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Comprehensive Guide To AR-12 Shotguns

August 5, 2023


There are plenty of different AR-style firearms out there. Today, we’re going to go over the AR-12 specifically. 

In this comprehensive guide on the AR-12, we will speak about what it is and how it works and give some history of the AR-12 itself. 

With all the different numbers that follow the Armalite name, understanding what the numbers mean that follow can be a little confusing, especially when they don’t match the caliber. 

That isn’t the case for the AR-12. 

The AR-12 is one of the only ones that matches the caliber. Or, in this case, the bore size. We are talking about 12-gauge shotguns wrapped up in an Armalite shell. 

So let’s jump in. 

What is an AR-12? 

The AR-12 is one of the many forms of Armalite style. But this time, it shoots the 12-gauge shot-shells and uses the ergonomics of a well-known platform. 

AR-12s use detachable magazines that you would see on an ordinary Armalite rifle, and they come in different capacities, which is one of the appeals of the AR-12.

A few manufacturers have produced their entries for the best AR-12, and the future is looking great for a few of those iterations. 

And since you have the Armalite style, you have plenty of mounting space. 

We’ll talk about the recent rise in popularity of the AR-12 and give you some information about a relatively new company that is bringing light to a slow market. 

Then, we’ll talk about the best ways to use it. 

The RAS 12 from Intrepid Solutions ceased operations in 2014. 

The RAS 12 from Intrepid Solutions ceased operations in 2014.

Rise In Popularity For The AR-12

It wasn’t until about 2011 when the AR-12 started gaining popularity and manufacturers began producing their iterations of an Armalite-style shotgun. 

While semi-automatic, box-fed shotguns have been around for quite some time now; the AK-style shotguns have always received more love. For example, consider the Saiga 12, the most well-known magazine-fed shotgun. 

Or the AA-12. 

The AR-12 was slow to catch on. Pump action shotguns like the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 590 have kept their positions with law enforcement as well as the military, along with the Benelli M1014. 

It hasn’t been until recently that we’ve had a good contender for an AR-12, in my opinion. They’re usually bulky, wild, and unreliable with either magazine issues or just issues with the firearm itself. 

But, a company named Genesis Arms has given the AR-12 a chance at becoming one of the best semi-automatic shotguns to date. The firearm in question is called the Gen 12.

The beauty is that you can take an AR-10 lower, slap one of the Genesis uppers, and get to work. 

Plus, it’s relatively slim and lightweight. Eliminating that bulky and rambunctious feeling that you usually get with the AR-12.

It’s an interesting firearm. But the Gen 12 is pretty expensive. 

Genesis Arms Gen 12 SBS. Photo Courtesy of Genesis Arms. 

Genesis Arms Gen 12 SBS. Photo Courtesy of Genesis Arms.

As for the low end, Turkish firearms maker Pazer made an AR-12 that became the light at the end of the tunnel for the AR-12. Like the Gen 12 from Genesis, it’s not as bulky as the AR-12s that came before. And you can get it for a relatively low price. 

Turkish manufactured Panzer 12. Courtesy of Panzer. 

Turkish manufactured Panzer 12. Courtesy of Panzer.

How Does The AR-12 Work?

AR-12s use a similar design to the AR-15—either a direct impingement or a piston-driven operating system to cycle the bolt. 

Except they shoot shotshells instead of bullets like your regular AR-15. Most of the AR-12 controls are positioned the same as the AR-15. 

You know, it’s familiar. The AR-15 is America’s rifle. 

But, the AR-12 doesn’t get much love due to the magazine capacity. While other semi-automatic shotguns like the Benelli M4 hold 6+1 in the tube, the average AR-12 magazine capacity is 5+1.

It’s not a big difference, but that extra shotshell can be the difference. Those styles of semi-auto shotguns are also more reliable since they don’t have to rely on magazines, which is one of the main reliability issues with AR-12s.

There has been a change in the way that AR-12s work, though. Genesis, the makers of the Gen 12 that I mentioned above, used a reciprocating barrel to eject the old shotshell on the first iterations of their shotguns.

 But, since the shotgun used the reciprocating motion of the barrel to cycle, putting the muzzle against a door for breaching did not allow for it. So, they returned to the short recoil system and a fixed muzzle to rid that issue. 

The innovation puts the AR-12 on the map. 

Best Uses For An AR-12

AR-12s can work in a variety of scenarios. 

AR-12s have as much versatility from self-defense to hunting and plinking as your regular shotgun. 

The advantage is quicker reloads, but the downside is general magazine issues on AR-12s.

It’s essential to take all of that into account beforehand, though. It’s not always an issue, but if you’re having trouble with cycling in your AR-12, it’s usually best to consider the magazine and everything else. 

Most AR-12s come with a longer barrel that helps out in the field, whether hunting or using it as an SHTF gun. The Picatinny space on the top of the shotgun is enough to add all sorts of optics. 

You can add the same amount of accessories as any regular Armalite-style rifle. 

The one area that I would not recommend an AR-12 is home defense. I know many believe that shotguns are optimal for home defense, but it serves a better purpose elsewhere. 

I say that due to the heft of AR-12s. They are fairly heavy and only offer five shotshells, whereas other styles of firearms offer you more and are relatively easy to control. 

But that’s just my consensus. 


AR-12s have a promising future if they keep up the pace. It could knock the Saiga 12 off of its throne. But for now, there’s still a lot of work to do. 

Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand the AR-12 platform better and why you should keep your eye on future iterations of these shotguns. For now, I will stick to my pump actions until we see some more progress.

Have fun and happy hunting!