Obscure Object of Desire: USAS-12 Automatic Shotgun

On January 9, 1989, John Trevor, Jr. submitted a patent application for a new shotgun. The application simply called it a “high volume automatic and semi-automatic firearm.”

To expound on that incredibly descriptive title, Trevor’s design was for a 12-gauge shotgun with low felt recoil that could be fired rapidly. Equipped with 10 and 20-round magazines, he boasted that the gun could fire “at least” 360 rounds per minute – or 6 shots per second.

On June 5, 1990, his patent was approved. The gas-operated design featured a fixed buttstock, 18.25” barrel, an AR-style lower receiver with pistol grip, an upper receiver with a built-in carrying handle, and translucent magazines. The whole setup weighed in around 12 pounds. Production was contracted to Daewoo in South Korea, the name “USAS-12” (Universal Sporting Automatic Shotgun – 12 Gauge) was assigned to the shotgun, and they were sold quite successfully to police departments and security companies throughout Asia.

In this same time period, a semi-automatic version of the USAS-12 was slated to hit the market in the United States. The ATF examined the gun and didn’t like what they saw. Based on the weight and overall dimensions, which were much greater than traditional shotguns, the ATF ruled that the gun had “no sporting purpose” and it was classified as a “destructive device” on March 1, 1994. As such, the guns had to be registered and were subject to the entire applicable criterion in the National Firearms Act of 1934.

At the same time, the Striker-12 and “Streetsweeper” shotguns were also classified as destructive devices. People in possession of the shotguns, even if they had purchased them legally when previously classified just as a shotgun, had until May 1, 2001 to register the guns. As you would expect, some people complied and registered their USAS-12’s, while others did not.

All of this combined leads to the designation of the USAS-12 as an “Obscure Object of Desire.” No automatic versions are known to exist in the United States, and very few registered semi-autos ever turn up. The 10-round magazines fetch $300-$500 and the 20-round drums fetch $1,200. I was unable to locate an accurate price reference for the shotguns themselves.

Even though the semi-automatic shotguns faded into obscurity in the US, Daewoo still makes the automatic version for use by military and government agencies in Asia.

comments

  1. avatar YAR0892 says:

    How exactly was it classified as a destructive device? It’s just a shotgun. Maybe I missed something, but I don’t see the words ‘sporting purposes’ anywhere in the 2nd Amendment either…

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      It’s what they call guns they don’t like.

      1. avatar YAR0892 says:

        My apologies. I forgot I’m not supposed to think intelligently, logically, or with common damn sense… I’m too sober for BATFE BS today…

    2. avatar Jay says:

      Larger than 50 cal so it’s up to the ATF, you do the math.

      My dad owned a Striker-12 which he sold privately after ATF made his legal property illegal, good job feds!

    3. avatar gargoil says:

      That is their version of “reasonable restrictions” like you can’t yell “FIRE” in a theater for fun.

    4. avatar HSR47 says:

      The only thing that keeps most “shotguns” as Title I long guns rather than Title II Destructive Devices, based on their bore diameter alone, is the fact that the government acknowlegdes that they have a recognized “sporting purpose.”

      Thus, with the USAS and the Streetsweeper type shotguns, some bureaucrat decided that they had “no sporting purpose” and therefore they are destructive devices based on their bore diameter.

  2. avatar GS650G says:

    Daewoo also.makes AR clones. And crap cars.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      My first new handgun was a Daewoo DP-51, and it gave me zero problems.

      Sold it when I bought my first Glock, the G23 in .40.

      One of my buddies has a USAS-12 and one of the Daewoo AR pattern clones.

      Handling the USAS-12, it has an almost comic-book slash Nerf gun quality to it, if you get an opportunity to fondle one, go for it.

      If memory serves, Daewoo got into car making by buying previous generation tooling from Mitsubishi…

  3. avatar Southern Cross says:

    Obscure enough to be listed for 10 movies, 8 TV shows, and 17 video games:

    http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/USAS-12_Shotgun

    1. avatar Logan Metesh says:

      I didn’t call it obscure because no one had heard of it before. I called it obscure because very few registered (legal) ones are available in the US.

      1. avatar gargoil says:

        it seems everyone ELSE but this guy got that.

  4. avatar former water walker says:

    Looks cool. While an automatic shotgun would provide undeniable firepower(FPS Russia) why would this be better than a controllable Benelli?

    1. avatar pwrserge says:

      The major flaw of the Benelli is capacity and reloading. There’s a reason why magazine fed shotguns are in their own division for 3gun.

      1. avatar tiger says:

        Flaw? Just how many shells do you need to be a non flaw?

        1. avatar pwrserge says:

          Ten minimum. Ideally, I’d prefer a 20 round drum. One match I attended had a guy run a course of almost 40 shotgun targets in a little over a minute. He only had to do one magazine change.

        2. avatar barnbwt says:

          And more importantly, the ability to put all ten or whatever shells in the gun at once, as opposed to one at a time.

