Home Product Reviews Remington 870 HHD: The New Older By: Jim Davis

Remington 870 HHD: The New Older By: Jim Davis

Remington 870 HHD: The New Older   By: Jim Davis

Remington is an old, American institution dating back to 1816. The company was the largest rifle manufacturer in North America. They’ve certainly had their ups and downs in recent times. How is their quality holding up? I recently acquired a Remington 870 HHD shotgun, so let’s take a look-see and find out!

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The Remington 870 as a Duty Weapon

When I began working for my state’s DOC (Department Of Corrections) in 1990, the Remington 870 was our issued shotgun. We used it for everything. It was general issue for emergencies within the prison system, and to this day it is still an issued shotgun. We also used it if we were transporting high-risk inmates to outside functions such as medical procedures at hospitals, court functions, or other facilities. Finally, it was widely used on our Emergency Response Team (our tactical unit).

In the prison system, the danger of inmate rioting is very real and does happen on occasion (I’ve been through a few). And what better to use to combat riots than a riot gun? Buckshot is good medicine for dealing with large crowds of very hostile customers.

Cell block in a prison.
One of the cell blocks in the prison where I used to work. Cell blocks housed 650 to 750 inmates. They don’t call shotguns “riot guns” for nothing. (Photo: Author’s collection)

On one particular occasion, inmates had taken control of a cell block and several staff were not permitted to leave. As a CERT member, I was activated along with other team members. We were quickly briefed on the situation and were gearing up, including loading our Remington 870 Tactical shotguns. Our mission: take back that cell block. Our deputy superintendent communicated to the inmates on the block and advised them that unless they immediately went into their cells, he’d be sending in a team of operators who would have no problem opening fire on them and they would most likely be killed. He was not lying, as we were preparing to do just that.

Upon hearing that we were on the way to launch a tactical operation upon them, the inmates immediately stood down and locked into their cells. How many inmates were on the block? Approximately 650. I found it comforting that I was armed with the 870; I knew I could unleash absolute hell with it, not to mention my teammates were with me.

Yes, I was willing to take the 870 into combat. And I would today.

In all those years of using the 870, with all the rounds I’ve seen fired on the range, maintenance issues were at an absolute minimum. Our shotguns just did not break down often, if ever. The only stoppages I ever observed were from user error when people would short-stroke the weapons. The reliability factor of our 870s was approaching mythical/supernatural status! And believe me, we beat those guns without mercy. During qualification times, it was typical for the guns to run for thousands of rounds before being cleaned.

The benefits of familiarity and confidence in your weapon.

From the very outset, I was trained on the 870. Over the course of my years as an officer, I put tens of thousands of rounds through the 870. Annual qualifications, trainings, instructor courses, tactical courses—the 870 had become an extension of my soul, it seemed.

Over the years, the manual of arms for the Remington 870 became second nature and reflexive for me. All the controls are simple and intuitive, thanks to all those hours of training, particularly the action release and safety. I’ve used shotguns from other manufacturers, and every time I do, my hand reflexively goes to the front of the trigger guard to hit the action release. I just feel comfortable and confident with the 870.

870 steel receiver and action release.
After years of training, my index finger instinctively finds the action release as soon as I pick up an 870. Familiarity with a weapon of choice is golden.

Let me make one thing clear: I’m not a shotgun guy. I much prefer rifles because the ability to put one projectile precisely where I want it is more appealing to me than launching a swarm of pellets. Most of the time.

So why did I get a shotgun? As I mentioned, that built-up familiarity and confidence was the major factor. It just makes sense to me to have one.

Plus, it’s my friend, Jason’s fault. Not long ago, he got an 870 Tactical. Ever since we had it to the range to test it out, it rekindled my desire to have a shotgun in my battery. So it’s his fault, damn him!

And then there’s the fact that the 12 gauge has awesome power at close range. More on that later.

Good shotguns are hard to get!

As this is written, good shotguns are in incredibly short supply. Most of the ones at my local gun shops are made in Turkey and are knockoffs. A family member went the “Made In Turkey” route last year and that pump action shotgun couldn’t get through a magazine of shells without several stoppages. In short, it was abysmal! At that point, we decided we’d only be buying shotguns that are made in America.

I was saddened to learn that even Winchester shotguns are now made in Turkey.

With quality shotguns being in short supply, it seems that prices have risen in my area of PA.

