Winchester Model 12 pump trench gun
The Winchester Model 12 trench gun. By the author

Along with all the new stuff at SHOT Show, you occasionally stumble across something old and worth looking at that makes you forget you’re supposed to be searching for the latest and greatest. This Model 12 trench gun in the Winchester ammo booth, for instance, pulled my attention away from all the new stuff as soon as I walked in.

The Model 12—originally the Model 1912—Winchester pump was introduced in, of course, 1912, and not long after, it went to war.** The Model 12, along with the Winchester Model 1897, were so hated and feared by the Germans that they protested that it violated the Hague Convention and threatened to execute any American captured with a trench gun or ammo on his person, although there is no record that they ever did. Both the Model 12 and the 97 could be fired very quickly by holding down the trigger and working the slide, as the gun lacked the trigger disconnect of modern pumps. The Model 12 held seven shells total, and the feature made it a deadly rapid-fire gun at close quarters. It also helped exhibition shooter Herb Parsons break seven hand-thrown targets with a Model 12, which was his signature trick shot.

The Model 12 served again in World War II, and through Korea and into the Vietnam War. This particular gun, which comes from the Cody Firearms Museum, can be identified as made sometime in 1942 or later, because it has four rows of holes in its ventilated handguard, not the six of earlier models. It has sling swivels and a bayonet lug, too. Winchester buckshot (below) would be loaded in brass hulls to keep them from swelling in the heat and humidity of the Pacific, where combat shotguns proved extremely useful. To my jaded eyes, very little of what is “tacticool” these days is all that cool, but this old Model 12 definitely rates.

Keep your old gun pictures coming to

**Many years ago I met a genuine World War I flying ace, an Alabaman named Charles D’Olive who had relocated to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where my father interviewed him for Esquire magazine. Among his wartime recollections was the day he and another bird hunter in the squadron took a couple of trench guns from the armory, found some French-made bird shot for them, and walked up a bunch of quail. As he told the story, General “Black Jack” Pershing himself came by in a staff car and stopped to watch them hunt. Pershing saw D’Olive make a double and said, “That’s the way to hit them, young man,” whereupon the ace and his partner cleaned the birds and gave them to the general.

Winchester buckshot, world war II
The buckshot used in the trench gun. By the author