        3. avatar pwrserge says:

          To be fair, you can do two at a time rather easily with the right gear. It’s just a pain in the ass.

  5. avatar tiger says:

    Something only the Starship Troopers could enjoy owning. Bit much for a duck hunt.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      Oh, I don’t know. Match up the flock to magazine capacity ratio properly, and…

      1. avatar former water walker says:

        PUNT GUN!?

  6. avatar Beardedrambler says:

    I saw one of these at a gun show once. Very cool gun. But you can get basically the same from a saiga or vepr12. Great job ATF.

  7. avatar MouseGun says:

    This competes with the Striker shotgun for the title of “That gun from every video game ever”.

  8. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    I think Soldier of Fortune II was the first game to feature this.

    Pretty decent game! Kinda… but an excellent game-shotgun!

    1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      i remember SOF series, very detailed hit . If you shot a guy in the nuts, he droped his gun and grabbed the area and screamed. pretty realistic for early 2000s.

  9. avatar Justsomeguy says:

    There are a number of similarities to the AA-12 which also is unobtanium, although it was of domestic manufacture and I don’t think it has been classified as a destructive device.

    Maybe TTAG can fill us in on that one too?

  10. avatar Holdfast says:

    This is the 2d coolest thing I want, the first would be a 40mm M-203 grenade launcher in a pistol form, I saw it once in an industry show in the mid-1990’s and don’t know if it ever went on the market.

    1. avatar Jay says:

      Just get a 37mm flare launcher, you can have it shipped directly to you since it doesn’t count as a firearm.

  11. avatar Yellow Devil says:

    I cleaned house in Battlefield 3 with this badboy, particularly the map “Metro”.

  12. avatar Pc says:

    I have the weapon with stick mags and drums…its fun to shoot….serial number around 100!

  13. avatar Swilson says:

    “You just got killed by a Daewoo b!tch!”

  14. avatar Fight islam Now says:

    My understanding is it is not an NFA weapon if it has an 18″ barrel. I was told if you own it in a free state, as long as it has an 18″ barrel it is not prohibited to common plebs.

    Can anyone copy to a specific code section specifically banning this rifle in all it’s iterations?

    Thanx

    1. avatar TommyinKy says:

      Look up ATF ruling 94-1. It’s essentially a retroactive import ban by name with all remaining examples to be registered under NFA. There was a company that made a few stateside that are not covered under the NFA, however they became vaporware.

      1. avatar Fight islam Now says:

        Thanks TommyinKY

        Do you know who made the “vaporware” version? GIlbert?

        1. avatar TommyinKy says:

          Ameetec Arms. If you’re looking for an alternative, try an MKA 1919 match. Same control layout as an AR15. It took 3 generations, but it works right out of the box.

  15. avatar jake says:

    arent those turkish shotguns/saiga 12s the same damn thing anyways?

  16. avatar Fight islam Now says:

    Wondering if ATF ruling 94-1 is the whole story..

    I have a friend that just inherited a Gilbert USAS 12 that was accepted and registered by kalifornia in 1994 under the original assault weapon registration.

    It’s a registered kalifornia assault weapon but does not appear to have been registered with DOJ prior to 2001 as required by ATF ruling 94-1. Any comments on rulings subsequent to 94-1 or alternate status in free states or if such a firearm can be transferred. Any grandfathering?

    He is in a free state. Can he transfer or dispose of it (within the 90 days under PC 30915)? Can he take it with the kalifornia registration from 1994 and dispose of it on gunbroker through a class III dealer?

    Any comments?

    1. avatar TommyinKy says:

      Have your friend consult an attorney that is famialiar with the applicable fedaeral and state laws.

  17. avatar SWAT Medic says:

    I was lucky enough to buy two USAS-12’s back in the early 1990’s, but they were manufactured by Internationale Ordnance (the spelling of “Internationale” is the correct brand name). They were based in Tennessee. I was surprised that no one mentioned this manufacturer. They either had a license to make USAS-12’s or bought all the rights from Gilbert. IA did make full-auto versions in the U.S, and videos of them being range-fired domestically are online.

    My first USAS-12 was pre-ban and I was not charged the $200 tax when it became required to register it. The second one was taxed. It was the Treasury Secretary in the ealry years of the Clinton administration, Lloyd Bentsen, who decreed that the USAS-12, Streetsweeper and Striker-12 were destructive devices, probably at Clinton’s behest. Nothing like rule by decree. Can you believe he was a four-term U.S. Senator from Texas? He sure pulled the wool over their eyes. He was also the VP running mate for Michael Dukakis in his 1988 Democratic run for President. Certainly two fools who deserved to lose.

    Too bad Bentsen ended up with the power to ruin these thing for the rest of us. After the upcoming and certainly unavoidable collapse of this country, maybe we can make America 2.0 a lot more sensible and strong.

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