Franchi SPAS-12 Shotgun

SPAS-12 with detachable wooden stock and shot diverter.

The SPAS-12 is a combat shotgun that was manufactured by the Italian firearms company Franchi S.p.A. from 1979 to 2000.  The SPAS-12 is a dual-mode shotgun, meaning it can be set to cycle either semi-automatically or through pump-action.  The SPAS-12 has sold well to military and police users around the world, as well as to the civilian market.

The appearance and intended purpose of the SPAS-12 initially led to its 'combat' arrangement, including a unique folding stock, being banned from import to the US due to a lack of "sporting purpose".  To highlight the sporting image necessary to satisfy US import regulations, Franchi named the model the Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun, but to no avail (those regulations have since been undone).


The SPAS-12 was designed to function primarily as a semi-automatic firearm, with the pump-action used to reliably fire low-pressure ammunition such as tear gas rounds or less-lethal bean bags.  Switching between firing modes is done by pressing a button under the foregrip, and sliding the foregrip slightly forwards or backwards until it clicks into position.  Pump action mode was however rather slow and ungainly when compared to traditional pump action guns due to the complexity of the changeover mechanism and the friction of the fore-grip with the handguard.

The SPAS-12 has a magazine cutoff feature that can prevent the loading of a new round from the internal magazine when the gun is cycled.  This allows the user to load a specialized round into the chamber without going through the entire magazine first.  Another unique feature of the SPAS-12 was the hook seen on folding stock models.  This hook could be rotated in 90 degree increments so that it would fit under the user's forearm when the stock was extended.  With the stock supported under the forearm, the weapon could theoretically be fired with one hand,allowing the user to fire around cover or use their support hand for other tasks.  In reality the sheer weight of the gun, which is substantially higher than a more traditional shotgun, made such usage unlikely if not impossible for the average user. In addition, the difficulty in aming and coping with the recoil of one-handed use consign such usage more towards the realms of Hollywood fantasy rather than practical utility.

Early SPAS-12 models featured a lever-type safety, but over time, it would begin discharging the firearm when switched on or off.  This was eventually recalled by Franchi and replaced by a push-button crossbolt safety.  Many guns remain with the lever type safety so caution should be used.

The barrel of the SPAS-12 was externally threaded to accept a wide variety of attachments, from chokes to gas grenade launchers.  One interesting and particularly rare attachment, called a "diverter", spread shot vertically or horizontally.  All barrel attachments are considered rare, and demand premium pricing on the secondhand market.


220px-SPAS 12 Fixed Stock and Folding Stock

Two of the most common SPAS-12 variants: the folding stock version, with an 8-round magazine, and the fixed stock version with a 6-shot magazine. The lower gun has the recalled lever-type safety.

The first and most common variant of the SPAS-12 came with a metal folding stock and had a magazine capacity of eight rounds.  Early models could be had with a detachable wooden stock, though this is rarely seen.  After the US imposed import restrictions on the type in 1989, a version was released with a synthetic fixed stock and five or six round capacity to comply with regulations.  Various barrel lengths were seen on the SPAS-12, ranging from an "18" "shorty" to a 24" UK legal barrel (in reality a standard 21" barrel with a 3" choke-tube permanently brazed or silver soldered in place).  The most common barrel lengths encountered are 21" and the slightly less common 19.5".

The SPAS-12 came equipped with a non-adjustable circular aperture rear sight (which also acted as the catch for the stock when fully folded) and a large, non-adjustable blade foresight integral with the barrel.

Franchi released two other shotguns based on the SPAS-12 platform; the LAW-12 and the SAS-12.  The LAW-12 was semi-automatic only while the SAS-12 was pump-action only.  These two "sister" shotguns accepted all SPAS-12 accessories and could share many other components, notably the trigger packs and stocks.  The SAS was unusual in that it could accept 3" shells, while the SPAS and LAW could only accept 2 3/4" shells.

The Franchi SPAS-15 is the successor to the SPAS-12.  It is also a semi-automatic/pump-action shotgun, but uses box magazines instead of the internal tube magazine of the SPAS-12.

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