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I’m not a shotgun expert by any means, but you’d be hard pressed not to find one in my truck. Thanks to its proximity, I’ve probably taken as many deer and pigs with a shotgun as I have ducks and turkey. More than that, I’ve always felt like if I had to walk out of the door with one gun, a pump scattergun would be it. They’re tough and versatile. That’s why I bought a Remington Model 870 Express as my first shotgun. And was sorely disappointed . . .

Whatever reputation the 870 earned in the past, it was clear that Remington was resting on its laurels. It had problems right out of the box. The trigger was gritty, the action was horrible and the magazine tube would only accept two rounds whether the plug was in or not. Shells were constantly getting stuck in the 870’s tube, as well as in the action.

Attempting to extract a stuck shell resulted in a broken stock. Opening the gun up to fix it, I saw tool marks, rough finishes and other evidence of overall poor attention to quality and detail. The whole thing rattled. Simply put, this was not the service gun that I had seen thrown in a trunk, or behind the seat of a truck, that kept on going and going for years.

And now for something not completely different: the Remington 870 Express-based Wilson Combat Border Patrol shotgun.

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The WC CBPS is the real deal. I can personally verify that the U.S. Border Patrol use this exact model, with thousands provided to agents for everyday use. As a Texan, I know that terrain well. The hot and cold, dry, dusty desert — prone to Biblical rain — will test a firearm almost as much as a marine environment. I’ve heard agents speak nothing but good of their Wilson scatterguns. I was interested to see if the shotgun lived up to its rep, and cured the modern Remington’s ills.

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The Border Patrol model starts with a Remington 870 with a 18” cylinder bore barrel and a 3-inch magnum chamber. As with all Wilson products, the company applies a keen eye for cosmetics, even for a service gun. The BPS’ Armor Tough finish is all about function, but it’s even and complete inside and outside the gun. The polish on the action was obvious by function only, without a blemish on the bars or tracks themselves.

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To make the stock 870 run like it was meant to, before any add-ons or modifications, Wilson’s smiths take it apart and get to work. For all of their shotguns, they:

  • Strip the entire gun.
  • Clean all threads.
  • Tune the trigger and rebuild with it stronger springs
  • Straighten and tune the action bars.
  • Debur the ejection port and the action bar track.
  • Hone the magazine
  • Hone the barrel chamber.
  • Check the extractor and ensure the ejector is properly staked.
  • Parkerize all parts of the gun.
  • Armor tuff the entire gun.
  • Check the headspace
  • Confirm magazine function, feeding, and all operation of the gun.
  • Function check with live ammunition and zero the sights.

You can feel the difference the first time you cycle the gun and pull the trigger. Hand the Border Patrol shotgun to anyone familiar with pump guns and you get the same response: damn that slide’s smooth! And fast. The CBPS’s trigger doesn’t break like a high-end 1911, and certainly not like the jewel trigger on some of my rifles, but it outclasses the stock Remington’s trigger by a country mile. There’s no grittiness. Although it’s still a firm trigger, it breaks, not bends, until it squishes.

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After the smithing is done, Wilson loads on the extras. For this model, those include:
  • Adjustable Trak–Lock® Ghost Ring Rear Sight, Ramp-Type Front Sight with Tritium Insert
  • Extended Magazine Tube, Total Capacity: 6+1 Rounds

  • Synthetic Speedfeed® Buttstock and Forend

  • High-Visibility, Non-Binding Follower

  • Extra-Power Heavy-Duty Stainless Magazine Tube Spring

  • Jumbo Head Safety

  • Buttstock Swivel and Rigid Magazine Tube Sling Mount

The CBPS’s SpeedFeed stock is a big improvement over the original. With more fiberglass reinforcing the stock, it isn’t heavier, but it’s a whole lot stronger than either the wood or plastic versions. The wrist angle isn’t a big change from the original, but that’s not a problem for me. The recoil pad also works well. I put 140 rounds of 00 buck and about 20 slugs through this gun in just over an hour and my shoulder wasn’t bruised or sore.

