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GUNS Magazine June 2012 Digital Edition - Page 26
STORY: Holt Bodinson haPPy 100th anniversary, ModeL 12 One of America’s most popular shotguns can still be found afield. ’ve owned a lot of nice doubles and over/unders and still do, in fact. Nothing quite has the feel and dynamics of a well-balanced double. It’s a very personal type of gun, and if it fits you right, it will make you look like one of the smoothest, most deadly and debonair gunners extant. Yet, when the dove and quail seasons break open, and I find myself and my dog out in the field at the edge of dawn, it’s just as possible I’ll be carrying an old Model 12 Winchester pump in 16 or 12 gauge. Old habits are hard to break, and fine, old shotguns seem to improve with age. It’s hard to believe, but Winchester’s Model 12 is enjoying its 100th anniversary this year. Pump shotguns are a uniquely American design. While the Model 1897 Winchester exposed hammer shotgun was highly successful, selling over a million, the sporting public at the turn of the 20th century was clamoring for a more contemporary and modern-looking repeater. In fact, because of increasing urbanization with a parallel decline in big-game hunting, there was less and less demand for high-power rifles and more and more sporting demand for rimfire rifles and shotguns. Hunting companion, Kirby Bristow, is deadly with his Model 12 in 16 gauge. I The Model 12 can be broken down in seconds. The takedown system on the Model 12 barrel (above) can be adjusted to take-up wear. Field grade Model 12s built before 1957 featured a slimmer forearm (below, bottom gun), although it was retained in the Featherweight model. Winchester had already produced its sleek, hammerless repeating rifles, the Models 1903, 1905, 1907 and 1910 and even for a brief period, an autoloading shotgun, the Model 1911, which looked a lot like an enlarged version of their self-loading rifles but failed to compete commercially with John Browning’s design. design excellence The common thread running through all these models was the hand and genius of a prominent and professionally trained Winchester designer, Thomas C. Johnson. From 1901 to approximately 1934, T.C. Johnson was Winchester’s head designer. His products were notable for being streamlined, reliable and beautifully machined and finished. During his watch, Winchester was to develop such outstanding designs as the Model 21, the Model 52 and the Model 70’s precursor, the Model 54. Beginning the design of the future Model 12 in 1907, Johnson had a finished prototype by 1910, and by March of that year, orders were issued to the plant to begin making the dies, jigs, cutters, fixtures, tools and gauges essential for model’s production. The first batch of the new Model 12s was delivered to the warehouse in August 1912. As was common during the early years of Winchester, the new model was given the name of the year of its introduction. Quality Material No expense was spared in manufacturing the Model 12. For strength and durability, it was made from the finest nickel steel. Many parts that could have been stamped out were forged, then trimmed and expertly polished. George Madis, in his book, 26 W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • J U N E 2 0 1 2