September 20, 2013
Gun Fight Friday: Winchester Model 12 vs Stevens 520
By Phil Bourjaily
Today’s gunfight pits two old pump shotguns against one another. One needs no introduction: the Winchester Model 1912—a.k.a. the Model 12—earned the nickname, “The Perfect Repeater,” for its smooth action and pointability. Over two million were made between 1912 and 1964. In the other corner we have our Rocky Balboa-type underdog, the lesser-known Stevens 520. A John Browning design, the 520 debuted in 1904 and was made until 1932. Like Browning’s Auto 5, the 520 has a square-backed receiver, and if you look at this one you’ll see it actually does the Auto 5 one better and has two humps. Production numbers aren’t available, although the gun was sold through Sears under the “Ranger” brand so it’s likely quite a few were made. What’s especially appealing about both of these guns are their stories. Both are old and have seen a lot of shooting. Here they are:
Tim Platt’s Model 1912
This is a Model 1912 20-gauge with a full choke. My grandfather got it for his 13th birthday, which would have been 1917, and it has been passed down the line. I used it a lot when I was a kid whenever we went to visit grandma and grandpa. I shot my first pheasant with it. These days it mainly sits in the safe, but I did shoot some quail with it two years ago. It’s still as slick as the day it was made.
Doug Tichenor’s Stevens 520
Here is my J. Stevens pump 12-gauge shotgun that was given to me in my youth by a neighboring farmer. I have no idea how old it is, but he owned it since the 1920s. It has a Browning patent date of 1907. This gun holds five in the magazine and one in the chamber and has a full choke. It has been the demise of all kinds of small game, deer, waterfowl, upland birds, and varmints of all stripes. It rode in farm trucks, on tractors and combines, and its home was in the barn. It has been sunk in a swamp and frozen solid with ice, but still works flawlessly. I shot my first buck with it many years ago when shells were still made of paper. It is the only firearm I own that’s not for sale.
Which do you like: the classic 20 gauge or one of John Browning’s lesser-known inventions in a 12? Cast your vote and keep the gun pictures coming to FSgunnuts@gmail.com.