The first shotgun I ever fired was a Winchester Model 12. It was my Dad's gun, in 16 gauge, with a Poly-Choke.
The second shotgun I ever fired was a Winchester Model 12. It was my grandfather's shotgun, in 20 gauge.
Winchester made a bunch of Model 12's, with serial numbers running from 1 to 2,023672. It was the first successful hammerless shotgun and was used in the game fields, the military, and on the target ranges.
This shotgun was sometimes called The Perfect Repeater and was an adaptation of the handiwork of John Moses Browning. Winchester quit making them in 1963 because they had become too expensive to manufacture and sell competitively.
Winchester came out with the Model 1200 to compete with the Remington 870. I have owned a couple of 1200's. The next model in the lineup was the 1300, and even though it is a fine shotgun, with a long manufacturing run, it just was never the same as the Model 12. The Model 12 is made of forged and machined steel. It cycles with authority, it is very smooth, and locks up like a bank vault.
I have always wanted one, but the examples that I saw for sale were either too rough, or too expensive, or too something or other. To make matters worse, I've never been completely enamored of the 12 gauge. Yeah, a 12 is certainly the most common bore, and what it gains in popularity it lacks in style. I own two 12 bore shotguns, a waterfowler and a riot gun. That's enough.
Aaah, but the 16 bore or the 20 bore is an upland gun. It's a gun for the rabbit fields, the dove shoots, the squirrel woods. The 20 bore is normally made on a smaller frame than the 12, so it is lighter. I also own a couple of 20 gauges and I generally divide my shotgunning into pleasure and work. The 12 gets the nod for serious work. The 20 is for pleasure.
Today I was surfing the used gun rack at my favorite shop and saw the familiar lines of a Model 12. I asked to see it and the counterman handed it across. It was in 16 gauge. My father loves a 16 gauge, but this gun was rough. Real rough. I handed it back across the counter, remarking wistfully that if I could find one in 20 gauge, I just might be interested.
He chuckled and walked down his racks, plucking a shotgun from the corner. He handed it across and I knew that he had me. A Model 12, in 20 gauge. This is a PawPaw's gun. It still had closet dust on it. I broke the weapon down to look at the bore, which was pristine. The action is stiff because it is dry. A good cleaning and oiling is all this firearm needs. The price was right, and he made it more right because I am a good customer. The serial number says that it was made in 1949.
This one followed me home.