2011 Browning Maxus Sporting: Worth a Lot More Than a Look

The new Browning Maxus Sporting is a great looking gun. That simple observation wouldn't be particularly noteworthy except for the avalanche of splendidly horrific looking guns that are out there today. Recently, the evil spawn of ground-up garbage can lid stocks and rough, unfinished metal (often called “matte”) seems to be sweeping the nation. Plastic has its place, of course. I can't say I long for the days of glass milk jugs. Just because plastic works well for a milk jug is no compelling reason to try to make a gun out of it. I suppose if it is formed from a black plastic milk jugs you can call it tactical and that way you can charge more for the blow-molded application of ugly. Use two different colored milk jugs, add in a ground-up garbage can lid, and now you can call it a composite.

There is something not quite right about a new “low-maintenance” finish when the finish itself looks fifty years old when it comes out of the box. There are plenty of Ron Popeil – Earl Scheib commemoratives available these days. So, when a shotgun comes along that does not look like it can scramble eggs in the shell or has been painted anytime, any color I confess to be pleased. While some may long for the days of leisure suits and triple-worsted polyester, I can't say I'm one of them. Recycling is a good thing, we need to do more of it, but guns don't have to look recycled unless they are supposed to be microwave safe or something.

The new Browning Maxus Sporting is best described as an upscale edition of the walnut-stocked Maxus Hunter. What you get with the Maxus Sporting is upgraded wood, extensive laser-engraving, a jeweled bolt, and five choke tubes. It is also equipped with a small, unobtrusive center bead, Hi-Viz light pipe type front sights, and comes in a plastic hard case. Retailing for $1630, street price is currently in the $1450 area against $1100 or so for the three inch Maxus Hunter.

The tested article weighed in at 7 lbs., 3 oz. via calibrated Lyman electronic scale. There is no magazine cut-off on the Maxus Sporting, cleaning up the left side of the receiver a bit, but it retains Speed-Loading and the rest of the usual Maxus features. They include the Vector Pro forcing cone, a .742 in. nominal diameter Invector Plus barrel, the Speed Lock Forearm, Inflex recoil pad, adjustment shims and spacer, and so forth. It is good weight for a sporting twelve, fast shouldering, fast handling, yet still smooth. It is also light enough where it is enjoyable on the dove field or chasing pheasants where a 7-3/4 pound or over shotgun can be a real drag by the end of the day, literally.
It is the softest-shooting shotgun of its weight bracket on the market today with 1-1/8 oz. and similar intensity loads.

This shouldn't come as any great surprise as the Browning series of Active valve genre guns has always been soft shooting. This is enhanced here by the Inflex recoil pad a bit, compared to previous generation Golds, but there is no gimmickry present to isolate the action of the gun from your shoulder. As a result, this Maxus an excellent, stable feel to it without the annoying feeling of the buttstock constantly running to and fro beneath your cheek. The Maxus isn't perfect, though: it has a crisp trigger, but it is far too heavy breaking at over 6-3/4 lbs. It needs a trip to Bob at Precision Sports in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, like most all Browning autoloader and slide-action triggers do. The trigger break weight is just unacceptable out of the box, as far as I'm concerned.

The Maxus Sporting has a distinctly tapered vent rib. The buttstock has been changed in subtle ways, with pistol grip that is a marked improvement for me, getting the hand farther away from the trigger guard during carry. This is an important improvement for me, personally, as with the standard Maxus I can easily knock the safety off with the knuckle of my forefinger. All this is trivia for the clays course, but for hunting it is not. To be fair, I've not heard anyone else refer to this as an issue so suffice it to say that for me, this Maxus model has an improved pistol grip and fits me the best of all Maxus models.
The published specs are as follows:

Maxus Sporting Twelve Gauge

Magazine Capacity: 4
Barrel Length: 28"
Nominal Overall Length: 49 1/4"
Nominal Length of Pull: 14 1/4"
Nominal Drop at Comb: 1 3/4"
Nominal Drop at Heel: 2"
Nominal Weight: 7 lbs.
Chokes Included: Improved Modified,  Full,  Modified,  Improved Cylinder,  Skeet 
Chamber Size: 3"
Rib Width: 8-6mm Tapered
Wood Finish: Gloss
Stock / Grip: High Grade Walnut
U.S. Suggested Retail: $1,629.99

You can trick the Maxus action to lock up, or at least I can. If you de-cock the gun then put the safety on, the safety cannot easily be disengaged nor can the action easily be re-cocked easily. Rather than pound on the breech handle, I elected to take out the trigger guard and manually re-cock the trigger. The “fix” is really no fix at all, just don't do that. If you de-cock or otherwise dry-fire your Maxus, you might not want to push the safety to the “on” position until you re-cock it.

