90 Second Gun Review: Remington 870 Magpul

In honor of #pumpday I did a 90 second (and change) review of the Remington Magpul 870 Tactical FDE Express. Wait, that’s out of order. It’s the Remington 870 Express Tactical Magpul FDE. That is the longest name for a pretty rad shotgun. For a more in-depth look, check out the Remington 870 Magpul Review.

Gun Review: T/C Encore Pro Hunter .223

Sometimes simple is the best solution. It doesn’t get much simpler than the T/C Encore Pro Hunter platform; a single shot, single action, receiver which can be mated to any number of different rifle barrels in various calibers to produce anything from a modern muzzleloader to a close range brush gun in .500 Magnum. The version I spent a day with in Wyoming was chambered in .223 with a 26 inch fluted, stainless steel barrel. The rifle’s mission was simple: shoot as many prairie dogs as possible.

tc encore pro hunter 223-1

Riding on top of this rifle was a Bushnell ELITE LONG RANGE HUNTER scope, the LRHS 3-12x 44mm. Again, I was very impressed by the quality and clarity of the Bushnell optics I used, I could easily hit prairie dogs at 200 yards with these scopes and could see them all the way out to 400 yards.

The Vitals
The T/C Encore Pro Hunter starts life as a stock and frame combination. It’s important for NFA purposes to only ever put rifle length barrels on the rifle stocks, and never to put a short, pistol length barrel on the rifle actions. As mentioned above, my sample was a rifle chambered in .223 Remington with a 26 inch barrel. Every Encore features an ambidextrous, single action mechanism; the hammer is rather clever in that it can pivoted either to the left or the right to make cocking the gun easier and to avoid striking any scopes that may be mounted on the gun. The action is released by pulling the lever that protrudes from and forms part of the trigger guard, which can be clearly seen in the below photo.

tc encore pro hunter 223-2

Lacking a trigger pull gage, I wasn’t able to get an accurate assessment of the weight, however it was a very clean and relatively light trigger. I’d guess based on my Mark 1 Model 00 Index Lever Puller that it’s around 3 pounds. There are no ejectors on the gun, so each fired cartridge must be manually extracted by hand. Doing this while wearing gloves combined with the small diameter of a .223 cartridge was mildly annoying, and I found myself wishing for automatic ejectors when confronted by en masse charges of zombie prairie dogs.

The Shooting
Actually shooting the T/C Encore is a blast. There is a certain zen quality about running a single shot rifle on distant targets, it forces you to take your time and take good shots. When running an AR15 on the plains rat hunt, I frequently found myself taking a “good enough” shot, knowing that I had 29 more shots to back it up if I wanted to purse the “accuracy by volume” approach. With the Encore Pro Hunter, every shot I attempted was the best shot I could take in that moment. Plus, because the gun was a .223 with a relatively long and heavy barrel and a large, comfortable cushioned stock, felt recoil was negligible. I could easily spot the fall of rounds through the scope; and when using the T/C Encore I was treated to frequent prairie dog explosions.

Photo by Brad Howe - ATV Rider/
Photo by Brad Howe – http://www.atvrider.com/

Even when the rifle didn’t make contact, there is something satisfying about the manual process of reloading. It’s hard to describe, but cracking the action open, pulling out the spent casing, and inserting a new round had a primitive, retro feel to it. While I know it’s not the same as reloading a Trapdoor Springfield in the face of a charging Indian horde, the act of a manual reload on the Wyoming plains just felt right.

The Verdict
I didn’t really want a T/C Encore before July 6th. Now, not only am I planning on ordering one, I understand why people buy them in such large numbers. Aside from the modular nature of the gun, which lets you play LEGO for grownups to your heart’s content, the T/C Encore just feels good to shoot. It’s everything I love in a rifle: lightweight, functional, accurate, and perfectly customizable to your mission. Would I recommend one for a tactical home defense gun? No, of course not. But a T/C Encore Pro Hunter rifle action can be successfully used for everything from a bone simple rimfire trainer all the way to a bear thumping .500 Magnum; a .223 varmint gun, or an Indiana woods deer-blaster. That’s pretty neat in my book, and now that I’ve finally spent some serious trigger time on one, I get what everyone else is saying. The T/C Encore Pro Hunter is a great platform, and in its varmint configuration was nearly perfect for eradicating prairie dogs.

Remington 870 Tactical Magpul FDE review

One of the dangers of working in a gun shop is you can see dealer level pricing on guns. One of our distributors had a special on Remington 870 Tactical Magpul shotguns in FDE, for a stupid low price. I dipped in my rainy day fund (it was raining that day so it counts) and ordered one. It’s a really good looking gun right out of the box.

Remington 870 magpul FDE

The Specs
The 870 Magpul FDE is a pump-action, 12 gauge shotgun. It features a Magpul forend, Magpul stock, XS Ghost ring sights, a breacher brake, and a 6+1 capacity. The trigger pull breaks at 4.5 pounds on this model. Barrel length is 18.5 inches, and the barrel is threaded for chokes. The gun also features what Remington refers to as their SuperCell recoil pad, which is designed to reduce the felt recoil of the gun.

Shooting
Initially, the pump on the 870 would occasionally stick to the rear with the bolt in the open position, requiring some considerable force to return the shotgun to battery. I suspect this is because of the cerakoting on the gun, which adds just enough material to the internal receiver parts to occasionally make things stick. This was fixed by dry and live fire until the contact points had worn down a bit.

At the range, the gun performed as expected, with no feeding or extraction issues. Like you’d expect an 870 to perform, so to speak. The SuperCell pad did an admirable job of reducing felt recoil, even when patterning the gun with various defensive buckshot loads. Speaking of buckshot, the gun held relatively tight patterns with most loads; the best two performers were the pictured Hornady Critical Defense buckshot and Federal buckshot. Both held approximately 3-4 inches at 10 yards, with the pattern going exactly to point of aim with the XS sights. The worst patter was with Hevi-Shot Hevi-Duty #4 buck; at 10 yards pellets were off the paper, making this load not suitable for home defense from this gun as it is currently configured. That was too bad, because the #4 load from Hevi-Shot was quite pleasant to shoot.

Also used were various all-lead target loads, to test the gun’s suitability for 3-gun use. While a pump isn’t the optimal choice for 3-gun, and certainly not a pump with a 6 shot tube, there is value to using your defensive firearms in competition. This lets you pressure your guns and gear in the only live-fire stressful environment this side of a gunfight. The 870 kept a relatively tight pattern out to 15 yards, tight enough to knock down a pepper popper at least. If I were going to run this gun in 3-gun in a pump-friendly division, I’d ditch the “tactical” choke in favor of a modified, and slap on an extended mag tube.

The Magpul stuff
Are the Magpul products really worth the extra money? Actually…yes they are. Especially the stock. The forend is fine, but I could honestly take it or leave it. The SGA stock on the other hand is probably the best factory shotgun stock on the market today. It grips well, it shoulders easily, and the adjustable risers really do allow you to change the cheek weld if you’re using optics or some other kind of sights. It really is pretty awesome.

Remington 870 FDE

The Verdict
I like this gun. I am also a sucker for 870s, things in FDE, and thoughtfully designed products like the SGA stock. Now that the price on these guns has fallen below $600 at retail, I think they’re absolute a great deal if you’re looking for a no-nonsense pump gun that’s well set up right out of the box. If you’re in the market, or you just want another cool shotgun, you can find brand spanking new Remington 870 Magpul guns on Gunbroker for in the 500 dollar range. Pick one up, shoot it a bunch, and be happy. I’m going to throw a light on this gun shortly and it will live next to my bed.