May 2011

Replacement Stocks: Phoenix Noses out Knoxx, Four Others

When we bolted on buttstock upgrades for the Remington 870, the Phoenix Technology KickLite Tactical Stock won the day with higher carrying capacity and a softer-feeling recoil.

The nearly unquestioned champion of home defense is the shotgun, which provides power, capacity, and hall-clearing firepower when you’re the only one standing between some zombies and your loved ones. Unlike in concealed carry, where portability is extremely important, the home shotgun can stand magazine-loaded but in a safe condition in a corner, waiting to answer whatever bad news the night brings in on size 13 boots.

Assuredly, the plugged-for-ducks pumpgun can do double duty in this role, offering three shots of No. 4s, but 5 or 7 or 12 handy shots are better, most would agree, so a certain tactical design comes to the fore.

Many consumers love the Remington 870 pump shotgun both as a field product or as a tactical shotgun. We have tested and rated many of them very highly. This round we wanted to take an 870 that had good basic appeal and see if adding some stuff to it would make it better.

Toward that end, we looked back nearly six years and found an 870 that earned a ‘Buy It’ rating, but which lost ground to the test winner in part because of its stock. In the September 2005 issue, we tested the Remington Model 870 Express Magnum Synthetic 12 gauge No. 25077, $345, against the Mossberg Persuader Model 590A1 No. 51411 and the Winchester Defender Model 1300 Pistol Grip & Stock Combo No. 512907308. All three guns were matte-black synthetic-stock pumps with 3-inch chambers, with 18- to 18.5-inch barrels and weights around 7 pounds. One of our staffers wound up keeping the Model 870 Express Synthetic, but he wasn’t happy with the furniture. The fixed 870 buttstock had an LOP of 14 inches, a drop at comb of 1.5 inches, and a drop at heel of 2.5 inches, with no noticeable cast. In the 2005 test, the Winchester came with a pistol grip, which gave it flexibility the others couldn’t match. Also, the Winchester had a noticeably better buttpad than the others. Its ventilated design was much softer, and the edges were already rounded off. As well, the Mossberg and Winchester buttstocks included molded-in studs for rear sling swivels, and the Winchester also included a screw-in stud on its magazine cap. Overall, our team said the Winchester’s stock was much better than the Remington’s, so that naturally became the area we wanted to try to improve.

So we ordered five replacement buttstock kits from Brownells, along with some tools to make assembling the upgraded 870 parts easier. Because Brownells offers so many buttstocks, we’ve listed the company’s order numbers to ensure you can find the right product if you choose to follow our advice and buy one. Our test units were the Blackhawk Knoxx SpecOps Folding Stock ($130; #100-003-180), the Blackhawk Knoxx SpecOps Adjustable Recoil-Reducing Stock ($135; #100-002-438), the Phoenix Technology KickLite Tactical Stock ($110; #100-005-357), the Brownells Remington 870 Tactical Conversion Kit ($180, #080-000-567); Choate’s Top-Fold Stock ($103, #159-000-014), and the Mesa Tactical Products Low-Tube Kit ($230, #100-003-297).

Along with these stocks, we also ordered a Brownells Magna-Tip Ratchet Handle ($30, #080-000-513) and a Remington Forend Wrench ($51, #080-870-202). Not to veer too far off course, but it’s worth noting that our team came to depend on these two tools very heavily while moving the stocks on and off the test action. The ratcheting driver has an ergonomically designed T-shaped handgrip of high-impact plastic contoured to ensure maximum comfort and control. It provided extra leverage to quickly tighten or loosen the stock screws, and it accepts all Magna-Tip bits, which are magnetized. On a couple of the stocks, the magnetism was a godsend in aligning screws in dark, deep pockets and getting them started with a twist of the wrist.

The Remington Forend Wrench made getting to and removing the action nut on the 870 simple, which was helpful on the three kits that had forend replacements. That became doubly important because we compared the forends to each other in administrative handling indoors, and decided to keep the original Remington forend on throughout our shooting tests. Making those "is-A-better-than-B?" forend changes without the forend wrench would have been arduous.

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