There is some Val Browning present in the Maxus. It was Val Browning who designed his Double Auto to get rid of the aesthetically vulgar fore end nut. No forearm nut is present on the Maxus, so all of the welded on forearm nuts and POI shifts due to thermal barrel expansion are gone as well. Another thing you see a lot of, in clays guns, are “improved bolt releases.” Even some improved bolt releases are “further improved” with garish aftermarket add-on bolt releases. They often look like cheap survival-style can-openers.

It was Val Browning who patented the two-piece shell carrier, giving his Dad's A-5 “Speed-Loading.” You have speed loading on the Maxus as well, meaning the first shell loaded from beneath the receiver goes directly into the chamber and the bolt automatically closes. You won't need any improved bolt release with a Maxus. In fact, you don't have to hit the bolt release button at all, you just feed shells from the bottom of the receiver into the gun the same way every time.

The dilemma a few shoppers will find is comparing the $1100 street price Maxus Hunter against this $1450 street price Maxus Sporting. For me, personally, it is easy to pick the Maxus Sporting as it fits me so much better right out of the box. That alone does it, though the upgraded wood, engraving, and the tapered rib would likely do it for many folks. It is a great looking, great handling, very soft-shooting autoloader. The flaw is the trigger, simply unreasonably heavy. It is even more unreasonably heavy for a “sporting gun.” I'd consider a trigger job a necessity. The rest of the Maxus is superb. There is a myth out there that autoloading shotguns, as a class, are poor handling shotguns compared to many doubles. This myth is true. There are reasons for the sluggish handling and poor balance of autoloaders. A lot of it is how there are weighted, meaning center mass and weight between the hands. Magazine tubes, gas arrays, barrel rings, threaded rods, and forearm caps are not between the hands so balance and handling invariably suffer.

Belgian A-5s are often very good handling shotguns compared to some autoloaders. In the case of the Browning A-5, you have a massive steel receiver between your hands to mitigate what isn't between your hands. The same is true of the steel receiver versions of the older Browning B-80 compared to the alloy versions. The steel receiver adds weight, of course, but that weight is between your hands making for a smoother, better balanced gun.

Val Browning got rid of a heavy barrel ring in his Double Automatic, with a diminutive recoil lug sliding into a barrel guide. Val Browning got rid of the forearm cap as well, using a single steel drift pin to attach the forearm and also got rid of the tubular magazine. These are some of the reasons Double Autos hand so well, even in alloy receiver Twelvette and Twentyweight configurations. In the Maxus, it is the elimination of the barrel ring and the forearm cap that helps its handling, even though it has an alloy receiver with an aluminum trigger guard.

With one ounce loads in the Maxus, there is almost no noticeable recoil or gun movement. You can just barely feel the action working; it is just a click and the clay breaks. It is a lot of fun to shoot and not at all burdensome to carry. There is no excuse for a factory trigger this heavy on shotgun. I have been told that it is on advice of lawyers that Browning repeaters have excessively triggers. That may be, but apparently Browning uses a different set of attorneys to consult about their shotguns than they do their X-Bolt rifle, which has a excellent trigger right out of the box. Regardless of where it comes from it is only fair to consider the poor Maxus trigger against other shotguns that have far lighter, superior triggers. Presumably, the manufacturers of the other shotguns have attorneys that they get advice from as well, and they somehow manage to produce sporting shotguns without triggers this annoying, distractingly heavy.

In any case, both the previously reviewed Maxus Hunter and this Maxus Sporting score big for being a pair of the most attractive mainstream autoloaders being produced today, without excessive weight, recoil, and pig on a snow shovel muzzle heavy sluggishness. This latest Maxus gas action is the cleanest yet from Browning. The Maxus' “Speed Load Plus” speed loading and speed unloading is the best shell-handling system found on an autoloader today as well. You might as well schedule your trigger job when you order your Maxus, but other than that this is a superbly satisfying shotgun.

Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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