I did some shopping online and discovered that Bud’s Gunshop had the Remington 870 HHD shotgun in stock, so I ordered one. Normally, Bud’s ships very quickly, but not in this case. The 870 didn’t ship out for at least a week, and then took another week to arrive.

The Power Factor of a Shotgun

The most wonderful thing about shotguns, and the first virtue that everyone points out is that they are powerful. I sure won’t deny that.

Unleashing a swarm of buckshot into a target is decidedly effective. The typical OO buckshot in 12-gauge normally has eight or nine .33 caliber pellets traveling around 1,300 feet per second, give or take a little. Remington has a load on the market that has 12 pellets of OO buckshot. That’s a lot of lead!

The charm is that all those pellets (presuming we’ve done our part) hit the target simultaneously. The ballistics aren’t great—they’re just round spheres hurtling through the air. They don’t penetrate especially well. But the fact that they all hit at once is the telling factor that causes a huge shock to the recipient.

Specialized Weapon

As long as shooters realize that the shotgun is a specialized weapon and know its limitations, they should be fine. Normal ranges using buckshot are about 35-40 yards, maybe even a bit more, depending on conditions. For populated areas, it will be a little shorter because we want to ensure that all pellets stay inside the target since we’re responsible for every projectile that we put out there.

If we’re in a rural setting with no other people around, longer shots can be made with the shotgun.

Some people will advocate using slugs if precision is needed from the shotgun. My reply to that is, why not just use a rifle then? Aside from better accuracy, most rifles won’t subject the shooter to punishing recoil either.

Remington 870 Hardwood Home Defense (HHD)

Remington introduced a new “older” combat shotgun in their 870 HHD model. HHD stands for Hardwood Home Defense. It’s a classic, retro look that I found very appealing. I’ll be honest, I’d strongly considered getting the Tactical model 870 with the synthetic hardware. However, the classic look with the wood furniture was really appealing and that’s what won out with me.

Author with the 870 on the range.
The 870 HHD looks like a classic and performs like a tactical shotgun. I would prefer a slightly shorter buttstock.

I find the classic look of the walnut wood to be quite fetching. It reminds me of some of the older guns from my department’s inventory. That bit of nostalgia is very cool. Back in the day, up through the 1970s and even the ’80s, most shotguns had wood furniture.

Those who prefer wood and steel rifles such as the M1 and M1A might also find the HHD 870 to their liking for the same reasons.

Tech Specs

As mentioned, the furniture is walnut hardwood. The length of pull on the stock is 14 inches, which is pretty long for me. In fact, it could be a few inches shorter for my taste. What is it with shotgun companies and making stocks that are so long that we nearly need to be a gorilla to get one that actually fits us? Or am I just a freak of nature in that my arms are too short? I doubt that I’m very abnormal (at least physically) because I’ve heard complaints from many other shooters that the stocks of most shotguns are too long.

The finish on the metal is matte black, which goes very well with the walnut furniture. Together, they look extraordinary!

The barrel is 18.5 inches and it’s a cylinder bore of .73 caliber. The overall length is 38.5 inches. The weight is 7.25 pounds when empty. This is a substantial long arm, not a lightweight one. A nice aspect of that is that it will soak up recoil more effectively than some of the lighter guns on the market.

Magazine capacity is 6+1 and the chamber will take up to 3-inch shells. An aspect that I really appreciate is the extended magazine tube that comes standard from the factory on this one.

Sights consist of a brass bead out front. I prefer ghost ring sights, so maybe those will be added someday.

Prior models had a sling swivel out front on the barrel band, but none on the buttstock. I am elated to report that Remington has remedied this by adding a post on the buttstock so that a sling swivel is now easy to add. Bravo, Remington!

The finish on the wood is nicely done, though it’s thankfully not shiny, but rather a subdued finish. My particular gun has a somewhat dark finish—perfect for the intended tasks of this weapon.

Another bright aspect is that Remington makes the receiver out of steel, which inspires confidence because it’s nice and strong.

One aspect I’d prefer is that Remington use a steel trigger guard as opposed to the polymer one that is on the HHD model. Especially considering this is a retro-style gun.

The Action

Upon opening the box from Remington, I beheld the thing of beauty. The action, as it came from the box, is slightly stiff, which is to be expected. I’m certain it will loosen and slick up with use. I added some oil to key points, and the action immediately became smoother. The fact that the action of the 870 has dual action bars is also a plus, as it keeps things steady and level in the action.


