Obscure Object of Desire: Ohio National Guard Remington M870 Shotgun – Part 1

Ohio National Guard's Remington M870 Shotgun

Photo courtesy of A. Valdes

The Remington 870 is one of the best, most popular pump action shotguns ever designed. With over 11 million of them built since 1950, this shotgun has seen service across the globe as a personal defense weapon, backwoods hunting gun, clay buster, law enforcement tool, and even as a war machine. While military-configured model 870s are some of the most sought-after versions, sadly, very few have ever been surplussed.

According to Bruce N. Canfield’s fantastic book, Complete Guide to U.S. Military Combat Shotguns, the Remington 870 started its career as a military combat weapon in the 1960s. The U.S. Marine Corps was looking for a new shotgun to replace their WWII-era Winchester Model 1897s and 1912s. In 1969, Remington Arms answered the call with the 870 Mark 1.

Remington 870 Mark 1 courtesy of The World’s Fighting Shotguns by Thomas F. Swearengen

The Mark 1 is a Remington Model 870 Wingmaster with a 21-inch barrel fitted with a special bayonet adapter for the M16’s M7 bayonet, and rifle-style front and rear sight combo. It came with an extended magazine tube with an 8-round capacity and sling swivels to use the then standard OD Green Cotton Canvas M14 sling. A total of  3,230 Mark 1 shotguns were delivered and saw combat towards the end of the Vietnam War in May 1975 during the Mayaguez crisis.

Additionally, a “riot” configuration of the 870 Mark 1 was developed by Remington for additional sales and sold as the M870. The 21-inch barrel was replaced with a standard 20-inch cylinder bore tube and the iron sights were replaced by the classic bead sight.

A shorter handguard on the police contract guns was used instead of the longer one on the Mark 1. The iconic bayonet adapter of course was used. Various branches of the services purchased these guns, most notably the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and a number of state National Guards.

U.S. Navy marked 870

 

USAFR SSGT Westlake, 39th Operations Support Squadron with 870 12ga loaded with pyrotechnical shells as part of the Bird and Strike Hazard (BASH) program at Incirlik AB, Turkey, June 2002.

Few if any of these shotguns have ever been released on the civilian market as surplus and parts to build reproductions are hard to find and expensive.

Until now that is. A total of 1,286 Remington 870 shotguns originally ordered by the Ohio National Guard were sold as surplus by Sportsman’s Outdoors Superstore.

Courtesy of Sportsman’s Outdoors Superstore

 

Courtesy of Sportsman’s Outdoors Superstore.

The sale was possible because these shotguns were purchased by the state of Ohio for issuance to the Ohio National Guard rather than the Department of Defense. These shotguns were state property and the deal was negotiated because the ONG transferred them to the Ohio Department of Corrections which acted as the agency surplussing these shotguns to the vendor.

These shotguns were ordered by Ohio National Guard in 1971 and used for state service until just recently. Most of the time, they were used for training and weapons qualification.

Cpl. Perry Cossey, teaches soldiers how to properly load during the Shotgun Qualification Range at Camp Perry, Ohio. May 2006

 

Spc. Brian Johnson, loads his 870 on the shotgun qualification range at Camp Perry, Ohio. May 2006

There are two famous incidents where these 870s were put to use.

The first is the 1993 Lucasville Prison Riot. For 11 days, starting on April 11 (Easter Sunday), 450 prisoners formed an unlikely alliance between prison gangs like the Gangster Disciples, Muslims, and Aryan Brotherhood. They rioted and took over the facility.

A total of nine inmates and one correctional officer were killed. Ohio Governor George Voinovich ordered the National Guard to assist the State Police in securing the prison perimeter to prevent escapes and take direct action if needed.

Summer 1993 issue of Buckeye GUARD

You can read the entire report from the Ohio National Guard’s magazine by clicking here.

The other famous incident in which these shotguns saw deployment was 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The Ohio National Guard was deployed under state orders by Ohio Governor Bob Taft and to Louisiana to take part in recovery efforts. As such, the Ohio National Guard took part in restoring law and order and wasn’t restrained by the Posse Comitatus Act, even though they were outside of their state’s borders.

Robert Faulcon, New Orleans Police stands next to Sgt. Jacob Tracey, a Scout from Bellfontaine, Ohio with Headquarters Company, 1st of the 148th Infantry Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard. Soldiers and Officers were working to restore law and order with integrated patrols.

 

Soldiers of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 1st of the 148th Infantry were the first out-of-state Soldiers to assist in the evacuation of the Louisiana Superdome.

 

Soldiers of Company D, 1st of the 148th Infantry Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard make their way around one of the many washed out areas in a North Eastern portions of New Orleans. The Soldiers were performing search and rescue operations as part of Operation Katrina.

 

Ohio Army National Guard on patrol in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

If you’d like to read the direct recounting of events that the ONG took during Hurricane Katrina., click here for the December 2005 issue of Buckeye GUARD.

