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Thread: Iron Sights vs Bead vs ??? for HD Shotgun

  1. #1
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    Iron Sights vs Bead vs ??? for HD Shotgun

    My HD 870 is equipped with a Mossberg 18" bead-equipped barrel. This barrel works fine and patterns great with Federal FliteControl 00 buck. It patterns tight out to 25yds (longest straight shot in my house is 15yds). As for Slugs, I've only shot those out to 15yds, but I'm able to put them all into a softball sized group with very little practice (I shoot 5-10 slugs per year). I'm confident in the bead for the mission I have in mind for this gun.

    That said, at the local Cabelas' "Bargain Cave" they have a few Remington 18" barrels with iron sights for just over $100. I'm tempted to buy one, but am hesitant to mess with a system that currently works. I'm also not the best with traditional iron sights. On all of my iron sight equipped long guns, I've switched over to receiver-mounted aperture sights.

    Considering the new barrel got me to thinking about other options, such as a receiver mounted ghost ring (would keep the same barrel, just upgrade the front sight) or a red dot (gunsmith to add rail). Regarding red dots, my vision smears them a bit, so they're not the best for precision work at longer distances, but would be fine for HD distances.

    I also have to consider the possibility that this gun could be wielded by non-gun people who would be unaware of how to use the additional complexities of red dots, ghost rings, etc.

    So, the question is, do I keep the bead, swap out the entire barrel to gain iron sights (and go through a lengthy vetting process), or consider something else such as a receiver-mounted ghost ring or red dot?

    Oof, that's a lot of words for a simple question.

    Chris

  2. #2
    If you like Receiver-mounted Aperture sights, you will like the Wilson Combat Trak-Lok. The front sight is epoxied onto the existing bead pedestal. The receiver is drilled and tapped for the aperture sight. So no new barrel is needed. It will cost more than the new barrel you are talking about, though.
    Last edited by DamonL; 03-11-2018 at 10:07 AM.

  3. #3
    Any modification that I do to my guns is "mission driven" so for me, shooting slugs is secondary to shot loads. I don't personally need anything more than a visible bead sight to shoot shot loads effectively, but occasionally you'll run across a particular load that won't shoot to the bead as far as "zero" is concerned.

    With that in mind I sorta split the difference and installed XS Big Dot night sights on a Remington adjustable sight barrel. For all practical purposes, it's just as fast as a bead but it allows me to shoot slugs with greater precision plus it allows me to "zero" the pattern for any particular load.

    Last edited by 41magfan; 03-11-2018 at 10:34 AM.
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  4. #4
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    I saw the the Wilon sights before posting. The set themselves are about the same price as the barrel in question, but since I'll have to have a front sight base added to my existing barrel and the receiver D&Ted, the cost will climb quite a bit.

    Chris
    Last edited by mtnbkr; 03-11-2018 at 10:33 AM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by 41magfan View Post
    Any modification that I do to my guns is "mission driven" so for me, shooting slugs is secondary to shot loads. I don't personally need anything more than a visible bead sight to shoot shot loads effectively, but occasionally you'll run across a particular load that won't shoot to the bead as far as "zero" is concerned.

    With that in mind I sorta split the difference and installed XS Big Dot night sights on a Remington adjustable sight barrel. For all practical purposes, it's just as fast as a bead but it allows me to shoot slugs with greater precision plus it allows me to "zero" the pattern for any particular load.
    Not shooting to the bead hasn't been a problem *yet*, but it is on my mind. That could change if I have to move to targets further out than 25yds though. The price of this barrel really is good, but I'm adverse to spending the money and not seeing a tangible benefit for how I use the gun (or expect to use it).

    I'm also concerned, by virtue of this being a Rem barrel, that it could have all of the QC issues of 870 barrels as equipped on complete guns. Of course, that would be discovered by testing, but I'm loathe to undergo that right now (yes, I'm lazy).

    Chris

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by 41magfan View Post
    Any modification that I do to my guns is "mission driven" so for me, shooting slugs is secondary to shot loads. I don't personally need anything more than a visible bead sight to shoot shot loads effectively, but occasionally you'll run across a particular load that won't shoot to the bead as far as "zero" is concerned.

