As I noted in my Remington 870 Police Magnum post, the one issue I had with with gun was the heavy trigger pull; trigger pull on the 870P is set in the 7 to 8 lb range (the cheaper Express closer to 5 lbs), excessive by most reasonable measures. Indeed, the first time I fired slugs through it, I paused halfway through my trigger pull to check if I had left the safety engaged.
Acceptable as such trigger may be for shooting steel at close range with shot shells, it is definitely a detriment to getting the most out of the weapon when shooting slugs, especially at longer ranges. Luckily all is not lost; trigger pull on the 870 (and 1187s and 700s for that matter, since they use a similar trigger group) is almost entirely a matter of the sear spring and to that end, Remington offers three different springs to be fitted depending upon the weight of pull desired.
At this point it’s useful to point out that there is a fairly contentious difference of opinion among firearms enthusiasts regarding lightening trigger pulls on defensive weapons, certain Safety Scientist types convinced that a heavy trigger pull renders a weapon ‘safer’ by requiring more effort to fire. Leaving aside the dubious logic that a weapon somehow becomes ‘safer’ as it becomes more difficult to fire accurately, there’s the whole issue with gun handling practices; simply pointing a weapon at something you’re unwilling to shoot violates basic gun handling practices, to say nothing of actually touching the trigger with the muzzle covering something.
As it is though the real world and human behavior – or, in this case, human misbehavior – has a mind of its own and one that seems in conspiracy against the theories of the Safety Scientists. There are valid reasons why someone may feel the need to cover someone with a gun absent an absolute determination to shoot, especially in law enforcement (where most of these heavy-trigger modifications originate). I personally object to the practice of resting one’s finger on the trigger in such situations, preferring to keep the finger inside the guard but off the trigger.
But even there one can see a school of thought where the intimidation value of keeping the finger on the trigger may be useful, especially in a law enforcement setting where one is contending with hardened criminals well-attuned to the gradations of threat and resolve. As much as police shootings are in the news it would be interesting to see a study of incidences ruled accidental/negligent that measured trigger pull weights on the weapons in question and see if a heavier trigger pull helps or hinders such shootings. My guess is that there’s no correlation – unsafe gun handling is unsafe gun handling – and may even be a negative factor through leading to less accurate shooting.
Another concern, more relevant and valid in the case of the civilian, is in the area of personal liability. The thinking is that modification of a weapon to make the trigger pull lighter can be construed as either reckless disregard in a criminal trial or gross negligence in a civil action. Many well-respected experts in the firearms community are proponents of such thinking, Mas Ayoob probably the most notable among them. I’m sympathetic towards such thinking; my carry handguns (Glocks) and my primary defense long guns (ARs) all run with their factory triggers.
Those concerns don’t really apply in the case of my 870 since the thing will be used in either matches or with slugs. At any rate, if anything comes up in the foreseeable future that requires me to press the thing into defensive duty it’s a simple enough matter to change the spring while the weapon is disassembled for cleaning; naturally, if I was ever to sell it, I’d swap the heavy spring back in.
Remington color-codes their sear springs to minimize confusion in assembly: Orange (7 – 8 lb pull, found on Police Magnum), Sliver (5 lb pull, found on Express and Standard Wingmasters) and Yellow (3 – 4 lb pull, found on Competition Trap models). Since my goal was to get the most out of the gun for shooting slugs, I went with one of the lighter trap springs. A few minutes searching on the internet, several more minutes completing the order with Midway and $7.00 and less than one week later, said spring was in hand.
Here is a You Tube video showing the actual spring change. The video is 35 seconds long, which is an accurate indication of just how simple it is.
Top: Trigger Assembly with Police Magnum (appears black – the orange paint had mostly worn off) sear spring, Middle: Police Magnum (black) spring and Trap (yellow) spring, Bottom: Trigger Assembly with Trap sear spring
As I already noted, I have case of Remington Sluggers (2 3/4″, 1 oz) but not wanting to beat the shit out of myself unduly, I decided to try some of Fiocchi’s Reduced Recoil Slugs (ordered through Sportsman’s Guide for $66 +S&H). Loaded with a 7/8 oz lead hollowpoint, their muzzle velocity is listed as 1300 fps. They are supposed to maintain supersonic velocity out to 100 meters, although not having a chrono I can’t verify that.
80 round case of Fiocchi Reduced Recoil slugs, complete with a quite nice reusable latching plastic carton.
My first session shooting slugs was over rather quickly though; although It hit exactly to POA at 50 yards right out of the box, the heavy trigger made it too difficult and unpleasant (especially a $0.80/round).
50 yard targets. The sights are clearly right on, the slugs are clearly capable of impressive accuracy and the trigger clearly sucks.
Since it had good inherent accuracy and I don’t like holdovers, I decided to set the sights for 100 yards once I had the sear spring swapped. A few days after changing the spring, I returned to the range, bringing a few boxes of both types of slugs and the rest of the gear necessary to adjust the rear sight (in this case an Allen wrench, brass punch and medium weight ball-peen hammer).
The Fiocchis come in boxes of 10 and have a translucent hull, allowing a pleasing view of the rifled slug. The Remington Sluggers come in the classic green and yellow box with a green hull. Possibly due to the lighter weight, the Fiocchis have a wider and deeper hollow point cavity; ultimately though, neither is something one would enjoy being shot with.
Of course, seeing as I was going to the range specifically to check accuracy mods to the weapon, compare ammo types and sight in, the wind had to pick up, gusting in the 15 – 20 mph range and running directly left to right across the range.
50 yard targets, Fiocchi left and Remington right. Remingtons hit noticeably higher.
Still the shooting went well, firing a three-shot group of each, confirming that the Fiocchis were right on and the hotter, heavier Remingtons hit about 4 – 5 inches higher. Unfortunately the barrel-like shape of the slugs doesn’t offer optimal resistance to cross winds so the groups opened up slightly.
Moving on to the 100 yard line, I continued firing, timing the gusts and making a slight adjustment to the sight picture kept the groups centered. A few turns of its set screw and a few taps of the rear sight in its dovetail and I had the Fiocchis hitting to POA once again, the Remingtons once again hitting about 4 – 5 inches high.
Sight with its 50 yard zero (left) and its 100 yard zero (right). Allen head set screw is visible just above the hash marks.
100 yard targets, Fiocchi left and Remington right. Remington still hitting higher.
As it stands I now have the shotgun set for the indefinite future, properly sighted in so I can score hits at all reasonable ranges with slugs. The most pressing issue is to just practice up on the loading and other non-shooting related handling skills; to that end, I got a set of Pachmayr snap caps, ordered from Midway for $9.00/pair at the same time as the sear spring.