There we were, innocently plinking away in the bush with a new Dominion Arms Grizzly on a frosty Canadian Saturday in the middle of winter. This gun was running nicely; we haven’t been huge fans of past editions to be honest but Dominion Arms seems to have really gotten these 870 clones sorted. That said, we have to point out that it was actually our second tester: the first was a factory defect that was replaced after it failed on the first round, weeks earlier. It was immediately replaced by Dominion Arms’ distributor, Canada Ammo, and we’d be confident that if you get a defect they’ll take care of you, but despite our happiness with the second iteration, we have no choice but to point out that the first didn’t function.
We’re pretty confident that this was an anomaly, however, and this is why: the action was really smooth, the gun is generally overbuilt and we have to admit, even the finish was pretty nice. The brass bead sight was icing on the cake: this is a classy rendition of the 870, and Remington should take notes. It’s nicer than the entry-level models from the factory. We were hammering trap loads and buck through it without a care in the world, and the only negative to speak of was picking wads out of the snow.
But we work for Calibre, and it’s never enough for us to just enjoy a pleasant day of shooting. No, we had to turn it into something work related. Something that wasn’t just entertaining, but bizarre, destructive, and frankly insane.
“What if,” we speculated, “what if our plinking day camp was overrun by an army of former snowboarding instructors and hair models, bent on firearms confiscation? What if we had no choice but to chuck the Grizzly in the bush, and come back for it later, when our campfire-and-lawn-chairs arrangement had become the nucleus of a partisan camp, hidden out in the bush? The nerve centre of the Great Canadian Resistance?”
No alcohol was required to imagine this scenario, incidentally. We’re just a little…unique.
And so the abuse of a serviceable and, in our opinion, impressive, quality shotgun began. We’d gotten it hot from shooting, but the first wave of snowboarding instructors overwhelmed us, and we chucked it, empty and action open, into a snowbank. The steel hissed angrily.
We narrowly escaped the shock troops of the hair model battalion, who steamrolled through the area, leaving nothing but promises to replant trees and piles of empty soy latte cups in their wake. We knew the shotgun wouldn’t stay hidden forever, so we came back shortly afterwards to bury it properly. Owning to the secrecy of our mission, we had no choice but to cut corners, and threw the gun ten metres into a culvert without taking the time to close the action. The muddy, rocky bottom of the ditch did respond to our vicious and aggressive digging, however, using the only tool available at the time: the shotgun. Having dug its own grave, we laid it to rest, action still open, and buried it, hoping to return once the Calibre army was large enough to face the friendly and heavily indebted, but dangerous, snowboarders.
We rebuilt the campfire and returned for the Dominion Arms Grizzly. Meltwater had filled it with gritty mud. We shook it out and worked the action forcefully, looked through the barrel side loaded a round.
It fired, extracted, and ejected, but the second trigger press failed to release the hammer. The gun was literally full of mud. We shook out as much as we could and got it to fire intermittently, but the action felt like we were rubbing sandpaper on an alligator. There was only one intelligent choice: clean it properly, and lube it.
We didn’t do that.
The campfire was crackling away happily and, all oils, greases, and cleaning products having been confiscated for use on the luxuriously coiffed hair models, we had no choice but to pack everything with snow and throw it in the fire to clean it out. We field stripped the Grizzly and jammed snow in every crevice, then stacked the parts in the campfire. This actually kind of worked. Brown, muddy water poured out of the gun. Everything was going well, until we realized the magazine follower was plastic, and starting to deform. We yanked out the parts and threw them back in a snowbank until they were cool enough to handle.
The gun looked awful. Every inch of it was stained with soot and ash. We dropped parts repeatedly as we reassembled it, and ended up getting snow in everything all over again. The barrel had to be cleared out with a stick half a dozen times. The follower had melted a bit and the shell lifter had gotten stuck on it, which required beatings with an axe and a socket extension. We got it free and loaded it back up.
The Dominion Arms Grizzly worked fairly well, firing about half the time. There was still a fair amount of debris in the trigger pack, so we did what we could. The tube magazine was a mess and we couldn’t get it to reliably feed anymore, so the gun was down to being a side-loading single shot. Still a formidable weapon if pressed, so we carried on. A few dozen trap loads shook enough of the remaining crud loose that the gun became fairly reliable, so we gave it a load of buckshot.
The higher pressure buckshot round fired, but wouldn’t extract. Rather than slipping off the rim, however, the extractor ripped a chunk of brass right off the shell base. There could be a point to be made here about the off-axis nature of the Remington extractor path, pulling as it does on one edge of a large hull, but there certainly was no issue with the strength of the extractor itself. We fed it more buck, and the extractor persisted in ripping the rim off the shell. This would not do: a battle with our enemies would surely require buckshot. Drastic technical intervention would be required.
