The Franchi SPAS-12 is a combat shotgun manufactured by Italian firearms company Franchi from 1979 to 2000. Production stopped fully in the year 2000 in favour of the newer, enhanced version, the SPAS-15, however, production of the SPAS-15 ceased in 2005, meaning there are currently no SPAS shotguns being produced. The SPAS-12 is a dual-mode shotgun, adjustable for semi-automatic or pump-action operation. The SPAS-12 was sold to military and police users worldwide on the civilian market, and has been featured in many movies, TV shows and video games.
The appearance and intended purpose of the SPAS-12 initially led to its "Military" designation as a Combat Shotgun. The SPAS-12 was designed from the ground up as a rugged military shotgun and it was named the Special Purpose Automatic Shotgun. In 1990 Franchi renamed the shotgun to the Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun, this allowed continued sales to the United States as a limited-magazine-capacity, fixed-stock model until 1994. Following the United States Federal Assault Weapons Ban, imports of SPAS-12 shotguns were stopped into the United States. In September 2004 the ban had expired, but Franchi had ended production in 2000 of the SPAS-12 to focus on the manufacturing of the SPAS-15 model. The SPAS-12's retail price in its final year of 2000 was $1500.00 USD averaged for final sales outside the United States to non-restricted countries. Franchi S.p.A. Italy.
The SPAS-12 was designed to function primarily as a semi-automatic firearm, with the pump-action mode used to reliably fire low-pressure ammunition such as tear gas rounds or less-lethal bean bags. The firing mode is switched by depressing the button under the foregrip and also sliding the foregrip forwards or backwards until it clicks into position allowing the rotating sleeve to open or close the two gas ports.
The SPAS-12 has a magazine cut-off feature, which prevents loading a new round from the internal magazine when the gun is cycled. This allows the operator to load a specialized round into the chamber without firing the entire magazine first. A unique feature of the SPAS-12 was the hook on folding-stock variants. This hook could be rotated in 90-degree increments, so it would fit under the user's forearm when the stock was extended. With the stock supported under the forearm the gun can be fired with one hand, an example would be allowing the user to fire from a vehicle through the passenger side window while driving.
SPAS-12 models feature two safeties: (i) a lever style or push button style safety, and (ii) a "quick employment safety." Lever safeties were recalled by Franchi and were replaced through the importer American Arms in the early 1990s.[a] There are two different types of push-button safeties. The earliest version would actually release the hammer on safe up to 1/4in. of travel when the trigger was depressed. This would cause a lockup of the action that would require the user to relock the bolt assembly to the rear to reset the hammer and then reload the chamber. The later version installed a detent and machined hole in the trigger group frame to prevent an action lock. The detent would prevent the hammer from engaging when the trigger was depressed and would prevent an action lock from occurring. The quick employment safety, which is on the left side of the trigger guard, disconnects the trigger when put into safe mode. The quick employment safety can be disengaged with the trigger finger when ready to fire and is intended for competition or tactical use. A third safety type, a pistol grip safety similar to the later-developed SPAS-15, is known to have been developed by Franchi for the SPAS-12, however the pistol grip safety was not offered for sale to the general public.
Example of SPAS-12 pistol grip safety.
A B-Square rail mount for optics was available for a short time in the 1990s as an aftermarket accessory.
The Barrel of the SPAS-12 was externally threaded to accept a variety of attachments. The barrel is cylinder bored and spreads a normal shot charge to about 900mm at 40 meters.
There are four different Magazine Extension Tubes manufactured for the SPAS 12:
- The 5-shell was designed for the 18" barrel.
- The 6-shell was designed for restriction on the standard 21.5" Sporting Purpose model.
- The 7-shell was designed for the 19 7/8in. Barrel.
- The 8-shell was designed for the 21.5 Special purpose model.
Many different choke types both original and aftermarket exist for the SPAS-12. A 44mm grenade launcher used by France was used for explosive grenades capable of a range of 150 meters. A very rare factory shot diverter that spreads shot vertically or horizontally was originally included with earlier model SPAS-12's.
