Author Leroy Thompson investigated the history of the Winchester Model 12 Trench Gun for the 2015 issue of MILITARY SURPLUS. In examining the Trench Gun’s history, Thompson attempted to show why the 12-gauge shotgun that served U.S. troops from World War II through Vietnam remained so popular with troops throughout the years.
According to Thompson, “It was during World War II that the Model 12 first saw combat, and it saw quite a bit. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, most shotguns in U.S. military armories were Model 97 Trench or Riot Guns remaining from World War I, along with a few Remington Model 10 Trench or Riot Guns. However, with the perceived need for shotguns for guarding military and critical defense installations, as well as for guarding prisoners and other tasks, in March 1942 shotgun contracts were placed with Winchester, Remington and Savage. Winchester’s orders were for M97 and M12 Trench Guns and Riot Guns.”
The lack of a trigger disconnect made the Model 12 a favorite with troops, along with its improved ergonomics for handling in the field.
“Among the features that made the Model 12 especially appealing to troops in the Pacific who were fighting in thick jungle cover was that, like the Model 97 Trench Gun, the Model 12 did not have a trigger disconnect, thus allowing the trigger to be held back and rounds fired as quickly as the pump action could be operated. Marines especially liked this feature for breaking a Japanese attack,” says Thompson. “Unlike the Model 97, which did not have a safety, the Model 12 had a crossbolt safety that could be operated with the trigger finger. Also, the Model 12’s bolt release lever, located at the rear of the triggerguard, was easier to locate with the finger than the button on the receiver of the Model 97. Like the Model 97 Trench Gun, the Model 12 Trench Gun used the M1917 bayonet. Marines always like bayonets, so that was a plus for them with the Model 12 as well.”