History of the Winchester Model 12 Combat Shotbun
The Winchester Model 12 slide-action repeating shotgun was originally introduced in 1912. Approximately 20,000 Winchester Model 12 trench guns were supplied to the U.S. Army in World War I. In the trench gun configuration, the Model 12 had a perforated steel heat shield and the M1917 bayonet adapter, very similar to the Winchester Model 97 trench gun As a riot gun, the barrel was plain with no heat shield and no bayonet adapter.
By the time World War II began, stocks of shotguns were too small to support the mobilization and new orders were placed. The well regarded Winchester Model 12 trench and riot guns were again procured with a total of more than 80,000 guns ordered by the U.S. Government by 1945, more than any other combat shotgun of the time. Collectors will notice that there was a change in the ventilated heat shield during WW II from the WW I design of six rows of holes to only 4 rows starting in 1942.
The mobile warfare of the European Theater of Operations had little use for the shotgun, but on the islands of the Pacific Theater it was entirely different. There short range combat in the jungles or against Japanese bunkers, caves and unseen snipers was the norm. The Marine Corps had combat shotguns in almost every unit and their use has been documented in most Pacific battles. When facing this type of combat, the shotgun was superior to every infantry weapon available in WW II except perhaps the Thompson and M3 submachine guns.
The Model 12 remained as the primary combat shotgun, used heavily by the USMC in Korea and until the Vietnam War where they again served. The Model 12s still in Government inventory were quickly exhausted early in the Vietnam War and newer, less expensive shotguns were procured. Winchester stopped producing the gun in 1963 (except special order). The Winchester Model 12 was superceded by the Remington Model 870 and Winchester Model 1200.
Description of the Winchester Model 12 Shotgun
The Model 12 combat shotgun is hammerless with a streamlined receiver, a 20-inch cylinder bore barrel and a tubular magazine holding five shells. The action feeds from the bottom and ejects from the right side. Like the closely related Winchester Model 1897 (or M97), the Model 12 has no trigger disconnector -- with the trigger depressed, shells can be fired as fast as the forearm can be pumped.
The M12 magazine tube and the barrel can be removed from the receiver for takedown.
Books and Manuals for the Winchester Model 12 Shotgun
The best book on this shotgun is U.S. Winchester Trench & Riot Guns by Joe Poyer. This small and inexpensive book has in depth coverage not found elsewhere.
The military technical manual is TM 9-2117 titled "Field and Depot Maintenance, Winchester Riot-Type Shotgun M12 and Stevens Riot-Type Shotguns M520-30 and M620A". This Department of the Army Technical Manual is dated July 1957.