Take a Shot at History

Winchester's Finest Pump Shotgun! The Model 12

by Harry Viezens

This year of 2012 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Winchester Model 1912 Shotgun,as this gun was known at that time. We know this gun today by it’s more common name,the Model 12. This model would turn out to be one of Winchester’s biggest sellers with almost two million sold by 1964. This shotgun even served in our armed forces in our various wars and peace keeping operations. This gun would prove to be one of the most versatile shotguns ever designed by Winchester.

When I was a young kid just starting to shoot trap and skeet in the late 1950’s, the Winchester Model 12 pump shotgun was the gun of choice! It was available in four gauges, 12, 16, 20, and28 gauge, and in more styles and variations to keep any collector of this model shotgun busy for a lifetime to try to acquire for their collection.

Oh, sure, there were other guns out there. The Remington Model 31 pump, the Ithaca Model 37 pump, various self-loading shotguns such as the Browning and Remington models, side by side shotguns over and under guns and so on. But at that time the Model 12 was the gun any serious shooter choose for their game, may it be Trap, Skeet, Hunting or any other shotgun sport. The Winchester was fast to work, simple to use and extremely reliable. What more would a shooter want from their shotgun?

At that time when I would be shooting Trap. It was rare to see any other type of trap gun other than that Winchester model. I do remember, however that many of those Trap guns started life as a standard field grade. Some of these Trap shooters would pick out one of these field guns in a thirty inch or a thirty-two-inch barrel send it out, have it restocked, new rib installed, re-blued and have all the extra tweaks installed the shooter would want on the gun. One of those tweaks popular at that time was a Release Trigger. Some of these former field guns were remade into amazing Trap guns.

While I’m on the subject of tweaks, I have seen these guns on the Trap Field outfitted with what looked like antiaircraft sights, battery operated glow sights, all kinds of anti-recoil devices and so on. I even saw one highly polished and chrome plated with white enamel painted stocks and gold trim for crying out loud! Asked the the owner what gives with that gun? He told me his gun earns it’s keep when he is not using it. He rents it out to shotgun weddings! Well, I gotta tell ya I kinda believe it, It’s certainly fancy enough!

Anyways, back to the subject. As for Skeet guns, I rarely saw these guns altered. The only fad I can recall was the cuts recoil compensator. The darn thing looks like a potato stuck on the end of the barrel! Granted, it did its job of reducing felt recoil, but boy, did it have a loud blast! It certainly was not pleasant for anybody near that shooter when that gun would go off! Hunters rarely messed with their shotguns. Sometimes you will see one with a Poly Choke. This was a early attempt at adjusting the guns choke, not like we have today with the screw in chokes. With this device, you dialed the choke desired. It was not as big or as clunky as the Cutts Compensator but it still looked ugly on a shotgun! It spoiled the sleek lines the Model 12 was famous for.

When I was younger, I was a serious dedicated shooter. It was rare when I did not have some club shoot planned for that week or weekend. I usually travelled with at least five or six shotguns, one Trap gun for sure. The rest were skeet guns in various gauges, and of course plenty of ammunition. It was not uncommon for me to shoot five hundred rounds or more a week. Boy, if I tried that schedule today, I think would wreck myself! All that traveling, shooting in all kinds of weather, crappy food and that focus to win mentality would do me in today.

Now I shoot for the sheer fun of it. Oh, yeah, I still shoot my Model 12’s. Still have not gotten around to buying a over and under shotgun. I am still pretty fast at pumping the next shot, sadly, I am not as great a shot as I used to be but I am not too bad either! My favorite Skeet gun is a 20 gauge built in 1961. It is fitted with a Winchester factory installed Simmons rib. I use this gun all the time, even against guys using 12 gauge guns, not a problem. This gun is also great for shooting Skeet doubles on all stations. Now that’s a fun game to shoot! As for my Trap gun, I still have my factory original Trap gun built in 1948. It is a solid rib with a thirty inch barrel. Still shoots mighty fine!

So, I say to you, the reader, if you have one of those Winchester Model 12’s collecting dust in your gun cabinet, for goodness sake take it out shooting! Doesn’t matter if you go Trap, skeet, sporting clays or whatever, just go shooting this great gun! See for your self why this Winchester is one of the finest designed guns ever built! You just may rediscover the true joy of shooting again. So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO WINCHESTER’S FINEST! THE MODEL 12!

Until Next Time