Straight shooter: Our gun expert appraises your rare hunting guns


Winchester Model 12 20-gauge

I have a 20-gauge Winchester Model 12 that has been in my family for three generations (above). I checked an online source that identified the year of manufacture as 1939. The gun is in overall good condition, with a 28-inch full-choke barrel and a solid rib. The serial numbers on the receiver and magazine tube match, indicating they are the original factory pairing.

The only detraction is that some of the screw heads show a bit of wear, and there are a couple of small chips in the semi-pistol grip on the stock. What would you estimate the value of this gun to be?


I’m also interested in the appearance of the surface finish on the receiver. It has a distinct brown patina that is quite different from the rest of the gun, which is a more standard blue finish. Is this brown finish an original factory feature or has the gun been modified at some point in its life? Thank you for attention; I look forward to your reply.

Vaughan Allan

Calgary, Alberta  


A 20-gauge Model 12 is a nice little gun—I wouldn’t mind having one myself! I can’t think of why the finish is so much more worn on the receiver of your gun than on the barrel and magazine tube. I thought perhaps they were mismatched, but your information on the matching serial numbers indicates that isn’t the case.

For a while after the Model 12 was discontinued in 1963, it remained in strong demand for a few years, with some specialty models available on a limited production basis. Since it was such a tough, durable gun, it was popular with dedicated waterfowl hunters in places such as Arkansas and Saskatchewan. When the grown-ups started letting me tag along on duck shoots in the early 1960s, it seemed three out of four hunters used Winchester 12s, while the rest carried Remington pumps. Today, practically all serious waterfowlers seem to use semi-autos. I haven’t seen a Model 12 in the field for decades.

While they may be in less demand among shooters, Model 12s are still valued by collectors. Since more than two million were made, however, they are not rare. So, for them to have any significant value, they have to stand out in some way, such as being in excellent condition, or featuring engraving or an unusual gauge or barrel length.

The fact that your shotgun is a 20-gauge adds value, as it was the third most popular gauge produced (after 12s and 16s). A regular 12-gauge Model 12 in condition similar to yours would likely be worth $250 to $300. For a 20-gauge, the price would be more like $350 to $400.