Winchester Model 12: The Perfect Repeater
With about 2 million Model 12s produced in both standard and deluxe grades between 1912 and 1980, the Model 12 had milestone serial numbers set aside for presentation to notable individuals. There is only factory Serial Number Application Data available for this model from the Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming, from serial number 1 thru 1970885. 5/12/2021 Antique Handguns 10/1/2020 Collectible (post-1899) U.S. Longarms 5/1/2021. WINCHESTER DATES OF MANUFACTURE. Lever Action Rifles. Henry Rifles Model. Sequential Model Numbers (Rifles) 1919-39. In 1919 Winchester abandoned numbering models by the year of introduction and assigned two-digit numbers, sequential beginning with 51 for rifles. Older guns still in production had their model numbers truncated, e.g. The Model 1912 shotgun became the Model 12.
By Chuck Hawks
The famous Winchester Model 1912 pump shotgun was designed by Winchester'sThomas C. Johnson. Introduced in 20 gauge in 1912, 16 and 12 gauge guns followed in 1914. From its debut until the end of the 1950's, theWinchester Model 1912 was the pump shotgun, longknown as 'the perfect repeater.' After 1919, the model designation was shortened to 'Model12,' but the gun remained the same. Oh, sure, Ithaca, Stevens and Remington gunshad their fans, but it was Winchester's Model 12 that dominated both themarket and the public consciousness for decades. However, by the beginning ofthe 1960's, the times were a changin', to paraphrase Bob Dylan.
In the case of the firearms industry, the biggest change wasnecessitated by skyrocketing labor costs that rendered many of the bestproduction firearms unprofitable, a regrettable process that continues to thisday. Guns designed for less labor intensive manufacture,using stamped sheet metal parts, cast aluminum frames and impressed checkeringwere the coming thing in the late 1950's and early 1960's, necessary to holdretail prices in check. Winchester succumbed to the pressure of rising costs in1964 by introducing complete revisions of their most popular centerfire rifles (the Model70 and Model 94) and introducing entirely new rimfire rifles, pump andautoloading shotguns designed specifically to reduce production costs and increaseprofit margin.
Perhaps the most dramatic change in 1964 was the new Model 1200 pump shotgun, which replaced theclassic Model 12. The Model 1200 shared almost nothing with its Model12 predecessor, except the first two digits of its model number and astreamlined action. The new Model 1200 was built on analuminum receiver, instead of the Model 12's machined steel receiver. The Model1200's rotary locking bolt design owed nothing to the previous Model 12 action andthe new gun was cheapened in every way. Internal parts were stamped from sheetmetal, instead of machined from steel forgings. The walnut stock and forend hadtheir checkering stamped in reverse by heat and pressure, a process pioneeredby Remington. The Model 1200 was intended to compete on even footing with theRemington Model 870 pump gun, which had pioneered most of the same productionshortcuts. Remington, however, had wisely retained a machined steel receiverfor their Model 870. Thus, while the 870 could not match the internal qualityof the old Model 12, from the outside it looked like a higher quality gun thanthe new Winchester Model 1200.
In 1964, Model 12 production was ramped down in favor of thenew Model 1200 pump gun and Model 12 prices were allowed to soar. The Model 12became a limited production gun and Model 12's were not mass produced after1963. Model 12's produced from 1964 onward have a 'Y' prefix added totheir serial numbers.
Post-'64 Model 12's were offered in Field, SuperPigeon, Skeet and Trap grades. All had hand checkered, select walnut stocks andjeweled bolts. Super Pigeon guns were available only through the WinchesterCustom Shop All Super Pigeon guns were engraved, as were some Field, Trap andSkeet grade guns. All Model 12 production finally ceased in 1980. High gradeLimited Edition Model 12 and Model 42 shotguns were subsequently offered byUSRAC from 1993 to 1995; these were made by Miroku in Japan.
Unlike the Model 12, none of Winchester's post-'64 newmodels has withstood the test of time. Strangely, perhaps due to Winchester's long establishedreputation for building top quality guns, the shooting public in 1964 would notaccept production shortcuts in Winchester firearms that they took for grantedin Remington, Savage and Mossberg guns. The post-'64 Winchesters were never acceptedby most knowledgeable shooters and this ultimately contributed to the downfall of WinchesterRepeating Arms.