    With that in mind I sorta split the difference and installed XS Big Dot night sights on a Remington adjustable sight barrel. For all practical purposes, it's just as fast as a bead but it allows me to shoot slugs with greater precision plus it allows me to "zero" the pattern for any particular load.

    I did the same thing with one of my 870's. Faster than the stock Remington sights, and not as snag prone. Try to find a barrel with a cyl. bore, as they work better with the Federal FliteControl. Vetting was pretty simple, sight for slugs @ 25 yards, and verify FC pattern @ 15 and 25 yards. The Remington rifle sight barrel's rear sight comes from the factory in the middle position, which works for the factory sights, but needs to be lowered with the XS sights installed. Note that the rear sight uses a metric hex wrench, cant remember which size but it's one of the smaller ones with my set. The front sight was pretty easy to replace with a vise, brass punch and tap hammer. Required a little filing on the bottom as per the instructions, but not much. I verified windage for slugs with the factory sights first, and noted they hit a bit to the right. Installed the front XS sight with this in mind (a little twords the right in the dovetail) and it worked out perfectly. The rear sight is now centered, and it works great.
    Last edited by Tabasco; 03-11-2018 at 12:26 PM.

  7. #7
    Murder Machine, Harmless Fuzzball TCinVA's Avatar
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    Iron Sights vs Bead vs ??? for HD Shotgun

    TC's 2 cents on shotgun sights:

    People get 9 kinds of fucked up about shotguns due to persistent myths. The shotgun as typically used by hunters is shooting at a bird at 15-40 yards with a cloud of lead 5-10x times the size of the bird at 30 yards. The typical defensive use of a shotgun happens at closer range with a completely different munition.

    The bead sight was designed for wing shooting...and that with a 24"-30" barrel on a gun with a stock that has a length of pull of 14".

    That same sight on an 18" or shorter barrel with a stock that has a 11"-13" length of pull is a very different thing altogether. This is why when the old school users of the shotgun as a defensive weapon fired it, they talked about a "belly button" hold...because the bead sights of the day sat so low that when they were visible in the sight picture on a shorter barreled gun the weapon was actually angled up significantly. You aimed at the belly button to hit dude in the chest.

    The pedestal bead on the Remington 870 barrels can work...IF your ammo shoots to the point of aim of the bead (a lot simply won't) and IF you have enough experience mounting the shotgun to get a rock solid aiming reference in a hurry. This is not automatic. In the old days everybody grew up shooting shotguns...those days are no more. So you cannot count on people getting a rock solid reliable mount because they're doing something they've done since they were 10.

    Knowing what a proper bead-sighted sight picture looks like is difficult to do in a hurry unless you have significant experience doing that...and most people do not have that experience.

    If you want to see that in action, go to a shotgun class where they do some patterning. In my Home Defense Shotgun course I had the class pattern their guns at 15 yards. On top of loads that performed poorly, several of the students struggled to get a correct aiming reference under ideal lighting conditions in slow-fire. Some of the guns patterned off center. One fellow who showed up with a 14" 870 with a 12" LOP stock shot so high his patterns were barely on target.

    You can do quality work with a bead IF your gun is set up right and IF you have considerable experience successfully using the bead. Even then, it's somewhat difficult if I take you out of a comfortable shooting position and make you use the shotgun the way Ed Mireles had to use his 12 gauge in the Miami Firefight.

    For what we are trying to do, for the munitions we are using for defensive use of the shotgun, the bead is what I would consider an expert level sight...as in you must be pretty damn handy with a shotgun to intelligently direct a decently patterning buckshot load or a slug into a target with one at any realistic defensive distance.

    I greatly prefer rifle-style sights on a defensive shotgun. I prefer them because having a visible rear reference takes the guess work out of the shot. I can get a shit mount because of an awkward shooting position, because it's sleeting and I'm wearing enough insulation to make me look like the Michelin Man, or because I just got woke up by my door getting smashed in and I fuck up the mount in all the excitement...and I can still get a quick read on how the gun is oriented, correct it, and then make the shot I need to make.