At some point, I’ll ask my local gunsmith if he can shorten the buttstock to make it more accommodating for me. If I had my druthers, it would come from the factory shorter than it is, but we all have our crosses to bear, I suppose. If nothing else, Remington could offer a shorter option for users who desire such an option.

Update: I did, indeed, stop by my local gun shop and the ‘smith there agreed to shorten my stock. He took an inch off, which involved having to resize the recoil pad as well as taking some off the stock. What a difference! It doesn’t sound like much, but taking an inch off makes the stock (and the shotgun overall) more comfortable for me. I definitely endorse shortening the stock!

There’s a chance that I might also add a side-saddle ammo carrier to the side of the receiver.

A weapon light would be a nice addition since it’s tough to hold a hand-held light while working the shotgun action in dim light. However, my wish is to keep this gun as close to “Old Skool” as I can, so that’s up in the air at this point. Yes, I could add a SureFire forend with a built-in light, but there are two caveats to that: they are a bit spendy and it will replace the hardwood handguard.

At the Range

As expected, the recoil was substantial. And the older I get, the less I enjoy being stomped by the weapon that I’m firing (yes, I’m turning into a sissy). Beyond that, though, I suffered a neck and shoulder injury at a former job, and the recoil of the 12 gauge aggravated that on the range. I soldiered on despite the discomfort.

How did the shotty work? It was reliable with most of the rounds that I used. Most? Yes, it didn’t like one brand of ammo that I ran through it. That brand, ironically, was Remington OO Buckshot. The base of some of the rounds didn’t want to feed into the magazine tube. It was as if they were too large to fit. It took some hard pushing to get them into the magazine. And then one of those rounds hung up in the ejection port of the 870. It was easily cleared, though.

The shotgun at the range with various ammo.
We ran a few different loads through the 870 HHD. Note the classic style of wood on the 870.

Aside from that, all the other ammunition that I used worked just fine. I ran Federal Tactical OO buck, Herter’s OO buck, Sellier & Bellot OO buck, and the Remington through it.

Ejection was good, the action was reasonably smooth (it will smooth out more with use). There’s not a lot to say, it’s a Remington 870 and it performed like they always do. Although I do admit to being perplexed by the issues with Remington ammo in a Remington shotgun.

Ammunition Tested

I mentioned the ammo that I ran through the scattergun, and it was mostly pretty standard fare, nothing exotic. However, the Federal Tactical OO buckshot load needs special mention. It offers lower recoil (and yes, it had noticeably and pleasantly lower recoil than the other rounds in real life, not just in the advertisement). Muzzle velocity is also a little less than the other rounds. To me, a loss of some muzzle velocity is well worth the reduction in recoil.

Pattern from Federal Tactical buckshot.
Federal Tactical OO buckshot keeps very tight patterns, as seen in this 15-yard head shot. One pellet was a flyer, but overall, the pattern was incredibly tight.

The other aspect of the Federal Tactical is the group size, which is dramatically smaller than all the other rounds that we compared. I fired a head shot at 15 yards, and all but one of the pellets were nicely grouped in the head area. I was seriously impressed!

Pattern from Remington buckshot.
From 15 yards, the Remington OO buckshot load had a much wider pattern than the Federal Tactical. Reliability with the Remington load in the 870 was also not impressive.

I also fired a round of Federal Tactical into the body from 25 yards and again, the grouping was impressive. I haven’t tested the Tactical load at further range yet, but it will definitely be effective at longer ranges compared to other buckshot rounds. And it’s more comfortable to shoot.

Final Thoughts on the Remington 870 HHD

All in all, the Remington 870 HHD performs well, and as expected, it held no surprises on the range. At some point, I’ll put some slugs through it to see how accurate they are. Realistically, though, I’m not much of a slug guy. If I want to lob solid projectiles, for the most part, I’ll grab a rifle.

How is Remington’s quality? It’s still good. No, the stock isn’t finely finished, nor perfectly fitted; there are little imperfections. Do I care? Not especially, because my chief concern is whether or not the piece is reliable. Which it is.

The Hardwood Home Defense embodies the feel and flavor of the old-time 870 while combining modern features such as an extended magazine tube to hold 6+1 rounds.

I’d recommend the Remington 870 to those interested in home defense. It’s still superior to most of the other shotguns on the market, and you get your money’s worth.