Franchi SPAS History

Streetsweepers Article

The following is excerpted (with permission) from the book Streetsweepers, The Complete Book of Combat Shotguns by Duncan Long, published by Paladin Press.  This is an excellent book on all aspects of combat shotguns like the SPAS -- guns, ammo, tactics, and more.  Paladin Press is a very unique publisher well worth checking out.


Developed from the earlier SPAS-11 (and apparently using the action of the PG-80 Franchi shotguns), the SPAS-12 was first introduced in the United States in 1983 by its importer, FIE. The SPAS-12 operates from a gas system which can be switched off so that the fore grip can be used to operate the action manually like a pump shotgun, This allows the user to fire low-power, special rounds in the weapon.

In addition to the folding metal stock, an optional plastic stock is available from Franchi (through FIE) for the SPAS-12. Many find the plastic stock more comfortable than the metal stock. Choate also makes a skeletonized plastic stock which some, especially those who find the SPAS-12 factory pistol grip too large, will find more comfortable.

The SPAS-1 2 (shown), developed from the SPAS-11, was first introduced to the United States in 1983 by its importer, FIE. The SPAS-12 operates from a gas system which can be switched off so that the fore grip can be used to operate the action manually like a pump shotgun. This allows the user to fire low-power, special rounds in the weapon. Upper weapon has the company's fixed stock; lower has the folding stock with curved carrying-handle accessory. (Photo courtesy of FIE)

The SPAS- 12 is capable of taking a lot of abuse and operates in conditions that will make many sporters inoperable. It is capable of firing a wide range of loads as well but, for best operation, magnum loads are recommended by the manufacturer. The weapon's weight, coupled with its gas action, makes it more comfortable to shoot than most other 12-gauge shotguns with the plastic stock and the gun in the semiauto mode. (The metal folding stock, like most other metal folders, is ideal only for those who need a shotgun which can fit into a tight space; firing from the shoulder with this stock can be very uncomfortable. The folder also has a detachable carrying handle available for it.)

The shotgun comes with a cylinder-bore barrel. (Chris's note: Not by any measurements I've made) Screw-in chokes and a spreader attachment are also available if needed. The barrel has a pair of sights which are quicker to use than those of many other deer-gun-style shotguns. The front is a blade sight and the rear an aperture sight (unfortunately, neither is adjustable). A scope mount is available from FIE for those who wish to use an Aimpoint or other scope.

The SPAS-12 shotguns have a number of available accessories, including a scope mount, screw-in chokes, a shot-spreader attachment, sling, and adjustment tool, in addition to several aftermarket accessories. As shown on the lower weapon, the standard fixed stock is also detachable. (Photo courtesy of FIE)

The SPAS- 12 is an excellent gun but has several shortcomings, One is that it is rather heavy for carrying any length of time. (Chris's note: Very heavy) The other is that the weapon is rather complex when compared to most other shotguns designed for combat use (however, these complexities can be simplified once the user is familiar with the weapon).

The firearm has two manual safeties, both located at the front of the trigger guard. The well designed quick-employment safety works in a manner similar to that of an M-14 or Garand rifle (unfortunately, it also acts as a slide release when the gun is in the manual mode -- this can cause not a little confusion if the user switches back and forth from one mode to the other very often). When the SPAS-12 is loaded with a shell in the chamber, pushing forward on the quick-employment safety makes the gun ready to fire. The second safety blocks the first so that it is impossible for right-handed shooters to place the quickemployment safety into its safe position with the  trigger finger. (Chris's note: This is the old, recalled safety)  And the second safety is impossible to rotate without removing one hand or the other from the firing position, since it has to be rotated 180 degrees to get from safe to fire position.

The solution to this confusing complexity of safeties would seem to be to leave the rotary safety off when the weapon may be needed in a hurry. It is important to note that the quick-employment safety goes into the off position when the bolt is cycled. Therefore, great care should be taken to place it on safe position if this were the only safety used. If the shotgun is carried in this manner and used only in the semiauto mode, the shotgun isn't as confusingly complex as it may seem at first. Most shooters will find the SPAS-12 an ideal weapon when used in such a manner.

On many models, the user should consider having the dots repainted on the rotary safety if he has one of the SPAS- 12 versions that has a red dot at the safe position and a white one at fire. This dot coloration on the SPAS- 12 is just the opposite from most guns and could be confusing if the weapon were used under some low-light conditions.  (Chris's note: Or if you have no dots, I suggest you add one red dot that is uncovered when not safe.  Or buy the new push-button safety)

The carrier latch button is an aggravation since it must be depressed to load the magazine. This can make the task of already-slow reloading even slower. A little gunsmith work could cure this problem, however.

Switching from serniauto to manual operation is rather simple: a shrouded button on the underside of the fore-end is depressed and the fore-end is slid into either the manual or autoload position (the marker is on the top of the slide). The effort of manually cycling the pump action is rather heavy because the user must move the disconnected gas action as well as the operating rods pushing the bolt assembly.

Disassembly is like that of most other shotguns: the selector is set to the "A" autoloading position, the bolt is retracted, and the magazine tube is unscrewed and removed along with the handguard and barrel. The charging handle is held and eased forward while the carrier button is pressed to ease the bolt forward. While restraining the bolt and action bars, the charging handle is then pulled out to the right and the bolt, action bars, and recoil spring eased out of and off of the front of the shotgun. The trigger assembly can be removed by tapping out the two drift pins holding it in place.

As it stands now, the SPAS- 12 is a good combat shotgun if the user dispenses with use of the rotary safety (Chris's note: Or Installs the pushbutton version), a little gunsmithing work is done on it, its plastic stock is used, and if its heavy weight won't pose a problem.


 Overall length  41 in.
 Overall length (stock folded)  3 1 in.
 Barrel length  21.5 in.
 Weight  9.6 lbs.
 Magazine capacity  8 rounds (Chris's note: It all depends, see Note 3 at the top of the SPAS-12 Page)

Back to SPAS-12 Library

Comments? Questions? Additions?  Corrections?