I Have This Old Gun: Winchester Model 12 Riot Gun

posted on December 27, 2022
Winchester Model 12 Riot Gun

Like its exposed-hammer predecessor, the Model 1897, the Winchester Model 12 transitioned from peacetime popularity to wartime warrior and back again. The Model 12’s journey from battlefields to hunting fields and trap and skeet ranges spanned more than 50 years. From its introduction in August 1912 until it was eventually discontinued in May 1964—a victim of escalating manufacturing costs (and not counting periodic limited editions offered until Winchester’s New Haven factory closed in 2006)—more than 2 million Model 12s were produced in various grades and barrel lengths ranging from 20" to 30". Special-order guns could be had with lengths up to 32".

Designed by longtime employee Thomas Crossley Johnson, the Model 12 was Winchester’s first concealed-hammer, pump-action shotgun. With its sleek, modern lines, smooth action and available takedown feature, the Model 12 was an instant success, selling more than 100,000 guns within the first two years. Winchester’s subsequent ads christened it “The Perfect Repeater.” Brought out in 1913 as the Model 1912 and priced at $20, the name was shortened to Model 12 in 1919. Initially only chambered in 20 gauge, 12- and 16-ga. versions were introduced in late 1913 and first listed in the 1914 catalog; a 28-ga. version came out in 1934 (a .410-bore model was produced in 1933 as the Model 42). Although the tubular magazine held six 2¾" shells, after the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1934, all shotguns came with a removable wooden plug limiting capacity to two shells.

Winchester Model 12 Riot Gun features

In all, there were 12 variations of the Model 12, including the rare Super Pigeon Grade (introduced in 1965), Heavy Duck Gun (1935 through 1963), Skeet Gun (1933 through 1947), Featherweight (introduced in 1961) and Standard Grade. The Riot Gun, without the trench gun’s heat shield and bayonet lug, was introduced in 1918, and, like the trench gun, was available only in 12 gauge with a 20" cylinder-bore barrel. Because of its lack of a disconnector, the shotgun could be “slam-fired” by holding the trigger down while cycling the action, which made it a formidable close-range firearm for “police departments, express messengers, sheriffs, and railroad guards” as Winchester’s ads boasted. The Riot Gun also served in both world wars and right up through Vietnam.

The 90 percent example from 1959 shown here, however, apparently saw only civilian use—possibly as a messenger or guard gun—judging from a lack of military markings and an unidentifiable, hand-etched, six-digit inventory number on the receiver. Although it sold for $93.85 when new, it fetched $1,226 at a Lock, Stock & Barrel online auction in June 2021. If law-enforcement credentials could be identified, the price would possibly double.

Gun: Winchester Model 12 Riot Gun
Gauge: 12
Serial No.: 1699XXX
Manufactured: 1959
Condition: NRA Very Good (Modern Gun Standards)
Value: $1,226


Bond Arms Stinger 22LR
Bond Arms Stinger 22LR

New For 2023: Bond Arms Stinger 22LR

Following the success of the company’s lightweight Stinger derringers in several centerfire chamberings, Bond Arms has developed what is certainly the most easily shootable derringer in the bunch with its .22 Long Rifle Stinger.

Australia’s Lee-Enfield 'Jungle Rifles'

While the British No. 5 Lee-Enfield “Jungle Carbines” are well-known guns, the Australian No. 1-based jungle rifles have languished in obscurity. They never went beyond the trials phase and are commonly faked. Here’s the real story on what are likely the rarest versions of the World War II Lee-Enfield.

Suppressor Ownership Growing in Popularity

The number of applications for a National Firearms Act (NFA) tax stamp—federally required for lawful ownership of suppressors, short-barreled rifles and similarly configured shotguns, among others—has more than doubled in the past four years.

The Colt 1895: America’s First Browning Machine Gun

Despite the U.S. Army's initial rejection of the Colt M1895, the "Potato Digger" soldiered on with a fruitful service history around the world.

Rifleman Q&A: Sidehammer Navy Revolver

Can you identify this .36-caliber percussion pistol? It has no serial number or markings of any kind, save the number 17 on two of the parts. I did not completely dismantle it.

The Armed Citizen® Feb. 3, 2023

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.