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In the aftermath of the riots at Kent State University in May 1970, the Ohio National Guard came under heavy criticism for its use of force. At the time, the M1 Garand rifle was still being used and, although it was a stunning success on the battlefields of World War II and Korea, the M1 was not ideal for civil disturbance operations. This was more than 50 years ago at a time when National Guard units were not typically equipped with less-lethal options, so the Ohio National Guard had to go shopping for a more suitable firearm–one more appropriate for crowd control than the M1 Garand. The solution came in the form of a modified version of one of the most successful commercial firearms of the 20th century: the Remington Model 870 12-ga. shotgun.
Left side view of an Ohio National Guard Remington 870 Wingmaster that was produced in April 1971. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas)
In 1931, Remington began producing its first side-ejecting, pump-action, 12-ga. shotgun, but it was never as successful as the more popular Winchester Model 12. Although the Model 31 had a good run, Remington put a new and improved pump-action 12-ga. into production in 1950 that would go on to have a great run. It was a hammerless, under-loading and side-ejecting design, feeding from a tubular-magazine, and it could be produced at significantly lower cost. Designated the Model 870, it quickly established a reputation for being reliable and affordable.
Right side view of an Ohio National Guard Remington 870 Wingmaster that was produced in April 1971. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas)
During the second year of production, Remington introduced the "Wingmaster" variant of the 870, featuring a blued steel receiver, walnut furniture and a magazine that could hold five 2¾” shells. Twenty years later, almost two million 870s had been sold, making the model a huge commercial success. That is when the Ohio National Guard placed a special order for 1,200 modified Wingmasters equipped with a barrel extension tube providing a 7+1 capacity, and a distinctive front barrel band equipped with a lug for mounting the M7 bayonet. While most of the guns were completed with wood furniture, about 400 of them were completed with a plastic pistol grip and unique top-folding metallic stock.
Left side view of an Ohio National Guard Remington 870 Wingmaster with an M7 Bayonet mounted. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas)
Remington delivered both models with receivers featuring an engraved outline of the state of Ohio with the letters “O.N.G.” in the middle. U.S. Government property markings were not added to the guns because they did not belong to the U.S. Government. Production at the Remington factory in Ilion, N.Y., began in 1971 with the full stock guns being assembled first, followed by the folding stock guns in 1972. When the Ohio National Guard received its brand new Wingmasters, they were distributed to armories for infantry, engineer and Military Police units.
Left side view of an Ohio National Guard Wingmaster that was produced in April 1971 showing the receiver engraving unique to the Ohio National Guard 870s. (Photograph by Jeff Hallinan of Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas)
The Ohio National Guard used its Remington 870 Wingmaster shotguns conspicuously during two crises. The first was an 11-day standoff at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, just outside of the city of Lucasville, in April 1993. The other occurred 12-years later and 750 miles to the south. On Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, a category three hurricane came ashore just west of Gulfport on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, near the Louisiana state line. It is infamously remembered as Hurricane Katrina, and it caused over $125 billion in damage, particularly in the New Orleans area.
The cover of the summer 1993 issue of Buckeye Guard – the official publication of the Ohio National Guard – depicts Sgt. Michael Massaro of the 1193rd Engineer Company standing guard with a Remington 870 Wingmaster on the outside perimeter of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. (Photo by Spec. J.D. Biros, 196th Public Affairs Detachment)
The national memory of the aftermath of that storm recalls not just the suffering of people stranded by rising floodwaters in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, but also the widespread looting that occurred in an aftermath defined by lawless disorder. When the call for help went out on Aug. 31, 2005, the Ohio National Guard answered it and deployed to the Gulfsouth region. In a notable contribution to Katrina response and recovery, Ohio soldiers of the 1-148th Infantry helped to evacuate 10,000 desperate people sheltering in the Louisiana Superdome.
Ohio National Guardsmen armed with Remington 870 Wingmaster shotguns on duty outside of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville during the 11-day standoff that took place there in April 1993. (Photo by Spec. J.D. Biros, 196th Public Affairs Detachment)
Although the operation took three days to complete, it was done in an orderly manner thanks to Ohio National Guardsmen – some of whom were armed with the Remington 870 Wingmaster. By then, the guns had been in service for over three decades and the Ohio National Guard no longer needed them. With that as the case, they were transferred to the Ohio Department of Corrections and used by prison guards for the next few years. Then in September 2018, the Department of Corrections sold them to the retailer Sportsman’s Outdoor Superstore, who then sold them to qualified buyers all over the country.
Soldiers of the Ohio Army National Guard's 1st of the 148th Infantry were the first out-of-state troops to assist in the evacuation of the Louisiana Superdome after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Both men in this photograph are armed with Remington 870 Wingmaster shotguns. (Photo by PFC Jesse Morgan)
The price was reasonable and the demand was high, so the guns flew off the shelf quickly. If you were lucky enough to snag one before they were sold out, that means you now own a piece of history with an origin story that begins at Kent State in 1970. It also reminds us of the women and men of the Ohio National Guard who went to Louisiana in 2005 to help the New Orleans area in its time of greatest need. If you were lucky enough to snag one of these Ohio National Guard 870 Wingmaster shotguns, you probably already know that it isn’t just eight pounds of steel and wood, it is a piece of history.
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