Best Remington 870 Ammo – [2019] Buyer’s Guide

Shotguns can be divided by barrel configuration or by operating mechanism. There are single and double barrel shotguns with variations.

Considering action (mechanism) types, today we have three main ones: break-action (single shot and double barrel), pump or slide-action, and auto-loading (semi-automatic) action.

The Remington 870 is known for its versatility and reliability, as it gives you an edge in any goal you and your trusty Remmy are trying to accomplish. In this article, we'll be taking a look at some of the best ammo available.

Comparison Chart of the Remington 870 Ammo

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Federal - Vital-Shok Ammo 12 Gauge 3" #4 Shot

  • 3” Magnum shells
  • 41 pellets per ounce
  • Designed for hunting purposes
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Federal Premium Vital-Shok 12 Gauge 3” #00 Shot

  • The velocity of 1325 fps
  • Flight control wad design
  • Designed for 12-gauge shotguns
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Remington Express Buckshot Shotgun Ammo 12 Gauge 2 3/4" #00 Shot

  • Designed for hunting
  • Can reach 1325 fps
  • Used for 12 gauge Remington 870
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Shotgun Ammo Aspects - Terminology Explained

Below is a quick overview of shotgun ammo:

Shotgun Gauge

The first step when shopping for shotgun ammo is to find the right gauge or firearm caliber.

Unlike other firearms that use caliber as a dimension, shotguns do not use the linear measurement, but the diameter of their bore is expressed as a gauge, which, in fact, is a weight.

Shotguns come in differently-sized gauges, where, for instance, the most widespread is 12-gauge. Although it actually refers to the 12 solid spherical balls made out of one pound of lead and with the same diameter as the inside of the barrel.

A 20-gauge is also one of the most popular, which means that 20 lead balls can be made from one pound of lead.

The Model 870 is available in 12, 16, 20, or 28-gauge and in .410 caliber shotgun chambers, whereas a .410, is an odd exception with a gauge being roughly equivalent to a 68 gauge.

Chamber Length

As for the chamber length, the standard 12-gauge, 870 shotgun comes in 2-¾ (70mm) and 3-inch (76mm), also known as 12-gauge Magnum, while the Model 870 Express Super Magnum is chambered for 3½” (89mm) shotshell (shotgun cartridge).

It should be said that the way you measure the length of a shell is by measuring the length of the spent hull (empty shotgun case) and that means that a Model 870, like any shotgun, can shoot shells shorter than its chamber but not longer.

Though the larger shell can physically fit within the gun, it can be hazardous to fire a larger shell, since the weapon may not be able to handle the higher pressures, which can result in damage to the firearm or, more importantly, to you or bystanders.

From the shooter's standpoint, ammo with 2 ¾-inch shell lengths are cheaper and easier to find, providing less pressure and wear on your gun, as well as less recoil.

This means faster and more accurate shooting compared to the shotgun Magnum loads, which are like +P loads in pistols. 

High / Low Brass

Furthermore, shotgun shells are available in either high-brass or low-brass iterations. While in the early days, high-base (AKA high-brass) meant better protection of the paper shell. Today, high-brass offers better function (with auto-loading shotguns) and are about 30% more expensive price than low-base loading.

Choke

The distinct thing about shotguns is that they sport a choke, a section at the end of the barrel, placed in the bore that slightly constricts the diameter of the muzzle.

These “choked” barrels are more or less used to tighten the shot pattern, compared to cylinder barrels, which have no bore reduction.

Classic break-barrel shotguns usually have fixed choke barrels, but modern day shotguns use the interchangeable, screw-in choke tubes.

Some shotgun barrels are rifled for newer sabot slugs, metallic projectiles that, when supported by a plastic sabot, give the shooter rifle-like accuracy beyond 200 yards.

