The Winchester Model 1912 was an American pump-action shotgun designed by T.C. Johnson in 1911 and manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company from 1912 to 1964. Christened "The Most Perfect Repeater" on its introduction, the Model 1912 was a refinement of the Model 1897 designed and patented by John Browning.
At the turn of the 20th century, companies like Savage Arms Co. and Remington were capitalizing on the shotgun market by producing shotguns that were very similar to that of the prior Model 1897 designed by ex-employee John Browning, albeit with the hammer and slide hidden inside the receiver. Due to the more streamlined designs by its competitors, Winchester was losing out market shares to the more modern and streamlined designs.
As such, long-standing Winchester employee Thomas Crossley Johnson was tasked to design a new shotgun in 1911 that would compete with its competitors' modern offerings. In an attempt to refine the Model 1897, Johnson hid the exposed hammer and slide as seen on the Model 1897 and made a number of other small changes.
The shotgun was introduced in 1912, with the first shotguns delivered to warehouse stocks in August 1912. Originally available in 20 gauge only (16 and 12 gauge variants were made available in the coming years), the Model 1912 became the first hammerless pump-action shotgun marketed by Winchester. Marketed as The Most Perfect Repeater, the Model 12 was highly commercially successful; it was still advertised as The Perfect Repeater as late as 1956 in contemporary advertisements.
Produced in many variants, the Model 1912 (later renamed the Model 12 in 1919 due to Winchester's practice of abbreviating the names of older designs) became one of the most successful pump-action shotguns in Winchester's history, setting the standard for pump-action shotguns for the next few decades. The weapon saw use through World War I and even World War II. Despite the Model 12 being about forty percent more expensive than the Model 97, the Model 12 still proved immensely popular, with sales doubling that of the Model 97 as late as 1957 when both models were still in production; the Model 12 eventually became the most popular hammerless pump-action shotgun manufactured by Winchester.
However, by 1950, the gun was showing its age with the introduction of Remington's Model 870; the Model 870 looked very similar to the Model 12, albeit being far cheaper than the Model 12. Due to its use of milled and hand-fitted metals, production of the Model 12 was quite costly and unprofitable and slowly made the Model 12 uncompetitive in the market; it became clear that producing weapons "the old-fashioned way" and still remaining competitive in terms of pricing was not financially viable in the long run. Taking into account the loss of market shares and increasing production costs, the Model 12 was discontinued in 1964 with the reorganization of the company that year and replaced by the Model 1200; however, small special production runs continued until 2006 by a number of other companies, including Miroku Corp.. Over its original fifty-one year production run, some 1,968,307 guns were manufactured.
The Model 12 was a simple hammer-fired pump-action shotgun. The weapon features a tilting bolt which locked into a recess at the top of the receiver; an inertia slide lock is also featured on the Model 12, like the Model 97 that preceded it. The lock is partially disengaged on the falling of the internal hammer and fully disengaged with the weapon firing.
When the pump is moved to the rear, a bar inside the action pulls the bolt down and to the rear to eject a shell; at the same time, the shell stop is disengaged, letting the next shell from the underbarrel tube magazine slide onto the shell lifter. Once the bolt is locked to a rear, a hook catches onto the bolt to prevent it from engaging the sears.
Moving the pump back forward causes the entire process to occur in reverse, with the shell lifter moving upwards and allowing the next shell to be caught by the bolt and being placed into battery. As with the Model 97, the Model 12 was not originally produced with a trigger disconnector, allowing for the weapon to be fired rapidly by holding the trigger down and racking the pump back and forth.
The weapon was originally chambered in 20 gauge shells only in 1912; 12 gauge and 16 gauge were introduced as caliber choices in 1914 and 28 gauge in 1934. 28 gauge Model 12s are regarded as rare.
- Standard: plain walnut stock with no lettering associated with serial number, has grooved pump handle, barrels can be 26, 28, 30 or 32 in (66, 71, 76, 81 cm), can be in all possible calibers, has black plastic buttplate
- Trench: has 26 in (66 cm) barrel with bayonet lug and handguard, has parkerized finish
- Riot: has 26 in (66 cm) barrel with no bayonet lug and handguard, has blued finish
- Featherweight: has lightweight alloy trigger guard with shotgun-style black plastic buttplate on plain walnut pistol-gripped stock, barrels can be 26, 28, 30 or 32 in (66, 71, 76, 81 cm), has "F" stamped after serial number (i.e. 1234567F)
- Heavy Duck: has red rubber recoil pad embossed with "WINCHESTER" and has 0.5 in (1.3 cm) shorter pull than other versions, has 30 or 32 in (76, 81 cm) barrel and a 3 in (7.6 cm) chamber, stock can be pistol-gripped or straight and can be in plain or fancy finish, only available in 12 gauge
- Trap: has "TRAP" stamped on bottom of frame, has checkered forearm, has 30 in (76 cm) barrel, has either pistol-gripped or straight checkered walnut stock
- Black Diamond Trap: has "TRAP" stamped on bottom of frame, has checkered forearm, has fancy straight walnut stock with black ebony diamond inlay
- Skeet: has longer checkered pump than any other Model 12, has 26 in (66 cm) barrel, has skeet choke and a fancy walnut pistol-gripped stock
- Tournament Grade: has shorter checkered pump than any other Model 12, has "TOURN" stamped into wood under buttplate, has solid or ventilated rib, stock is fancy walnut and can be either straight or pistol-gripped, only available in 12 gauge
- Super Field Grade: has checkered pump and matted ribbed 26, 28 or 30 in (71, 76, 81 cm) barrel, has deluxe walnut checkered pistol-gripped stock, comes in 12 or 20 gauge
- Pigeon Gun: "PIGEON" stamped on breech block with fancy checkered walnut stock, engraving usually present on sides of receiver, Special Order only and made in many variations