Even so, I would have preferred something like the Magpul SGA stock. The advantage of the SGA is the adjustable length of pull and comb height, as well as the ability to mount the sling on either side. Of course, this stock didn’t exist when the Border Patrol model originally came out so if you want to stick to the service gun, you go with the SpeedFeed as it is.

The fit on the Wilson’s rear sight is as good as it can be without more metal work, but it could be better with some additional fitting. The color of the sights is also a bit off. As they are close, but not quite the same. The front and rear sight stand out — and not in a good way.

Otherwise, the sights are perfect. The CBPS’s tall ramp front sight has a tritium insert, ideal for when you want to be the bang after a bump in the night, and doubles as a bright white dot for daytime shooting. The sight is soldered on, it’s not coming off, and for this type of gun that’s the way it should be.

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I was iffy on the Trak-Lock ghost ring rear sight. I was concerned that the sight was too large to fire accurately, thinking I’d be better off with an open style sight. I was dead wrong. The rear sight’s small enough to easily hammer a 6″ plate standing at 50 yards with slugs, but open enough to track my shots while looking through the sights and moving. The rear sight is adjustable, even though it’s sighted in at the factory — and rock solid. This is my standard now for a shotgun sight setup.

Another surprise: the magazine sling mount. The thing is pretty big. It sticks out from the left side of the barrel and magazine tube at a right angle. I was sure it would be smacking the heck out of me while I carried it. Instead, I found it completely out-of-the-way, except for when I wanted to use it to steady the gun against a tree.

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The mount is crazy solid. I fully leaned against the gun, putting all of my weight in while pressing the front of the mount into the tree to steady between slug shots. Even in recoil, the mount had zero failures and didn’t bend a bit. Standing like this, I was able to ring a 10″ plate at 100 yards with a slug with complete confidence.

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I also like the oversized safety. If you think it’s not important, it’s probably because you’ve never engaged the safety while wearing gloves, especially thick ones. My dove gun doesn’t have an oversized safety. My duck gun does and it’s one of the first things I would do to any gun I’d be using in the cold. Wilson’s version is simple and not too big. It pushed on and off easily, and there’s no question whether or not you’ve engaged it.

Target shot by Wilson Combat Border Patrol shotgun (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

The Wilson Combat Border Patrol shotgun is more than the sum of its parts. It handles like a dream. Administrative reloads are quick and instinctive, and all of the gripping surfaces, including the fore stock, are well textured for maximum grip. I shot this gun in intermittent rain; most of the shots were done with the gun at least a little wet. I had zero issues keeping a hold of it during handling, cycling or transitions in firing.

Loading gate comparison. Wilson Combat Border Patrol shotgun (left), Benelli SuperNova Pump (right) (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

There are a couple of things I don’t like. First, I’d prefer the Border Patrol to start as a Mossberg 500 simply because of the thumb safety, which I find faster and easier to use. (Especially if you’re used to running one from the Army.) Second, the loading gate is too small. Especially compared to the Benneli Super Nova, which is almost twice as long. It’s much easier to load the stock Bennelli two rounds with a single push.

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Given that a stock Remington 870 express costs about $450, I was highly doubtful that the extra $600+ Wilson Charges was worth it. Then I went back and picked up my stock 870. Whoah. It felt like going from running with track shoes on asphalt to flip flops in the sand. I then ran the Wilson against the Mossberg 500A1 Tactical with Magpul furniture throughout, as well as other replacement parts. The 500 did a lot better, but . . .

If I added up the cost of the aftermarket parts and finish work on that Mossy, I was at $910. And the front sight wasn’t tritium and it was all my labor on the gun. On top of that, although I like the feel of the Magpul stock more, I had to admit that the Border Patrol had a smoother action, it was faster between shots, and Wilson would just deliver it to my FFL with no wait time.