These guns played a small, but important role in the Ohio National Guard’s history and are one of the few legit military contract Remington 870s ever released to the civilian market. Combat shotguns are a hugely popular subculture in collector circles, but actually have a smaller pool of guns due to smaller orders placed during government procurement since combat shotguns aren’t primary combat weapons. Original Winchester 1897s and 1912s from WWI and WWII are hard enough to find and Vietnam era Ithaca M37s are even more scarce.

As mentioned earlier, to my knowledge, no Remington 870 Mark 1 has ever been sold surplus and very few M870 shotguns have been.

The Mossberg 500/590 series of shotguns is the most commonly encountered shotgun in military service at the moment. And when everyone thinks of the Mossberg combat shotgun, they of course think of this:

The classic Mossberg 590A1. But to put this in perspective, the original procurement specifications called for three types of shotguns.

The Type 1 called for the classic trench gun configuration. That meant a heat shield and the ability to mount a bayonet. Only about 1,000 were ever ordered in that configuration and the majority of them were went to U.S. Marine Embassy Security detachments.

The majority of Mossbergs in service are the Type II. These are either 18-inch or 20-inch barrel length 500s or 590s. A few were made for the Navy with 17-inch barrels, but none of these have the ability to take a bayonet.

The Type IIIs were another specific design request that has never been ordered. So right now the majority of shotguns in service are basic commercial configurations that are no different than you can find in Walmart or Bass Pro Shops. Luckily, even though the Type I-configured Mossbergs might be small in number in official military service, Mossberg provides them commercially to this day. Remington never did that with the Remington M870.

So one of the last specific military designed combat shotguns with an actual history of military use has been released to the market and I was lucky enough to get my hands one on.

Ohio National Guard's Remington M870 Shotgun

Photo courtesy of A. Valdes

Stayed tuned for Part 2 when we’ll go over in detail the Ohio National Guard M870 Combat Shotgun.

comments

  1. avatar Big Sky says:

    So sad that such a distinguished firearm had to end up in the hands of a soulless mindless rudderless brainless corporation that couldn’t care less about quality, history, and American.

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      too bad they weren’t equipped with them at Kent State……….

      1. avatar jwm says:

        The 870’s would have been tight and new then. As opposed to worn out m1’s. With spreads of 00 on an open field there would have been more folks hit.

        If that was your intent.

      2. avatar Patrick H says:

        If I recall correctly, not one of the students killed was protesting. The actual victims were kids walking to class. The day of the incident, no students were violent in any case. It had become a peaceful protest.

        But yeah, frank, I take your point. This was arguably the one time in American history that the military was unleashed on the civilians. It’s just too bad that that those kids weren’t all sprayed with 00 buck.

        1. avatar aerindel says:

          Its too bad those kids weren’t all armed.

        2. avatar Mike G says:

          You forgot Waco. There were more tanks at Waco than there were at Mogadishu. Janet Reno commanded more firepower than any National Guard unit. If any ‘kids’ should have been armed, it should have been those three dozen children incinerated by Commissar Reno’s armored brigade.

  2. avatar Michael says:

    Great article, police/military shotguns are interesting, they are great to collect and with the exception of the authentic Win. ’97 riot/trench versions the prices are still sorta reasonable. I know that Remington factory folding stock looks tacticool…using one hurts like…well, let’s just leave it there. There is also a handle, made out of what is basically just a, bent to fit, piece of wire that squeezes into two holes on the underside of the folded butt plate so you can carry it like an M16, suitcase style. I think that might be the most obscure piece of firearms trivia I know. -30-

  3. avatar Mike Betts says:

    When I got to my Marine assignment south of Danang in September 1966, I was assigned the duty of “Bunker NCO”. When I told the battalion armorer which bunker I was assigned to, he handed me a Remington 870 and told me that since I was in a bunker which faced a Vietnamese orphanage, a shotgun was the only thing I was allowed to discharge if the VC came at us from that direction. It was a standard off-the-shelf 870 lacking even a sling or the swivels for one.

  4. avatar Brandon Olson says:

    I’ve seen it published in articles a few times recently, stating the 870 began production in 1950. This is incorrect. The Remington 870 started production in 1949. I know this because I own one with a serial number below 100,000 which Remington dated as 1949 production year.

  5. avatar pwrserge says:

    Interesting… I’m sort of mixed on scaterguns in general as combat weapons. At short (50 ft in) range it definitely have authority. However, the absurdly low capacity and hard followup shots make them odd weapons to use.

    1. avatar MouseGun says:

      How many gun fights that take place past 50 yards, serge?

      1. avatar MouseGun says:

        My comment was meant to be “how many gun fights that take place over 50 yards have you been in, serge?”, but for some reason some of my key strokes didn’t register, and the edit option was missing under my post.

        1. avatar pwrserge says:

          Enough to appreciate a rifle. Fortunately, my job never involved clearing buildings.

