Gun Show Score: High Standard K-1200 Riot Gun


Went to a gun show last weekend. I haven’t been to one for years. Mostly what I remember, junk at high prices.

But I went with a mission, I bought a couple of items I didn’t want any more, and lucky for me, I managed to trade one off. Dollar wise I probably did poorly, but I am happier with what I have now.

This is a High Standard Model K-1200, the Riot 20-8. It is a 12 gauge chambered for 2 3/4 inch shells.
It is pre-1968, so it has no serial number, or factory markings on the receiver at all. The barrel is nicely labeled.

I’m told the previous owner was in the NYPD, and this was one of his guns. I doubt it was a working gun as while it has clearly been racked a few times, it has almost no wear or marks other than that.

The white spots are dust.

Other than the guy scratching his initials WP behind the trigger guard. But other than that, there would be no real way to tell this one apart from another of the same model.

It has absolutely gorgeous machining and nice finish. I’m not a shotgun guy, so when I’ve read so many people talk about how much nicer the old shotguns were I always took it with a grain of salt. When they were right. The action on this is so smooth compared to my Mossberg. I can point this muzzle up, brush up against the action release and it will smoothly slide open under its own weight. The trigger pull smooth, unlike the clunky rough pull of the Mossberg.

I don’t imagine I will shoot it much, and with the lack of a rubber butt pad I think hot loads wouldn’t be very fun. In any event, I love the look and feel of these old riot guns. This might be a keeper.


  1. Of course we old farts know what we’re talking about.

    The worst thing for the American gun buyer has been the “tacti-cool mil-spec” wave of marketing in firearms.

    For those who don’t understand why I get down on “mil-spec,” allow me to elaborate. My first job out of school was working for a defense contractor. For me, the term “mil-spec” means “lowest bid, cut-throat cost cutting, cheapest POS we can ship and still pass the contract requirements” level of quality. People who equate “mil-spec” with “quality” are likely from that segment of the US population who have a) never served, b) never been involved in making materials for the DOD, c) and they don’t pay much of anything in the way of taxes, and they just laugh at reports of $640 hammers.

    I don’t rant about “mil-spec” just in guns. Example: Just this morning, my ass was in a 5-ton military truck that has been repurposed to a fire truck, ferrying it for our VFD. Folks, I don’t care if you get a boner like Bert Gummer over military trucks while you’re standing on the curb, watching them go by in a parade. Once you’ve sat your ass in one and had to move it around, you’ll know that there’s “no there, there.” They’re durable, they might have been cheap, but the idea that they’re something to wish to drive? Utter nonsense. If you still lust after these trucks once you’ve sat your ass in one and had to drive it, then there’s nothing I can do for you: you need some strong therapy and some medication. My nightmare is having to drive that wretched POS two+ hours to a fire.

    Same deal with modern “mil-spec” guns. If you’re willing to toss ludicrous amounts of money after a modern “mil-spec” firearm… well, you do you. Don’t waste my time asking how it can be made “better on a budget.” Something made prior to 1960? Let’s talk. Something made after the Beatles showed up? No.

    Since the early 90’s, I had seen the quality of US firearms go down, down, down, down. Since becoming a gunsmith and handling/disassembling/repairing many more guns than I’d ever see if I were just buying them myself, it is beyond question that in the 1980’s (a decade earlier than I perceived the decline as a gun buyer), the quality started declining – rapidly. At first, the quality decline was seen by only those of us who do detailed strip/re-assembly of firearms. By the 90’s, the rot and progressed to the outside. Today, it’s shit through and through. Sometimes, my fingers get shredded while pulling apart a gun – because the manufacture could not be troubled to take the burrs off the metalwork inside the gun. That’s beyond shoddy – that’s a company that doesn’t care what you think about their product. That company, BTW, is Mossberg. They can’t be bothered to de-burr their action rods.

