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Diana ARMI 1980 #1: Luigi Franchi SPAS 11

Written by Giovanni Rosi

Some of the only known photographs of the prototype SPAS 11 coming from the Italian Magazine "Diana-ARMI".  Translation is rough but readable. These are large image files.  Note that the gun pictured being held by the soldiers is different than the gun on the cover and first two pages, look at the lack of action sleeve and pattern in the heat shield.  A prototype of a prototype?

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It can not be considered a novelty. At least not just a novelty. We are rather dealing with a radical change in the current mentality, at least here in Italy, to design the weapon to be used by police and in the sense of more extensive military use
Contrary to other countries (primarily pointing to the United States) weapon to be used by police has always been a close derivation of a gun, rifle or machine gun of military origin, or at least similar to these; weapons born to shoot only single projectile ammunition in rifled barrels with all the advantages and disadvantages that we will explore ahead.

The possibility of using smooth-bore weapons with pelletized ammunition, of any mechanical feature, never found compliance in practice with service men PS (As well as the Force or other bodies of the Army)

The new offering the Franchi SPAS 11 system now creates new prospects for a new and efficient equipment destined for the police and special forces of the Army.

We like to emphasize that the Luigi Franchi is not new to proposing martial weapons parallel to its fine production fighter Bastera. Consider the submachine gun, LF 57 from a characteristically advanced design that made it one of the precursors of the third generation of such weapons.

Finally, after a more thorough discussion of the validity of the new offering, and comparing it with the weapons currently on the market, we look at the features of the SPAS 11.

Mechanics are based on the proven 500 series from Franchi and no special secrets for those knowledgeable in weapons and those hunting in particular. We remember them only as having a gas piston in a cylinder below the barrel, with sleeve piston with a long stroke rod implanted on the tubular reservoir. A group of outlet gas ports gives it a particular technical solution that, by entering a small amount of gas collected between cylinder and piston carries a brake gas-dynamic sealing function provides self compensation for dealing with ammunition with different charges.

That obviously gives flexibility and security of employment, even more appreciable since that is the use to which the SPAS 11 is intended.

Under the pressure of the piston rod, or rather the carriage of the weapon, will release the piston which moves back into the housing in the receiver of the weapon in order to implement the semi-automatic cycle for which it was designed. The recoil spring that resides behind the receiver, and placed in a special metal tubular stock, with a slight downward inclination, from the far rear of the housing and the shotgun, and is hidden inside a wooden stock.

The tubular magazine is arranged below the barrel and attached to the common magazine is an extension projecting towards the muzzle, as a function of the length of which the SPAS 11 can boast 7 or 8 cartridges in the tube and of the gripping device of gas on it invested, we find plastic rod which is connected to the top of the barrel. The rod has two lateral longitudinal pistons designed to connect the carriage of the weapon in what is undoubtedly the most important aspect from the point of view of new functionality for the weapon that we are examining.

The SPAS 11 was conceived as a classical semiautomatic weapon, but can be used equally, without making any changes,  as a weapon to " pump". It is possible to manually intervene on the piston, which is routinely operated by the gas taken from the barrel. Used and implemented by the conspicuous shaped sleeve that encompasses the entire complex barrel, magazine tube and that, through the cracks in wood on the hand guard, and in fact connected to the carriage of the inside of the weapon. In case of lack of power of the ammunition, as well as when you should use the SPAS 11 to launch bombs smoke or illuminating or charge non-lethal rubber, then you will get manually reset cycle of the weapon. It is important to point out how easy and fast and the undoubted practical advantages provided by this device.

Even the butt of the weapon presents unusual aspects and design, keeping functionality as a priority to the firearm. The rear part of the rook alloy and joined to an appendix that forms a valid pistol grip, which, experience shows, gives a better control of the weapon in combat conditions. The stock has been replaced by the only classical metal frame of the recoil spring, suitably reinforced. At the ends of this tiny butt to which it is connected a curved appendage which, although aesthetically valid, made amends by virtue of the undeniable advantages granted by its use. In fact, while the housing is generally aligned in the direction of the recoil spring, its outward rotation gives the shooter a solid support forearm that is very useful where it is necessary to use the SPAS 11 with only one arm, instinctive shooting or in the use, for example, from the edge of a vehicle during tracking; something very difficult to achieve with other models.

The use of the weapon from different shooting positions is also facilitated by a wide strap in thick canvas, attachable by carabiners to the butt ring and the tank.

Pictures "in action" given to us by Franchi and accompanying this article show clearly how the SPAS 11 is a weapon of handling extremes, by virtue of practical theory, the technically implemented and, not least, for the weight in 3.200 Kg. (7.05lbs) It could be objected in this regard that a further reduction of clutter would have been possible by adopting a metallic butt of the folding type and passing, consequently, to the use of a mechanical pump with only one movement, such as the Remington model 870 R Police. However, that would have penalized the weapon of it's advantages of rapidity of fire and its automatism and, even more importantly, it would require *both* arms to use. The movement "pump", even if proven practical, is also not very popular here, unlike the backup semiautomatic, and this is to keep in mind for future needs of staff training.

But now we come to see the practical aspects of the smooth-bore weapon for use in combat or police.

We said at the beginning that the weapons of police are derived military weapon and as such designed to provide significant power, penetration and range. Already this contrasts with practical use that in conditions of public order and the fight against crime the PS or the Corps are to make. On the other hand, in recent years also in the military field, there have been radical changes in the conduct of a certain type of war, guerrilla or counterinsurgency, which have shown a significant reduction of the distance of combat shooting and requires, at the same time, a high saturation of fire on personnel.

