Franchi SPAS-12

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SPAS-12 stock folded.jpg
SPAS-12 with stock folded and butt hook removed - 12 gauge
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
Variants LAW-12, SAS-12, PA-7, PA-8
Weight 4.4 kg (8.75 lb)
Length 1041 mm (41 in), stock extended
Barrel length 18",19-7/8",21-1/2",24"

Cartridge 12 gauge 234 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, 8+1 rounds, internal tube magazine

The Franchi SPAS-12 is a combat shotgun manufactured by Italian firearms company Franchi from 1979 to 2000. Only five percent (about 1,850) of the estimated SPAS-12 shotguns manufactured were imported into the United States. 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,[1] 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 U.S. 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 U.S. to non-restricted countries. Franchi S.p.A. Italy.[2]


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 pressing a button under the foregrip and sliding the foregrip slightly forwards or backwards until it clicks into position. However, the pump-action mode was slow and awkward compared to traditional pump-action guns because of the complex changeover mechanism and friction between the foregrip and the hand-guard.

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 a lever-type or push-button safety. Lever safeties were recalled by Franchi and were replaced through the importer American Arms in the early 1990s. NOTE: the push-button cross bolt safety has also been known to fail and release the hammer when depressing the trigger on safe and it is recommended that the secondary Quick Employment Safety (lever tab on left side of trigger) is used on both the newer and older style trigger groups in place of the lever or cross bolt safety's to prevent accidental discharge. 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.

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 range, reducing the need for precise aiming. The automatic action will fire about four shots per second, and at this rate of fire, with standard buckshot loadings, it is possible to put 48 pellets per second into a one-meter-square target at 40 meters range. At this range the pellets have about 50 percent more striking energy than a .32 pistol bullet.

Many different choke types both original and aftermarket. A 44mm grenade launcher used for gas grenades capable of a range of 150 meters. A rare Diverter that spreads shot vertically or horizontally was originally included with earlier model SPAS-12's.[3]


Two shotguns—the top one with a folding stock and the bottom one with a fixed stock
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 1991 Sporting Purpose SPAS-12L receiver. (Middle) A rare Choate 1/150 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

The first version of the SPAS-12 manufactured with the wooden detachable stock with the standard grip. Models were later available with a folding metal stock with hook. A rare aftermarket Choate skeleton stock (Approx: 150 Manufactured) with an AR-15 style grip was available for a short time in the early 1990s. After the U.S. imposed import restrictions on the SPAS-12 in 1989, a version was released in 1990 with a synthetic hollow fixed stock and a five or six shell capacity to comply with federal regulations for sporting purposes.

Four different factory barrels manufactured for the SPAS-12 and 12L models.

1. (Very Rare) 18-inch (46 cm) "shorty" made for Law Enforcement/Military originally.

2. (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.

3. (Common) 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).

4. (Most Common) The standard 21-1/2" with sight blade muzzle ended on barrel for the special purpose or the pushed back sight blade with brazed extension for the sporting purpose model.

The SPAS-12 came equipped with a non-adjustable circular aperture rear sight and a large, non-adjustable blade foresight integrated into the barrel. Franchi released four other shotguns based on the SPAS-12 platform: the LAW-12, SAS-12, PA-7 and PA-8. The LAW-12 was semi-automatic only, and the SAS-12 was pump-action only. These four "sister" shotguns accepted all SPAS-12 accessories and could share many other components, notably trigger groups and stocks. The SAS was unusual in that it could accept 3" shells but did not have a bolt handle cut in its bolt body, while the SPAS and LAW could only accept 234" shells.[4] The PA-7 and PA-8 had many similar attributes and were mainly used by Italy and Spain.[5] It. is important to note, The 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 selector switch moving from Auto to Pump action on the SPAS-12 models.