Shotgun Ammunition Application

According to unwritten rules, shotshells with small shot (birdshot #9 up to, say #4) are the best for small animals or clay targets. Believe it or not, there are advocates of birdshot in home defense scenarios, since the confined space of a house or apartment can be very lethal against soft targets.

For larger animals and self-defense, it's better to use buckshot, shotshells with somewhat larger BBs than birdshot.

They range from BB size (.018″/ 4.5mm) to No.000 (.36″/9.14mm), but the most popular buckshot round is 00 buck (“double-aught buck”) which has nine pellets, each with roughly a .33″ (8.4mm) diameter.

The 00 buckshot is a pretty standard defensive load for 12-gauge shotguns offering an average of 20″ penetration by FBI Testing procedures. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, they are neither “room brooms” nor a magical death machines, as buckshot requires pretty good aim since shot dispersion is not substantial at less than 30 yards.

Besides smaller sizes of buckshot and birdshot, there are also slugs - the largest round available in a shotgun shell.

The slug is a single, big piece of metal (usually around one ounce) intended for large animals at ranges inside 100 yards.

Besides the solid lead slugs, there are many great, specialized combat shotgun rounds, like armor-piercing, high-explosive, lock/hinge busting, and less lethal variations of slugs, such as riot plastic shots and rubber bullets.

Shotguns do possess certain limitations, as with any weapon, but when using the proper ammunition, you can make the maximum use of the gun.  Depending on your plans to use a shotgun, either for bird hunting, home defense or everything else in-between, you'll need to choose from different loads.

Moreover, one of the recommended ways of finding the best ammo for Remington 870 is to read a shotgun ammo buyer's guide, like this one, which will lead you in the right direction.

Quick Table of Our Shotgun Shell Choice

Ammo Name

Type

Size

Note

Recommended Use

FEDERAL - VITAL-SHOK AMMO 12-GAUGE 3"

#00 SHOT

00 Buckshot

3"

High stopping power

Medium game hunting and home defense if over-penetration is not a concern.

REMINGTON - EXPRESS BUCKSHOT AMMO 12-GAUGE 2-3/4" #00 SHOT

00 Buckshot

2-3/4"

Low-recoil

Hunting medium game and home defense

REMINGTON - GUN CLUB LITE TARGET AMMO 12-GAUGE 2-3/4" 1-1/8 OZ

#9 SHOT

#9 Birdshot

2-3/4"

Cheap

Target, shooting, training

FEDERAL - VITAL-SHOK AMMO 12-GAUGE 3"

#4 BUCKSHOT

#4 Buckshot

3"

Lowest acceptable power load for HD

For predator hunting and personal defense

Winchester - Super-X - Buckshot 12-Gauge 3"

#1 BUCKSHOT

Slug Shot

3"

Best for hunting, not HD

For predator hunting and personal protection

Review of the Best Remington 870 Ammo

Now we’re going to take a look at some of our top picks for the best ammo for your Remington 870. We’ll be highlighting the main features of each type and list some pros and cons. Let’s see which ones made our list and why.

Pros

  • Muzzle velocity 1,100 fps
  • 41 pellets in the spiral stacking order
  • For predator hunting and personal defense
  • Copper-plated shot for deeper penetration
  • Affordable from the higher cost competitor shells
  • The minimum acceptable load for a defensive role

Cons

  • More recoil compared to 34 pellet loads
  • The 3" Federal shell is shorter than others 3" shells

What Recent Buyers Report

These shells were a hit among the new users who were small and large game hunters. Among the targets of choice were varmint, waterfowl, and whitetail deer, to name a few. They managed to shoot some pretty precise kill shots, thanks to the tight shooting groups. One user said the shells he previously relied on for hunting didn’t do a good enough job, but when he tried these out, he knew what his new “go-to” shells were going to be.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These come in a package of four shells. While they may not be enough for some hunters, one might just be enough depending on where exactly you hit your shot. So one shot can do just enough if you’re out hunting. If you want some really good shells for your Remington 870, these are the type that you can work with each time you are out and about hunting your next target.

