winner. And it probably will be. I have my reservations, at least as of when this goes to press. First, I don’t like to buy first generation anything for firearms. I am not a beta tester. I am not a member of anyone’s QC department. And I don’t do that work for free. So I’ll wait a little, just to make sure the bugs are gone. And that goes double for anything that says SIG on the side. Between the P320 drop-safety recall and their history of QC problems with their traditional P22X guns since setting up the plant in Exeter, they get an even longer wait. I do not like the current management either.

All that said, I would like this gun to work well, because I’d love a small backup gun with more bullets.

On the Glock 19X

Glock has released their MHS entrant to the civilian market: the Glock 19X.

It’s got all the Gen 5 improvements: no finger grooves, an improved trigger, and ambidextrous slide stop, plus the texture and replaceable backstraps from the Gen 4 models. By all accounts, the Gen 5 models are awesome. I’m most excited about the improved trigger. It’s better than previous factory models and very competitive with the aftermarket options.

Of course, there are Gen 5 options available for the Glock 19, the Glock 17, Glock 34 MOS, and Glock 26 out there already. The Glock 19X is different. It pairs the full-size frame of a Glock 17 with the compact slide and barrel of a Glock 19.

Glock made this design to fit the “box” of the MHS size specifications. It will probably do well on the civilian market, as short-slide, full-size grip 1911s, snubnosed K-Frames, and subcompact pistols with grip-extending magazines are very popular.

I’m not a fan of the 19X from a concealment perspective, because the height is more annoying to conceal than the length. If I’m going to carry a full-size grip, I might as well get the sight radius of a full-size gun. Plus, those tend to recoil a little softer. I’d be a little more interested in a Glock 19 frame with a Glock 17 slide and barrel for concealment, but that’s just me.

However, if you wanted to build an Open Glock, the Glock 19X is a great base gun. It just needs an MOS model or some milling for an optic. The shorter slide means that if you opt for a smaller compensator like the KKM or Black Rifle units, your pistol will fit in a Glock 34 holster. So you’ll be able to find a holster quickly and cheaply. With a bigger compensator like the SJC, you’ll still have a shorter overall pistol to help transitions, plus a lighter slide that improves recoil characteristics.

You also get the longer, Glock 17 grip. This is nice partially because I prefer the grip on the Glock 17. Your mileage may vary. What doesn’t vary are the magwell options. There are a wide variety of large, competition magwells available for the Glock 17 size frame. Small differences make these not viable for Glock 19s. Bigger magwells are more forgiving than small ones. Plus, there are a wide variety of materials (and therefore weights) available.

There you have it. A concept with plenty of admirers, albeit for different reasons. It’s good to see more options.

SOCOM, the USMC, and the Glock 19

The Glock 19 is Glock’s “Compact” pistol. It’s got a barrel length of just over four inches, has a height of about five inches, depending on sights, and holds 15 rounds in a magazine. It’s a great compromise between concealability and fightability, since it’s about as small as a pistol can be and still allow the vast majority of adults to get a full grip on the gun. The Glock 19 is a strong seller in the US civilian market, but it is also popular in SOCOM. They’ve even type-classed the Glock 19 Gen4 MOS. And the USMC has just ordered a large number of Glock 19Ms. And all this despite SIG winning the US Army’s Modular Handgun contract.

SOCOM has been the big user of Glock 19s for years in the DoD, so let’s look at them first. They’ve type-classed the Glock 19 Gen4 MOS with threaded barrel as the Mark 27. Type classing assigns a national stock number and makes it easy to order more in the future. SOCOM is a big user of the Glock 19, and this shows an eye towards the future of pistol sights: micro red dot optics. SOCOM’s current pistol red dot of choice is the Leupold Deltapoint Pro. While they could have selected a custom-milled solution, choosing the MOS model gives them something that can be ordered direct from the factory, and it allows them to easily switch optics in the future if desired.

