At one time upland game hunting in Illinois was the primary gig, pheasant and rabbit were plentiful and the avid outdoorsman had several scatterguns; deer hunting was a secondary sport. Times have changed, the pheasant numbers are down, habitat is evaporating and the few places that are good rabbit spots are usually deer leases. With a few shotguns in the cabinet that rarely get used for game anymore it was time to consider repurposing one.
I’ve been tempted more than a few times to buy a home defense shotgun. You know the type, pistol grip, slings, and gadgets to hold extra shells, heat shields, bayonets, can openers, everything attached to them except maybe a drill press. Why would you need one of those? I have no idea but I still find them intriguing.
Purchasing one of these has been on my mind for ten years or better, so I thought I might get serious about it as crime is up a bit, even in the rural Midwest and it’s always good to be prepared. I took the time to shoot a few of these so called defensive shotguns and quickly realized what I didn’t need; most of it was what I thought I wanted. I shot a pistol grip only 12 ga. pump from the hip while attending an NRA pistol class and soon found out at 12 yards you can miss horribly with a shotgun, I would have never guessed it. I could have thrown the gun and been more effective. Shooting anything from the hip is more likely to cause more pain to yourself than anything you’d point it at.
While a pistol grip on a shotgun stock is kind of nice for still hunting/calling in Turkey it’s rarely useful in a home defense situation. One of my favorite all time gun writers once told me adding anything to a well-made shotgun stock that points well only makes it not point so well. The habits learned pulling up quickly on pheasant and rabbit are only lost when you add something that doesn’t need to be there.
I decided instead of buying a HD (Home defense) shotgun as they are called that I’d build one, basically using the frame of my old Remington 870 express and then add what I wanted to make it more maneuverable and effective should it ever be needed.
In realizing the old stock was looking pretty ratty and finish worn off I decided to have the furniture on the gun Hydro-dipped in a military camo that way when grabbing from the safe it is designated an HD gun and not having the magazine capacitor in place. (making this mistake and taking it afield on a hunt would result in a ticket so make sure you know how many shells your gun holds).
Next I needed to address the 28 inch barrel, 18.5 is the legal minimum in IL. so I went that route and ordered a police barrel (basically a smooth bore slug gun barrel that accepts chokes for different uses). I also wanted a light on it as fumbling with a flashlight and shotgun without having them as one is a recipe for disaster for even the most coordinated folks.
I want the ammo close at hand and find a defensive gun better be a onetime grab, meaning open the securing case and grabbing one item to light the way, protect my family and be able to maintain safety until help (I.e. authorities) arrive. This resulted in a heavy duty sling that will hold ammo. I chose one with a metal grab loop halfway up the sling, all ammo above the loop will be buckshot and slugs, the ammo below birdshot.
The flashlight is barrel mounted and can light up any size area within the guns reach. An old gun refurbished to new life, a new purposeful life that I hope I never need. I can still put a rifled choke tube in it and a magazine plug and hunt deer and bear, a full choke to hunt upland game or simply make it a camp gun. With the twist of a few screws I can put it back to its factory condition in case I ever get sentimental for its original format. For now though Its willing and able to serve.
What my 870 looked like new almost 23 years ago
The new improved upgrades that won’t help the value of the firearm but add to its usefulness
Safety first, until next time, God Bless,
Matt Cheever ~ Flatlander