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It’s okay, I know what you’re thinking. The concept of a 12-gauge AR tends to be some version of unreliable, can’t-cycle vaporware. It isn’t just the 12 gauges, either, it’s basically any big-bore “latest, greatest” AR that’s tried to hit the market in the last several years. Even the ones that look cool seem to end up with issues.

So with that level of skepticism in mind, I’m happy to report the Wilkinson Tactical 12-gauge AR cycled reliably for me and was accurate and fun. I’m encouraged.

The Wilkinson CR12 (Kat Ainsworth for TTAG)

The Wilkinson Tactical CR12 made its debut at SHOT Show 2020. The idea was to sell a 12 gauge AR-10 platform rifle that you can swap with .308 uppers.

I was finally able to spend time talking to its designer — and shooting it — recently here in Texas. Company owner and designer Paul Irish spoke at some length about the work that’s gone into making this a reliable firearm, from customizing Turkish magazines to tuning the buffer tube and spring to the needs of 12 gauge.

That means no, you can’t take his upper and throw it on any other AR-10 lower out there. It simply won’t cycle reliably on a random lower, but on his lower it worked extremely well. It also eliminates the problem I most often see with any big-bore/big-gauge/whatever AR…the magazines. I can think of a few models that have failed dramatically thanks largely to mag issues so it’s nice to see that Irish has put the work into creating magazines that actually work.

Since we were running the gun at an indoor range, the first thing I asked Irish was whether we’d get yelled at for rapid fire. Once I had the green light, I went ahead and let the CR12 rip. The mag held five shot shells so five slugs went downrange quickly, creating a neat hole in the center of the target. Sometimes — okay, often — at media events, we don’t have the time necessary for extensive shooting and this answered several questions for me about recoil, accuracy, and the trigger.

Felt recoil on the Wilkinson Tactical CR12 is surprisingly minimal. It’s a 12-gauge so you expect more recoil than you actually get, and the fact Irish managed this while maintaining a lightweight 6 lb., 2 oz. rifle is impressive. It’s accurate, at least with the slugs we ran that day. I’d very much like to run an assortment of ammo through it, but it does prefer 2 3/4-inch shot shells, according to Irish.

The chamber is 3 inches but since 2 3/4-inch is the military’s preference and they are his primary market, that’s what he tuned the rifle to love. When I get to fully review, it I’ll see how 3-inch shot shells run.

As for the trigger it has a light pull weight and short reset. Irish stated this specific rifle had about 25,000 shot shells through it by the time I ran it.

Wilkinson Tactical CR12 with .308 Win upper (Kat Ainsworth for TTAG)

So what about the .308 Win upper? It’s the usual AR receiver swap time to take the 12-gauge upper off and exchange it for the Wilkinson Tactical .308 Win upper. The rifle ran well with .308 Win and was accurate just as the 12 gauge had been.

The applications going through my head are mostly hunting related, I admit, but apparently the military thinks this is the kind of conversion they need as well. Could you use it for home defense? You certainly could, but the details of .308 Win for home defense fall under a discussion for another day (I’m sure you all will fight it out in the comments).

I’m waiting for a review rifle to get heavily into the performance of the Wilkinson Tactical CR12, but my first impressions are good. It’s an enjoyable rifle to shoot and I’m going to love running it on the range and in the woods…because deer season. I have high hopes for this one.

Talk amongst yourselves. What do you think an in-depth review will show us?


Specifications: Wilkinson Tactical CR-12

Gauge: 12 Gauge, 3-inch chamber (2 3/4-inch optimal, though)
Semi-automatic direct impingement, gas operated
18-inch smooth bore barrel with Winchester choke tube threads
Nickel Boron plated bolt carrier group
Black anodized standard, other color options available
M4-Style adjustable stock
Use standard M16/M4 tools


Fully ambidextrous controls
20 percent let off open cylinder muzzle break,  modified cylinder and full choke included
Fail Zero trigger group
Free-floating handguard with M-Lok or KeyMod
Kyntec hydraulic buffer


CR12 12 gauge: $2358
.308 tactical upper: $949
.308 long range upper: $2181
6.5 Creedmoor upper: $2181

Check it out here.

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    • For that much money, it should not only shoot, but also shovel and shut up for me as well. Sheesh.

      I’d be curious if a similar swappable upper could be made for AR-15 receivers in .410 bore. A 10-shell mag of magnum Defender loads would be formidable. Yes, I said .410. My wife would definitely be interested in that.

      • You may have a dozen uppers. As long as you only have one lower you only have one gun. If I need a rifle I buy a rifle. Same for shotguns and pistols.

        • Um, wut? Was your comment meant to be posted as a reply to mine? Not sure to which part of my comment you were referring…

        • I think he was saying that doesn’t matter how many uppers you have. Having only one lower means you really only have one weapon available to you at any given moment. As a result, if he wants another firearm, he buys a full firearm.

