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Review: Vantage Arms SIX12 Shotgun

This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue 29

Photos by Jake Swanson and Ernesto Rodriguez

Scalable, Six-Shot Cylinder, Scattergun

We all know that sound when a typical 12-gauge pump action shotgun takes a round from the magazine tube and shoves it into the chamber. For some folks it means freedom; for others it instills apprehension, which may not be a bad thing. That sound is completely absent with the new SIX12 Modular Shotgun. Loaded from a removable six-round cylinder, this new weapon system works off of a pull of the trigger, rather than the shooter cycling a typical fore-end back and forth.

Caleb Crye and Gregg Thompson, joint owners of Crye Precision, recently formed Vantage Arms in Nashville, Tennessee, to bring this vision of a compact, rotary-magazine scattergun to market. The initial design and input came from years of collaboration with military, law enforcement, and shooters throughout the world who felt a need for this modular-type weapon.

What they ended up creating is a highly compact system that’s able to be mounted to a rifle, or configured as a standalone full-length shotgun, a compact breaching gun, or even as a fully integrated suppressed weapon system. Once in front of the end-user, the shotgun can be used for anything from blowing open doors to hunting to home defense, though we’d guess the majority of sales will be to guys who need to get into a building quickly.

Getting into the core of the weapon and the design behind the SIX12, the designers wanted a gun that was compact, reliable, and modular. This led to the use of a revolver action that allows the overall gun to be very short — there’s no bolt that has to travel rearward and take up space behind the round. And reliability is aided by the action being purely mechanical and not reliant on either a gas system or the user to shuck the fore-end.

Two shotguns, same guts. Ditch the bullpup stock and screw on a short barrel, and the SIX12 plays well with an SBR.

Two shotguns, same guts. Ditch the bullpup stock and screw on a short barrel, and the SIX12 plays well with an SBR.

Unlike in a typical handgun, the cylinder is removable so the user can reload very quickly. This also allows rapid switching between different types of rounds for whatever environment the user finds themselves in, and unlike the speedloaders found in 3-gun’s Open division, cylinders will fit into many of the pouches that you likely already own. Should the shooter need one round for door breaching and another for a vehicle assault it’s as simple as swapping the cylinders via an under-mount lever that is at the bottom of the weapon.

Now, you might think that the typical cylinder gap problems conventional revolvers must contend with might be a bigger drawback when it comes to lighting off a 12-gauge round. You’d be correct. In the 19th century, the Russian Nagant revolver sought to overcome this by using cartridge cases that protruded from the front of the cylinder, and which were pressed into engagement with the barrel’s forcing cone when the pistol was cocked.

The SIX12 riffs on this theme and employs a neat collar system that connects or engages the firing chamber and the barrel. This system is unique for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, nothing will be emitted in the space between the cylinder and the barrel, as may be the case with a traditional revolver, pretty important in a bullpup with a 2-ounce payload. Secondly, the weapon cannot be fired until the collar system docks with the barrel, acting as an added safety feature.

Getting into the trigger system, the SIX12 is double-action, and it will fire a round as fast as you can pull the trigger. Although it’s a long, fairly heavy pull, each trigger press rotates the cylinder and engages the collar system to the barrel for final lock-up before releasing the striker. Following the trend of removable chassis systems in handguns, the serialized part of this system is its striker assembly and all other components are thus regarded as non-firearms.

Looking like it crawled off the pages of a DeWalt catalog, the minimalist breaching configuration is the right tool for fixing stubborn locks and hinges. Bob Vila is looking at an endorsement deal. Honest.

Looking like it crawled off the pages of a DeWalt catalog, the minimalist breaching configuration is the right tool for fixing stubborn locks and hinges. Bob Vila is looking at an endorsement deal. Honest.

The manufacturer offers three versions of the weapon system. The first is a compact, standalone breaching shotgun, the second an under-barrel addition to a carbine, and the third is a bullpup, which can be configured as an integrally suppressed variant through the addition of a dedicated can. Pretty trick.

When affixed to a rifle (itself a simple procedure, so long as a 6 o’clock rail is present) there’s nothing major to change on either the host or the SIX12. As the trigger is operated with the support hand while it’s in a firing grip on the most lethal of the two, a breacher can transition instantly between weapon systems, should a threat present itself. With the ability to quickly swap cylinders, it’s a simple matter to swap in loads specific for the environment and based on your immediate needs, such as vehicle intervention or less-than-lethal munitions. Not having to pump the fore-end is a bonus in the event of a dud primer, as the user doesn’t have to activate a lever in order to unlock the breech; they simply pull the trigger to get to the next round.

See that funny-looking piece of alloy left of the cylinder? That’s the serialized heart of the system and the only part that’s considered a firearm.

See that funny-looking piece of alloy left of the cylinder? That’s the serialized heart of the system and the only part that’s considered a firearm.

One of the most appealing features of the gun, when it’s underslung, is that the shooter’s support hand rests comfortably just ahead of the cylinder. A user doesn’t have to change their grip and on a work carbine, should they need to switch and go to the SIX12, all it takes is an extension of the index finger onto the trigger of the shotgun and they’re in business.

