If these guns don't give the anti-gun folks palpitations, I don't know what will.

They give me the willies just looking at them!

SPAS-12 was imported to the U.S. in the mid-1980s, but despite efforts by Italian manufacturer, Franchi S.p.a., to tone down the threatening 'look' of this shotgun, to get it past U.S. gun import restrictions (can you say assault ban?), the SPAS-12 (Sporting Purpose Automatic Shotgun) was found to be anything but sporting by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Guess it was the gun's perforated heat shield (to prevent operator burns), folding metal stock and pistol grip that alarmed the folks at ATF. Doesn't everyone hunt cottontails with such a scattergun?

The SPAS-12 was designed by Italian gun makers in the 1970s with Italian police and the military in mind. Its successor, SPAS-15 arrived on the American scene at the turn of the 21st century.

The SPAS-12 was produced from 1979 to 2000. It tips the scales at about 10 pounds and has an overall length of 41 inches with the stock extended. Folded, the gun has an appreciably lower profile, with the hook/metal stock used as a neat carrying handle or an aid to single-hand shooting in semi-auto.

Perhaps the coolest feature of SPAS-12 and SPAS-15 are these guns' ability to convert quickly from pump action to semi-automatic by depressing a button located atop the guns' fore grip and sliding/locking the grip into place. In such manner, semi-auto operation can be converted quickly to pump action in case the operator wants to load special low-pressure rounds like bean bag or tear gas rounds.

Both guns have an effective range out to about 130 feet.

SPAS-12 has an 8-round, internal tube magazine (1 round in the hole), and the gun is chambered for 2 3/4-inch 12 gauge. Of note: The gun's rate of fire is 4 rounds per second in semi-auto.

That's laying down some lead!

SPAS-12 has either wood (earlier versions) or synthetic furniture.

The gun has varying barrel lengths, making the platform multi-purpose and user friendly.

SPAS-15 has a 3- or a 6-round detachable box magazine.

Although a handful of European and Asian countries maintain SPAS-12 or 15 in their arsenals, neither gun has sold copious numbers to civilian, military or paramilitary markets. That said, if you own either weapon, especially the SPAS-12, consider yourself a fortunate gun collector, indeed.