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.
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.