XS Sights has just released a +2 mag extension kit and tritium front sight for the Remington 870…perfect for your defensive shotgun upgrade

by Lou Patrick

Thoughtful Americans have always understood that personal and home defense are their responsibility alone. Many who have never given personal defense a lot of thought have certainly changed their perspective on this over the last year. Gun ownership is WAY up, and this sudden increase in sales has resulted in a seemingly endless ammunition drought.

With all this in mind, I’m reminded of an often-asked question…“If I could only own one firearm, what would it be?”

This is a difficult question to answer. While I certainly do not claim to have “The” Answer,” a strong case can be made for the shotgun. One of the most popular shotguns in circulation is, without doubt, the Remington 870.

Introduced in 1950 and with somewhere around 10 million having been produced, a Remington 870 pump-action shotgun is certainly a good choice for home defense, and with so many having been produced, it’s not yet too difficult to get your hands on one, if you’re willing to pay pandemic prices. I was fortunate to pick up a used 870 through Gunbroker about a year ago with the intention of making it a “last stand” defender.

Whether we are talking about hunting or home defense, the fast-handling, instinctive point-and-shoot ability of the shotgun is tough to beat. It has been my experience that beginners can master a shoulder-fired firearm more easily than a handgun. The shotgun, firing multiple projectiles at close range, also eliminates the more complex need of critical front and rear sight alignment—yet another aid to the beginner. We simply point our shotgun at the intended target using a single bead front sight, which increases the speed at which a shotgun can be effectively deployed. Combined with the fact that a simple change in ammunition covers small game hunting, deer hunting, and home defense, the shotgun is arguably the most diverse and practical firearm you can own.

Remington 870s can hold four shotshells in the magazine tube; however, in some states, depending on the game being hunted, the four-shot mag capacity must be reduced. Our used Gunbroker shotgun arrived with a plug in the mag tube that limited magazine capacity to two shotshells. A two-shot home defense firearm is not desirable. In fact, I want all the ammo I can get on-board. Fortunately, it is easy to increase the magazine capacity of the Remington 870 with the new +2 Extension and Detent Swage Tool Kit from XS Sights.

While best known for their robust handgun, rifle, and shotgun open sight systems, XS Sights also produces an ever-growing lineup of firearm accessories geared toward defensive and competition applications. The latest is the 870 +2 Extension kit and, naturally, we had to give it a go.

While we were at it, we decided this would be a good time to add a little substance to our stock bead sight. Sure, it does fine in proper lighting, but when answering those bump-in-the-night calls, a more pronounced sight alignment is a good thing. For this, we turned to the XS Sights Big Dot Tritium Bead Sight—an epoxy-on tritium sight bead with a large glow ring that really stands out in low-light conditions.

Installation of both the extension kit and the tritium sight bead onto a Remington 870 is simple enough and requires no fancy tools.

Installing the +2 Mag Extension Kit

The XS Sights +2 Extension and Detent Swage Tool Kit includes a one-piece mag extension crafted from machined and hard-coat anodized 6061 aluminum plus a 45-inch 12-gauge spring by noted spring manufacturer Wolff. Because some Remington 870 magazine tubes feature detents at the end of the tube, a detent swage tool is included to remove the dimples and ensure the magazine tube is a consistent inside diameter.

Before any work begins, be sure the shotgun is unloaded, the magazine tube is empty, and the safety is engaged.

Start by removing the magazine cap. This may be finger tight or a pair of pliers may be needed. The best pliers that I’ve found for this job are made by Crescent, part #529-10. The polymer-lined jaws will not mar the cap and the radius of the jaws fit the cap perfectly.

The magazine spring and spring retainer should remain in the magazine tube when you remove the magazine cap, but it is wise to carefully remove the cap just in case the mag spring and retainer come out with it.

With magazine cap removed, the barrel will now slide forward out of the receiver and off the magazine tube.

On older model 870s, the magazine spring retainer is secured to the magazine tube with one screw. Place your thumb on the spring retainer (arrow), holding it in place as you remove the screw. Remove this screw carefully as the magazine spring retainer is under spring tension.

