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The SPAS 12 Project LLC 2020

Special thanks to contributors Alexander H.,  Cole C.,  Zach G., Alex G., Paul S., Craige H., Neil Z., Rick J. Mark M., Tom S., Ben O., Taylor S., Joseph D., Anthony D., Steve P. and David B.

Did a special "L" designation SPAS ever exist?

What's a SPAS 12L?

The existence of a rumored "law-enforcement only" variant dubbed the "SPAS 12-L" is an often-recurring topic when people write in to the SPAS 12 Project.  The story is that there may have been a series of shotguns marketed solely to law enforcement which were all equipped with a folding stock, extended magazine, and dubiously named the SPAS 12-L.  So what makes the "L" any better or different than the old off-the-shelf SPAS 12's?

A video has been made to accompany this article, click to watch!

Nothing.  The SPAS 12-L probably doesn't exist.  At least not in the sense that it's an entirely different shotgun with special markings and is identifiable from any other SPAS (at least in the US.)  So why are sellers on forums, Facebook groups, and Gunbroker listing that their SPAS 12 is a rare government-only model?  To understand that question we need to take a look at the way the receiver is marked on the shotgun.

Three things are present on all SPAS 12 receivers in the following order:  Model - Manufacturer - Place of origin.  Here are the four known styles of receiver markings in the United States, arranged by serial number from earliest to latest.  Note that the later FIE and American Arms guns (Version 3 and 4) were marked with small font, with Version 4 seeming to be the most common style SPAS receiver.

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So lets work backwards on these markings, right to left, and decipher exactly what these markings mean.

Place of Origin

"BRESCIA MADE IN ITALY", is the tail-end of the receiver markings.   Brescia is a city in Italy where the shotgun originated. 

Moving leftward there is a hyphen, separating the place of origin from the manufacturer. 
 

The full name of the manufacturer of the SPAS 12 is not "Franchi", it is "Luigi Franchi, S.p.A". 

The "S.p.A." means "Societá per azioni" and is an Italian identifier of a public limited company, similar to marking a US corporation. 

See the photo gallery of receiver versions above to note the differences in how this is marked, but they are all marked "Luigi Franchi S.p.A, or the abbreviated "L. Franchi S.p.A.".

Then, to the left of that, is another hyphen separating the model from the manufacturer. *

*updated - except on the version 3 receiver submitted by Rick J 5/2015,

Manufacturer

"BRESCIA MADE IN ITALY", is the tail-end of the receiver markings.   Brescia is a city in Italy where the shotgun originated. 

Moving leftward there is a hyphen, separating the place of origin from the manufacturer. 
 

Model

So did it exist?

As it's own separately marked gun?  It's pretty doubtful they would go through the trouble.  However it is more than possible that Franchi or even FIE/American Arms set up a SPAS 12 with specific features (folding stock, extended magazine) to specifically market to law enforcement.  Keep in mind that the SPAS 12 was designed from the ground up to be a law enforcement/military shotgun already, so making a law-enforcement model of a gun designed to already fit that role becomes redundant. 

Further Consideration

Other evidence lending toward the "L." standing for Luigi is the height of the font.  On the manufacturer markings, the height of the markings is 4.00mm.  The model name/number markings are significantly larger on the older 4-digit serialed receivers, and still just slightly larger on the later receivers with smaller markings. 

Also shown is the receiver on an early SPAS 12 with several features that didn't seem to make it to the production SPAS 12's we received in the United States and the "Luigi" name is shortened to an "L." lending further to the evidence that any "L." in close proximity to the word "Franchi" is just an abbreviation for Luigi. 

Pouring through any available sales brochures,  fliers, pricing lists, advertisements, and magazine articles also leaves no mention anywhere ever of a dedicated "SPAS 12-L" gun.  It would stand to reason if there was a "nastier" version of the SPAS 12, someone would have written about it somewhere in print.