The Federal Cartridge Company has been manufacturing all kinds of ammunition since 1922 and its Vital-Shok line features a spiral shot stacking process designed to deliver the terminal performance required for hunting applications.

A tried-and-true load, the three-inch, 12-gauge, #4 buck is the best lead shotshell for predator hunting.

But, Federal Vital-Shok with copper-plated shot resulting in deeper 14.5″ penetration will be sufficient for medium game hunts and even for home defense.

Sold under manufacturer's code P158 4B, the Vital-Shok Magnum shell measures 3" in length and carries a 41 lead pellet payload of #4 (.24in) buckshot.

While you can expect to see around 1,100 fps at the muzzle with these cartridges, Federal is also offering 2 ¾” versions of these shells filled with one row less than 3" shell (34 pellets) at 1,250 fps of muzzle velocity.

Federal Premium Vital-Shok Buckshot shells, with a plastic shot cup and buffering, produce dense patterns appropriate for coyote hunting out to 50 yards.

Who Will Use This Most

If you hunt, these shells are perfect. While you may not knock down any bigger game like elk or moose, they are quite effective when you are using your Remington 870 for small game or whitetail deer. If you want a shell that will certainly get the job done and give you a quick, clean kill, these shells might just be what you need. Don’t be surprised if all it takes is one shot to put them down.

Bottom Line

The Federal 12-Gauge Vital-Shok Shotshells will do you some good if you have a decent idea of what you plan on hunting for with your Remington 870. Don’t be surprised if you happen to land your next hunting targets in as little as one shot with these shells. And when you do, you’ll swear that your marksmanship skills have increased dramatically. 

This  Vital-Shok 3"  #4 Buck round works just as well at close-range, making it a perfect shell for hunting, sports shooting, and home defense. Although it does recoil a little more than standard Vital-Shok 2.75-inch loads, it is worth the extra velocity.

Pros

  • Copper-plated shot
  • Long-range buckshot
  • Muzzle velocity 1,100 fps
  • 5 inches group at 25 yards
  • For medium game with thin skin
  • Designed with patented spiral stacking process

Cons

  • Kicks pretty hard
  • A maybe too tight pattern for home defense use

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of recent buyers were satisfied with this type of ammo. These shells were fed through without any jamming or malfunction issues. Even the shooting groups on this bad boy were pretty tight at various distances. One user said he uses these for tune-up target practice and for bird hunting.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These shotgun shells are reliable for most hunting and target-shooting applications, and they have the ability to travel quite fast. So, if you are looking to hit the bullseye or land an effective kill shot rather quickly, these shells will likely be the ones that can stand out among the pack. Your 12-gauge Remington 870 is known for being a force to be reckoned without in the field. You’d be hard-pressed to find great ammo like this for that shotgun anywhere else.

The new Federal line of shotgun ammunition, Vital-Shok, brings to mind the old and worn-out sniper phrase: reach out and touch someone.

The Federal Ammo Vital-Shok cartridge is a 12-gauge, three-inch shell, loaded with 15 pellets of #00 buckshot in the spiral stacking process.

This shell is also available in the version FliteControl, which has 12 pellets (P158 00) and a muzzle velocity of 1,325 feet per second. Besides a Magnum load, it is also produced in standard configuration with 2 3/4" shells and 9 (P154 00) or 12 (P156 00) pellets, depending on the buffer. They reach a muzzle velocity of 1,290 feet per second (fps) and 1,325 feet per second, respectively.

Vital-Shok Buckshot loads with a plastic shot cup and the buffer provide a tight, uniform pattern designed to perform reliably at extended ranges.

It means that copper-plated, 15 pellets fired from Remington 870 Express reach muzzle velocity of 1,100 feet per second.

Unlike Federal FliteControl type, this buckshot can be used without problems through any choke, as buffering prevents pellet deformation and ensures dense and uniform patterns. 