The choice of Deltapoint Pro may be noteworthy, if only because it’s not the RMR that’s so commonly seen for duty-type applications. The RMR has significantly better battery life, and may be a bit tougher than the Deltapoint Pro. The Deltapoint Pro’s larger window makes it a bit easier for shooters to get used to, since there’s a larger area where they can see the dot. The biggest advantage of the Deltapoint Pro is that one can replace the battery without having to remove (and rezero) the optic. This more than makes up for the less than ideal battery life. Batteries can be easily swapped before missions or training sessions, without having to then verify the zero of the optic.

The Marines have opted for the same Glock 19M that the FBI adopted. Of course, the FBI also adopted the Glock 17M, and the reader may be wondering why not that pistol? Let’s consider the intended users. The Marines may espouse the concept of ‘Every Man a Rifleman’ but there are some jobs where this just doesn’t work. Pilots for example. A pistol also gives the option of carrying concealed, which is great for criminal investigators, and those conducting interviews. Or those that need to be around questionable allies. It allows the soldier to be armed without appearing to be armed. So the Marines are coming at it from the same way so many concealed carriers are: the Glock 19 is just about the perfect size. Smallness helps concealment, especially with respect to the “height” or “length” of the grip. And the Glock 19’s grip is about as small as it can be and still allow the user to get a full grip on it (i.e. no fingers are hanging off to be curled below it). The Glock 19 doesn’t give up much to the Glock 17 as far as shootability goes, but it’s quite a bit more concealable. For those who aren’t needing concealment, the pistol is still a secondary weapon system. A smaller, lighter pistol is easier to fit on their gear in a cockpit with all the other stuff they have to carry. Or on their belt for SOCOM.

The reader may also be wondering “Why not the P320 Compact?” Well, the Marines do have a history of working a lot with both SOCOM and the FBI, and they both like Glocks. Also, the MHS program was not as thorough as the FBI’s tests were as far as high round count reliability tests are concerned. The full-size MHS entrants (P320) went through 12,500 rounds to check reliability and establish an MRBS of 2,000 rounds with a 90% confidence level. The compact entrants (P320C) only had to go through 1,500 rounds of evaluation. The FBI tests included 20,000 rounds for each of the full size and compact entrants. So the Glock 19M has verified reliability in a way that the P320C doesn’t.

Shotgun Build 2: No Limit Scattergun

For USPSA, I love Open because I think it’s cool. If I’m gonna shoot a racegun, I want the fastest, blastiest racegun. I don’t want a bunch of rules about what I can’t do. Plus, electro-optical sights are cool, and loud compensators are also cool.

In 3-Gun, Open Shotguns are even better. Not only do they get cool red dot sights and cool compensators to spit fire, but they have a whole bunch of nonstandard magazine designs open to them. One such idea is the X-Rail, which is a cluster of four magazine extensions in a rotary unit, kind of like a giant revolver. Each holds six shells, so you get 24 out on the front. It’s super heavy, but you won’t have to reload as much. Empty gun starts still suck.

On the one hand, the X-Rail lets you use highly reliable, proven shotguns, like Benelli M2s. On the other hand, that’s a lot of weight on the end, and I’m not a big fan of super heavy weapons. Especially when the weight is out on the end of the gun. So that’s out. Pretty arbitrarily, but I don’t care. This is my list.

I want a shotgun that feeds from detachable box magazines. Shotgun shells make these difficult to make, and for some stupid reason, no company in America makes any sort of base gun that we can work with. Which leaves us the choice of Russian Saiga 12s, Russian Vepr 12s, Turkish MKA-1919s, or Turkish XTR-12s.

And no, those aren’t staying stock. Once again, I’m going to order a tricked out one, mostly because I don’t have the expertise to do that myself. Plus, some of the things commonly done to a race shotgun aren’t things I can do myself.

The other complication is the bans on imports of Russian weapons, which could distort prices when I finally go to purchase. That said, there are a lot of imported guns. And, unlike my pump gun, this was never going to get done on the cheap. This shouldn’t disqualify the Russian-made guns out of the gate, especially because I can still get base models for a reasonable price on Gunbroker.

