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 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.
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
Check it out here.