Browning Gold Superlight 12 Gauge FLD Hunter

The tested gun is the big brother to Browning's Gold 20 Superlight, offered in 12 gauge with three inch chambers. This example was the 26 inch barrel model. As with the new Gold 20, you can expect a weight savings due to the new titanium magazine tube and other subtleties. The FLD models feature a semi-hump, squared back receiver design as well as a shim-adjustable stock. The premium features of the Gold line, that being the speed loading and a magazine cut-off are retained.

The gun weighs 7 lbs. 2 ounces hanging from my electronic trigger gauge, within a few ounces of the Browning-published nominal weight. As you might imagine, with gas operation and a well-fitted, supplied recoil pad of medium durometer recoil is very mild.

The trigger breaks at 6 lbs. 5 oz., better than average in today's market . . . but still far heavier than I'd prefer. It seems that most shotguns on the market today are in need of a trigger job to get things in what I consider a reasonable range of 4-1/2 pounds or so. Browning's triggers have been heavier than necessary for a long while, and I don't like that one bit. Nevertheless, heavy triggers are apparently driven by litigation-no matter how wrong-headed or frivolous it may be. Browning may not be great, but I suppose as long as they are better average there isn't all that much to kick about.

The profiled safety on the new Golds leaves me cold. While aesthetically pleasing, as it follows the contour of the receiver, it is a big step backward from the standard flat, triangular safety of the old Golds. It is no issue in warm weather, but with cold, gloved hands I found it extremely awkward to get off quickly. I just plain don't like it.

Right now, the Browning Gold gas action is easily the best on the market, making those with seven-piece forearm nuts (Beretta 391) and loose O rings that you slide over a magazine tube look just plain silly. With normal hunting use, it requires scant little maintenance. When you do clean it, there is an accessible one-piece "active valve" that slides off in moments, making a quick wipe of the magazine tube easy. You don't have a bunch of loose parts jiggling about to concern yourself with-- something most shooters will appreciate. Another subtle thing to appreciate about the Gold is the fairly quiet operation of the action, compared to all the screeching, sliding, and rattling of some gas guns.

Though I've mentioned it before, Browning's speed loading is a great feature, and far more handy than you might think. Once you start using it, you'll not want to be without it. It is nice to continually feed shells in from the bottom and a handy time-saver when you never have to hit a bolt release button.

The Browning "Grade I" wood is better than you'll see on most shotguns. That and the new receiver accents make this gun very attractive. There are enough Gold models and configurations out there to suit anyone at the present. I couldn't get this gun to jam; apparently the continual tweaking of the gas system by Browning engineering has it essentially perfected.

There never will be such thing as an "all-around gun," though folks keep asking what the best one might be. The light weight we covet for all day carry is moot on the clays fields. Whatever features and benefits we think we need can never compensate for personal gun fit: not even close. Yet, with speed-loading, reasonable carry weight, user shim-adjustments, generous magazine capacity, good handling, simple maintenance, soft shooting, and proven reliability . . . this Browning Gold three inch 12 gauge comes as close to the "mythical best all-arounder" as any shotgun on the market ever has.

Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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