I ended up having a lot of respect for this gun. Again, that has a lot to do with the comparison with a modern-day Remington 870. I would have never wanted to walk of my door only trusting my life with the Remmy. I would do so with the Wilson anytime. In fact, the Wilson Border Patrol shotgun left me angry that I can’t buy this gun, with this level of quality and attention to detail, straight from Remington. Until then, well, here it is.

Wilson Combat Border Patrol Shotgun

SPECIFICATIONS:
Caliber: 12 guage
Barrel Length: 18.4″
Overall Length: 35.8″
Weight: 7lbs 7oz
Capacity: 6+1
MSRP: $1135

Ratings (out of five stars):

Fit and Finish * * * * 
This may seem picky, but I took a star off for the finish on the sights of an otherwise perfect execution of a “work gun.” Ultimately, that’s a lot of attention paid to a gun that you know is going to be dinged up and beaten throughout the job.

Reliability * * * * *
I only put about 160 rounds through the Wilson scattergun, but I didn’t baby it one bit. I smacked it around, intentionally held it high and dropped it butt first on the ground with the magazine fully loaded. It never had any issues. Leaning on the front sling mount the way I did, I expected it to break or at least bend.  Nothing did.

Accuracy * * * *
How do you measure the accuracy of a service shotgun? At 25 yards I had no trouble keeping all of the 0000 buck center mass on a 19″ silouhette, and I had no trouble rapid firing the head on that same target over and over again. With slugs, even standing and leaning against a tree, I could reliably fill a 10″ circle at 100 yards. I didn’t try to bench rest testing of the slugs, but standing or even walking I could ring a 6″ plate at 50 yards with ease.

Overall * * * * 1/2
The Wilson Combat Border Patrol does everything you want a Remington 870 Express to be and do — only a LOT better. A five star review would have required that loading gate be opened up, and a different stock option be offered at the same price.

[NOTE: you can get everything on this gun — without the additional smithing — straight from Wilson at a cheaper price. You can also just send them your old Remington 870 for their smiths to repair, tune, and finish like this one is. Click here for a complete list of their services and pricelist.]

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76 Responses to Gun Review: Wilson Combat Border Patrol Shotgun

    • +1. As near as makes no difference $1k for a bulk-buy pump makes me wonder if they could get a deal from Bennelli.

    • As in “compare the sound to the ringing of a tuning fork.”

      Real high level stuff. Shotgun acoustics are very important.

      • I know that was in jest, but I’m being serious. There’s an assumption on the writer’s part that the reader understands the slang “tune”. I’m just curious enough to ask what that means so I might make the judgement about performing the same “tuning” on my ailing 870 Express.

        *8)

        • Tuning as it refers to guns typically means polish the surfaces, fit parts so they work optimally with each other, and change springs to give optimum performance. Tryning the trigger is polishing it and maybe changing springs to make it the weight they want.

  1. Here’s what I find scandalous: All of the things that should have been done at the factory. I’m using items lifted off the list above and adding some of my own items:

    – Clean all threads
    – Clean/tune the trigger, which is just stamped sheet metal.
    – Deburr, straighten and tune the action bars
    – Debur the ejection port and the action bar track
    – Hone the magazine (or just polish it with some polishing cloth)
    – Hone the barrel chamber (or just polish it with some polishing cloth)
    – Check the extractor and ensure the ejector is properly staked

    The (*&*&^^% ejector needing to be checked for being properly staked is an outrage. It used to be that 870’s had their ejector staked in like the Almighty was driving the punch… not so any more.

    – Check the headspace
    – Deburr & check the carrier

    The thing that really pisses me off when I take down a modern pump shotgun is getting my fingers sliced on the action bars, because the manufacture is too lazy to deburr the stamped metal bars. Both Remington and Mossberg are guilty here.

      • You should put them back in there. Tell people what you found. If this is The Truth About Guns, what you found is part of that truth. Tell it like you found it.

      • I hope you find the time to write that article some day. Besides being informative (and, I admit, probably pretty darned funny), it would be useful to us who might be interested in cleaning up our own shotguns as a part-time project.