For the recreational shooter or hunter, the shotgun can be decked out with black polymer or wood furniture, depending on wants and needs. Due to the fact that the weight is to the rear, it’s closer to the shooter and is less tiring to carry in the field — it also helps with target transitions as the SIX12 is a very fast-swinging gun. Operating the trigger with the support hand does, however, take some getting used to. Barrel swaps are a simple affair — loosen one screw, slide out the old barrel, and slip in the new, so there’s nothing more complicated than in traditional designs. Want a shorty for home defense? The bullpup layout allows an 18-inch, non-NFA-barreled shotgun to take up way less space, then should you want to take it hunting, it’s a simple process to change it out.

While the wood stocked version is cool, the one that really rustles our jimmies is the integrally suppressed variant. Working with SilencerCo, the folks at Vantage Arms were able to design around the Salvo 12 shotgun suppressor, at the request of some of the end users the development team worked with. The suppressor can be fully utilized, due to the collar system sealing off the barrel/cylinder gap as the shooter pulls the trigger. When was the last time you saw a suppressed revolver? Exactly. They’re almost impossible to effectively suppress, as gas escaping from between the forcing cone and cylinder defeats the purpose, but if you can come up with a way to overcome this obstacle, then a suppressed revolver is quieter than any other type of repeater due the almost complete absence of action noise.

This could be the ultimate southpaw shotty. Now right handers can experience the frustrations of their wrong-handed brothers.

This could be the ultimate southpaw shotty. Now right handers can experience the frustrations of their wrong-handed brothers.

So how does the SIX12 system shoot? Fortunately, we’ve had the opportunity to work with and manipulate a few of its different configurations: the standalone, suppressed, and one affixed to an AR platform. A personal disclaimer — I’m a police officer and work in a law enforcement environment, so the likelihood of me truly having to use every configuration based on my livelihood are slim, but I still like having the ability to evaluate each and every modular option here.

The trigger definitely is something that needs a little training to master. For anyone who’s spent most of their adult life shooting conventional firearms, manipulating the trigger with the support hand is somewhat unusual to say the least. In the most likely applications, this is less of an issue, as shots are likely to be made at contact distance, but as a hunting shotgun, it’s going to take some time to get comfortable with it. If you’ve got a double-action revolver, then start shooting weak-handed to build up muscle memory. Once you get the hang of it, ripping off six shells is a piece of cake, and recoil is straight back into the shoulder.


On an AR or an M-16, I think this is a great setup. The shorter the barrel, the better. If it’s going to be used for breaching this is a great system due to the fact that you can use the underslung SIX12, breach a door and immediately enter with a lethal weapon system, without having to transition, as both are in your hands. I use an 11½-inch rifle setup for work and the shortest available SIX12 barrel works perfectly with my carbine. If adopted, the new shotgun will result in change in tactics, as the breacher is no longer relegated to the back of the stack once he’s taken car of the locks.

The suppressed configuration, employing the Salvo can is also useful, especially as a standalone unit. I’m a huge fan of suppressors, and anytime we have the ability to reduce noise we should take it, not only from a tactical perspective, but from a health and safety one also. This complete system would be a great addition to a patrol unit, as it takes up little space and offers the advantage of taking a few decibels off a shot to save the hearing of both the officer and any bystanders. Now, if we can just get the Hearing Protection Act passed into law …



6 responses to “Review: Vantage Arms SIX12 Shotgun”

  1. Ryan says:

    So when in the hell is it FINALLY going to come out? We’ve been waiting for 5 years now! LITERALLY 5 years!

  2. Eddy Campos says:

    Waiting ever patiently. The original article on the Crye 612 priced it at around $800 (which would have been affordable for your average gun enthusiasts). Absolutely wass ga-ga into it (with the YouTube video of being able to convert it to a supporting shotgun for your AR-15 rifle). Heard rumors at the Shot Show of Crye being bought out by Vantage Arms. Still nothing yet. Then heard Vantage was going to make them for early 2020 starting a $2000 (seriously, I can buy a nice Benelli or a Mossberg JM for less than that price – and KNOW it’s a reliable, working semi-auto shotgun). Still ZERO on the 612. What gives!!!!!!!!?????? Anybody got ANYTHING on this?

  3. MandatoryCarry says:

    This article is a year old and STILL nothing… I’m just gonna give up hope of it ever happening now. 😔😔

  4. Gray says:

    I want to give you my money for it. Just make it available so that I can give you my money. Please, let me have this.

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  6. Chris Backstrom says:

    This thing has been the unicorn of guns going on 6 years. It is the biggest teaser of it’s time. It’s that hot girl you knew back in school who says she had a thing for you. She promises to make it worth the wait if you give her time and you do. Only to wake up 5 years later in an insane asylum realizing you had a psychotic break and have been dreaming of the chick on a sports illustrated magazine in the recreation room during arts and crafts day for 5 years… What? If you’re reading this you have issues too. Don’t judge. Lol.

    But, seriously. This gun will always be the one that got away. Especially now that it’s past the Tacticool movement. Now it’s actual Tactical. A shotgun on your AR would’ve been cool a few years back. Now you’re just trying to relive the glory days of action films with this thing. Or you’re trying to attach this to the shoulder of your harbor freight marvel war machine build. I’m almost done with mine by the way. But wow how this would’ve opened doors on space age gun buyers. This would’ve been step one in the starship troopers direction for sure. That or standard issue on the space force.

    Missed opportunity

    R.I.P. TEASE

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