SPAS-12, SAS-12 and LAW-12 Model Differences Edit
Two of the most commonly found SPAS-12 variants: the folding-stock version (with an eight-round magazine extension) by F.I.E Corp and the fixed-stock version (with a six-round magazine extension) by American Arms Inc.
(Top) Fixed Stock 1990 Sporting Purpose SPAS-12L receiver. (Middle) A rare Choate made aftermarket AR-15 grip style skeleton stock on a 1987 SPAS-12L. (Bottom) Special Purpose Collector SPAS from 1982 with the folding stock and hook.
Franchi Barrel Length SPAS-12 21-1-2" Bbl VS 19-7-8" Bbl
Four different stock styles exist. The first version of the SPAS-12 manufactured with the wooden detachable stock with the standard grip. Models were later available with the folding metal stock with hook. A rare aftermarket Choate skeleton stock (Approx: 150-180 Choate stocks Manufactured for the shotgun) with an AR15 style grip was available for a short time in the early 1990s. After the United States imposed import restrictions on the SPAS-12 in 1989, a version was released in 1990 with the synthetic hollow fixed stock and a six shell capacity to comply with federal regulations for sporting purposes.
Four different factory barrels manufactured for the SPAS-12.
- (Very Rare) 18-inch (46 cm) "shorty" made for Law
Enforcement/Military originally distributed mainly in France. This is the only known model to receive the pistol grip safety.
- (Very Rare) 19-7/8 in. found scattered on a very few of the 1983
"AL" proofed SPAS-12 Shotguns. These were made for Law Enforcement/Military originally.
- (Common to the United Kingdom) 21-1/2" as a one piece barrel
converted to a 24" UK legal barrel. This barrel adds with a 2.5-inch (6.4 cm) choke tube brazed or silver-soldered in place).
- (Most Common) The standard 21-1/2" with sight blade muzzle ended on
barrel for the special purpose model or the pushed back sight blade with brazed extension for the sporting purpose model. The Franchi SPAS-12 came equipped with a non-adjustable circular aperture rear sight and a large, non-adjustable blade foresight integrated into the barrel. The LAW-12 was a semi-automatic only and the SAS-12 was a pump action only. These three "sister" shotguns accepted all SPAS-12 components, notably trigger groups, barrel threaded attachments and stocks. The various magazine extension tubes of the LAW-12 and SAS-12 were never designed to be interchangeable with the SPAS-12 as this would cause issues with the gas selector switch moving from Auto to Pump action on the SPAS-12 model. The extensions have been known to spin off the front of the SPAS-12 during cycling if the extension was not tapered for the SPAS-12 retaining pin.
The SPAS-12 collector shotguns are wanted for certain style features.
- The front sight blade is muzzle ended.
- The longer extension allowing eight shells in the tubular magazine.
- The date code on the receiver is proofed 1989 or prior with F.I.E. (Firearms Import and Export) Corporation as importer.
- The barrel length is 21.5 or less and the less barrel length by factory is more sought after.
- Attached stock is the wooden detachable with grip and or the metal folding stock with hook.
The Franchi SAS-12 could accept 3" shells but it did not have a bolt handle cut in the bolt body. The SPAS and LAW could only accept 23⁄4" shells. The SAS 12 has a barrel length of 21.5" an overall length of 41.5" a weight of 7 lbs. 4 oz. and a capacity of 8 rounds in the magazine + 1 in the chamber.
The Franchi LAW-12 Model was also restricted by importation in 1989 and banned in 1994 with the AWB. The LAW-12 has a barrel length of 21.5" a weight of 7 lbs. 4 oz. and a capacity of 8 rounds in the magazine + 1 in the chamber. The model was known to have imported with all stock styles used on the Franchi SPAS-12. The LAW-12 models were more common with police sales as an alternative to the more expensive SPAS-12 for departments throughout the United States. The LAW-12 was discontinued by Franchi shortly before the SPAS-12 discontinued in 2000.