    • It’s pretty pathetic that “straightening” a part that’s not supposed to be bent is now considered “tuning” and not “quality control from the factory”.

    • Uh yeah. This was my comment too. Half to 3/4 of the work is finishing Remington’s damn job. It’s obviously a nice gun when Wilson is done with it. But I’ll still stick with Mossberg, I just don’t feel like giving any money to Remington. And for higher end guns it’s hard to beat the Italians.

      Thanks Remington – another great American company swirling the drain in the name of bean counters, cost cutting, and short range thinking.

      • Sure makes a guy skeptical when someone starts singing the about the wonders of the Rem 700 series rifles (civ or mil).

    • My 870 express is a piece of junk. I worked on it, added a few parts and it still sucks. It often fails to go boom. The slide feels like I am dragging something over sand. I’ve cleaned it multiple times trying to fix it. I’ve had shells stick in the tube, I’ve had the tube puke shells back into the action while just standing there, not working the action or loading. The fit and finish is bad. My 60 year old Remington 760 (similar design) looks and feels much nicer than the new shotgun. After all of the frustration, I went out and bought a 590a1 and it has been outstanding since day 1.

      • It’s a real shame what’s become of Remington. I bought one of the original Expresses back in ’01 and it’s been a workhorse. My friends all had extractor problems. Than people started saying their firing pins were breaking. After that period Remington really started cutting corners, buying up companies, and selling merchandise instead of building reliable firearms. And then the R51 happened…

  2. 6+1 seems to be on the low-end for me… I’m not a huge scattergun guy, but my 930JM Pro has a 9+1 capacity with about the same weight.

  3. So this is a Border Patrol Shotgun? Not sure if it would be a worth while purchase since it probably won’t deter illegal immigrants from crossing the border of your property. /sarc

  4. All clearly State this fact up front Remington has not been the same since Freedom group AKA Remington Outdoors purchase them. They have completely cut costs quality control and half a dozen other things to make their product absolute shit. I’ve been a Mossberg man my whole life the company is still family-owned and operated. That means a lot to me and should mean a lot to the consumer buying their product. If I have ever had an issue with my Mossberg Which I have in a few cases in the past I’ve owned over 25 of them. I simply call Mossberg Talk to the customer rep And they send me a shipping tag so that I can box up my shotgun and send it back to them. Very quick turnaround time And if there’s an issue That they can’t seem to get right they replace the shotgun Free of charge send it right back to you. Beyond excellent customer service probably one of the best customer service In the business of firearms today. Their shotguns are used by the United States Army And other military Special Operations units across the United States and across the world. The action of their guns Is smoother than an 870 could ever hope to be Dual extractors On their 590 series In 500 series pump shotguns. Just a better made products Buy a better company who cares about their customer and not the dollar. Pick up a Mossberg next time you’re at the gun store Give her a whirl You’ll see what I’m talking about. I am to Mossberg at this current time I 590A1 SPX And at 9:30 Breacher And both guns are flawless Right out of the box even though I’ve done quite a few modifications Run like a dream. Jerry Miculek uses a Mossberg 930 There is a reason for it It’s the fastest firing semi-automatic shotgun in the world hands down.

  5. I had the bad luck of trying to help someone who purchased an 870 Express for home defense. It’s the rattliest, grittiest, most plasticky shotgun I’ve ever handled. I know where you’re coming from!!!

  6. You must have purchased a post move 870 Express, However, I understand recent management changes have reduced the influence of the quality-abhorrent bean counters in Huntsville. Regardless, my own experiences with 12 and 20 gauge Express models from around the turn of the century have been quite positive.
    All have been reliable from the get go. Some light action polishing followed with Slip 2000 EWL grease has rendered the actions smooth and fast!

    My favorite hog load, 3″ Dixie Tri-Ball buckshot , slams three .60 caliber, 325 grain pellets into palm size – point of aim patterns at 40 yards! This from the 26″ Express 12 bore with a full choke tube.