Fortunately for discerning shooters, the resurrectedWinchester Repeating Arms Company--now owned by the Walloon, Belgium group--isonce again producing top quality firearms, including what are arguably the bestModel 70 and Model 94 rifles ever made and a reborn Model 101 O/U shotgun. Winchestereven has a new pump shotgun, the hideously ugly Super-X Pump that uses a rotarylocking bolt action reminiscent of the post-64 Model 1200.Today, after decades of dumbing down consumer standards and expectations,aluminum receivers, MIM and stamped sheet metal parts, plastic trigger guardsand plastic stocks have become the norm. The Super-X Pump makes the muchmaligned Model 1200 of 1964 look like a deluxe shotgun, so far have consumerstandards fallen since 1964. However, I digress; back to the Model 12 story.
Among the key features that made the Model 12 legendary werean internal hammer and a streamlined receiver machined from a billet of forgedsteel, hand fitted machined steel internal action parts, easy loading, black walnut stock and pump handle, a nicely polishedand blued metal finish. Barrels were proof tested and precisely choke bored. Thecross-bolt safety was located in the front of the machined steel trigger guard,where the trigger finger should be rested prior to actually shooting,ergonomically superior to cross-bolt safeties located in the rear of thetrigger guard. Shells were loaded into the tubular magazine from the bottom andejected to the right. The trigger pull was far superiorto most repeating shotguns sold today and the whole gun had a quality feelseldom encountered in 21st Century firearms.
For most of its production life the Model 12 lacked atrigger disconnector. This meant that is could be slam fired by holding thetrigger back and pumping the handle vigorously. This allowed the gun to befired faster than a semi-automatic shotgun.
The Model 12 was extremely reliable and built to last. Manyare still in regular use today, although the Model 12 is also popular withWinchester collectors. A total of over 2,000,000 Model 12's were built duringits long production run. Even so, the Model 12 has probably increased in valuemore than any other regular production pump shotgun.
Over the years, civilian Model 12's were offered in 12, 16,20 and 28 gauges with barrels ranging from 25' to 32' long. Model 12Riot and Trench guns with shorter barrels were produced for police and militaryuse. Trench guns came with a barrel heat shield and a bayonet lug. All branchesof the U.S. military made extensive use of Model 12's during the First WorldWar, Second World War, Korean War and early in the Vietnam War. After seriesproduction ceased in 1963, the supply of military Model 12's was quicklyexhausted and the Ithaca Model 37 pump gun was adopted to fill the void. Today,the Mossberg Model 590 pump gun serves the U.S. military.
Model 12 barrels were made from standard ordnance steel, nickel steeland even stainless steel. The latter were produced in the 1920's and early1930's! There have been many options and variations during theModel 12's long production life, which lasted from 1912 to 1980, although highvolume production ceased in 1963.
By the middle 1950's, Model 12's were offered in 12, 16 and20 gauge in various configurations, including the standard Field model, SuperField, deluxe Pigeon Grade, Magnum Duck Gun, Skeet and Trap competition guns. Standardfield guns were offered with full, modified and improved cylinder chokedbarrels. Barrels were of Winchester Proof Steel. Standard barrel lengths were26', 28' and 30'. The Field and Duck guns had uncheckeredstocks, the Super Field, Pigeon, Skeet and Trap models had checkered stocks with pistol grip capsand checkered forends.
Common options, available depending on the specificmodel, included a raised matte rib, ventilated rib, special ventilated rib,Cutts Compensator with interchangeable choke tubes, extended slide handle, straight hand stock and MonteCarlo stock. The Pigeon Grade was supplied with a full fancywalnut stock and could be ordered to individual measurements and requirementswith fancy checkering, engraving, etc.
Pigeon grade guns were available inField, Duck, Skeet and Trap configurations and are the most desirable tocollectors. In 1956, the most expensive standard catalog Model 12 variation wasthe Pigeon Grade VR Trap gun, which had a base MSRP of $259.50. This was a verynice pump gun without equal today.
