Favorite Firearms: A Classic Model 12

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I first heard about the Winchester Model 12 from John Hewitt, who wrote a regular column for Gray’s Sporting Journal until 2007, when a stroke ended his writing career. The Model 12 figured prominently in John’s articles based on his outdoor experiences, and the first book of his collected columns published in 2013 was titled, "The Model 12 Winchester As A Way Of Life." Out of curiosity, I would check out Model 12s at gun shows from time to time. I admired the machined steel receiver and its internals, the tight fit between the receiver and the barrel/magazine assembly, the smooth-cycling action, and the overall weight and feel of the firearm.

Earlier this year, my long-time fishing buddy mentioned that among the firearms inherited from his grandfather was a Model 12. Neither he nor his father had ever shot it, and he was uncertain of its condition. I asked him to send me some photographs of the gun, including any markings on it. I was able to determine that it was a standard model manufactured in 1936, chambered in 16 gauge with a 2 3/4" chamber. Earlier models had shorter chambers, and ammunition for these guns is now scarce, but 2 3/4" 16-ga. light dove loads only command about a 25 percent premium over 12-ga. shells. And besides, the gun in question being a 16 gauge only made it more of a classic to me. I made him an offer, and received the Model 12 last summer.

I first tore down the gun, thoroughly cleaned it, replaced and repaired a few things, and after consulting a couple of gunsmiths, took it out on the local clays course. It’s had nearly 500 shells through it now, and it shoots just fine—I’m grinning as I write that. Just as satisfying as handling this classic are the looks I get on the range. The Model 12 is instantly recognized by the old-timers like myself, and the younger generation is curious about what makes an 82-year-old shotgun so special.

Although I own several other, more expensive shotguns, the Model 12 has quickly become my favorite. I’m looking forward to using it on my next upland game hunt.

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