Origin 12 semi-auto shotgun.

   01.12.15

Origin 12 semi-auto shotgun.

The Origin 12 shotgun first came to my attention two years ago at SHOT show Media Day event. I fired a couple of magazines through the AK-like contraption, noted that it worked despite frigid weather and blowing sand, but I wasn’t particularly taken by it. It was just another functional gun with a slightly unusual look; every part that could be skeletonized was to save weight. Looking at it later the same week on the trade show floor, I appreciated the thought that went in the design, but I found the quick take-down capability irrelevant for my use. I did stay in touch with Fostech Outdoors, but mostly because I liked the people.

Two years later, the shotgun has finally been released to the public. Judd Foster from Fostech was passing through town and we met at the range. In the two years that passed, the Origin 12 shotgun has been redesigned very extensively. The folding stock was upgraded with telescoping capability and a very convenient locking mechanism. The magazines became easier to load. Thanks to the changes in the gas system, felt recoil was reduced down to the level of a 7.62×39 AK. I took photos of others playing with it, and then got behind the gun myself.

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All of the controls are immediately reachable from the strong hand. The magazine release can be reached from within the trigger guard (push forward) and also from the side of the magazine well. The bolt can be dropped into battery with the extended trigger finger or with the forward located, non-reciprocating charging handle. Safety lever is in the same position as on AR15 but with shorter arc of travel. It is as easy to apply as to disengage. The gun only weighs 8 pounds and has a good balance, so it can be run effectively with one hand.

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Origin 12 cycles fairly quickly, so we were able to hang four or five ejected empties in the air at once without losing control. The barrel is actually below the pivot point of the stock, so it didn’t rise during rapid fire. It’s refreshing to see good design used to mitigate muzzle flip without resorting to concussive brakes or front-heavy balance. The fluted barrel is not excessively heavy but has enough metal to stand up to heavy firing. It is factory threaded for external muzzle devices. Rem chokes can be used with a Fostech adapter. The quality of the barrel boring is so high that a 12ga steel blank placed at the muzzle will create an air-tight seal! The perfect concentricity provided excellent accuracy with slugs: Brenneke 1oz Home Defense variety cloverleafed at 25 yards even when shot with iron sights. Speaking of iron sights, this shotgun came with protected folding front and rear aperture sights that had three-position rear: small aperture, large aperture, and none. With the latter, wide luminescent horizontal lines on the rear sight protective wings were used for rapid alignment with similarly luminescent front sight.

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The twin gas ports tap near the chamber where the pressure is still high. The gas is then expanded to working pressure and used to cycle the weapon with anything from high power to fairly weak loads. If necessary, the gas port opening can be adjusted using fingers (on a cold gun) or spent casing rim (on a hot weapon). The adjustment is mainly to reduce felt recoil and wear on the weapon because it cycles fairly reliably with a wide range of ammunition. Much of what we used at the range was Portugese BB shot loads of indifferent quality, yet Origin 12 ran reliably. It even cycled frangible slugs designed for range practice with pump shotguns only. The piston is set up to push any accumulated crud out of the gun after each shot, so powder residue and plastic wad shavings can’t cause malfunctions. When we pulled the shotgun apart after about 150 rounds, the gas system was still very clean.

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Box magazines for Origin 12 come in 5, 8, and 10 round capacities. They insert straight up and can be loaded with the bolt closed. Drums holding 20 and 30 rounds are also available. The 30-rounder is almost as wide as the short version of the shotgun with 9.75” barrel is long, giving it a very distinctive appearance. Thanks to extensively skeletonized internals and well ventilated forend, this gun cools efficiently and we have not run into any heat-related problems. Cooling vents are all located off-center, so the sighting plane isn’t invaded by a mirage. Firing 30 rounds rapidly wouldn’t render the weapon too hot to handle while likely terminating whatever realistically plausible problem warranted the barrage. The forend has rails for a vertical foregrip, light, laser, or red dot. Due to the take-down nature of the weapon, optical sights would be best placed on the front half. That way, they would remain zeroed even if moved to another receiver.

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The take-down feature makes a great deal more sense with the folding stock. The entire gun with 18″ barrel can fit into a pistol case of around 19” diagonally, with the space on the side taken up by multiple spare magazines. For an air traveler, that means being able to fit the long gun into a suitcase. For a person going through hostile jurisdictions, it gives lower profile without giving up the firepower. While the lock for the takedown pin can be hand-tightened, it’s recommended that any available lever (such as a pencil or a wrench) be used to lock it in place with more authority. The entire take-down process takes about five seconds, and the shotgun comes back together in less than ten. For particularly tough environments, the gun is available with Nickel Boron surface treatment.

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I asked about the generously sized ejection port and was reminded that the shotgun receiver was designed from the start to accept various other calibers, such as .308Win. That fits very well with the doctrine of similar manual of arms for shotgun and rifle. I also asked about the small and stiff charging handle: a larger folding version is on the way to replace it. Fostech worked on this design for almost two years past their initially announced release date and that attention to detail really showed at the range. It was a fun shotgun to shoot and very comfortable to run. At $2,600 list price, it isn’t cheap, but the cost is well justified by its superior performance and ergonomics.

(Two factual corrections made on 1/14 and noted by italicizing.)

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