Who Will Use This Most

These shots stand out among one of the best possible options for those who want to make their shooting more effective in both hunting and target shooting applications. Make no mistake, these shells will do some pretty good damage at various distances, regardless of whether your targets are made from paper or can fly away at a moment’s notice.

Bottom Line

The Federal Premium Vital-Shok with FliteControl will certainly be the kind of ammo you’ll want in your corner if you need something that will make hunting or target shooting with your Remington 870 that much more enjoyable. Don’t be surprised if these shells end up being one of your favorites over the course of time.

While you would expect heavy recoil from any Magnum loads, Federal is deadly for any small to medium game, from zero to 50-55 yards. Thanks to the tight pattern, Federal Vital-Shok buckshot reduces stray shots from hitting an unintended target in the area.

Pros

  • Muzzle velocity 1,325 fps
  • Application: Hunting medium game
  • Affordable enough as a practice load
  • Tight patterns that are even with each shot
  • #00 has 9 pellets; each .33 caliber pellet has the energy of a handgun bullet
  • The shot is supported by heavy cushioning wad and granulated polymer buffering

Cons

  • Hulls are difficult to reload, because crimp is melted at the center
  • Tight pattern and penetration are not suitable for confined spaces in your home

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers were quick to say a lot of good things about these shots. Most were deer hunters that use a Remington 870. They said the shooting groups were pretty tight and have even landed a deer with at least one or two shots. One user said he managed to land a near 200-pound whitetail buck within two shots. He said had he not switched over from his previous shots, he would have missed it over and over again.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These shots come in a slightly larger box than those currently on the market to this point. They are pretty much the textbook example of what shotgun shells should be. The pellets allow for tighter shooting groups and allow for better impact and kill shots. They fit in 12-gauge Remington 870 shotguns perfectly and feed through the mag tube without any jamming or reliability issues. So all in all, they are reliable and accurate, if and when used properly.

Another buckshot bullet style that comes from Remington is the Remington Express #00 Buckshot, 2 ¾ shells as the perfect solution to hunting whitetail deer.

This great lineup of ammunition from Remington Express consists of plastic shell, 2¾ inches, which contains 9 lead pellets inside. With this, the muzzle velocity is about 1,325 feet per second.

Unlike buckshot from other manufacturers, Remington buckshot presents very good and stable results.

As with most Remington ammunition, you will get a tight and predictable pattern. These even patterns are due to the shot columns, which feature a heavy cushioning wad, as well as the granulated polymer buffering.

However, this Remington hard-hitting buckshot load offers pretty tight patterns with a little less than the one-inch of spread for every yard traveled.

Since the pattern is tighter than you might expect for about 12+ yards and it doesn't spread enough at the ranges of average rooms, the Remington 00 Buckshot is not the best choice for home defense.

Who Will Use This Most

These will be ideal for deer hunters. But they can also be used for hunting certain big game targets and even waterfowl, as well. Either way, these shots are definitely worth the investment if you are a sportsman looking for the right kind of shots for your Remington 870 and they are one of the most affordable on the market, so if you’re on a budget, then take a look at these.

Bottom Line

If you want Remington 870 shells that are perfect for hunting whitetail deer or anything that’s in season, the Remington Express Buckshots are perhaps your best option if you want something that is affordable. Only a serious hunter can find the best possible ammo he can afford. Especially if it’s the best performing ammo for the money.

If you are allowed to use buckshot for hunting in your area, the Remington Express buckshot is a very good and reliable option.

As you would expect, the recoil is not soft, but it's still controllable and comfortable. Combining this with consistent performance at a reasonable price, make this load a perfect cartridge for your Remington 870 pump-action shotgun.