The closely related Model 42, designed by William Roemer, isa perfectly scaled-down Model 12 chambered for .410 bore shells. It was produced from1933-1963. The Model 42 was available in Field, Deluxe and Skeet models with2-1/2' and 3' chambers.
Here are Model 12 specifications, circa 1956:Download misale ya waumini pdf.
- Gauges: 12, 16 and 20 (plus Model 42 in .410 bore.)
- Tubular Magazine capacity: 6 (2-3/4' shells with folded crimp); supplied with plug to reduce capacity to two shells
- Barrel lengths: 26', 28' and 30' (interchangeable)
- Standard choke options: Full, Modified, Improved Cylinder (field guns); Full (duck guns); Full and Modified (trap guns); Skeet (skeet guns)
- Metal finish: polished and blued steel
- Stock: American black walnut with pistol grip (straight hand available by special order)
- Length of pull: 14'
- Drop at comb: 1-1/2'
- Drop at heel: 2-1/2'
- Overall length: 49-1/2' (with 30' barrel)
- Weight: 7 lbs. 7 oz. (12 gauge, 30' barrel)
- 1956 MSRP: $93.85 for 12, 16 or 20 gauge field grade gun with plain barrel; $110.35 with matted rib barrel
Winchester Model 12 Serial Numbers Date Of Manufacture
For comparison, in 1956 the field grade Remington Model 870with a plain barrel sold for $77.30. The $16.55 difference in price between afield grade Model 12 and a field grade Model 870 was significant in 1956 andwould be at least $166 in 2012 dollars. This illustrates the increasinglyserious marketing problem facing Winchester by the middle 1950's. Even worse,Winchester's margin of profit on the Model 12 was lower than Remington's margin on thesubstantially cheaper Model 870. The bottom line was decreasing profitability and declining market share. It wasbecoming obvious that at some point changes would have to be made. The axe finally fell in 1964.
28 is the rarest gauge in Model 12 shotguns,followed by .410 (Model 42), 20 gauge, 16 gauge and 12 gauge. Short barreled,open choked guns were less popular during the Model 12s production life thanlonger barrels and tighter chokes, making the former more desirable tocollectors. Pigeon and high grade guns are the most desirable of all.
Winchester Model 12 Serial Numbers For Pigeon Grades Chart
My personal experience with Model 12's is long, but thin. MyUncle Harold sold sporting goods for Sears in Eugene, Oregon after World War IIand, as an employee, purchased a full choke, Field grade, 20 gauge Model 12 with a 28' plain barrel in 1949. When Imoved to Eugene to attend the University of Oregon in 1964 I discovered UncleHarold's Model 12, which was in nice condition. I greatly admired that gun.
Harold's son, Robert, my cousin andcollege roommate, was ultimately given the Model 12 by his dad. We shot it primarily on the traprange. Bob once broke 25 straight with it at 16 yard trap using skeet loads,but as much as I admired that Model 12, I could never shoot it very well. Thestock simply didn't fit me; it had too much drop and the relatively small, hardbuttplate didn't help matters.
Winchester Model 12 Serial Numbers Values
I remember it as the hardest kicking 20 gaugeshotgun I have ever fired, even with target loads. The subjective recoil wasmuch worse than the 12 gauge Lefever Nitro Special side-by-side field gun Iowned and was shooting at the time. Cousin Bob still owns that Model 12 and it remains his primary field gun.
Another lifelong friend, Ross Marsh (we attendedcollege together and so did our fathers!) inherited his Dad's 12gauge, Field grade Model 12. This is a lovingly cared for Model 12 in pristine condition.
Guns and Shooting Online Technical Assistant Nathan Rauzoninherited a 12 gauge Field grade Model 12 with a Cutts Compensator from his grandfather. Neither of us can shootthat gun very well, either.
Winchester Model 12 Serial Numbers
As I said, my experience with Model 12's has been long, butthin. I have never owned a Model 12 of my own, because I buy guns to shoot andI have never been any good shooting a Model 12. That is a personal failing; agreat many others love their Model 12's and shoot them very well, indeed.Despite my inability to hit with a Model 12, I would have to rate theWinchester Model 12 as the greatest of all American repeating shotguns, andthat is saying something. It was, indeed, the perfect repeater.