The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun (Italy)

The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun was produced by an Italian gun-making company Luigi Franchi SpA between 1986 and 2005. It was specifically designed for military and law enforcement applications, upon the request from the Italian military and the Carabineri (a para-military law enforcement service). Produced in several minor versions, the Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun was an evolution of the SPAS-12 shotgun of the same maker, offering a more versatile use and more firepower thanks to the use of the detachable box magazines.



The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun

The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun. An early version with a fixed shoulder stock


The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun saw the service with the Italian military and law enforcement; it was also purchased by some law enforcement units in Europe, Asia and the Latin America. It was available as a civilian weapon too, although its weight and bulk made it poorly suited for hunting. Other drawbacks of this gun were somewhat complex disassembly for maintenance, and, more important, very limited availability of the spare magazines which were usually sold at a rather high prices. What probably killed this gun, however, was the American Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which blocked importation of the SPAS-15 to the most prolific gun market in the world. Despite this fact, brutal “military” looks made this gun a minor cult item among many computer gamers, as this gun is present in some of the highly popular titles such as the Rainbow Six series, Battlefield, Max Payne and a number of others.


The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun.

The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun. The variant with a folding shoulder stock


Besides the standard “dual selectable action” (manual pump or semi-automatic), the SPAS-15 was also available as a strictly semi-automatic “military only” variant, known as the SPAS-15-MIL/S shotgun. This gun was adapted to fire special “military only” high-power 12-gauge ammunition, developed in Italy by Fiocci and labelled with the black base and letters “SPAS MIL” on the hulls. This ammunition, which was available in several loads including the buckshot, breaching slugs and other special loads, was using modified shotgun shells with thicker rims, to make it unusable in the standard commercial guns of the same caliber. Subsequently, the SPAS-15-MIL/S shotgun has a modified chamber that could accept both “special military” and commercial 12/70 loads.


The semi-automatic only shotgun SPAS-15-MIL/S

The semi-automatic only SPAS-15-MIL/S shotgun was specifically developed for the military use


The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun is a gas operated, semi-automatic weapon which can be easily converted to manual “pump action” cycling and back within a second or two. This “selectable action” is useful mostly for the law enforcement or the home defense situation, where a rapid transition between the low-powered less-lethal and full-power “lethal” rounds could be required. A simple change of the magazine and a quick operation of the action switch, built into the sliding forend are required for such a transition. To operate the switch, user has to press the button at the top of the forend and move it all the way forward for the semi-automatic action, or pull it slightly back until it locks there for the pump action. The selected mode is indicated in the red letters on the cover, which is visible next to the forend at its front (“Auto”) or at its rear (“Pump”).



An illustration from a factory manual for the SPAS-15 shotgun, which displays how the automatic or manual mode of operation is selected.

An illustration from a factory manual for the SPAS-15 shotgun, which displays how the automatic or manual mode of operation is selected.


The gas operated action is somewhat reminiscent of the Armalite AR-18 rifle, as it features a short stroke gas piston and a bolt group with a rotating bolt, which rides on dual guide rods inside the stamped steel receiver. Ammunition is fed from the single-stack box magazines, containing six rounds each. An automated bolt hold-open device is provided to facilitate faster reloads, but there’s no dedicated bolt release button or lever. To close the bolt over the loaded shell or an empty chamber, an empty magazine must be removed first, and the bolt group has to be slightly retracted from its locked position by the cocking handle. The cocking handle is located at the top of the receiver, making it fully ambidextrous. However, the integrated carrying handle makes the access to the cocking handle to be a bit uncomfortable. The SPAS-15 shotgun features a manual safety switch, located at the front left side of the trigger guard. An additional automated grip safety blocks the trigger unless fully depressed by the firing hand.


The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun. The variant with a folding shoulder stock

The Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun. The variant with a folding shoulder stock


The SPAS-15 shotgun is equipped with the rifle-type sights. Barrel is cylinder bored, and can be fitted with external screw-on chokes if desired. The early variants of the Franchi SPAS-15 shotgun featured a fixed wooden stock or a side-folding stock made from alloy tubes. The latter variant incorporated a side-folding plastic shoulder stock.


Type: Selective semi-auto (Gas operated, rotating bolt) or manual pump action
Gauge: 12
Chamber: 70mm (2 1/2″).
Barrel length: 450 mm
Overall length: 1000 mm (750mm with butt folded)
Weight: 3.9 kg empty, less magazine
Magazine: 6 rounds detachable box