Pros

  • Excellent economical target load
  • Application: target and practicing
  • Muzzle velocity (feet per second): 1,145
  • Chilled shot for uniform size and patterns
  • Shot Weight: 1 1/8 oz., light summer load

Cons

  • Pattern pellet density is 10 to 18% lower than the Premier loads
  • The GC shot is softer than the most expensive target counterparts

What Recent Buyers Report

Many recent buyers were using these for the sake of bird and waterfowl hunting. And of course, they got some pretty dang good results out of the whole thing. Most of them were able to hit their targets accurately from about 20 to 25 yards out with their Remington 870. One user said he hunts ruffed grouse with these shells and they have not disappointed to him in the slightest. His shooting groups were tight and the shot precision was in his words “crazy sharp”.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These are more useful in a situation where you are hunting lighter targets. In other words, we’re talking birds, waterfowl, and even some smaller game targets, like a varmint. While they probably won’t be as effective in knocking down a deer (and by the way, these aren’t ideal for deer hunting), these shells won’t steer you wrong if you’ve got a site beaded on your small game target of choice.

As the name says, this Remington, budget-priced ammunition is intended for high-volume and economical shooting, making it an excellent round for beginners and target practicing.

Remington Gun Club Lite Target Loads consists of proven Power Piston wad, Gun Club-Grade Shot, and reliable Premier STS Primers. These high-quality components with low-base provide consistent shot after shot without misfeeds or problems, whatsoever.

During the manufacturing process, the lead shot is cooled in a pool of chilled water to ensure uniform patterns.

Remington Gun Club Lite shotshells are loaded with 1 1/8 ounces (32g) of lead shot, which provides a lighter recoil than standard loads, allowing for less shooter fatigue.

The # 9 shot is loaded in 2-3/4 shells and is driven by specially blended powder to reach a muzzle velocity of 1,145 feet per second.

Who Will Use This Most

Obviously, these rounds will be more or less used for the purpose of bird hunting or even duck hunting (among other small targets). If you love your Remington 870 so much that you rely on it for hunting just about anything, these shells will certainly stand out as one of your favorites as far as hunting small game targets goes. These shells are worth the investment and will certainly give you more bang for your buck (no pun intended, of course).

Bottom Line

The Remington Gun Club Lite Target Ammo is the go-to ammo for you if you want to use your Remington 870 for the purpose of hunting small game and even birds. These will get the job done provided you are able to draw a bead on your target and land such a shot with accuracy and precision. Timing is everything when it comes to hunting, so make it count.

As a bonus, Remington Gun Club line is made from the one-piece, compression-formed plastic hulls which can be reloaded about five or six times. While the Remington Gun Club shells are as reliable as STS, they are considerably cheaper, making your decision to handload these shotshells a bit questionable.

Pros

  • Muzzle velocity of 1040 feet per second
  • Buffered shot ensures tighter patterns
  • Application: predator hunting, personal protection
  • 24 lead pellets of .30 caliber gives more chances to strike a vital area

Cons

  • Pattern pellet density is not for long-range
  • Recoil is more substantial than a normal 2 ¾-inch shell

What Recent Buyers Report

Most recent buyers loved these rounds for a few good reasons. They used these for the purpose of hunting deer. Not to mention, they were quite happy with the fact that they don’t have to deal with malfunctioning issues. But to top it off, the shooting groups were pretty close. One user said his shooting groups were consistently tight. Furthermore, he said the ammo was great for improved feeding and shooting.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These buckshots are hands-down one of the best in the business for Remington 870 shotguns. Plus, they are a bit longer than some of the other shots. On top of that, they are proven to be more reliable than most buckshot on the market. So if you are looking for shells that are susceptible to malfunctioning and jamming, then you’ll be disappointed. Shooting these will be straightforward and simple. A whitetail deer won’t know what hit it once you use these shots to your advantage.

Another shotshell with Buckshot bullet-style originated from Winchester Super-X Ammo, a line that has been around for almost 100 years.

This time, we will introduce you with Winchester Super-X Shotgun Ammunition made with high-brass and quality three-inch hulls, housing 24 unplated pellets of .30 (7.62mm) caliber. 

