Dual purpose shotgun that can switch between pump action or semi-auto with a push of a button. It’s intimidating looks have made it a pop culture icon in terms of weapons. This example has the desirable but very uncomfortable folding stock but the dangerous paddle safety. With that safety, there were numerous incidents of the shotgun going off and firing a shell once it was flipped to fire. (GRH)
Ah yes, the SPAS-12. An icon of cinema, what started life as a police shotgun ended up the kingpin of the action movie.
The tale of the SPAS-12 begins all the way back in Italy. Luigi Franchi SpA, commonly just known as Franchi were the maker of a number of sporting shotguns, however in the 1950′s and 1960′s they began to edge into the military and police market. These included the failed attempt at the Italian Army rifle contract, the Franchi LF57 submachinegun, the Franchi RF83 revolver and the SPAS-12.
The SPAS-12′s basic idea was to make a high-end multi purpose police shotgun. This included it being one of the first combination pump and semi automatic shotguns, this was useful as a number of police rounds such as birdshot, tear gas and rubber bullets don’t have the high enough pressure to run reliably on a semi-auto mechanism. It also included large ghost ring sights, extended magazine tubes and your choice of a folder stock or solid plastic stock.
And the SPAS-12 sold fairly well. A number of special forces units, such as EKO Cobra, Malaysian SOF, Turkish Gendarmerie, Irish Army Rangers and a number of police SWAT teams across the world. A total of 37,000 were made between 1979 and 2000. SPAS by the way stands for Special Purpose Automatic Shotgun or Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun, in an attempt to save it from the federal ban hammer of the early 1990′s, unfortunately it didn’t and the SPAS-12′s were cut off from importation in 1994.
That doesn’t mean it didn’t have an effect on the media at the time, oh hell no, movies loved the SPAS.
The 1980′s Hollywood movie era was saturated by SPAS-12′s. They’re large size and pretty intimidating look made them a favorite. And while movies never tended to use them in semi-auto, it still became a classic. The T-800 was the first in 1984, then followed by a sea of action flicks, including Jurassic Park, Exterminator 2, The Hitcher, La Femme Nikita, The Wraith, The Matrix, Bad Boys and many more. From the shores of Miami to the megaslums of Detroit, the SPAS-12 is a common sight. And a gun this iconic always needs some video game appearances.
And like the Python, the big break for the SPAS was Half Life.
Yes, the Valve classic is back again in my lists. 1998′s Half Life had a great story and a great arsenal of guns and the SPAS was one of the best. While it had a rather hilarious goof where it could fire two shots at once, it was a very powerful weapon for the confined spaces of Black Mesa and helped the SPAS-12 to become an icon in the video game scene.
With a film history as rich as it is, the sheer amount of video game appearances of the SPAS-12 is staggering. There have been just as many SPAS-12′s digitized in games as ones made from steel. Besides Gordon Freeman, it’s the main shotgun for a number of games. Agent 47 of the Hitman franchise uses it as his primary shotgun, Far Cry 2, 3 and 4 boast a SPAS-12, GTA Vice City and San Andreas boast one, both Battlefield and Call of Duty packed SPAS-12′s either in semi-auto or pump action. It’s big, imposing and ready to tear through whatever stands in it’s way.
And that is the tale of the SPAS-12, one of the most iconic shotguns ever made. What started off as a simple police combat shotgun blossomed into one of the most well known and recognized shotguns ever made. And while Franchi stopped production in 2000, their still an uncommon sight in media and it’ll be shredding bad guys, dinosaurs and zombies for years to come.
Italian made 12 gauge shotgun that can switch between pump-action or semi-auto. No longer in production, it’s believed around 1,800 were imported into the U.S before being banned. Considered a collector’s piece, spare parts are few and far between, hence why most are safe queens. (GRH)
Italian made 12 gauge shotgun that was imported for a short period of time in the U.S. Supposedly there are less than 2,000 of these shotguns on the U.S market, making them fairly collectable but also a little pricey for what some consider an obsolete tactical shotgun. In spite often being portrayed as a pump-action only shotgun, the SPAS-12 can switch to semi-automatic and it is frighteningly fast at cycling. (GRH)
The successor to the infamous SPAS-12, the 15 was shaped more like a rifle than a traditional shotgun. In some ways it could be said the 15 was the precursor to rifle patterned shotguns like the Saiga, Vepr, Origin, Safir, Akdal and others. Like the SPAS-12, the 15 was capable of shooting in semi-auto and pump-action. Very rare and sought after, they tend to run in the $4,000 to $5,000 price range depending on configuration; it was available with a folding stock too. (GRH)
Aside from the links for my Shrike I did get some much-needed replacement parts for my Franchi SPAS-12.
Due to the age of the SPAS, with most being made in the 1980′s, there are two polymer pieces that will corrode and become brittle. On the left-hand side of the picture is the drum swivel which has cracked so I could no longer attach a sling. Those individual pieces are what’s left of the grip plug which is located in the pistol grip.
On the right-hand side is the new replacement grip plug which is an exact copy of the original but with better polymer/plastic. I already installed the replacement drum swivel but instead of polymer, the new one is made of solid steel. It’s a bit more involved to install because you have to drill out the retaining pin rivet for the folding stock. A replacement retaining pin which uses a screw is supplied.
I pretty much thought I would have to buy a secondary SPAS-12 to scavenge spare parts from. I only recently found out that a new website called the SPAS-12 Project is making new parts AND finally offering the service to convert the unsafe paddle safety to the upgraded cross-bolt safety. Franchi no longer offers this service which meant many owners had to rely on an unsafe and dangerous safety mechanism. Keep in mind there is an older website called spas12.com; they are not the same group of people. You have to go to spas-12.com. I think their mascot is Ellie from Jurassic Park. I don’t think Robert Muldoon would have been as cute.
If anyone else owns the SPAS-12, now you have a source for parts and guides on how to maintain your collectible little shotgun. I’m just glad to have mine back to 100%. I just need to send it off for refinishing. I’m half tempted to hard chrome it. (GRH)
12 gauge shotgun with the ability to switch between both modes of operation; pump and semi. One major weakness of the SPAS-12 is the fact it can only chamber 2 ¾", whereas most modern tactical shotguns can use 2 ¾" and 3" shells. (GRH)