Right out of the gate, we can eliminate the Saiga 12s, because the Veprs do everything the Saigas do, except way better. The Vepr comes in a not-stupid configuration out of the box. The Vepr doesn’t need tuning to actually work out of the box. The Vepr has a much more consistent build quality.

We can also eliminate the XTR-12 pretty quick. At the time of writing (October 2017) there are issues with getting large-capacity magazines to work reliably. And that’s the whole freaking point of open shotguns. There’s also very poor aftermarket support for these.

Two down. Now, the MKA-1919 actually comes in a couple different versions. One is from Tooth and Nail, and comes heavily tricked out. The other is from Firebird precision, and they remake most of the components right here in America. So, better tolerances, and hopefully better reliability. However, they don’t offer a compensator option. The T&N MKA 1919 build is available with a mid-barrel compensator. So, at this point I’m inclined to only look at the T&N one, given the better configuration options.

Vepr-12s from Dissident Arms also come with nice big compensator options. They use compensators at the end of the barrel rather than midbarrel ones. On the one hand, the Vepr-12 will have some increased costs from requiring a charging handle conversion (i.e putting a charging handle on the left side of the receiver).1 On the other hand, the Vepr-12 is probably the most reliable. It’s certainly the most reliable out of the box. In fact, it’s one of the few detachable box fed magazine shotguns to function reasonably out of the box. Points in its favor.

The other item in the room is ‘classic Russian Ergonomics’. Which we can improve somewhat. We can get a safety that’s workable with the shooting hand thumb or trigger finger without removing our shooting hand from its place. As mentioned before, we can put the charging handle on the correct side of the gun with a simple modification. We can also get a modification to be able to drop the magazines with our trigger finger. On the other hand, the MKA 1919 has AR-style controls. Well, other than the charging handle placement. It is at least on the proper side out of the box.

Now, to my way of thinking, that’s about a wash. Competitively equipped models are about the same price. However, the Vepr-12 has one other edge over the MKA 1919: I live near, and have squadded with, a member of the Dissident Arms shooting team, and he’s pretty active on youtube as well. So there’s a nearby Vepr-12 expert that I know.

And there you have it. My pick is the Vepr-12, tricked out into awesomeness by Dissident Arms.


  1. Someone2 might chime in that the normal charging handle on the right side. This is true and completely irrelevant. Open guns are made to fit you not the other way around. Also, if you want competition guns on the cheap, you’ve got the wrong division. 
  2. Possibly Fishbreath. 

StG v. LMG

I got the awesome book Sturmgewehr! recently from Collector Grade Publications, and it contains tons of great stuff. It’s got a detailed history of the crazy internal politics and the various iterations of the prototypes that would eventually become the world’s first assault rifle.

All of that is awesome. And that alone would be worth the price of admission. Engineering prototypes are cool, and it’s great to track the evolution of an idea as it intersects with operational realities in testing. Plus, despite (or perhaps because of) being a dictatorship, the Third Reich had some crazy political struggles, with all kinds of subterfuge and pet projects and competing notions. Right there, I had my money’s worth.

But I was hoping for more, and happily Collector Grade (and the Waffenamt’s obsessive documentation) delivered. What I was really interested in was how the Germans figured they would be deploying this new weapon. Clearly, an assault rifle can replace bolt action rifles, semiautomatic-only rifles like the Gewehr 43, and submachine guns like the MP-40. That’s most of the weapons of the squad right there. But what about Hitler’s Buzzsaw? Can the StG-44 plausibly replace the MG-42? Did the Germans figure this was a net gain or a net loss?

Let’s look at the technical considerations for that very comparison, comparisons forged in the hellish engagements of the Eastern Front. I’ll have a follow up where I look at the 1944 organization tables built with the StG-44 in mind. Note that the Germans frequently deployed prototype StG-44s to combat units to gain feedback. One of the questions asked was “Can this weapon replace the MG-42 in an infantry squad?”