With the screw removed, the magazine spring retainer slides forward out of the mag tube (remember…this is under spring tension). The spring retainer pictured is of the extended variety that limits mag capacity—a requirement for hunting in some states.

Remove the magazine spring from the magazine tube.

Instead of the screw hole seen here, some model 870 magazine spring retainers are held in place with dimples pressed into the magazine tube. These dimples must be removed prior to installing the mag extension, as the dimples will not allow a shotshell to pass by and enter the magazine extension. Fortunately, XS Sights provides an easy-to-use solution with the mag extension kit.

The dimple swaging tool provided with the kit provides an easy means to remove the factory dimples. Insert the tool into the magazine tube until it is stopped by the dimples.

Tap the swaging tool with a hammer until it bottoms out on the larger diameter stop. This will raise the dimples. Once the tool is fully seated, lightly tap the dimples, this will aid in properly “ironing out” the dimples and releasing the swaging tool, allowing it to be removed.

As received, the magazine spring is too long and will need to be trimmed to 33 inches.

Slide the barrel into the receiver and onto the mag tube.

Install the XS Sights magazine spring.

Install the XS Sights magazine extension. The magazine extension will also accommodate various barrel/tube clamps, such as those used for sling attachment and flashlight mounting.

XS Sights advised us that 33 inches of magazine spring is a good beginning length for most shotguns. The spring length, though, may be just a little too long for some guns. Using dummy rounds, load six shells into the magazine tube and cycle all six through the shotgun. If the shotgun cycles properly, you’re good to go. If not, you will need to trim a little off the mag spring (half a coil) and test again. Continue to do this until the shotgun functions properly. Our shotgun functioned perfectly with a 33-inch spring.

XS Sights Big Dot Tritium Bead Sight

The fast-handling, point-and-shoot ability of the traditional shotgun front bead is ideal for home defense. Problem is that these beads tend to be small and become difficult to see in low light conditions. This problem is further compounded for those of us with eyesight problems.

XS Sights has the solution with their Big Dot Tritium Bead sight. Emitting a constant glow that is highly visible in compromised lighting conditions, the tritium insert is always ready and allows you to easily see the sight under any illumination level. The Big Dot is also much larger and easier to see than a traditional front bead, accentuating the quick sight alignment capabilities of any shotgun. What’s more, this is an EASY upgrade that only takes a few minutes.

Using epoxy to secure it into place, the XS Sights Big Dot installs on top of the original factory front bead pedestal. We used JB Weld to secure the Big Dot in place. Correctly applied, JB Weld provides for a secure attachment to the shotgun pedestal. Any blow to the front sight that is hard enough to knock it off would probably result in breaking the original front bead as well.

Good preparation will provide for a long-lasting, secure sight attachment. For proper adhesion, all components must be thoroughly degreased. Use denatured alcohol to degrease the factory front bead and pedestal.

Use denatured alcohol to degrease the mounting surface of the XS Sight Big Dot.

While degreasing, pay attention to the hole in the bottom of the Big Dot. This hole will slide over the original factory bead and sit atop the pedestal.

Mix equal parts of JB Weld. We added a little black dye from a Brownell’s Acraglas kit to help match the color of the barrel and sight.

Apply epoxy to the front bead.

Apply epoxy to the mounting surface and inside the mounting hole of the Big Dot sight.

Align the mounting hole of the Big Dot sight over the front bead and install the sight.

Use a small straight edge to remove the overflow from around the sight.

Until the epoxy cures, the front sight can be rotated on the bead to ensure that the sight is properly aligned (equal distance on each side of bead pedestal). Once positioned, allow the epoxy to cure the recommended time.

With just a few parts from XS Sights, basic hand tools, and a little time, our 870 is now better prepared to fill its role as a defensive shotgun.

Lou is a U.S. Army veteran, graduate of Pennsylvania Gunsmith School, and is a National Institute for Metalworking Skills certified machinist. A lifelong shooting and hunting enthusiast, he has operated his own gunsmithing business and worked as a gunsmith for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, GA. Lou has co-authored several instructional books on firearm building and is in agreement with Colonel Whelen that, “Only accurate rifles are interesting.”

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