Not So Forgotten Weapon: Franchi SPAS-12

I swear I am developing a man crush on Ian from Forgotten Weapons. He gets to play with all the cool things including a Franchi SPAS-12, a combination semi-auto/pump action shotgun. The “SPAS” stands for “Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun”

While it failed at its namesake (I agree, it can barely be called “sporting”), the shotgun has an indelible place in our popular culture. The Matrix comes to mind, when a few SPAS-12 shotguns were used in pump-action mode (which if using buckshot, was entirely unneeded). Sadly, the shotgun was no match for Trinity and Neo.

While importation stopped in 1994, a few did make it into the country and one is ready for auction at the RIA December event. 

For those who have been living under an entertainment rock, the “Lobby Scene” from The Matrix is included below. Look for the guy who says, “Freeze!”

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Mario AK

    I’ve seen a few with some police units back home in Croatia… Long time ago, though

  • Michael R. Zupcak

    Ive wanted a SPAS-12 ever since I saw Jurassic Park. It’s what the game warden, Muldoon, carries.

  • Griz

    Growing up in the era of FPS video games, 007 on the N64 comes to mind and this was the gun to have. Only weapons better were the golden gun and odd jobs hat.

    Importation laws suck, and I’m amazed an american company doesn’t make a similar firearm.

  • MR

    I want one, for upland game birds.

  • Ed

    Arnold used one to decimate the LAPD in THE TERMINATOR.

  • Matt

    In italy you can rather regularly find one (on the used market of course, even if barely used at all) on the 600-700 euros price range…

    • Giolli Joker

      The last time I handled a new one was in EXA, maybe 15 years ago.
      Then they stopped showcasing military styled guns (handguns aside) in Beretta group booths.

  • CommonSense23

    I have got to shoot a wide variety of weapons thru out my career. From MP7s to suppressed beltfeds, RPGs to miniguns. But nothing has ever made me as happy as shooting a SPAS 12. After idolizing a gun for over two decades. Said gun not only didn’t let me down, but actually exceeded my expectations. While obviously not the best shotgun ever made. It’s something when that childhood want actually delivered.

  • st4

    “Twelve gauge auto-loahdah….”

  • Dylan

    I remember it best for Arnold using it in The Terminator.

  • Paranormal

    I love that scene from the Matrix – especially the bit where Neo has 9mm cases coming out of his submachine guns and .223 cases falling at his feet.

    • SP mclaughlin

      Well, it’s all in a supercomputer so anything is possible….

    • Tim U

      Actually, not to be a total nerd (or maybe), but the scene with the 5.56 cases at his feet are when he’s shooting Skorpion Vz61s, so .32 ACP not 9mm.

  • G0rdon_Fr33man

    I think Ian should have mentioned that the aggressive styling of the shotgun was also intentional as a deterrent, together with the pump action for less-lethal rounds, for use in riot scenarios and such.

  • Griz

    Funny… Good Bye Bernard!

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    “I agree, it can barely be called “sporting””

    Great. Thanks for falling right into the anti-gunners playbook. Seriously, WTF kind of crap is this from a gun blog?

    • JLR84

      Eh, “sporting” is often used as a euphemism for hunting, or sports like trap/skeet. The SPAS-12 obviously isn’t meant for that purpose.

      I think you’ve got the criticism backwards. The problem is politicians that think we should only have guns intended for “sporting purposes”.

      • Dan

        Um i would love one for extreme trap shooting

        • Smackity buttderp

          I’ve pheasant hunted with my SPAS-12, a little heavy but it does the job quite well! You could hold 8+1, but really you never load it more than 4+1 because that crap gets heavy at the front. I like the Saiga and Vepr 12’s much better as they keep the weight balanced in the middle.

          • Bill

            I bet the game wardens saw you and decided to check somebody else’s licenses.
            I showed up at a sporting clays place with a pistol gripped Benelli M1 Super 90, people looked at me funny.

          • Dan


          • Dan

            We’re limited to 6rnds for pheasant hunting here, i have never had the pleasure of handling a SPAS-12 but i can imagine if it is front heavy a day walking fields probably won’t end up being real fun. I miss hunting pheasant but public land becomes a war zone and unless you know land owners you’re gonna pay out the butt to shoot birds.

      • n0truscotsman

        I once tried shooting skeet with my SPAS12. Very poor firearm for such a purpose. 😉

    • Bill

      Dude, don’t be disingenuous, that’s what antis do. Like this Modern Sporting Rifle nonsense, just because you can shoot a squirrel with it doesn’t mean it wasn’t original designed as a fighting gun.

