Shotgun Upgrades: 2021 Update

I signed up for the Steve Fisher shotgun class in June, so I felt like this was an opportune time to make a couple changes with my shotguns. Realistically, I’m only going to bring my standard 870, with Stoeger M3K as a backup (unless I somehow acquire a Beretta 1301 in the meantime), but the fun thing about common platforms is that an upgrade in one gun can sometimes also turn into an upgrade in another gun.

When we last left my Civet-12 (870-alike that takes Saiga mags), it was in stock shape. Other than the stock being too long, the Civet-12 is not actually a bad gun out of the box, but like every gun enthusiast, I can’t simply leave well enough alone.

I had two primary goals for the Civet-12 in terms of upgrades: get the Magpul stock on it, and then figure out a way to get a weapon light installed.

My Remington 870 was in better shape. I had used it in the JDC shotgun class and it had performed pretty well (sans a fumbled backwards shell, which I assume was my fault). My only quibble was that I had mixed feelings about the Streamlight TL-Racker on it. The TL-Racker is a perfectly good shotgun light, but I felt like its ergonomics were not necessarily conducive to use in a high round count class. Simply put, it’s a chunky handguard, and that was exacerbated slightly by the thickness of the grip.

I think you can guess where I’m going with this.

Besides the promised Magpul stock installation, I purchased a Surefire DSF-870 forend, and then swapped it on to my Remington 870. I then moved the Streamlight TL-Racker to the Civet-12.

All of this went pretty smoothly. The Magpul stock fits the Civet-12 just fine, and both forends went on as expected. As noted in the Guntweaks review, the Civet-12 is a little weird in that the tube is for a 20 gauge 870. Therefore, there is a little bit of space in the forend around the tube. A spacer sleeve should fix this this, so I may try to gin up a quick 3D print to fill the OD (~.145″) gap between the tube and the forend. It’s not a problem when cycling it for testing, but I do worry that pumping it enthusiastically off axis could lead to bent action bars. (Incidentally, this is a problem that Remington solved exactly like I’m describing with the Tac-14 20 gauge – see this Recoil review for more. Unfortunately, Remington is out of business, so I can’t just buy the parts from them.)

The Streamlight looks weird on the Civet-12. It’s absolutely straight; the receiver, small tube, dropped action bars, and taper of the barrel just make it look otherwise. Like the Surefire, it impinges the receiver slightly at full stroke, but not enough to matter.

Now, light to light comparison… the Surefire is, in my opinion, almost indisputably the better light in terms of ergonomics and controls. It’s easier to get a good grip on; the buttons are easy to remember, and they’re located intuitively. If you are going to be racking this thing all day, the slimmer grip (IMHO) is more comfortable.

In the Streamlight’s favor, you’ve got lighter weight (~14oz vs ~17oz), huge buttons, and nominally more output (1k lumens vs 600 lumens). On the downside, the grip shape isn’t great (too thick), and the controls are not amazing for stress usage. The Surefire has three buttons; the Streamlight uses a single-button “long-click momentary, short-click constant” paradigm. I’m not saying this is unusable by any means, I just don’t know that I want yet another thing to remember in what could be a dangerous moment overall.

I like the Surefire better, overall. Shooting ergonomics take precedence over raw lumens for my usage, and the weight difference is not enough to tip the scales (forgive the pun). That said, the Surefire is about 2.5x the cost of the Streamlight. And both, in my opinion, are a serious improvement over trying to side mount a light to the handguard, which is just an ugly idea on a pump gun due to how it interferes with your grip.

I am pretty happy with how things turned out. The Civet-12 could still use an optic and a choke, and I have been thinking about putting an Aridus QD-C side saddle on the 870. I rather wish someone would come up with a class for mag-fed shotguns; I think it would be fascinating to explore the usage of them as something more than range toys.

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