We took the most high-tech cleaning equipment in our arsenal, baby wipes, and cleaned the chamber and everything we could reach. We ran a baby wipe through the bore with a stick. It was unquestionably the most thorough cleaning possible with three baby wipes. Much crud was taken out of the chamber and lockup notch, which we predicted would significantly improve the gun’s performance. We congratulated ourselves on being consummate professionals, and prepared to fire again.
Cleaning the chamber had definitely been the right decision: the gun now fed and extracted both trap loads and buck with impressive reliability considering it had been submerged in snow, water, and mud, and the cleansed with fire. It was now finally cool to the touch, and as it had cooled, the stock screw loosened off somewhat, giving it a rather disconcerting wobble, but it didn’t affect the reliability.
We resigned ourselves to the fact that nothing would get the tube mag working again, owing of course to our decision to set a gun with a plastic follower on fire, and fired trap and buck loads until it was time to break camp, and take our mighty Calibre Cavalry on to the next location.
The Drag Race
One of the best things about the Calibre Army is the stuff in our motor pool, like our 1973 Land Rover. A Land Rover what, you ask? No, there is no model name; it predates such modern luxuries as names. An ex-British Army truck, this one has over 400,000 miles – yes miles – on the clock. We piled in and led the trek out, presumably singing mighty battle hymns as we went. The Dominion Arms Grizzly lay in the back. At first. Of course the brutal suspension on the old Rover was harsh enough to warrant the gun’s decision to abandon ship, and so we let it ride outside, deciding that it was at least theoretically possible for the gun to catch on the ropes that hold the walls and roof on. We dragged down the snowy road, which seemed relatively gentle, so we kicked it back into the ditch and dragged it on the rocks and dirt for a while. Interestingly, the Grizzly saw the sense in leaving the ditch and it did hop back up onto the snow after a while.
The stock was now extremely loose. We felt that was not unreasonable, all things considered. Rather luckily, the action had bounced closed after the first fifteen metres or so, and with the action closed, much of the trouble was on the outside of the gun.
Skittering down the snow had had an interesting effect: the staining from the fire had worn off, and the gun actually looked better. The finish on this generation of Dominion Arms shotguns is impressive: this gun was beaten to hell and back and it looked fairly decent. The brass bead was still attached, and the only real casualty was the magazine follower. It seemed fair to stop the Rover and give the Grizzly one last round of shooting before we called it a day.
But when you’re moving vehicles in a warlike column of expeditionary strength, you can’t just stop, even if there’s a gun in the road. It seemed only right that before we would get the opportunity to shoot the Grizzly again, it would be run over.
And so we drove over it. Lengthwise. For a while.
In some ways this was the best thing we did, simply because it really seemed to shake out the last bits of crud from the action. We now had no worries about firing it, and it felt fairly smooth. If we hadn’t burned the mag follower, this would have been a fully functional gun, and we’d have just tightened up the stock screw, and kept the gun. It shot fine, and it still hadn’t been lubed with as much as spit.
But our Dominion Arms Grizzly had no intention of retiring. It was hell-bent on living its last moments in our bizarre fantasy as a warrior, giving its life to save us. Would it stop a bullet?
The final battle for the honourable Grizzly was against a Kel-Tec Sub2000, loaded with hot 115 grain 9mm full metal jacketed bullets. The 18.6 inch barrel piped those bullets up around 1500 feet per second, and the first hit caught the brave Dominion Arms right at the tail of the receiver, shattering the stock. Truly, the gun was murdered at that moment.
Subsequent rounds pounded the receiver and barrel, putting nasty dents in the receiver but leaving the barrel in surprisingly good shape. The hits to the receiver halted the action, however, and the brave twelve gauge gave up its life stopping bullets to protect the Calibre Army. Having thus achieved some semblance of victory, we carefully picked up our empty hulls and wads, extinguished our campfire, and returned to the armoured column to stage an invasion on Tim Hortons, where we appropriated hot chocolate in the name of the revolution.
What We Learned About The Dominion Arms Grizzly
Torture testing guns is controversial. There’s a very real question about whether you can learn anything from it at all, since the guns are generally subjected to absurd and incomprehensible abuse. On the other hand, wasn’t that fun?
The Grizzly is a tough machine. The beating we put on it would have killed any pump shotgun, and in most cases it wouldn’t have taken as long. The finish impressed us, as the only permanent damage we could inflict on it seemed to be from shooting it with another gun. We’ve seen a lot of shotguns over the years, and we haven’t often been impressed with the Chinese manufacturing we’ve seen. As we said in the introduction, even in this production run, our first Grizzly was a flop. But the replacement was about as tough as you can expect a pump shotgun to be, and the attention to detail with the brass bead sight and adamantium finish, not to mention the burly steel trigger guard (are you listening Remington?) make this a winner. If we need to equip our partisan camp with compact, non-restricted shotguns, it’s Grizzlies, all the way.