The Winchester Model 12 pump-action shotgun is regarded as one of the finest repeating arms of the early 20th century. Based on John M. Browning’s earlier designs of the models 1893 & 1897, the Model 12 was re-engineered by T.C. Johnson. The earliest guns were built only in 20 gauge with 2-1/2” chambers, but Winchester quickly adapted their shotgun to most other popular gauges, which included the 16 gauge with a 2-9/16” chamber.
This exemplary internal-hammer pump action shotgun saw its first military use in WWI after the U.S. Army contracted for thousands of these shotguns in what became known as the Trench Gun variation. The Army’s Model 12 Trench Gun featured a shorter barrel, steel heat shield, and an M1917 bayonet adapter. Due to the absence of a trigger disconnector, which is now found in modern guns, the model 12 could be slam fired. This meant that the shooter could fire their shotgun as quickly as they could cycle the action by simply leaving their finger on the trigger.
The battle-proven and durable Winchester shotgun would see service in the Korean War, WWII, and in some capacity during Vietnam. Through the years, sportsmen also valued this quality firearm because of its smooth action and durable and meticulously crafted parts that made for a fine hunting companion. However, as more affordable competitors began to emerge during the middle of the 20th century, it became difficult for Winchester to continue to produce their shotgun the old fashion way and still compete on price. The Model 12 carried a steep production cost and could not be priced among the likes of the Remington 870 and later the Mossberg 500.
Winchester brought an end to mass production of the Model 12 in 1964, but the gun continued to see limited special order production until 2006 through Winchester's custom gun shop. These guns are easily identified as all the later produced shotguns had a “Y” prefix placed on their serial numbers. In the late 1960s Winchester replaced the Model 12 with the inferior Model 1200 which was designed for more economical production and shared practically nothing with its predecessor. 2006 also marked the year that Winchester halted all production of firearms in their New Haven, Connecticut location and brought an absolute end to the historic Model 12 after 95 years.