2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Guest Review" of the Franchi SPAS-12

Hey, folks from the 80's...remember this??

Yep, thats the Governator...er, Terminator with that wierd looking shotgun that did both semi and pump action..the Franchi SPAS-12...it was the uber cool shotty that all the good and bad guys just had to have on film back then. There hasn't been a new one made in over a decade but that hasn't stopped Corey from putting a better than average (or at least what I would of come up with) review on it....printed here with his permission...Thanks Corey!

here it is!

Everyone remember the SPAS-12 Shotgun, star of all kinds of action movies and TV shows back in the 80's and early 90's? Arnie used one in the original Terminator and it quickly became the symbol of cool, badass, tactical shotgunnery back in the day. Well, I have had a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun to play with for the last couple of weeks. Belongs to someone else, I was going through it for them and getting it cleaned up and making sure everything runs right. I had to replace the buffer in the receiver and the o-ring for the gas system. It had lint build up in the trigger group from storage. I detail stripped, cleaned and lubricated it. Took it out to a few range sesions, and thought I would share some thoughts about it.

First a little background. The SPAS-12 came out in 1979. The version I had was from the late 1980's. It can operate as either a pump action, or as a gas operated semi-auto. The design of the mechanism is fairly clever. in the pump mode, the gas port in the barrel is blocked and the forend and the piston are locked together. It is a little quirky in that if you work the pump with an empty gun it will lock in the open position, just like a semi-auto. You have to hit the release on the left side of the receiver to close the action again. The spring for the piston is also compressed when working the pump so it assists on closing the action. There is a button on the bottom of the forend, similar to the magazine cutoff on a Benelli Nova. With the action closed, you press this button and the pump will move forward about a half-inch and it will lock in the forward position. This unlocks the pump from the piston and opens the gas ports in the barrel for semi-auto fire. The location of the release means that you can actually run the gun in semi-auto mode and if you have a malfunction you can switch the gun to pump mode and work the pump just as fast, if not faster, that clearing the gun the way you normally would with a semi-auto. This is a much easier method of switching modes than what was use on the Benelli M3. The down side is because the forend is not attached to the action bars for the bolt it rides on rails on the heat shield for the barrel. The entire forend is synthetic with large lugs molded into it that ride in grooves on the heat shield. It is not a very smooth action as a result. In fact it takes a surprising amount of effort to work the pump. There is also a magazine cutoff on the right side of the receiver at the forward bottom corner. It is not very well placed for ease of use, but it is there.

This thing is heavy! Heavier than a Benelli M4, heavier than a Saiga-12, heavier than a Remington 870 with a Surefire Forend and a fully loaded Sidesaddle shell carrier. Even with an aluminum receiver and 22 inch barrel it still weighs 10 lbs before you load it. Then you have the weight of eight shells in it once it is loaded. Balance is not too bad, but it is a lot of gun to muscle around trying to swing onto a target. The weight does help save you shoulder. The top folding stock is fabricated from stamped and welded sheet metal with a solid rectangular flat steel recoil pad for your shooting comfort. And what is with that hook on it??? That hook can be removed by simple pushing it in and rotating it 180 degrees. It is not in the way at all when the stock is extended for shooting. But what does it do? Well, when the stock is folded it is well placed for hooking over the back of an automobile bench seat. I actually hooked over the back seat of my Toyota 4Runner and tried driving around a bit. It didn't move around at all, just sat there in a vertical position like it was in a rack. Clever idea, but in reality pretty useless as there is no way to secure it in place other that locking the doors and it is in plain view. Plus bench seats in cars haven't been very common for awhile. But hey, in 1979 that was the state-of-the-art in tacticool.

In spite of (of because of) its weight and bulk, it actually shoots pretty good. The gas system is designed for slugs and buckshot and it ran well with them. With some low brass bird shot loads the action would cycle just enough to cock the hammer but not eject the empty hull. Every time I would have a cocked gun with the fired shell in the chamber. Pump action was as reliable as any other pump action, just very stiff. It was very easy to quickly switch modes while firing. I don't know what practical value there is for being able to do the, but it is fun to play around with. I didn't bother to pattern the gun, it had a cylinder bore barrel with no extra chokes, just the thread protector. The sights are a fixed, non adjustable peep sight and post front, both mounted to the barrel. For how far forward it is, the aperature should be bigger, but it works okay. I fired about 200 rounds through the gun during the time I had it, and it only malfunctioned when using low brass loads in semi-auto mode, which is exactly what the manual for it said would happen. Recoil wasn't bad in spite of the steel butt plate because of the considerable weight, however the oversized forend was difficult to hold onto during recoil. I tried a few shots from the hip with the stock folded and my support had slipped off the forend every time. No, I didn't try to one-hand it like The Terminator.

The SPAS-12 has been out of production for about 10 years now. It is pretty much a niche collector item but it still turns up in Hollywood and in video games. It was never widely used in its intended role (Wikipedia only names 5 police agencies or military units that officially used it, and all of them outside the U.S.). It did show some clever thinking on the part of Franchi in some of its desing features. Overall I think the action design is pretty good. Using materials and fabrication methods available today, I think the design could be modernized and made into a lighter weight, more user friendly weapon. That just leaves the question of why would you need to be able to switch modes. Other than cool factor, I don't think that is a particularly useful feature. Even with the Benelli name on it, that feature hasn't found much acceptance.

Well, the gun is back to it's owner, and I got to try something different. No real practical information or new discoveries here, just a new experience for me. I know there is some interest in unusual weapons here so I figured some of you might like hearing about it.

1 comment:

Andres said...

The hook on the stock is actually meant to be a support for firing the shotgun one handed. With the stocked unfolded, you turn the hook 90 degrees, so it sticks out sideways, and it fits under the arm that you are firing with. this was meant to be used for firing around corners or over barracades as per the manual.