Using proven Winchester 209 primers and clean-burning powders, it launches lead buckshot at 1,040 fps, making this an excellent payload for coyote, fox, and bobcat, or even for two-legged predators.

Although the marketing craze for 00 (.33 cal.) and #4 (.24 cal.) buckshot have taken the gun industry by storm, you should not forget the Winchester #1 buckshot.

This buckshot still manages to keep 19 pellets in the thoracic area (kill zone) of a man-sized target at 15 yards and can make a typical group with 8 out of 24 pellets in a 12" circle at 50 yards. 

The Super-X Buckshot is packed in a poly-buffering compound with a one-piece hinged wad to minimize deformation for consistent and tight patterns.

The Winchester Super-X Buckshot line is available in several different loads, but #1 can be found yet in 2 ¾-in shells with 16 pellets and reduced felt-recoil for easier follow-up shots.

Who Will Use This Most

This will be excellent for those who hunt whitetail deer. But these shots won’t be limited to such hunting. If you enjoy hunting in general, you’ll need some reliable shots that will make for accurate and precise shooting no matter what the target is. If reliability and accuracy are what you’re looking to get out of these shots, look no further.

Bottom Line

The Winchester Super-X Buckshot Ammo is perhaps the one kind of shot you can depend on for all your hunting needs. If you’re looking for ammo that can make kill shots a lot more possible, these could be the ideal choice. Don’t be surprised if they suddenly end up replacing your old hunting ammo after giving these a try.

Although the Super-X buckshot in 3" Magnum variant will definitely let you know it's there, this hard-hitting load provides proven stopping power for both varmint hunters and personal protection.

However, one important item to point out is: as a true sportsman, you would not use a #1 buckshot for deer hunting because of unnecessary animal suffering.

What Are the Different Types of Shotgun Ammo Best For?

Here's what you need to know:

Shot Material

Before we present some shotgun ammo aspects, there's one short note about the choice of pellets materials.  

For centuries, the traditional shot has been made from lead, but with the development of environmental pollution, ammo manufacturers began producing shotgun pellets from alternative, non-toxic, lead-free materials, like steel, bismuth, or tungsten.

Shotgun Ammunition Types

There are two main types of shotgun ammunition: single solid lead or steel bullets with grooves on the sides called "slugs"

The shot is divided in two categories, which depend on the size of pellets.

To shoot birds and small animals, hunters typically use shotgun shells loaded with the smallest type of pellets, called birdshot.

The other type of shotgun ammunition is named buckshot, similar to the birdshot shells, but loaded with large lead or steel balls.

Both types of pellets shells use gauge systems of measurement where large numbers indicate smaller pellets and vice versa. For instance #7 (.10"/2.5mm) shot birdshot is much smaller than birdshot #1 (.16"/4.0mm).

Conclusion

Overall, a shotgun shell in shot configuration has been discussed in the context of projectiles in scatterguns. As you probably know, there is one type of ammunition consisting of single large pellets, called slugs, that make the shotgun act a bit like a rifle.

Shotguns loaded with birdshot or buckshot require minimal skill to aim and shoot. The scatterguns use a shot pattern spread as a major element of their efficiency, choosing chokes and shot patterns as a decisive factor for a successful job. 

Regarding personal and home protection, the rule of thumb is to use No. 4 buckshot for close self-defense and under 20 yards, and No. 1 or No. 0 buckshot for ranges under 40 yards as they might be more effective than 00 buckshot.  

Much of the common sense regarding the use of shotguns is based on thinking that a larger number of slightly smaller pellets hitting a target is more effective than fewer large pellets. However, smaller shots provide maximum damage and minimal wall penetration.

We hope this review has been helpful in outlining some of the best ammo for your Remington 870. If you have any personal feedback regarding some of the ammo we've discussed, be sure to drop a comment below and let us know. We love hearing from readers and look forward to what you have to say!

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