Everybody has a Remington 870 lying around. Maybe a Mossberg 500? Whatever the shotgun, ATI (Advanced Technology International) probably makes a full range of aftermarket parts to improve capacity, utility, adaptability, and ergonomics…or to otherwise gussy it up. My buddy, “German Peter,” went on a little ATI shopping spree then dumped the parts and a factory-stock 870 off with my gunsmith, Nick of HCTC Firearms, for custom coating and assembly. . .
Results in a moment, but first it’s time for the 870 Express Synthetic “before” fashion show:
Parts chosen for this build included…T2 Adjustable TactLite Shotgun Stock:
All of these parts represent something like 1/5 of ATI’s product catalog for the Remington 870, but Peter’s clearly always been one for moderation.
First, let me just come right out and admit that my previous opinion of ATI’s gear wasn’t entirely favorable. I viewed their parts as cheap in quality. The kind of blow-molded plastic stuff you’d install on a beater AK-47 for 922(r) compliance purposes or on an old surplus rifle just to avoid banging up the original furniture. But my opinion did a complete 180 the instant I checked out these shotgun parts in person.
The first thing I opened was the T2 TactLite stock, which was followed a couple minutes later by my wife telling me to “shut up about the stupid packaging.” At this price point or any price point, really, I suppose I was just very impressed with how ATI’s parts are packaged. Skipping the nerdy stuff about the sleeve, the printed cardboard box inside it, and the plastic hanger for displaying on a retail peg, I found the stock nestled in egg crate foam with accessories individually bagged along with a truly exceptional installation guide.
The T2 comes with two cheek risers to provide a huge range of possible cheek weld heights (tall one shown installed), and all of the hardware and tools necessary for installation. The butt stock rides on a commercial-spec, AR-15 receiver extension with 6 adjustment positions, and fit is precise and wobble-free. ATI’s Scorpion recoil absorbing rubber material adorns the rear as well as the pistol grip.
An ambi QD socket is at the rear, and a single-point sling mount can be positioned on either side near the receiver or replaced with a flush spacer. The dovetail receiver mounting system is precise and solid.
Machining, fit, and finish are all excellent and the quality of the polymer is quite good. A slight gap is present between pistol grip and trigger guard and is filled with a piece of foam rubber. There’s no wobble or play because of this, but aesthetically it would be nicer if that fit was as precise as the fit is everywhere else. However, the Remington 870 has had a handful of trigger guard designs over the years, both in polymer and aluminum, and it looks like this grip is designed to fit all of them.
The Halo Side Saddle is of a sleeker design than many of the competitive products, and is also highly end user-configurable. Fit and machining on this aluminum piece is very impressive. It should be noted that, unlike some other units, the Halo does not use the factory receiver pins for mounting and is made to bolt to 870 receivers that are tapped on top from the factory. Although this shotgun did not have a tapped receiver, HCTC Firearms knocked that out quickly with the Halo itself working beautifully as its own template.
Each Add-a-Shell is an individual unit and slides over a dovetail on either side before it’s clamped in place. Little rubber nubs inside the Add-a-Shells provide positive enough retention on your extra ammo that it can be inserted up from the bottom (brass down), making removal quicker and easier. The Picatinny top rail is also a separate piece so it can be used or not. For the record, the front bead sight is still visible with the rail installed, so even without an optic the shotgun is good to go.
Once again, machining on the forend is excellent. Rail sections — including one with a sling swivel stud built in — can be purchased separately and placed along any of the five, dovetailed mounting rails. This is a nice touch, as the rail sections do not simply bolt on but actually have to be slid down from either end, fitting precisely on the v-shaped dovetail. The retaining bolts — which have temporary thread locking compound pre-applied, as does all of the hardware for all of the ATI parts seen here — simply keep it from sliding.
It isn’t uncommon for an aftermarket forend to have clearance issues with receiver side saddle systems, often causing short-stroking, but the Talon fit perfectly. ATI’s socket wrench makes removal and installation a breeze, and the checkering on it was cut as nicely as a high-end 1911’s. The only catch is that the wrench is aluminum, so if you have a really stubborn forend nut you’ll probably want to visit a gunsmith so they can put their expensive tools to work.
The nylon hand strap may be extra tacticool, but the forend is pretty nice even with nothing on it and, of course, with swappable rail sections the options for vertical grips, angled grips, hand stops, and other grabbables are nearly endless.
Lord knows we’re constantly finding ourselves needing to break out some glass but fresh out of cool ways to do it. Thankfully, ATI’s huge range of magazine tube extensions come with flush caps, sling swivel stud caps, or even stand-off caps as seen on this build:
Caps are replaceable and are sold separately, so if you get bored with one or become tired of accidently blowing the rear window out of your rig every time you toss the shotgun in there, you can switch things up. I thought the 7-shot extension was already going to extend well past the muzzle on this 18.5″-barreled gun, but it looks like we should have opted for the 8-shot after all. At any rate, these extensions are burly, heavy-walled aluminum and can certainly handle abuse. In that scenario I’m more concerned for the parts it’s mounted to, actually. It comes with a new magazine spring and once again fit, finish, and machining were absolutely top notch.
My previous opinion of ATI was entirely wrong, as the quality of these parts is truly excellent at any price and is amazing at the low prices that ATI asks of them. Clean machining, very precise fit that required no tinkering whatsoever, and even, deep anodizing was the case across the board. Hardware, even the little bolts, appears to be very high-grade, U.S.-made stuff and the application of thread locker from the factory is awesome.
Thanks again to Nick at HCTC Firearms for doing another amazing coating job! This time it’s an antique bronze and black finish, last time it was the digital camo job on The Ultimate Mosin Nagant build (which also involved some of his machine shop services such as barrel threading).
This is one sweet-looking scattergun.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Price: * * * * *
One reason I previously thought ATI was low on the quality scale is the low price of their products. Turns out it isn’t cheap, it’s just inexpensive.
Fit, Finish, and Machining: * * * * *
Beating a dead horse here. But once again I’ll just say that these parts all outperform their price category in a big way. They’ve very nice. Hardware is also very high quality.
Selection: * * * * *
ATI makes a huge range of parts, including multiple stock varieties for many shotgun models. If AR-15-style with pistol grip isn’t your thing, don’t worry, they probably have you covered as well. As long as it’s polymer, rubber, and/or aluminum, that is. They also make revolver grips, AR-15 furniture, and other accessories.
Overall: * * * * *
I’m impressed. The singular nit to pick is the grip-to-trigger guard fit gap, which is noticeable if you’re looking for it but can’t be felt and won’t be seen outside of close inspection. The quality and the precise fit of these parts is more than was expected in this price range.