Bourjaily: Trickle Down Shotgun Technology

With a zillion hits on Youtube and a profile of the gun's builder Jerry Baber in the New Yorker magazine last month, the Automatic Assault 12 shotgun is receiving a lot of attention. Here's the AA12 on Future Weapons:

The AA 12 is a thorough redesign of the Atchisson Assault shotgun invented back in 1972. The current version is a fully automatic, 3-inch 12 gauge with a rate of fire of 300 rounds per minute. It operates via what's known as a "constant recoil" system which is a gas action, in which a large quantity of the expanding gases are bled out of the barrel to drive the bolt back. Unlike most gas guns, where the bolt slams into the back of the receiver, the constant recoil AA 12's bolt is free to travel backward until the gun's action spring slows it, stops it, and returns it forward. The result is a gun with reportedly 10% of the recoil of most 12 gauges - that's an incredible figure, but watch on the video how easily shooters can control the gun, even on full auto.

The AA12 hasn't yet been adopted by the military. Currently, about 40 guns exist, many of which are being tested by the services even now. It has obvious, immediate potential as a weapon for the kind of house to house fighting that has been all too common in Iraq. Because of the nearly recoilless nature of the gun, it would also be an ideal weapon to mount on real-life battle droids and even drone helicopters.

What's more, the AA 12 is said never to need lube and to go 10,000 rounds or more between cleanings.

Perhaps some day the technology will trickle down into sporting guns. Imagine what a great waterfowl or target gun a nearly recoilless, 3-shot semiautomatic AA12 could be. The AA12 already weighs a manageable 10.5 pounds with an 18-inch barrel, which is no more than the average 10 gauge. The gun is made of cast stainless steel; maybe you could save weight by making some of the parts out of alloy. And, of course, if you can make a 3-inch version, can a 3.5 be far behind? If it really did have only 10% of the recoil of a fixed breech gun, it would be the one 3.5 that even I would shoot.