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FN P-12 Shotgun – Rack and Roll

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FNH Revives the Classic P-12 With a Modern Twist

What can you say about a pump shotgun? Bang, chik-chik, bang, chik-chik, bang. It’s almost boring…but it’s exactly that simplicity and boring reliability that so many people love about pump shotguns. So how do you make a pump shotgun more exciting, without going overboard on bling and tacticool nonsense? FNH has a few tricks up its sleeve with the P-12 shotgun.

Plug and Play

Based on the venerable Winchester design introduced with the Model 1200 and 1300 from the ’60s and ’70s, the FNH P-12 is every inch a fighting 12-gauge shotgun, pretty much ready to go right out of the box. Assembled in Portugal alongside its semi-automatic SLP sibling, the P-12 features an 18-inch barrel, front and rear sights, and a rail for optics.

P-12 Shotgun Chamber

The rotating bolt design locks up securely into lug recesses in the barrel extension. With its inertia-assisted action, the bolt lugs rotate and disengage from the barrel extension immediately after a round is fired and under recoil the action will cycle rearward.

The first notable characteristic of the P-12 is that the bore and chamber are chrome-lined for longevity and corrosion resistance (also making it easy to clean). Secondly, it has a rotating bolt design that locks up securely into lug recesses in the barrel extension and does not rely upon the receiver, which is made from aluminum alloy. This design provides a very strong and reliable lockup. Its dual action bars are stout and move smoothly.

The fit and finish on this shotgun are impressive. The matte surface treatment is attractive and everything about the gun feels solid. The controls are aggressively checkered, and there is a sling swivel stud on the magazine cap. FNH seems to have thought of everything.

The P-12 holds five rounds in its magazine tube and one in the chamber, for a total of six. You can affix a magazine extension (look for one made for the Winchester 1200/1300), but would have to remove dimples in the existing tube to allow the follower to pass. Six is a reasonable load-out, and while we find it hard to turn down additional magazine capacity, there are plenty of defensive shotgun aficionados who espouse the overall balance that comes with a modest tube as found on the P-12. Upon removing the magazine cap, you will find a retainer that captures the magazine spring. Depress and rotate it to remove the retainer, allowing you to remove or install a magazine plug limiter for hunting. In case you’re wondering, removing the retainer entirely does not buy you any additional magazine capacity…we checked, naturally.

Pump It Up

Another unique feature of the P-12 is its inertia-assisted action. If you discharge the shotgun one handed, the fore-end will travel back on its own and rack the expended shell out of the chamber. Immediately after the round fires, the bolt lugs rotate and disengage from the barrel extension and under recoil the action will cycle rearward. Whether this assist actually makes you faster shot to shot or not likely depends on your technique and familiarity with the weapon. We put the FNH pump on a timer against other shotguns to see for ourselves — check out the sidebar for details.

Not surprisingly, the P-12 digested any 2¾- and 3-inch ammo that we fed it. Heavier loads were quite punishing to our shoulders (also not a surprise). Unlike most defensive shotguns, the FNH’s 18-inch barrel is threaded for choke tubes. This is a very nice touch, providing additional flexibility to use the gun for a variety of purposes or to get the best buckshot patterns. Our test gun, oddly enough, was missing a choke tube, but FNH ships the P-12 with an Improved Cylinder choke tube and wrench. We tried a few varieties of Winchester slugs, from low recoil tactical loads to full-power variants. Most shot high at 50 yards, some a bit left or right. The folding rear sight can be drifted to adjust windage and has setscrews to move the blade up and down for elevation, making it easy to dial in the slugs. The front sight with fiber-optic insert was easy to pick up and settled nicely in the V-notch rear sight making accurate slug shots straightforward.

Like the SLP, the cantilever barrel extends a weaver rail over the top of the receiver, making it easy to attach optics. The rail also has a sight channel to expose the front sight, which some of our shooters liked as sort of a quick, rough rear sight reference and some found distracting, preferring an unobstructed view. This cantilever does place the sight even higher than if the rail were on the receiver itself and, unless you’re a doppelganger for Jay Leno, it makes your classic shotgun cheek weld turn into more of a chin weld. A cheek riser would be a nice addition if you plan to run optics. Lucid sent us a prototype of their new M7 red dot sight (described in the sidebar), which made slug shots even easier.

The P-12 inherits the Winchester manual of arms, with a cross-bolt safety at the front of the trigger guard and the disconnector release button at the rear.
This is the opposite of the ubiquitous Remington 870. Some prefer the arrangement; most likely those with long Arsenio Hall-like fingers who can reach the safety easily, since stubby-fingered shooters cannot. The slide release is very convenient regardless of hand size. But we feel these priorities are misplaced — if only one of the controls can be made easy to operate for all types of shooters, better the safety than the disconnector release. Furthermore, a cross-bolt safety is already a challenge for lefties, and the P-12 compounds this by placing it so far forward. Many would argue the Mossberg or Browning has the best of both worlds with a thumb-actuated safety and a disconnector release at the rear of the trigger guard, both easily accessible with either hand.

Shaking Out The P-12

We wanted to really put the shotgun through its paces in some tough scenarios, so we brought it to a unique course offered by The Academy of Saint Crispian, a training firm helmed by former U.S. Marine Captain Stanton Lee. Their Small Unit Leadership Evaluation (SULE) course is inspired by the Marine Corps SULE evolutions in Officer Candidates School. It is an advanced class for vetted students that focuses on building leadership, teamwork, and planning skills, leading up to small-unit, live-fire exercises during the day and at night. With roughly 4 miles worth of hiking and patrolling up and down at least 700 feet of elevation change in full kit, it was a great opportunity to shake out the P-12 shotgun.

With only five rounds in the tube, keeping the P-12 fed is critical. High Speed Gear, known for its innovative TACO pouch system, makes shot shell trays that hold five rounds in polymer loops on a Velcro backer. It’s a nice concept that combines the versatility of removable trays with the security of polymer construction (typical alternatives are a permanently installed side saddle, or Velcro trays with elastic loops to hold the shells). We applied industrial-strength loop Velcro on the side of the shotgun’s receiver and slapped one of the HSGI shot shell trays right on it. The trays secure nicely in HSGI’s TACO pouches — just rip an empty tray off the gun and draw a new one from the pouch, like grabbing a fresh magazine. In turn the TACO pouches were easy to attach to our gear, so we had plenty of ammo close at hand. However, hiking all over creation with a full load-out was a brutal reminder of the bulk of a 12-gauge weapon system and ammunition.

Loading the P-12 is straightforward. The loading port is easily accessed, but smooth and speedy loads are somewhat hampered by a stiff shell latch and strong spring tension on the carrier. The opening of the magazine tube is fronted by a piece of polymer contoured to make it easier to access, but which can also lead to some binding if your next shell happens to ride over the rim of the previous shell (see photo). This happened on occasion during the stress of some of the live fire exercises — when team members left and right have magazine fed rifles, it sure is tough to keep up with a shotgun!

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