        2. avatar Big Bill says:

          I’m pretty sure the edit option is missing under everyone’s post now.

          But the facelift sure looks nice.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Depends on the region of the world you use them in. Shotguns are very useful in places like VN. I see the shotgun in military hands as a specialist tool. Something that each patrol should have 1 as a just in case.

      You’re not going to replace rifles with shotguns. But you can add support to the rifle in a couple of important ways.

    3. avatar New Continental Army says:

      Follow up shots on a shotgun aren’t slow if one is properly experienced. Trap shooting teaches one to sling lead out of a pump fast, and accurate. I can pump rounds out of a pump shot gun as fast as I can a semi auto.

  6. avatar MouseGun says:

    From a fabled time when 870s has a blued finish, instead of a finish that was somewhere between powder coating and spray paint.

  7. avatar daveinwyo says:

    The sound of a pump action shotgun being racked is the most recognized sound on Earth. Every where I have been in the world the motion and sound is known. Maybe not the Amazon, but most every where. Maybe because of hollywierd?

    1. avatar frank speak says:

      that “sound” was enough to get them banned in australia…..

    2. avatar Big Bill says:

      I’m gonna suggest that the fart is a more widely recognized sound.
      Even in the Amazon.

  8. avatar I1uluz says:

    I was lucky to notice the folding stock version was available, for $239.99 shipped why not having lived in Ohio. Didn’t know about when they may have been used for something other than weekend warriors. The one I have is much better shape than the 10 year old 870 Magnum. Mossberg just did or has plan of releasing the retro version of the heat shield version. Sure it will cost more than my folding stock ONG 870.

  9. avatar Scoutsout23 says:

    I find it funny that people bought these for under 400.00 then automatically turned around and listed them for 900.00-1100.00. Seems like they were more interested in the profit margin rather than the historical aspect of these collectables.

  10. avatar DW says:

    I managed to pick up an old police surplus silver spoon wing master 870 a few years ago. Dressed it up with a side saddle and some new furniture. Shoots like a dream. I love it.

    The new stuff… it’s like they quit even trying.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      50 years ago we would have laughed at a person choosing a Mossberg over an 870. Now all my pumps are Mossbergs and I don’t own a single Remington.

      I’m hard pressed to think of a person I know that has bought a new Remington within the last 10-15 years that has not had a problem.

  11. avatar luigi says:

    I wanna own the exact one they shot that hippie with

  12. avatar Bruce Abbott says:

    Back in the 1980’s I served in the USCG, and we had 870s on the small boats, which I qualified with as a boarding officer. Half-way thru my enlistment, the Remingtons were withdrawn and replaced by Mossbergs, much to our displeasure. The only feature on the new gun that I liked better than the 870 was that top safety. Wonder what happened to those USCG Remingtons? I saw a Mossberg come thru the shop years ago with nothing left forward of the receiver. The owner was given some reloads, and we speculate that one was double-charged. The locking lug extension sheared off, and the barrel, magazine tube and forend launched itself over the side during a duck hunt. The owner didn’t even get a scratch.

    1. avatar Shallnot BeInfringed says:

      Sounds familiar – in the early-to-mid 80’s I was in the Navy on a boomer (ballistic missile sub), and we had one or two 870s on board. They very rarely surfaced except for entering/leaving port, but one of those times we ran on the surface for a while my chief called me topside and asked me, “You ever fire a shotgun?” I replied, “Sure, I grew up on a farm and did some hunting.” He handed me an 870 and 5 shells and told me to fire them over the side. I asked what to point at… should I even shoulder it? Naw, from the hip was fine. So I carried out his order (LOL), handed it back to him with a smile on my face, and he said, “Now you’re qualified on shotgun!”

      However ours were unlike the Mark 1 above, much closer to a police model – plain wood stock, 18″ bbl, no rib, bead sight, and probably a corncob forend. No bayonet adapter or muzzle device of any kind. In fact, if my memory still functions (albeit not as accurately as it once did) ours even had factory-length magazines, although I’ll admit to being foggy about that; they could have been 7-8 rd. extended tubes.

      What a way to “qualify” on a weapon! But I guess he figured with my background I knew my way around them.

  13. avatar skiff says:

    Great story, great photos. I purchased a Remington folding stock for my 870 back in the 1980’s. Oh, it looks cool especially with the metal stock folded up. It didn’t work well for me, lack of cheek weld and it didn’t fit right in the shoulder. I put the wood stock back on.

  14. avatar skiff says:

    “Four dead in Ohio”, Crosby, Stills, Nash &Young. As a college student then, i’m old enough to remember.

  15. avatar Garandy says:

    I first encountered these when I got out of the Army and joined the Ohio National Guard. Trained with them many times over the years and slept with one for the duration of the Hurricane Katrina activation. After the Mossbergs arrived, I always wondered if these wonderful old Wingmasters would turn up somewhere. Really grateful to now own one of the folders- a piece of my personal military history!

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