Shooting a Full Auto AA-12 Shotgun

We got a chance to shoot the same full-auto shotgun used by Terry Crews in the Expendables movies...and it was a lot of fun.

Sol Invictus made a big splash at this year's Industry Day at the Range, held just before the beginning of the 2019 SHOT Show, which gives the media an opportunity to actually shoot some of the gun manufacturers' newest offerings. SI has been touting the release of its semi-automatic version of the awe-inspiring AA-12 full-auto shotgun from the 1980s for a while now.

At their Range Day booth, a prototype of the semi-auto gun, which has a redesigned receiver, trigger group, and action, was on hand to view but not to shoot.

According to company reps, the gun is still in ATF limbo, as it's approval letter was delayed by the federal government shutdown. Consequently, it couldn't be on hand at the range, so the SI folks did the next best thing—they had a full-auto AA-12 on hand for attendees to shoot, plus a lot of shotshells to fill the 8-round stick magazine and two 20-round drum mags.

When I went by the booth, I saw a huge, slow moving line behind the remarkable shotgun and almost walked on by—then I thought, "When the hell else are you going to have a chance to shoot a full-auto AA-12?"

So I got in line with Range365 contributor Joe Albanese and settled in as Ian from Forgotten Weapons shot a video on the gun at the front of the line.

While the incoming semi-auto version from Sol Invictus will fire from a closed bolt, the full-auto version is set up like the original, firing from an open bolt to help shed heat from the rapid fire. That, along with the guide rails for the drum magazines and the top mounted charging handle, gives the gun a sort of Tommy Gun feel.

When our turn finally came, I slid in the 20-round drum, shouldered the gun, and let it rip...for three rounds. Then it jammed up. The first thought was that I didn't put enough weight behind the gun (not usually my problem) to let it cycle properly. I cleared it, reloaded the drum, and gave it another go. Same deal. It fired a couple shells and seized up.

AA-12
The full-auto AA-12 with it's box mag and its 20-round drum magazine. On the right is the shotgun's recoil rod—the recoil spring is twice as long as the rod, which is what gives the gun its characteristically light recoil.David Maccar

The company reps broke the gun down, separating the polymer stock into two halves and pulling out the recoil mechanism, which included a spring that had to be five feet long. This is the key to the shotgun's functionality. The recoil system uses the kick from the first shell to counter the kick from the second, and so on, making the gun feel like it's barely recoiling, despite firing 12 gauge shells in full auto.

They'd been firing the gun so hard that heat in the chamber was actually melting the plastic wads in the shotshells and sending plastic into the gas ports. The gun got a chance to cool as its internals were bathed in solvent and lube before it was reassembled and handed back to me.

I gave it another go, and ran through a full 20-round drum without a hiccup. It was a hell of a feeling. I fired a burst and then ripped off the full mag. When the AA-12 is going, it feels like a wave cycling back and forth in the gun, with hardly any recoil. It was remarkably easy to keep the red-dot sight on the silhouette target at about 10 yards through the whole drum, which is doubly strange when you consider how light the gun feels.

If you ever get a chance to shoot a full auto AA-12, do it. If not, the semi-auto civilian legal version will be coming from Sol Invictus soon, and I'm sure it will be just as much of a blast.

The original Auto Assault-12 shotgun was known as the Atchisson Assault Shotgun when it was developed in 1972 by Maxwell Atchisson. The gun had a lot of problems in its early years and was tweaked a lot. It was rare and weird and not too many people knew about it.

The gun was redesigned in 2005 and that version has been developed over 18 years since the patent was sold to Military Police Systems, Inc. Because of it's slow cyclic rate of 300 rpm, it was never given a selector switch, as one round could be fired with a brief trigger pull. The military versions are fed from 8-round box mags or 20- or 32-shell drum magazines.

Over the past 15 years or so, its inclusion in a number of high-profile movie roles and video games has upped the profile of this rare gun.

Call of Duty titles began including the gun in their arsenal in 2009 with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and it got its first starring role on the big screen as Duke's (Channing Tatum) main firearm in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). In 2010, Adrien Brody carried an AA-12 through most of the movie in his role as Royce in Predators. Royce's gun used 20-round drum mags and was fitted with a Surefire M900 gun light foregrip and a custom Army UCP-camo style tape job.

The gun really got some exposure after it was given some solid screen time and used to great effect by Terry Crews in the original The Expendables (2010). The gun was then used by both Crews and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the following Expendables sequels in 2012 and 2014.