Anyway, let’s grab some relevant figures for comparison, so we have them all in one place. The MG-42 weighs 25.51 lbs, is chambered for 7.92x57mm Mauser, is belt fed, and fires at about 1,200 rounds per minute. We’re concerned primarily with the light machine gun use case, so not supported by the excellent tripod. While the MG-42 could be operated by one man, in practice a second man was designated to be the ammunition bearer, and would also help carry spare barrels.

The StG-44 weighs about 10 lbs unloaded, is chambered for 7.92x33mm Kurz, is detachable box magazine fed, and fires at about 500-600 rounds per minute (cyclic). A lot like a modern assault rifle.

When comparing the two options, it should be noted that this was not a one for one replacement. That is, the StG-44 would not be issued one per squad or fireteam in the fashion of the M1918 BAR. Rather, it was a shift to a ‘distributed firepower’ model, something like that of the Soviet submachine gun regiments. Clearly the StG-44 was a lot handier, and could be easily used in a trench or in built-up areas. A squad of StG-44s didn’t provide one obvious target for enemy suppression, and when relocating, did not have a significant drop in effective firepower as the machine gun was moved.

While the firepower of one MG-42 was significantly greater than that of one StG-44, given the different rates of fire and the relative capacities of a belt and a box magazine. Since the StG-44 was to be deployed en masse, this wasn’t a focus of comparison. It may interest the reader to know that Wehrmacht planners figured three StG-44s were roughly equivalent in close-in firepower to one MG-42.

The one big advantage the MG-42 held was at range. The MG-42 was still effective at ranges beyond 500 meters, but the StG-44 was never designed to be effective at these ranges. In the evaluations, units that were stationed in areas of Russia with long sightlines placed a high value on the MG-42 and keeping it available. Units that did not have many long sightlines available at the time of evaluation tended to value the handiness of the StG-44, and reckoned it could completely replace the MG-42.

Next time we’ll look at the units equipped with the StG-44, at least as they were drawn up on the organization tables.

(Snarky) Confessions of a Recovering Tactical Timmy

I’ve gone to a bunch of “defensive”/”tactical” training classes1. And I’ve enjoyed them, and I have a lot of good friends who teach such things. That said, I’ve noticed a few quirks, and there are a few little things that annoy me. Maybe this is just me becoming more of a “gamer”. Whatever. I don’t care. Since I’m snarky, I’m going to point some of them out here.

  1. “It’s not a stage!”
    Continue reading

Parvusimperator Reviews a Remington 870 Police Magnum

I have some local trainer friends who teach a well-regarded shotgun class. I decided to take it to learn some things about how to use a scattergun, which of course meant that I needed a shotgun. My choice was a cop trade-in Remington 870 Police pump-action shotgun. At first, this might seem like a very un-Parvusimperator choice, so let’s review the reasoning.

  1. It was cheap. I picked this thing up for less than half the MSRP of a brand-new 870P. So I’m getting to class on the cheap, which is nice when I’ve burned through my training budget and am saving for a fancy USPSA Open pistol.
  2. It’s quality. The 870P is made with better parts than a regular 870, and this one is old enough to date from back before the “freedom group” axed Remington’s QC department in search of greater profits. So I have a cheap, reliable gun that I won’t have to worry about going wrong mechanically in class.
  3. I like the idea of taking an old, beat up shotgun and making it mine. Sort of like adopting a pet, but for guns.
  4. If I ended up disliking it, I could probably get all my money back selling it, given that I bought the gun used and that it’s a desirable Police model 870.

Upon unboxing, I discovered my shotgun was as expected. Date codes on the barrel told me the shotgun was built in 1995. In the meantime, the synthetic furniture on it had been beaten to hell and back. Someone had gouged “VAULT” in the stock. The ‘brass bead’ sight no longer had any finish resembling brass. The receiver was well-patinaed, and had a good bit of rust.

