The Remington 870 Express Pump Action .410 Shotgun.

By Tim Woodhouse.


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I could hardly wait for the gun to arrive; pump action shotguns are not normally my bag, but a 3 shot .410 was certainly something different. It is perhaps an extension of the fascination with small calibre light recoiling guns that makes the prospect of a pump .410 that much more eagerly anticipated. The additional advantage that it has over its Remington 1100 automatic stable mate is the ability to feed and digest all types of .410 shells without failing to cycle the action. (It is possible to load special versions of the 2½inch shell that will cycle the 1100’s action, but the standard European loads will not achieve this) That said, as with most pump actions a fairly robust movement of the slide to the rear is required to ensure positive extraction and feeding, but in reality it takes only a short while to get to grips with this mechanical marvel.

Initially a few clays were the order of the day to become proficient with the general feel of the gun and its shooting. Sporting a full choke barrel with a 3inch chamber, the closer targets were somewhat interesting, although with different types of wad and loading techniques a significantly greater spread was achieved for skeet type distances.

After assembling some shells with Gualandi reversible H-27 plastic wads and 1/2oz of 9 shot propelled at a velocity and pressure designed to open up the patterns, things were a lot easier. With serious heavy hunting loads of 11/16oz or so and full length plastic wads and 2.4mm shot (US #7.5/UK#7) the patterns held together quite remarkably out to a full 40 yards. That said, for the generally closer first shots a 16-18gram non cup wad shell which threw closer to a modified (half choke) pattern was loaded, followed by the tighter patterning 11/16 loads, which seemed to work well in the field for most situations.

Lyalvale 9/16oz/16gm
H-27 Reversible wad
Gamebore 9/16oz/16gm
H-27 Reversible Wad
Fiocchi 11/16oz/19.5gm
Full length wad
Remington 11/16oz
3/4 length wad

In addition to the factory loads my pet heavy hunting loads were tried with excellent results on everything from Pigeons and Crows to fast running Rabbits and Squirrels. With a full house payload of 3/4oz (21.27gm) of shot these shells really are the ‘bees knees’ for maximum hunting potential. I load with either UK#5, 6 or 7 shot depending on the occasion (2.8, 2.6 & 2.4mm).
However for situations where the likely quarry is undetermined UK#6 seems to be a good compromise, dropping big crows with authority out to full distances for this type of gun. With the PC Orange wad and 4% antimony shot these ‘beasties’ clock a genuine 1125fps at 3 feet from the muzzle. This is achieved without undue pressure levels, which always destroy the pattern potential with a given load.
The propellant choice is a European rifle number, which is a double-based ball type, with smooth highly progressive burning rates and the ability to produce excellent, dense, well distributed patterns with top end loadings such as this (Hodgdon H-110 can also be used with this load). Case life is good without the mouth erosion so often seen in some European heavy .410 shells.
This is usually due to raised pressure levels and the wrong wad choice for the job at hand. High frictional forces of the shot onto the case walls can and do render the case mouths utterly inadequate, with sizable chunks being ripped away upon firing in some cases. Short wads with little or no shot cup are a particular problem here. Case mouth integrity is clearly important if the fired shells are to be reloaded, with the lubrication of the shot being a very good idea when loading with fibre and the reversible types of wad, with various products available.

16mm capped cork wad
H-21 reversible wad
H-27 reversible wad

For maximum case life full-length cup container wads are to be recommended, however the shorter cup wads like the H-27 NANA (not to be confused with the H-27 reversible wad) are a very good choice for skeet and sporting clay loads in the 2½ inch plastic parallel tubed cases.
They combine a good central core density together with a better peripheral spread in the outer pattern zones. Choke choices are very much the key issue here to achieve the desired patterning effects. (See the .410 annual: ‘Because Its there’ ‘Climbing the North face of the .410’).

With the 870 pump my choice for Skeet and medium sporting clay targets was to get as much spread as was feasible with the improved modified choke (UK ¾). Using fairly soft shot at 2% antimony content and the capped fibre and the two reversible wads shown above satisfactory 1/2oz skeet loads were possible using Hodgdon Lil’Gun, HS7, H-4227, H-110, Alliant Blue Dot, 2400, ‘.410’ and Nobel Sport Vectan SP3 powders.

The major down side was the inevitable resultant barrel leading, but the cork wad did a fairly good job of keeping the levels down to a tolerable level. The lower flame temperatures developed with H-4227 (being a single based powder) were also helpful in this regard, reducing the degree of residual leading.

The best spreading load from this point of view was the 16mm cork wad, 1/2oz of 2% antimony (chilled shot in the US) #9 shot preferably with some sort of lube, Fiocchi or Cheddite plastic 73mm case with Cheddite 209 primer (known as the Cheddite CX2000 in the UK), 17-18grains of H-4227and finished with a star crimp for 1185-1225fps @ 3feet.* See Warning.

The only real problem with using H-4227 is its relative bulk compared with other powders, but being of a single based composition (containing no proportion of nitro glycerine in its make up) this is hard to avoid.

Micro or 'Stump' wad.
For longer clay targets and field loads using shot sizes from 3.1-2.2mm (US 5-8.5, UK 4-8) the improved protection and extended killing range of the full length cup and container wads is a better bet as it is with the full payloads of shot that case mouth damage can become a real problem with fibre/cork and very short reversible wads such as the stump/micro wad. The bore diameter and improved modified choke of the test gun seemed to handle UK #6 shot surprisingly well, especially with the BIG 3/4oz load using the PC Orange container wad and a star crimp in the 76mm Fiocchi case. A shot at a running squirrel taken at a full 35yards showed just how effective this load is with many pellet strikes with the quarry being killed very cleanly indeed. Indeed this very same combination was to prove quite remarkable when used on a days pigeon shooting, with one particularly long crossing shot being witnessed by the farmer. The bird just folded up at about 40 odd yards distant and when recovered showed a surprising number of pellet strikes. With a full load UK #6 pellet count of 203 this was maintaining an excellent pattern.

Tim Woodhouse - November 2004

© Light Gauges Publications, 2 Carrington Hall Road, Drayton Parslow, Bucks, UK, MK17 0JP
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