The 12 gauge pump shotgun is a survival firearm everyone should own. It is legal in most areas, it is capable of taking any game animal from squirrel to pheasant to bear, and it is an excellent option for home/camp security. The 12 gauge shotgun, as robust as it is, can be finicky and like all tools, it must be maintained. This is where the role of an armorer comes into play. An armorer is capable of diagnosing problems with a firearm and keeping it in working order. Armorer status is not exclusive to law enforcement or the military and it can be attained by civilians through programs like the Remington 870 Factory Authorized armorer’s course. I recently attended this class in Las Vegas and leveled up my survival firearm knowledge and suggest you do as well.
Vang Comp is a company I’ve been acquainted with for many years. They have a proprietary process to port shotgun barrels, lengthen the forcing cone, and another wizardry that reduces the felt recoil by “stretching” it out so to speak. This process also tightens the shot pattern helping you keep all 9 pellets of 00 buckshot on the paper out to further distances. My Vang Comp ported Remington 870, for example, will stay on paper all the way out to 30 yards. Ask anyone in the Survival and Defensive Shotgun Course Gerry and I ran last year how well the Vang Comp System works and the consensus would be the same.
Earlier this year, I spoke to Vang Comp President Cody Stewart about the possibility of running a course in his neck of the woods. Vang Comp moved to Las Vegas from Chino Valley, AZ and the company resumed services in Sin City. When we spoke, we decided to partner up with an armorer course on a Friday followed by Fieldcraft Survival medical and land navigation training on Saturday and Sunday. Las Vegas is a destination city with plenty of activities for all ages. These courses paired with the surrounding area and an incredible facility at the Nevada State Highway Patrol made the weekend planning a no-brainer.
Armorer Course Summary
The armorer course is designed to provide a deeper understanding of the Remington 870 shotgun. In production since the 1950s, there have been over 11 million Remington 870s produced. From the cost-efficient Express to the Wingmaster and Police models, there are many variations of the shotgun with wood stocks to synthetic and intended purposes for the woodline and the streets. The overall design is not complicated and the parts are robust but like any tool, user error is often the reason why a perfectly functioning firearm will fail.
The course started off with a student introduction followed by one by the instructor, Richard. Students were instructed on the reasons for failure including many man-made like abuse that can damage the front bead and assembly/disassembly issues that can bend moving parts. Students learned how to examine the various parts of the firearm including the barrel, the bolt, operating arms, and spring. Specific tools were introduced and discussed such as forend wrenches and the problems that can arise when using the “BFS” or “Big F’ing Screwdriver” to do what it shouldn’t. Other common tools in the armorer’s toolbox were brought up like a quality ball-peen hammer with a smooth finished face. Driving pins with a deformed hammer face can scratch the receiver of a shotgun if the swing is errant.
The armorer class included plenty of hands-on time learning the right way to maintain a Remington 870 firearm and the best practices for use. Before this class, I had taken multiple defensive shotgun classes at the SIG academy, with Stretz Tactical, and with Gerry Young. I also spent plenty of time using a Remington 870 for hunting in Connecticut since 1996. In all those years, no one ever told me how quickly the magazine tube spring can degrade compared to other firearms. For law enforcement that loads the tube and keeps the shotgun cruiser ready mounted vertically, the force of gravity with the weight of those shotshells and lack of “breathing space” for the spring can quickly deteriorate its strength of it. This, and the fact I can select load a slug before running the slide are the reasons my 6-shot 870 Police Magnum will be loaded with 5 rounds. Mind blown.
There were other great discussion topics and along with Richard, the LE crowd that ranged from local municipalities to federal work shared experiences with their firearms. As we learned, the 11 million 870 shotguns that Remington produced can have slight variations from one model to the next even if they are the same model. We learned there is no one right way to lubricate the 870, some believe a thin coat of weapons lubricant is in order and others believe it should be run as wet as possible. Toward the end of the day, we disassembled the trigger assembly and learned how to replace/swap the cross-bolt safety. Once all parts on the table were accounted for and reassembled into a functional firearm, students received certificates and were dismissed.
I took the Vang Comp Remington 870 Armorer class because I carry one in my vehicle at all times and use one for hunting. Just like the SIG Sauer P320 and Glock armorer courses I’ve taken, I now have a better understanding of how to keep this firearm running. If that increases the chances of one of those tools working when it needs to, I’ll definitely consider the training worth it. Richard was an excellent instructor and the pace of the course was appropriate with plenty of time for questions and answers. Some would consider the shotgun antiquated or even simplistic but there are many nuances to it that only a course that does a deep dive can provide. I’m very pleased to have taken the class and recommend it to all of you.
I attended the 870 Armorer course after purchasing a used Remington 870 Wingmaster off of Utah Gun Exchange for a great price. The folks at Vang Comp are going to help bring it up to date by converting it from 2 ¾ to 3” magnum, treating the barrel, Swapping the field-grade stock for a cleaned-up police stock, and refinishing the metal parts. If you are looking for a custom scattergun for the field, your vehicle, or home defense, let the Vang Comp work on your shotgun. They know their trade and we’re happy to call them friends.