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?
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.