By Lewis Potter
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
A study in evolution, the new game gun from Browning is pointable, reliable and pleasing to the eye - and it performed well.
Browning B725 Hunter G1 shotgun.
It was Browning that popularised the over-under with the venerable B25, a collaboration between the father-and son team of John Moses and Val Browning in 1925.
In those days, most over-unders were beautifully hand built, complex and expensive.
What Browning did was design a gun that, while by no means cheap, offered a more affordable option. The key ingredients were strength, good construction and simple lockwork.
Nearly 90 years and a few changes later, including the adoption of a Japanese manufacturing base for most models, Browning still holds true to the principles of the genius who gave the company its name.
The B725 Hunter G1 is a study in evolution rather than revolution. The lines retain that Browning-esque appearance which has been copied so many times, but the B725 has a more streamlined styling around the top of the action body.
The stock keeps the shape that we are familiar with, though the fore-end, with its sharply curved-back shape at the end echoes the styling around the action.
As this is the Hunter model (a game gun to us), it is decorated with pheasants and partridges plump enough to feed on for a week.
WHAT IS NEW?
First of all there is the low action body. It is claimed that this aids faster aiming, more instinctive shooting and a reduction in muzzle flip due to the more inline recoil.
All these things are undoubtedly true, but there will be dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts for the old deep wall action body who aren’t convinced.
There is also the mechanical trigger, which is a real bonus. I have never understood why so few manufacturers have gone down this logical route, as it enhances reliability.
Add to this the option of an auto-safety, and the B725 Hunter looks like a well-thought-out package for the all-round game shooter rather than just another clay gun with only a token gesture towards the needs of the live game Shot.
Other features include the option of barrel lengths (66cm, 71cm and 76cm) and the Inflex II recoil pad, which is designed to impart a downward movement of the stock under recoil.
Quite how effective this feature is with a gun weighing around 7.1/4lb when using gameloads is difficult to determine — it is probably more beneficial to the owner who also does a reasonable bit of clayshooting.
Browning has become known for its interest in back-bored barrels. On the 725 these go under the description Vector Pro barrels, which have a long forcing cone in front of the chamber and fairly big-bore barrels for the gauge size.
The forcing cone is 32mm long, running into the barrel proper measuring 18.8mm in diameter. Under the old system of gauging, this would be 12/1.
At the point of measurement for proof, this gun came out at 18.7mm. As many 12-bores are 18.5mm, this is the kind of bore size calculated to get the old-timers shaking their heads.
The theory is that this reduces recoil and, in conjunction with the choke shapes, produces good shot patterns. The former is true and the choke effect is dependent on the size difference between bore and choke restriction.
It can go a little amiss if you use economy cartridges with hard fibre wads, as this can lead to gas escaping up the side of the wad, reducing pressure and potentially producing poor patterns.
Of course, there is little point in buying a Browning and feeding it cheap cartridges. Stick to good makes and, for some forms of shooting, plastic wads, and you are likely to find that the B725 will perform well.
Barrel performance is also affected by screw-in chokes. The B725 sports Browning’s “Invector DS” chokes, DS standing for double seal. The 80mm long choke tube has a second compression ring at the inner end.
This forms a good seal to prevent gases from the discharge of a cartridge escaping up the sides of the choke tube and depositing carbon. Without regular removal and cleaning, standard chokes can suffer from corrosion, even in the threads.
Subsequently, choke removal can become almost impossible without damaging the thread.
The double-seal system greatly reduces the chances of this, but that does not mean maintenance can be ignored.
To test the seal I fired it with blackpowder cartridges, the residue of which usually gets everywhere. In this case it did not even make it past the first seal.
HANDLING AND TESTING
So much for all the technical bits, but what does it feel like to handle? Very good — the balance is such that it feels lighter than it weighs.
I liked the lower lines, which make it much more of a game gun, and it is effortlessly pointable. The length of pull measures just less than 15in, which works for me.
A touch more cast on the stock would not be amiss for anyone broad-shouldered, but it pointed where I aimed with both my eyes open.
It was smooth to use with a variety of game loads up to 32g. With 3in chambers, I tried the B725 with a few 50g loads — all the work that Browning has done has paid off and it was not particularly unpleasant, despite the weight.
I tried a variety of cartridges to get the best patterns at the distances tested.
The chokes are designed to produce the best of their patterns at different distances.
The recommended chokes for optimum performance are full at 35m, three-quarter at 30m, half at 25m, quarter at 20m and cylinder at 15m.
Obviously it is still possible to get reasonable patterns either side of those distances.
For clayshooters operating at set distances, this is clearly an advantage and for driven game it could just give an edge to performance.
For the kind of mixed shooting one gets with walked-up game it probably has no great advantage over any other method of regulating choke.
The B725 Hunter G1 is a distinctive gun, though it does retain features of the B525. However, this sort of evolution of design is often better appreciated by shooters than something outstandingly new and revolutionary.
When you add up the various changes and improvements, it is quite a package; new enough to be an improvement, while retaining sufficient old familiar features still to be acceptable to those of a traditional bent.
It is extremely pointable, and comes with a variety of chokes.
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