          I get the idea, but you raise a good suggestion – 10 rounds of Defender .410 is generally going to be more effective than 10 (or even 30) rounds of 5.56 or .223 if you have others in the house/next door or other reasons to be concerned about over-penetration, unless you are in a situation where precision is paramount..

        • @Katy,

          I get that. Note that in my original comment at the top, I said “swappable upper”. Hence my confusion at the reply.

      • I HAZ,
        A few years ago, I saw Centerfire Systems was selling .410 uppers for standard AR-15s. I don’t know how well they work, but they were reasonably priced and definitely do exist.
        Good luck!

  1. For $2.400, I can get an AR-10 and a semi-auto shotgun. And, both would be more reliable doing what they were designed to do versus this hybrid changeling thing.

  2. Maybe I’m starting the fight, but I cannot imagine using .308 for home defense. This gun with the 12-ga upper, fine, but unless your back yard is in excess of 150 acres, .308 is unimaginable to me.

    • I could see some edge cases for people living far from neighbors or expecting home invaders to wear body armor.

        • @Vhyrus,
          Does that include premium ammo, and or handloads? Or just the common NATO issued ammo?

          I read here on TTAG of one guy getting hit by a 7.62x54R and said it felt like getting hit by a sledge hammer to the chest, causing him to have to take several minutes to regain his composure.

    • @LarryinTX.
      My back yard is 155acres. A .308WIN is always close to the door, but more for getting rid of coy and other like varmints.
      I would use it too for self-defense. Keep in mind the rifle is loaded for varmints, so I dont expect over penetration.
      As for the neighbors, well, everyone is expected to know what it is beyond what they are shooting at. I think that is one of COL Coopers rules of firearm safety.
      Would a 12ga be better? Yep. But we dont always get the self-defense situation we want.

      People wearing body armor? MOG (Minute Of Groin).

    • Hornady makes a .308 in their Critical Defense line of ammo. I use that in my Savage model 12 with 26” bull barrel & Leupold 6.5-20×50 scope for defense in my small home.

      J/K on the home defense part. 🙂

      Not everyone has money for an infinite amount of multiple guns. I could see someone settling on a bullpup (Tavor, Kel-Tec, …) or 16/18” barrel AR-10 as a multi-purpose gun. 110gr pills for varmints, 168gr for deer & such, and something like the Hornady stuff for home defense.

    • Would depend on acreage of one’s yard on which his home sits on, and type of home attack one would be experiencing. .308 is great for home defense *in my yard*, should some attacker/s come out of the woods behind it. For inside a home, .there’s better choices.

      But 2400.00 is a damned expensive semi auto shotgun IMO. Nice to see that “it can be done* though.

    • depends who might be coming in your house and how big of mess of your neighborhood you want to make…..

  3. Looks kinda spendy but as a addition to a collection it might be worth it.
    I don’t really see why someone would want a 12ga / 308 combo but, different strokes for different folks I guess.
    In a revolver design with 410/45 long colt, good design, but the 308 for home defense is a little much.
    Unless that’s all you got, then any firearm is good…
    Just my point of view of course. One more thing,
    “””FREE KYLE””” M A G A.!

  4. I don’t see how any 12ga AR can hold itself together. recoil with slugs is just too brutal. even with the gas system adjusted for the gas, the takedown pins and BCG/internal parts have to be taking a beating.

    there are other 12 gauges that are made in the shape of an AR, and they work fine, but they really aren’t an AR. they are overbuilt. the Rock Island VR60 is one example.

    made out of a true AR platform, no, I can’t believe it’s going to work.

  5. Some moron will put a brace on it for shits-n-giggles and earn a trip to an ER for his trouble…

  6. $2,200k for just an upper?!?!?!? That’s stupid high. A Bartlein barreled, custom upper runs, at least, a grand less, with BCG/bolt. I know, I have one from Craddock Precision.

    The concept might save a few pounds and seem cool. Shotgun for home defense, and .308 for SHTF/offgrid. Also, .308 for deer or switch to 12ga for Quail/Duck. I do hunt deer near my duck hunting spots, but it’s not that big of a deal to walk a few hundred yards back to the car before deer hunting.

  7. That’s a lot of gunm for five shells. I tried one of them AK looking 12 gauges, worked okay with hi vel loads not worth a hoot with trap loads. As far as hunting with it, bwhahahaha

    • I was at a clay shoot and someone put a citadel AK 12 gauge in my hands. The sights were difficult to look at after shooting a bead sight all day, but I broke clays and it cycled cheap #8 well. I’d rather have that AK than any AR-12 I’ve seen as of yet.

      My real comparable preference is a Mossberg 590 with 8+1 and they are cheaper. They are also more reliable if you’re not a pump action short stroker.

  8. Why would anyone want to switch from a rifle to a shotgun for defense? I switch often in hunting season. I’m a pretty fair shot, but ducks with a rifle? No. The answer is rifle. Shotguns are for feathers.

  9. Hmmm

    I think I would choose a Benelli M4
    Colt M4 or Springfield Saint
    Two guns for about the same price as this lashup

    Each proven beyond any question

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