As described in my earlier post, the first modification I had identified for my Remington 870 Police Magnum was a provision to store more rounds on the weapon. Side saddle shell holders are most popular and ergonomically agreeable manner for accomplishing this so I took to the internet and, after a few hours of research, came to the conclusion that the Mesa Tactical unit represented the best value available.
As usual Amazon had the best price, so I placed my order and, within a week, had the package in hand:
I have to admit I was extremely impressed with what I received. The holder itself was a three-piece affair, the shell holder and the mounting plate both machined from aluminum (and beautifully finished) with a strip of neoprene sandwiched between the two to hold the shells under tension. There was also a complete bag of mounting hardware (high quality stuff again), a gasket to go between the receiver and mounting plate and protect the finish, a second neoprene strip of a harder durometer (which I kept on hand as a replacement since the one already in the unit held the shells with sufficient tension) and a comprehensive set of instructions. Even though there are cheaper units available than the $65 I paid, most are plastic with bad reputations for either breaking or loosening to the point where the shells aren’t held securely, so I consider the extra $25 or so money well spent.
Installation took all of ten minutes, the most difficult thing being the care needed in applying the Blue Locktite and fitting the Chicago screws that hold both the shell holder and trigger assembly in place.
Six shell holder is the limit that I can fit on this shotgun without changing the forearm (keep in mind that the six shot unit won’t fit the Express with the longer wooden forearm); four, six and eight shell units are available. Mesa also makes shell holders with an integral rail over the top of the receiver, which I considered then decided I didn’t need since I have no plan to ever run an optic (Catalog with all available variations here).
Three views showing both sides of the mounting screws and the clearance to the forearm.
Of course there’s no better evaluation than actually using something and, fortunately enough, the summer shotgun match at one of the local clubs provided just that opportunity. The biggest question with a side saddle mount is how to orient the shells: reaching over receiver or under receiver. While the Mesa holds the shells with enough tension that under (read: pushed in from the underside, with the base of the shells pointing down) would probably work, I just don’t want to run the risk of them dropping out, so I went with an over receiver reach.
Eighteen rounds of fun: Six up the tube, five in the butt cuff, six in the side saddle and one in the chamber.
Relatively spread out course of fire with three separate shooting boxes.
L-Shaped course of fire
This course featured poppers that triggered two clays (which I missed because I wasn’t clear of the overhead when I hit the poppers).
V-Shaped course of fire with a potential 180 trap.
As it went, the side saddle was a great add; with seventeen rounds available on the weapon, there’s enough for most reasonable courses of fire, eliminating the need to reach to the belt. I was pleasantly surprised with how the weapon handled fully loaded; heavier, to be sure, but evenly balanced across the full length.
I was less than pleasantly surprised with my choice of ammo though. I ran a mix of Winchester shot shells, both the really cheap bulk pack (the kind with the shortened aluminum base) and the more ‘premium’ Super X. The cheap stuff was just bad; several times I ran across rounds that fired but were extremely hard to eject, requiring me to drop the gun to my hip to get enough leverage to work the action.
I didn’t have any problems with the Super X in use but did find this which, combined with the issues I had with the cheaper stuff, left me somewhat jaundiced about Winchester’s quality.
Looks like it’s Federal for me once the current stuff runs out!
As it is action matches are my primary use for the thing, but if I was to keep it in a ready state I would put five rounds of 00 Buck up the tube with another five rounds of 00 Buck in the butt cuff and six rounds of slugs in the side saddle. Keeping one short in the tube gives you the ability to either directly rack it and load buck shot or slip a slug in if additional range is needed (with the Fiocchi slugs, the thing is quite accurate out to 100 yards).
Of course, that’s a relatively academic concern since, if I ever needed a long gun, I’d simply grab my AR carbine with the Aimpoint and a few 30 round mags loaded with M193 Ball. But that’s a post for another day…