On the plus side, all of the metal is sound, and the action is very smooth. Running it is a joy, and brings a smile to my face. Also, I have no complaints about the trigger. It’s not something superfancy, but it also has no glaring problems.

I didn’t have a ton of time to get the shotgun ready for class. Clearly, I wouldn’t be able to get it cerakoted or anything, and I was expecting class in the rain. I did have time to make a couple changes in preparation. Did you really think I would not? I added a Magpul SGA-870 stock and a Wilson Combat +2 extension.

I’ve talked about the Magpul stock before. But it bears talking through again. Magpul put a lot of thought into this stock. It’s the best stock out there for shotguns. It’s super comfortable and is easily adjustable for length of pull. I’m not a tall guy, and I don’t have gorilla arms, so I normally get very annoyed at the very long length of pull on factory stocks on shotguns. They’re probably “tradition” or some nonsense.1 Anyway, problem solved, problem staying solved. It also comes with a nice rubber recoil pad. Replacing the old rubber recoil pad is something that should be done on general principle given the age of the shotgun and how much abuse the old stock had gone through. As a bonus, the stock came with some sling attachment points.

Lots of people make magazine tube extensions. I picked the Wilson one because the price was reasonable, the quality is good, and it came with all of the other extras I wanted, namely a new high-visibility follower, a new magazine spring, and a front sling attachment point. The high-visibility follower is very helpful in a class environment for administratively verifying that the weapon is unloaded. Even if I didn’t get the magazine tube extension, I would have wanted to replace the magazine spring because I don’t know the age of it.

On to class! How did the shotgun do? What did I learn about the parts? And what is coming for our rescued shotgun?

My shotgun ran great in class. Several others had shit break on their guns. One guy had the handguard become detached from the loading forks. Another had a screw come loose inside his receiver and jam things up. People switched to backup guns. But my old 870 Police Magnum gave me no trouble at all. Despite being old and unproven (to me), I had a great time with my shotgun, and my small initial investment paid off.

My existing mods were also good choices. My instructor friends are also huge fans of the Magpul stocks. I found that it did everything I asked. I got the length of pull adjusted to suit my preferences, and that helped. The stock even made supporting and firing the gun one-handed reasonable.

I also had no complaints about the extension. More ammo is better. Duh. The spring worked great. No jams. Plus, the high visibility follower was in fact very visible.

What I did find unsatisfactory was the two-point sling. I rigged this up like I would rig up one of my carbines, using a VTAC sling. This wasn’t my best build plan ever. Having a sling mounted in front of the handguard on a pump shotgun ended up being super annoying, because it seemed like it was always getting in the way. Plus, the shotgun always felt askew when it was hanging on the sling. On a carbine, I’d just move the sling adapters, but I can’t do that here. This will take some more thought.

The ‘formerly-brass’ bead sight on the shotgun was a reasonable sighting system. It wasn’t great. For most “indoors” distances, it will work fine if you’re using something with a pattern like non-flite-control buckshot or birdshot. I found that at distances, the lack of a good second reference made headshots with slugs harder to achieve than I would like. I will probably end up getting the shotgun drilled and tapped for a picatinny rail so I can mount a small red dot. Because I freaking love red dots, and I love the target-focused shooting paradigm that they get you into.

While the gun worked great, there are things that need changing. I’ve talked sights, even if those are “wants” more than needs. A bigger priority is the finish. The one on the gun is toast. When I asked gunsmiths in the class about getting the rust off, they told me not to worry about killing the finish, because it’s already crap. Not that 870s are known for their good factory finishes.2 This is going to get redone in…something. I don’t know what yet. Stay tuned.


  1. Ask Fishbreath. 
  2. Seriously, how does Remington’s parkerizing suck so hard? My M1 Garand also has a parkerized finish on its metal parts, and it’s a bit more than twice as old as my 870, and the finish on my M1 is fine. No rust.