  7. With all my shotties, I take out the guts and deburr them, then polish the receiver and bolt.

    Time money and effort. Choose two.

    • The way I heard it was, “Fast, good, or cheap … you can have two of those three attributes but you cannot have all three. Pick any two that you want.”

      • That theorie doesn’t work anymore because time cost money, so the longer the production time the more it cost. Too fast and you wear out materials, consumables and equipment. Too slow and their is an increase in power consumption, labor costs insurance and employee benifits. There is a curve were it cost more to do thing slow than to do it fast.

  8. My 2005 era express works great. So do the 3 IAC shotguns I own. I do understand your criticism. I just hate the crunchy feel of a trigger when I’m in the middle of my gunfights.

    • I have both Benelli and Remington 870 shotguns. Benelli is very cool but 870 is much more sturdier. I have owned Remington 870 for about 10 years and never had to change springs or other parts in trigger group assembly. But I have replaced Benelli Supernova trigger group and many other parts in just 3 years of use.

  9. “but you’d be hard pressed not to find one in my truck” – JWT Just how many tools does one keep in said vehicle? At last count, there’s at least a pistol, shottie, AK build, and the venerable AR located somewhere in a 1/2 ton in TX 🙂

    • In my truck, right now, as always, I have:
      1 bastardized and sporterized mosin nagant and ammo
      1 18″ mossberg 500 with assorted ammo
      1 home made AK47 with a collapsable stock and 90 rounds of ammo (sometimes a .458socom AR instead)
      1 pocket 9mm (the Kahr PM9)
      1 FNX Tactical, supressed, 3 magazines, 100 90 rounds ammunition
      1 hatchet
      1 butcher knife
      1 randall hunting knife
      2 scalpels
      2 pocket knives
      A shovel and a tarp.
      And truly a shitload of other things.
      I am not prepared for me to hunt zombies. I am prepared for me and my friends to hunt anything.

  10. Yikes! So my $200 Pardner pump is better than the gun it’s a clone of? I still don’t get pouring money into a pump.

    • My wall-leaner is a Pardner Pump Protector 12 gauge with 18″ cylinder bore barrel. Tool marks everywhere. Plasticky stock. Nothing deburred and polished. But the damn thing runs like a top and I would trust it totally if things ever go bump in the night.

      • +1, I was recently gifted a newer unfired 870, it’s still unfired. I’ll probably hold onto it forever, and pass it down to grandchildren. If it works!

  11. Wilson Combat…

    LoL

    I never liked them. Ed Brown and Nighthawk are much better, to me.

    But I applaud them as capable business people. Look at the buzz they’ve been making with ARs, shotguns, 92s and all the propaganda going on for their 1911s. That’s the business acumen (i hate this word) other gunmakers need to learn from

  12. Has anyone tried the Weatherby pump home defense/combat 12 gauges I see online for $330- $375? They usually have pistol grip, ghost ring rear sight, and camouflage finish.

    • I know the gun of which you speak. I’ve held them at gun shops the polymer feels very cheap, the pistol grips on the pistol grip version feels very large and I have large+ sized hands (not xxl, but large gloves feel tight). I believe they are manufactured in Turkey. If looking for a cheap pump look at the Chinese 870 clone (Pardner Pump) $200, American Mossberg 500 black Friday bundles for $275, or if you want quality buy a Browning BPS or an Ithica.

  13. Hmm. I just lube and shoot the ever living shit out of my guns. They all get smooth and polished as hell too. I don’t think anything NIB Remington is a good idea though. Unfortunately. Such a great brand ruined.

  14. Or, for less than $200, you could purchase an H&R Pardner Pump shotgun which is a Remington 870 clone. If you were really motivated, then you could pay a local gunsmith $200 to smooth up the action and trigger a bit and be good to go. Or you could take a couple hours to do it yourself.

    I recently purchased the H&R Pardner pump compact shotgun in 20 gauge for $190. I took everything apart (except for the trigger assembly), removed all cutting fluid, oil, and grease, and lubricated it with Hoppe’s oil. The action is smooth and the trigger is even fairly decent.