US market Edit
The United States allowed two different licensed importers for the Franchi SPAS-12 shotguns. From 1982-1989 importation of the first version known as the (Special Purpose Automatic Shotgun), SPAS-12 imported into the United States from Italy with F.I.E. Corporation. In 1989 F.I.E suffered from major losses of sales due to the importation ban restriction act of an executive order by the president under national security ruling 18 U.S.C. 925 (d)(3) on sporting restrictions. The executive order amended further the 1968 Gun Control Act.
In 1990 American Arms incorporated purchased all remaining inventories of parts and SPAS-12 shotguns from F.I.E Corp and began the re-importation of the Franchi SPAS-12 as the (Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun) under newly approved restrictions. From 1990-1994 American Arms incorporated two changes with the fixed stock and magazine tube extension restrictions, thus allowing Importation to continue. The ATF allowed importation of a SPAS-12 variant from American Arms because its size, weight, bulk and modified configuration were such that it was particularly suitable for traditional shooting sports.
The SPAS-12 was tested by the U.S. Coast Guard and showed promising results but again was not considered cost effective for a contract over other available suppliers. The Assault Weapons Ban of September 1994 caused American Arms to stop the importation of the SPAS-12 with major losses of sales due to the legal restrictions invoked by the U.S. Assault Weapons Ban.
It is important to know that both importers requested numerous additional orders for the Franchi SPAS-12 Shotguns that with both companies were never completely filled due to imposed laws by U.S. restriction throughout both importers time periods. This was the reason for such few numbers of importation into the United States.
A SPAS-12 Shotgun is not a NFA Registry item if it was imported/grandfathered into the United States between 1982-1994 bearing the import markings of F.I.E or American Arms.[b]
From 1982 to 2000, a SPAS-12L model was manufactured for law enforcement worldwide and imported in to the U.S. until the 1994 (AWB) Assault Weapons Ban. The SPAS-12L Law Enforcement model included the prior to 1990 folding stock and high capacity magazine tube extension from 1990-1994. The SPAS-12L model was later sold on the U.S. civilian market as existing (grandfathered) import. The production year of an SPAS-12 may be identified by a two-digit letter code forward of the loading port.
A SPAS-12 and SPAS-12L shotgun factory stamped by a year after 1994 is considered an illegal import violating federal importation laws with penalties for possession in the U.S. The SPAS-12 would not include Importation Markings on the side of the receiver prior to 1982 and after 1994 by the U.S. importers Firearms Import and Export (F.I.E) or American Arms.
The 1994 federal "Crime Bill," signed into law by President Clinton on Sept. 13, 1994, included the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. That Act included provisions amending the Gun Control Act (GCA, 1968) to make it a federal crime for a private individual to possess or transfer (sell, give, etc.) an "assault weapon" manufactured after that date. [18 U.S.C. 922(v)]. "Assault weapons" manufactured on or before that date are "grandfathered," meaning that the law does not prohibit their possession or transfer. The law requires that "assault weapons" manufactured after Sept. 13, 1994 be stamped with their date of manufacture or serial number to identify with factory date of manufacturing.
SPAS-12 and LAW-12 Shotguns are listed illegal for possession in states that hold a "military assault weapon style" law that identifies the shotguns by name on each states individual ban. The states may have had a registration timeline that would allow it to be grandfathered prior to each states individual ban. U.S. States and territories listed that ban the Franchi SPAS-12 and LAW-12 currently from future individual civilian possession. CA, CT, District of Columbia, MD, MA, NJ, NY.
☀Type Combat shotgun Place of origin Italy Service history In service 1982-present Used by See Users
Production history Designed 1972 Manufacturer Franchi S.p.A. Produced 1979–2000 Number built 37,000 Variants LAW-12, SAS-12. Specifications Weight 4.4 kg (8.75 lb) Length
1041 mm (41 in), stock extended 820 mm (32.5 in), stock folded Barrel length 18",19-7/8",21-1/2",24"
Cartridge 12 gauge 23⁄4 inch shells only Action Pump-action / gas-actuated Rate of fire Semi-automatic up to 4 rounds per second. Effective firing range Dependent on ammunition used Feed system Tube Extension 5+1, 6+1, 7+1 and 8+1 rounds, internal tube magazine