The Franchi LAW-12 Model was also restricted by importation and banned in 1994 with the AWB. The model was known to have imported with all stock styles used on the Franchi SPAS-12. Total numbers imported estimated to around 8,700 shotguns. The LAW-12 retail price in its final year of 2000 was $400.00 averaged for final sales outside the U.S. to non-restricted countries. The LAW-12 models were more common with police sales as an alternative to the more expensive SPAS-12 for departments throughout the U.S. The LAW-12 was discontinued by Franchi shortly before the SPAS-12 discontinued in 2000. The LAW-12 released shortly after the SPAS-12 Model.

The SPAS-12 collectors grade shotguns vary heavy in price and are sought for certain features. 1. The front sight blade is muzzle ended. 2. The longer extension allowing eight shells in the tubular magazine. 3. The date code on the receiver is proofed 1989 or prior with F.I.E. (Firearms Import and Export) Corporation as importer. 4. The barrel length is 21.5 or less and the less barrel length by factory is more sought after. 5. Attached stock is the wooden detachable with grip and or the metal folding stock with hook.

The Franchi SPAS-15 is the successor to the SPAS-12 Shotgun. It is also a semiautomatic-pump shotgun, but uses a six shell box magazine instead of the SPAS-12's tube magazine. About 180 SPAS-15 models were imported into the U.S. until 1994.

U.S. Importers[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 U.S. 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 and is based on the Nazi Weapons Law of 1938 Sporting Purpose Restrictions.

In 1990 American Arms incorporated purchased all remaining inventories of parts and SPAS 12 shotguns 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. ATF allowed importation of a SPAS-12 variant shotgun because its size, weight, bulk and modified configuration were such that it was particularly suitable for traditional shooting sports.

The law enforcement SPAS 12L models showed little sales to law enforcement departments as it was not considered an affordable shotgun for most law enforcement agencies to maintain. 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. Ultimately this was the reason for such few numbers of importation into the United States.

U.S. Legal[edit]

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. If a SPAS-12 copy is manufactured after 1994 in the U.S. it requires A licensed Destructive Device Manufacturer, registration into the NFA and a $200 Tax Stamp for individual ownership of a Destructive Device.

From 1982 to 2000, a SPAS-12L and SPAS 12L model were manufactured for law enforcement worldwide and imported in to the U.S. until the 1994 (AWB) Assault Weapons Ban. The SPAS-12L and 12-L models included the prior to 1990 folding stock and high capacity magazine tube extension. The SPAS-12L and SPAS 12L (older) model was sold on the U.S. civilian market as existing (grandfathered) import shotguns. The production year of an SPAS-12 may be identified by a two-digit letter code forward of the loading port.

A SPAS-12, SPAS-12L 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. Date of writing 19 MAY 2014. U.S. States and territories listed that ban the Franchi SPAS 12 and LAW 12 currently from future individual civilian possession. CA created assault weapon list do not define correctly if the SPAS-12 sporting model manufactured and import of 1990-1994 American Arms is legal or not by correct definition. The Folding Stock version is illegal by CA Law. Other states that suffer from CA assault style weapon lists by copied over legislation. CT, District of Columbia, MD, MA, NJ, NY.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diez, Octavio (2000). Armament and Technology. Lema Publications, S.L. ISBN 84-8463-013-7.
  2. ^ Cooney, Chris (June 2002). "Introduction". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  3. ^ Cooney, Chris (January 2002). "SPAS 12 Accessories". Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  4. ^ Cooney, Chris (March 2010). "Chris's Franchi SPAS12 Shotgun Pages". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  5. ^ "PA-7". Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Kopassus & Kopaska – Specijalne Postrojbe Republike Indonezije" (in Croatian). Hrvatski Vojnik Magazine. Retrieved 2010-06-12. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Thompson, Leroy (December 2008). "Malaysian Special Forces". Special Weapons. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  12. ^ Shotgun uses by Nepal Mobile Service police^
  13. ^
  14. ^ McManners, Hugh (2003). Ultimate Special Forces. DK Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7894-9973-8.

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