    I can also adjust rifle style sights to match the point of impact of the load that I'm using so I don't have to try and remember any Kentucky windage when there's a dude trying to kill me. Remember that at typical defensive distances even shitty buckshot is going to be in a relatively tight pattern that you can miss with EASILY. Rifle style sights are the best bet for delivering the defensive payloads we are using reliably.

    ...which is why, when you think about it, shotguns dedicated to deer hunting typically have rifle style sights. Because putting a deer down humanely is fundamentally a very similar process to what we're trying to do in self defense with the shotgun.

    The XS sights for the Remington 870 rifle sights work extremely well for our purposes. Think about it: Express sights were mounted on big bore long guns to be used on dangerous game at relatively close range. That's pretty much exactly what we are trying to do with shotguns. At close range they provide a quick sight reference that you can use to reliably make head shots with ease out to 15 yards if your buckshot patterns well enough to hold that size of a pattern. Same with slugs.

    The defensive shotgun is the one place where the XS sights make any sense.

    Ghost rings also work well. Depends on your preference. My go-to 870's have Remington rifle-style sights with either XS sights or the Tru-Glo TFX pro sights on them:

    https://www.truglo.com/firearms-tact...366B7DDEB2FF93

    Whatever 870 rifle style sight you pick, use some blue loc-tite and put some witness marks on the front and rear with a silver sharpie so you can tell if anything comes loose.

    My 1301's have the factory ghost rings and they're fine.

    Red dots work on shotguns too, but most mounts keep them too high. The Aridus mounts are the best of the optic mount options because it places the dot of the optic directly in the center of your focus when you mount the gun.
    Last edited by TCinVA; 03-11-2018 at 01:45 PM.
    3/15/2016

  8. #8
    Site Supporter DocGKR's Avatar
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    RDS works well on defensive shotguns--kind of like how nicely they work on carbines intended for CQB....
    Facts matter...Feelings Can Lie

  9. #9
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    I like the XS Big Dot bead for a bead only front. I havent had problems shooting accurately with them in the past, but I did shoot a lot of shotgun back in the day, in low level local competition, and on my family's land. Recently at the shop I work at, we have decided to re-build a few 870WMs for an inexpensive option to our admittedly high priced rifles. Because these are plain barrel (non-pedestal) beads we will offer the XS Big Dot as the first choice over a plain bead. Obviously there will be some counceling before and after purchase.

    Another upgraded option we will offer, though it is more complicated to install, is the the XS DEA Sight (I cannot get the pic to attach here so you'll have to Google it). I am 50/50 on these over the Big Dot bead on my personal 870WM.

  10. #10
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    Iron Sights vs Bead vs ??? for HD Shotgun

    Quote Originally Posted by TCinVA View Post
    That same sight on an 18" or shorter barrel with a stock that has a 11"-13" length of pull is a very different thing altogether. This is why when the old school users of the shotgun as a defensive weapon fired it, they talked about a "belly button" hold...because the bead sights of the day sat so low that when they were visible in the sight picture on a shorter barreled gun the weapon was actually angled up significantly. You aimed at the belly button to hit dude in the chest.
    I haven't witnessed that with my gun, at "HD distances", it hits POA for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by TCinVA View Post
    Even then, it's somewhat difficult if I take you out of a comfortable shooting position and make you use the shotgun the way Ed Mireles had to use his 12 gauge in the Miami Firefight.
    That's a good point and one I wasn't thinking about. Most of my shotgunning is either on clay sports fields or in the woods hunting (small game and the occasional bird). I've never needed to take an awkward shot or unplanned one.

    Quote Originally Posted by DocGKR View Post
    RDS works well on defensive shotguns--kind of like how nicely they work on carbines intended for CQB....
    I like the idea of a RDS, but they just don't work well for me (astigmatism). The dots are always smeared and non-circular. I suppose they work well enough for CQB, but I had spending the money only to have something that looks like it was drawn by a shaky 3yo.

    I'm going to go back and take another look at those barrels. At that price, if I don't like it, I can probably flip it for my investment on ebay or craigslist.

    Chris

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