High-Tech: Remington Model 870 Police Magnum

This a practical review of the Remington Model 870 Police Magnum pump-action shotgun, with an eye towards its performance in games like GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, and Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game.


Describing the Model 870 Police Magnum

The Model 870 Police Magnum pump-action shotgun with internal hammer was introduced by the Remington Arms Co of Ilion, New York, in 1985. It differs from the older Model 870 Police pattern in being chambered for the slightly longer 12-gauge 3” (18.5×76mmR) shells. Remington states that the Model 870 Police Magnum is made on a different production line than the ordinary Model 870. It features stronger springs in the sear, lifter, and magazine, and a sturdier extractor and trigger guard. It is available with or without rifle sights, although the latter are recommended. Remington has made well over 10 million Model 870 shotguns since 1950, most of them hunting patterns.

Unlike earlier pump-action designs, the Model 870 has dual action bars that connect the handguard to the action. This ensures reliability, and the Model 870 is a very dependable weapon. Like all manually-operated guns, it can jam if the shooter makes a mistake while operating the action ‒ such as “short-stroking” ‒, but as long as the handguard is vigorously pumped, the thing will keep on shooting. It is easy to shoot five 20-cm (7.9”) steel plates side-by-side on a rack at 15 m (16.4 yards) from a skeet ready position ‒ gun at hip level ‒ in 4 seconds. The clue to picking up speed lies in pumping as soon as the shot breaks, rather than recovering and then cycling.

The 47-cm (18.5”) barrel on the Model 870 Police Magnum is typically cylinder-bored; different lengths and chokes are available. Overall length of the gun is 99 cm (39”), loaded weight 3.682 kg (8.12 lbs). The short barrel and low weight make the gun handy, but together with the absence of a choke the barrel makes long-range shots with buck or birdshot difficult.

Compare the pattern of a 33-g (1.15 oz.) Winchester 00 buckshot load with its nine 8.6-mm (0.34”) pellets at 5 m, 10 m, 15 m, 20 m, and 50 m. All were shot at a sheet of paper 21 cm wide and 29.7 cm high (8.3”×11.7”). At 5 m (5.5 yards), the pellets strike almost as one mass, scattering virtually not at all. The large hole on the upper right was made by the shot cup, the plastic container holding the pellets together in the barrel. At 10 m (10.9 yards), there is a distinctive spread of the nine pellets; the cup usually does not travel that far. At 15 m (16.4 yards), only six pellets hit. At 20 m (21.9 yards), only four pellets hit. Finally at 50 m (54.7 yards), only one pellet hit.

Using 28.4-g (1 oz.) Brenneke KO CleanSpeed rifled slugs, a 1/3-scale IPSC target 15 cm (5.9”) wide and 20.8 cm (8.2”) high can easily be hit at 10 m, 25 m, and 50 m.

The short barrel results in a short magazine tube. Although the magazine is labelled “extended” ‒ and it is, compared to the normal Model 870, which takes four cartridges ‒ it will room only six 12-gauge 3” (18.5×76mmR), 12-gauge 2.75” (18.5×70mmR), or 12-gauge 2.65” (18.5×67.5mmR) shells. If 12-gauge 2.5” (18.5×63.5mmR) shells are used, then another cartridge can be crammed in, for a total capacity of 6+1 or 7+1 rounds with one in the chamber. The short shells are now popular with tactical users or in IPSC matches, as the low capacity, compounded by the relatively slow reloading procedure, is a distinct disadvantage in anything but the briefest shooting situations.

The Model 870 Police Magnum comes with wooden or black synthetic stocks. There is no real upside to either pattern, although the synthetic stocks are less easily marred.

The safety is a cross-bolt in the rear edge of the trigger guard. I find this quick to disengage, but it is rather inconvenient for a southpaw.

The Model 870 Police Magnum has swivels for a two-point sling. A one-point sling requires an accessory backplate with sling swivel.

In Gaming

To date, I have covered the Remington Model 870 Police Magnum in several game books, including in GURPS High-Tech (2008) (pp. 105-106), Investigator Weapons 2: Modern Day (2014) (pp. 145-147), and the Cthulhu Waffenhandbuch (2008) (pp. 130-131).

In GURPS, the rifle sights make quite a difference, as they provide +1 Acc when slugs are used (High-Tech, p. 166).

In Call of Cthulhu, the rifle sights allow effective use with rifled slugs (Investigator Weapons 2, p. 188). Note how the stepped Damage reduction at the three Base Range bands ‒ full/half/quarter Damage at Base Range 10/20/50 ‒ quite realistically models the fact that the farther away the target, the fewer pellets will hit.

In Delta Green, the Model 870 does not differ from other Shotguns except for its Ammo.

Firearms Table

For an explanation of the statistics, see Delta Green: Agent’s Handbook, pp. 32, 54, 57, 60, 84, 97.

Weapon Skill Base Range Damage Lethality Ammo Capacity Armour Piercing Expense
Remington Model 870 Police Magnum, 12-gauge 3” (firing shot) Firearms 50 m 2D10/1D10/1D6 N/A 7 N/A Standard
Remington Model 870 Police Magnum, 12-gauge 3” (firing slug) Firearms 75 m 2D6 N/A 7 N/A Standard

At the Picture Show

Some of the best scenes featuring the Model 870 Police Magnum can be seen in The Way of the Gun (2000), in which it is expertly used by antisocial thugs “Mr Longabaugh” (Benicio del Toro) and “Mr Parker” (Ryan Philippe). Note how during the initial kidnapping, “Mr Longabaugh” suffers a stovepipe jam which he quickly and efficiently clears with the left hand without taking the gun off the shoulder. Later, “Mr Parker” employs it with a three-point sling and a dump pouch with at least 25 shells.