  15. The original BP-1 (Border Patrol -1) shotgun was originally made by Scattergun Technologies out of Tennessee. I carried one from the mid 90’s until 2010. Glass smooth action. Absolutely reliable! The only issue I remember was that the magazine follower was replaced with a hi-vis low-friction polymer a couple of years after they were adopted for service. The BP-1, as issued, was an NFA weapon (SBS) much easier for carrying and handling in the confines of a vehicle. As far as I know that particular S/N# is still in inventory.

  16. MSRP: $1135
    Gee, at that price you could have bought an Ithaca 37, let alone some other more affordable alternatives.

    • In my experience, they work. I prefer Mossberg for a utility pump but the escorts I’ve used worked as advertised.

  17. It would be neat if TTAG would run a comparison of a Maverick 88 against a H&R PPP. Maybe break it down over the course of a few postings examining the long term durability and reliability of each as wella. Hell, toss in a Stevens 320 and whatever turkish flavor-o-the-week pump is competing in the same price bracket.

    It’d certainly be more meaningful to me then a review of a $1200 “polished” 870.

    • TTAG did the review on the Pardner Pump Protector and I think it is one of the most viewed pages of TTAG.

  18. I will take this a step further and say that Wilson did to Scatter Gun Technologies what the investors did to Remington.

    I recently purchased (read stole for $400) a used Rem 870 Police Magnum with the pre Wilson Combat – Scattergun Tech engraving. It is well used (smooth as butter) and probably saw duty given the rub marks from a car mount, it’s fit and finish is far superior to the newer Wilson branded models I’ve fingered.

    Shame on you Remington for producing a horrible product like the 870 Express and selling it to sheeple on your fore-fathers reputation.

  19. So if the 870 is junk, why did TTAG give it a five-star rating two years ago?

    Some quotes from the article, penned by Nick Leghorn:

    “The blued steel of the receiver and bolt both feel silky smooth, and I can’t find any signs of errant tool marks or rough patches.”

    “Compared to a Mossberg 500, for example, the gun is head-and-shoulders above the competition. When you rack the 870, the gun feels solid and well-built.”

    “It looks like the old metal trigger guard has been replaced with a new plastic version…While it may not sound like much, it’s the only issue I found on the entire gun.”

    Can someone (on staff) explain this to me? Is it hit-or-miss in terms of Remington’s quality control, or simply a difference of opinion between Mr. Leghorn and Mr. Taylor?

  20. Sounds like a poor-man’s Vang Comp. If you’re gonna gussy up an 870, don’t be cheap about it… go all the way, and get something that’s as well respected as Hans’ work…

  21. After WC gets done with it and sells it to the public or Boarder Patrol who warranties it if there is a problem? I wouldn’t want to send it back to Rem just to have them change out something that was tuned. Does Wilson take care of it. I’ve seen several articles here on TTAG that have weapons that are from an aftermarket gunsmith or shop and have wondered……

    • Spell check says your wrong. It told me I was wrong to, and went a head an changed it to the wright spelling. Thank you spell check.

  22. A lesson on price point. Remington continually finds ways to reduce costs at the expense of what the end customer wants. Wilson profits for making the dream come true. I believe Wilson got their start doing this for the Colt 1911. Be advised Remington – you will never make them fast enough or cheap enough to satisfy the morons at corporate. Use Estwing or Ruger as a model and make good products and sell them at a fair price
    Through no fault of anyone but American manufacturers the best low priced shotguns are made in Turkey.

  23. This is not the shotgun Border Patrol uses. The BP models have a pistol grip stock and are SBS. They also naturally have a slightly lower capacity since the tube length matches the barrel length.

    Not sure how the author claims to personally know this is what BP carries. What BP carries are definitely not Wilson Combat guns. Wilson Combat is just trying to imitate the model BP uses and sell it for a lot of money.

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