    When you look back at the fit/finish/workmanship of guns from about 1960, and then you compare them to guns from the 1990’s, there’s no comparison. None. Compare 1960 to today, and all you can do is shake your head and ask “WTF happened?” Well, firearms customers got stupid, that’s what. They’ve been bamboozled that “mil-spec” is a good thing, when it’s a highly dubious appellation to use as an indicator of quality. But it is now what infects the US firearms market. Then they delude themselves by thinking that their dollars are still worth something when purchasing something tangible. Why is it that gun buyers will happily spend $40K (and up) on a pickup to haul their boat, but they’ll piss and whine about spending $2K on a quality shotgun or rifle? When I was a kid, you could buy a pickup for $3500. Is it because the bank won’t give you a loan to buy the shotgun?

    High Standard is (or was) well known for their quality .22LR target pistols. They were popular, accurate and reasonably priced compared to S&W 41’s and Colt “Match Target” pistols. Nicely finished, straight blowback pistols. The 1200 line of shotguns were solid guns, built with steel receivers, and had a basic (not “nice” but basic) finish of blue and basic, low-figure, walnut stocks. You can find 1200’s from the 1960’s for sale in the shotgun market for between $150 and $300. The 1200’s were cheap shotguns in their day – but compared to the shit being shipped out of major companies today, those low-end High Standard shotguns look pretty damn good today. That gives an indication how far we’ve fallen. High Standard fell on tough times in the late 70’s and early 80’s, like so many other quality firearms companies in the US.

    And people wonder why I go on epic rants about the quality of firearms available today…

    • I think a good way to look at mil-spec would be as the bar to entry kind of thing. As in “if its mil-spec then it should work fine (not be high quality but work) and anything less would be assumed to be garbage. Or maybe a better way to say it is “mil-spec” is the minimum a buyer should accept. Which considering its usually lowest bidder at barely passing would make sense.

      In your opinion what company do you think is the biggest offender of poor quality these days?

      • I just made some comments on that after sharing DGs rant as a post. as I said, milspec is a standard. It has max and minimum within that envelope, even the low end meets the performance requirements. It still passes. most companies do not even meet the low end because they cant, they cut corners or flat out lie. When you buy milspec, you know exactly what youa re going to get and what you can count on it for generally speaking. sure a lemon will surface but if all inspections and WC are met, then you got something you know will work, if not look like something from Griffen and Howe. for hard use, that is plenty enough. Discussion on fine target and sporting guns and the higher prices that would come with that now a days is a different matter in my opinion. milspec gives us a proven track record of performance shown in combat for 50 plus years and a price that is hard to beat. Unlike DG, I do not see any downsides to that other than the snake oil marketing gimmicks that shady shit companies have used when it comes to the term “milspec” which we all here know is nothing something we are going to 100 percent get unless we buy a old transferable M16 made pre 86. but 99 percent milspec, like the Colt 6920 us still hard to beat, and the best value of performance and durabilty for your money on the market and I don’t give a shit what anyone claims otherwise

        • Real Mil-spec conformance does have a track record in combat – where Uncle Sugar was the buyer and they have people trained in contract compliance & inspections examining the goods.

          But to my point: on a gun (any gun) claiming conformance to “mil-spec” being sold in the civilian market, who is doing the inspection & conformance testing? Unless it is actual military surplus, and then only surplus’ed after having been accepted as conforming to the specification at some point (eg, like a Garand that has been refurb’ed to specification), then… what do you have? Mil-spec? Maybe not even remotely close to actual specification.

          There’s no one doing compliance testing in the civilian gun world with military specifications. There’s no independent party looking at whatever “mil-spec” specification the manufacture is claiming adherence to, and then doing the prescribed compliance tests (which are also in the typical specification) before shipping the product to the customer. But people think that because someone says it is “mil-spec” that somehow, magically, it’s quality. There’s also little verification as to whether the specification being claimed is all that applicable to the QC issue at hand… but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

  2. Howard,that is a nice looking shotgun,good deal,timing was right!

    Dyspeptic,was that just a opinion piece or was that a full blown rant?And,if not a rant can you go on one?Either way I enjoyed your response and feel the same way about trucks,will always buy a built to the hills or build a built to the hills 70’s backwards trucks.


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