The need to take action in towns, or even within civil rooms, also requires a controlled range of the weapons used in order to protect the safety of citizens outside the criminal act in place. Cartridges such as the 9 mm Para, the .30 Ml or 7.62 NATO, currently of the order, they can easily go in unwanted distances and maintain a lethal power after unfortunate ricochets. The partition walls of the houses today, also have a poor consistency and are easily pierced by high speed projectiles.

The answer to these problems is the use of evidently special ammunition in a smooth-bore weapon, resulting in a reduced range of exposure hazards, not excessive penetration and unwillingness of the ball to ricochet, as the cartridge projectiles have no jacket.

At the same time the fire power produced by one man and undoubtedly superior in terms of number of strokes and the power transferred to the one that the same shooter could provide the use with a machine pistol, weapons that requires also a greater training and a more careful aim.

By using such munitions as with buckshot and 9/0 Whereas the automatic can shoot 4-round accurate bursts in about a second we can put on a target of 1 square meter. 35-40 meters from the weapon, well 48 projectiles (12 pellets of 0 7, 4mm for catuccia), each of which still maintains at this distance a speed of about 300 m / s and an Eo of about 12 Kgm (higher by almost 50 % to that of a ball 7.65 Browning at the same distance.)

We can then download on our hypothetical target of 1 sq m to 35-40 meters an energy of about 600 KgM with a theoretical basis of well 3,000 rounds a minute or so. Another aspect of the utmost importance is that we made the target fairly large.

The weapon ammunition spreads apart, by virtue of the dispersion of the swarm of pelletized shot, makes it possible to cover a  undoubtedly wider spread when compared to ammunition of a single ball (although in rapid succession) allowing a wide margin of error for the shooter. If he is forced to pull the trigger on instinct or in conditions of poor visibility. The possibility of striking the opponent, in consideration of the saturation of shots on target increase dramatically.

Also, in addition with the classic ammunition pelletized offense type, If desired, you can obviously shoot this weapon in many other types of cartridges, ranging from slugs, to buckshot and lead shot of all sizes, to non-lethal ammunition, whole or broken, rubber containers or grenades large through the appropriate muzzle devices to be fixed in the end of the barrel.

In the case of ammunition to pass only in lead, where appropriate the maximum power produced from the weapon, we will have a projectile of 28 gr. with a Vo of over 400 m / s and an energy almost equal to that of the 7.62 NATO. Power enough then to produce serious damage also to engines of motor vehicles on the run.

Wishing to have an effect to incapacitate, but not be lethal to humans, you can use pellets of more reduced diameter which, while causing short distance vast lacerating injuries, do not penetrate deeply to affect vital organs. Moreover, in case of use of the round, the lead in ammunition can be advantageously replaced by rubber detrimental effects are normally reduced.

Use with muzzle device launchers, besides the advantage from countless differentiation charge of these (gas CN, CS, fumogenere, lighting, etc.) it would the unification of the gun without having to resort to the use of several different guns used to this end. We want to emphasize, again about these launchers to screw in end of the barrel, as would be desirable to provide a study, taking advantage of the existing thread, a removable device extension "ruled" the barrel to be used to give the best features of precision throw a ball only. A little 'what you did at the time with the reeds Paradox.  (I got lost on this paragraph, sorry -CL)

Besides purely ballistic advantages, the SPAS 11 has also practical advantages, such as ease of use, thanks to the mechanics of "shotgun" adopted and therefore fairly well known, a possibility of training that requires modest cost and environments not specifically equipped ( ideally normal fields of skeet shooting, or even in the country given the limited range of the ammunition used).

The same configuration of the grip of the weapon, the pistol grip and the solid sleeve, make this familiar and facilitate the shooter to manipulate well with it even in situation of sudden danger. The support for the forearm even allows to hold the weapon with one hand in a vertical position while being always ready to place it instinctively in the firing line without using the other hand engaged, for example, to hold lighting devices or protective shields .

Not least in favor of the SPAS 11 and psychological deterrent is its large diameter of muzzle, as well as both detonation and subsequent fireball from the shot.

Last to mention, the maintenance of this weapon, similar in all to that of a normal semi-automatic hunting, presents no particular difficulties, and have indeed by extremely simple and facilitated by the chrome plating of the components of the group socket gases, proper functioning of the piston, to be cleaned simply with a cloth oiled.

However, we are certain that the benefits of the weapon smoothbore and in particular of this complete system realized with the Franchi, when the situation demands it, can well to weigh the scales in favor of a take-up as a weapon for the forces of order, and as adoption for military actions of guerrilla or counterinsurgency that our days are widely assumed in these environments.

For our part we hope to return to this matter as soon as possible with a field trial of the SPAS 11, in order to verify -in practice- the skills that appear on paper. Meanwhile, we still have to write down, and we do it with pleasure, as on these pages, already No. 1 in the 1968 Antonio Ugolini, with the title "A shotgun To Police" had raised the issue.  (Not sure what that means either -CL)


Manufacturer: Luigi Franchi S.p.A. Brescia
Model: SPAS 11
Operation: Semiautomatic gas operated. Possibility of manual intervention on the action "pump" in the event of reduced power ammunition.
Magazine capacity: 8 or 9 rounds (plus one in the barrel)
Ammunition: 12 cartridges caliber ball and buckshot. Possibility of launching grenades using special-purpose trumpets.
Theoretical basis of shooting: 250 c / m
Loading Time: 8 shots in 15 seconds
Line of sight: viewfinder on ramp. Rear sight adjustable for windage
Furniture: Wooden rod. Metal butt plate with support for rotating the forearm (patented)
Finish: exposed parts sandblasted and phosphated

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