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Preview: new Browning A5

The new “Browning A5” has been a long time coming and is the last shotgun of any consequence that I'm trying to review for 2012. Catalogs from several manufacturers for 2013 are already in process, the new product announcements invariably trickle out in October, and the entire cycle repeats itself. It happens every year.

For example, Browning uploaded the A5 “Come Hell or High Water” video to YouTube on October 6, 2011. Aptly called a “Teaser Video,” the new A5 has been more vaporware for the last year than anything else. I did shoot a few prototypes at the SHOT Show in January, but I'm always reticent to put any great value into brief experiences with tool room guns. The actual production article, the only ones we can every buy, may be similar to prototypes, or not. No way to tell.


A few A5s are trickling out. Though promised one by late July, that hasn't happened yet. Browning does have some inventory on them, but apparently they are still fiddling around in the allocation stage. The top Pro Shop in this area is Mega Sports, now in the middle of a large expansion. On my last visit, they had exactly one A5 in stock, a 28 inch synthetic camo version. I supposed not everyone goes through their day with digital calipers and trigger gauges in their pocket, but I do.

The sample 28 inch synthetic A5 at Mega-Sports weighed 6.75 lbs. on the nose. The trigger break was right at 5 lbs. In the case of the prototypes at the SHOT show, the walnut versions were quite a bit lighter than the synthetic. I won't know exactly what my 28 inch walnut weighs until I have it in hand, of course, but if other reports are to be believed it should be right at 6-1/2 pounds. This makes it the lightest Browning brand 12 gauge autoloader in decades. My Browning Double Auto “Twentyweight” weighs 6-3/8 pounds and is naturally a fixed choke, two shot, with a 26-1/2 inch vent rib barrel. Calling the new A5 the lightest regular capacity twelve gauge Browning autoloader in history sounds just about right.

There is one spectacularly odd thing I noticed about the A5 MODB example that I examined: a center bead. It is really a dumb idea, as you have a red tubular bead at the muzzle, the gun comes up beautifully, but the little white hemispherical bead completely obliterates the front bead. It is like the fat fellow getting a shoe shine that has to take the guy's word for it. It serves no purpose at all, and mine will be promptly removed and thrown in the trash if it comes equipped with the same affliction. Browning isn't alone in this peculiar configuration: I intentionally broke off the center bead from my Benelli M2 20 gauge right after initially shouldering the gun. I have to wonder if anyone actually has any hunting experience with the hunting guns they sell?
The trigger seemed a bit better than average for a Browning autoloader, at least the break weight is less than the gun: something I can't say about the Remington Versa-Max, a bloated plastic heavyweight as a field gun at just under eight pounds, with a trigger that is even heavier. Good field triggers out of the box on repeating shotguns are hard to find, with only the Ithaca M37 and the Franchi Affinity qualifying as of late.

There has been a lot of banter comparing the new A-5 to the classic Browning A-5, but there isn't much reason to go there. The hump or semi-hump as opposed to a round receiver has been used on the A500R (above), the A500G, the B-80, and several Browning Gold and Silver models. No news there.

The new A5 Hunter is better-looking than most autoloading shotguns offered today, at least having a polished barrel and legitimate walnut furniture. Still, it is fairly plain, as it it is nor more attractive than a vintage B-80 or Beretta 303, etc. The only eyesore is the bolt latch, which protrudes from the bottom of the receiver. From the owners manual:

The bolt latch performs two functions:
• Allows the slide assembly to be locked in the open position when
the magazine is unloaded.
• Releases a shell from the magazine to be loaded into
the chamber.

As to what the new A5 should cycle, the owners manual states: “A5 shotguns will shoot all 12 gauge, 2¾" and 3", 1 oz. and heavier factory lead and steel field loads. However, due to variations in the manufacture of ammunition, and to help ensure reliability, always use ammunition that is powerful enough to cycle the action completely.”

The new “Invector DS” choke tube system has already caused some confusion, for in the 725 Citori they do not perform as marked, not even close. What is good about them is the lighter, more responsive barrels that go along with them, with less of an unsightly bulge as you'd see with a standard Invector 12 gauge barrel. Though Browning has apparently really stuffed up the choke constrictions here in the Made in France choke tubes, Briley already has aftermarket choke tubes available which I will discuss when I have an A5 to pattern, and George Trulock should have tubes sometime around the end of the year as well.

Above, my 1956 Double Auto "Twentyweight" . . . the only 12 gauge Browning autoloader that I'd call a pleasure to carry all day.

This is just a preview, not a full-fledged review, but there has been so much interest in this model that I thought I say what I could. There's enough here to get excited about: it is the first Browning 12 gauge autoloader since the Double Auto that I'd consider fun to carry, it retains the industry-leading shell-handling (Speed Loading) that I love, and weighs only a quarter pound more than a 20 gauge alloy B-80 or Beretta 303, and essentially the same as one of my all-time favorite shotguns, the A-5 Magnum Twenty at 6.5 lbs., perhaps even an ounce or two less when fitted with a 26 inch barrel.

Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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