In a comment under my recent article about the USAS-12 automatic shotgun, a reader mentioned the Atchisson Assault Shotgun. He wanted to know if TTAG could fill him in on that gun as well. So, ask and ye shall receive!

In 1972, Maxwell Atchisson designed and patented a shotgun that fired shotshells at rate of 300 per minute. Atchisson’s design could be equipped to fire 12 gauge shells from five-round and eight-round box magazines or 20-round and 32-round drum magazines.

The awkward-looking design relies heavily on polymer construction with a streamlined, unadorned frame that, in my opinion, looks more like it belongs on a gun of bullpup configuration – except that it isn’t. The magazines feed from directly in front of the pistol grip and trigger. It also fires from an open bolt, like squad machine guns – a feature unusual in automatic shotguns.

Atchisson’s original design was not without flaws: fouling caused by the plastic shotshell material caused the gun’s polymer components to gum. Because of this, it proved to be less than reliable.

In 1987, Atchisson sold the design to Tennessee-based Military Police Systems, Inc. There, the gun underwent a design overhaul. It was lightened by a pound, going from 11.5 to 10.5 pounds, and shortened, from 39 inches to 38 inches.

When the gun was designed, one of its main benefits was that it reduced felt recoil. This aspect of the AA-12 was kept and improved upon as well. It went from being blowback-operated to gas-operated with a fixed bolt. A total of 80% of the recoil is utilized by the gas system and another 10% is absorbed by a recoil spring, leaving the user to feel only 10% of the recoil compared to a normal 12 gauge shotgun.

MPS also fixed the fouling issues by incorporating stainless steel components inside the gun. As such, they claim the gun only requires cleaning and lubrication every 10,000 rounds.

In 2004, the United States Marine Corps witnessed a demonstration of the AA-12. In 2006, Neural Robotics and More Industries upped the ante with the AA-12’s capabilities. More Industries mounted the gun on a remote-controlled turret that could be attached to manned and unmanned military vehicles. Neural Robotics mounted it to their AutoCopter drone.

BC Engineering, also based in Tennessee, has built a semi-auto version of the AA-12, calling it the BC Jaeger. In May 2016, BC announced that the company was interested in selling the rights to manufacture their shotgun. So, if you’ve got the desire to own your own firearms manufacturing company, this could be the opportunity you’re looking for.

At any rate, the AA-12 is an unusual shotgun design. It does have some similarities to the USAS-12, but it also has its differences. Namely, the government hasn’t banned the AA-12 by name, like it did with the ASUA-12, and there’s currently a semi-auto-only design for the AA-12 that is ready for the right person to put it into production.

With that said, is a semi-auto-only AA-12 something the shotgun market needs? Would you buy one?

38 Responses to Obscure Object of Desire: AA-12 Atchisson Assault Shotgun

      • This is my sentiment as well. No point in having semi auto, already exists. I want one in its TRUE form. 300RPM.

    • To be fair, you also have to consider it weighs over 12lbs, is over a foot tall (even with the shorter drum mag) and +/- 8″ wide with a drum. All told neither the AA-12 nor the Daewoo USAS-12 are shotguns you’d want to carry all day on patrol just for the extra rounds available before a reload.

      I tried to run my Daewoo like that on a competitive shoot once, the only advantage it would ever have was if there were more than 9 targets to be shot without a reload, and the extra 5lbs just wasn’t worth the 1 additional round in the 10-rnd mag. (I do Love my USAS-12, but it’s a safe queen, not a carry gun.)

      • Yep. I got ahold of one of these aa12s at a rental range in Utah. Those of us that are used to Mossbergs, Benellis, Remingtons, etc. these are an odd and clumsy feeling duck. Too heavy, too bulky and that drum mag is something that would get hung up on a breeze.

  1. I think this falls under… If it looks stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid. I’d buy one before I bought a KSG or similar. I’d buy two before I bought any fancy trap shotgun. I may even buy three before I bought a Cabot.

  2. Sure, I’d love a gun that could violate Newtons 3rd law of motion. However, the 80% of recoil they are talking about is actually 80% of the unlocked bolt’s momentum not the entire momentum imparted by the departing projectile mass. Lots of momentum still gets transmitted to the shooter before the bolt unlocks. In the end, this gun still transmits 100% of the momentum of the shot to the shooter. To do otherwise requires fuzzy physics, no?

    • As I understand it, the recoil is still there, but spread out over a longer timeframe, a hard shove rather than a short, hard ‘crack’…

      • I know, I suppose I just have little tolerance for misleading statements, in matters of physics anyway. I am probably a curmudgeon. Part of the reason I comment here is to work on being nicer, obviously I don’t always succeed.

  3. Both of the full auto shotties had a slow cyclic rate of fire. We ran a USAS against a benelli on shot timers and the benelli beat the pants off of it.

    • For its intended purpose I believe that a lower cyclic rate is a feature, not a bug. You don’t want MAC10/11 speeds of 800-1400 RPM on a shotgun; spray and pray with shot-shells at a lower rate is more accurate than trying to wrangle the beast into submission and keep it on target at the same time.

  4. One question: $?

    That said, a high capacity auto shot-gun would scratch an itch, even if it isn’t a practical need.

  5. Reliable and hi cap with low recoil? If they could sell it a reasonable price I’d be all over it! Especially if we could get some variation of the Frag12 ammo!

  6. The slow cyclic rate of fire should mean that this is not a true machine gun by ATF standards. Sign me up for ten of them. Let’s hope the Donald does away with all gun laws as well as the ATF. Bazookas should be legal!

    • Legal status as a machine gun has absolutely nothing at all to do with rate of fire. The legal definition is a firearm that fires more than 1 round for each movement of the trigger.

  7. Why would I want an AA-12 when I already have a USAS-12 from Gilbert Equipment Company? (aka Daewoo USAS-12)
    Same weight, same ‘constant recoil’ system, an already proven track record and much, much better looks.
    Plus I already have 7 stick mags and 3 drums for it.

    • Not yet. Handled a couple of them in the CIA Museum collection recently. It’s on my list of pieces to write!

  8. This is one of those guns (even more so than the HK G11) that is made for video games and just has no real footprint in real life.

  9. The AA-12 was an innovative idea that never caught on. Atchisson was a talented firearms designer who IMO didn’t get the credit he deserved. For example, if you own a .22 AR conversion or a factory-made .22 AR, you’re probably shooting one of his designs.

  10. That is a solution looking for a problem. Civilians don’t need to breach doors and clear houses and the military would rather carry a SAW or MK48 for that weight and bulk but with much more range and ammo

    • actually clearing a house is one of the main home defense needs.
      You could argue that no civilian needs a rifle for home defense nimrod

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