Courtesy of Tactical Life

The shotgun is, by far, the longest-serving long gun in the American law enforcement community. It served Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp well and, in 2017, continues to be the most prevalent long gun in the armories of police agencies across the country. While most law enforcement shotguns are bland and unexciting, there are specific versions that hold a unique appeal. One of those is the Witness Protection 870, or WP870.

The WP870 gains its name from its adoption and use by the United States Marshals Service. Fellow gun scribe Chris McLoughlin outlined the beginnings of the original guns in a 1984 article. According to McLoughlin, Gene Thompson, Lynn Jordall and Jim Wilson built three prototypes. This was a collaborative effort with each man working on a select feature to produce the most effective platform. The result was a cut-down Remington 870 with a 14.5-inch barrel, a custom-built hand stop and, most significantly, an ergonomic grip that retained the shape of the original factory stock. Other modifications included a slotted shell lifter to assist in clearing a short-stroke-induced double feed and a unique sling system. In the 1984 article, McLoughlin reports that some 240 modified 870s were in the inventories of the Marshals Service.

Witness Protection 870: The 12.5-Inch Short-Barreled US Marshals Shotgun
As these photos from the 1980s show, U.S. marshals have been escorting prisoners and protecting themselves and witnesses with short-barreled WP870 shotguns for decades.

The WP870 has made several appearances in the media. I have a clipping from the November 11, 1985, issue of Newsweek magazine in my files that carried the headline “Busting the Bhagwam.” A photo shows a U.S. marshal carrying a WP870 as he escorts a prisoner to a hearing in Charlotte, North Carolina. In an Associated Press photo from February 2, 1987, a female marshal is shown providing court security during the trial of narco trafficker Carlos Lehder Rivas. The sight of this sawed-off scattergun certainly attracted attention and served as a deterrent.

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