      • JLR84

        Exactly. The “Modern Sporting Rifle” terminology is just accepting their framing of the issue, that civilians should only have “sporting arms”.

        • Bill

          Bullpucky, or you’re playing right into the anti’s playbook, while being hypocritical. The AR was designed as a military rifle for shooting people. It can shoot a lot of other things, and is just plain fun to shoot, but at least be honest about it. It you have to use a euphemism for it, call it the Kentucky Long Rifle of the last 60 years, and something everyone should have over their mantle.

  • Not to mention use in GTA: Vice City

  • SP mclaughlin

    The filmography would even make Schwarzenegger blush.

  • UCSPanther

    One of the shotguns, along with the Cobray Streetsweeper that caused a moral panic back in the 1990s…

    • K R

      Street sweeper that’s a cool shotgun too.

  • Giolli Joker

    Can’t turn on the audio now… does he say that the actual name was “SPECIAL Purpose Automatic Shotgun” and it became “sporting” just to look less evil to BATFE or such?

    Cool that is still has the “one hand use” hook.

  • I came across one in 1987 for $400:-) Neat gun no doubt about it.

    • st4

      I would be interested to know of any actual officer use/feedback stories of these while they made the rounds back in the day. Got any?

    • MarkVShaney

      I once visited a shop literally right across the street from the entrance to the Miramar Naval Air Base (Top Gun) in ’85. It was a totally normal shop except on the wall they had 2 (!!!) SPAS 15’s (yes, 15’s) AND an HK PSG1. My buddy grabbed one of them ($1200) and a SPAS 12 was $595 new out the door. It seemed back then that sights like that were not so uncommon- every gun range in town has a SPAS 12 for rent and you could buy a used full-auto MAC 11 over the counter in Las Vegas for < $300.

  • Will

    If you’re going to make a shotgun that heavy and that ugly at least have the decency to give it drum magazine accessibility and full auto capability.

  • George Griffin

    Ahnold did it better.

  • Hellbilly

    I got lucky and snatched up a SPAS-12 at a small pawn shop for $700 eight years ago. I love it, even though I’ve only fired about 50 rounds through it (after finally finding a replacement recoil buffer earlier this year to safely shoot it without damage). It’s really an Italian piece of art – like a fine Ferrari. It is also definitely not a shotgun to hand to a novice shooter – it’s actually a cumbersome firearm to operate with its multiple controls and front-heavy design.

  • Bill

    IIRC, the number of safeties on it gave you like a thousand combinations and permutations of making it Not Fire, which would only happen to me when I wanted it to fire. I also recall correctly that the only shotgun that had a more unpleasant cheek weld was the fold-over stock on the 870.

  • Bill

    I’ve decided the next qualification will be entirely dual-wielding while flying on wires. The guys are slow enough already, so it’ll be in real-time.

  • hami

    On the opposite side of the safety lever there is a thin lever that rocks back into the trigger guard. Ian used it off screen when he described himself “unlocking the gun.” This unlocks the action but also serves as a safety because it must be pushed back in for the weapon to fire. The manual refers to it as a “quick deploy safety” or something similar and I feel confident using it as my primary safety when operating my very own SPAS 12.

    It was a bucket list weapon and it was worth every penny.

  • janklow

    if i liked shotguns more, i probably would have bought one of these before Maryland banned them. alas…

  • iksnilol

    He survived in the book.

    • Ben Loong

      Because he used a rocket launcher instead.

      • iksnilol

        Duly noted for any future safaris.

  • scaatylobo

    Seems y’all have forgotten THE use ,that was “Arnold” in the first “Terminator” movie.
    A very close friend had one,it was not impressive but for the “cool” factor.

  • Bill

    Yeah, and there was a rack full of them in the blockhouse. I remember seeing a few at Pro-Arms and at the COTW Salt Palace gun shows, which were like visits to collectors heaven back in the day. The latter was also where I saw not one but two Bren Tens, COPS in both .357 and .22, dozens of Detonics Pocket Nines, numerous Auto Mags and even a few Wildeys. God, I miss the 80s!

  • Capn Stefano

    I have one, bought it new over the counter in the 1980s. HEAVY but totally reliable, accurate with deep sleeps while in the Zombie apoc I’ll use my FN SLP MK 1

    Arnie used one in the Terminator 1 movie, blowing away an entire police station

  • valorius

    I owned a SPAS-12 back in the day. Total piece of crap.

    • Chameleon

      I did too…had my team’s armorer do some work on it and it was the best shotgun I’ve ever used.

      • valorius

        And also the heaviest, i’m sure. Also loved the folding stock that would cut my cheek when i used a proper cheek meld.

        It sure did look cool though.