Does mid-range mean middle of the road? Alex Flint puts the Browning B725 Hunter G3 to the test.
The B725 from Browning has been out in the wild for some time now. The range has been steadily expanding since 2012 with a variety of finishes and weights in order to compete in seemingly every conceivable section of the over-under market. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, given the ongoing trend towards long guns designed for serious game shooting, that this is the first 12 bore variant of what is best considered Browning’s ‘standard’ gun to be available with 32” barrels. Given I felt previous iterations of this model were noticeably barrel heavy, an even bigger B725 was an interesting prospect. Pleasingly, however, our test gun proved to be anything but the dull beast its weight and dimensions might suggest.
The G3 in the gun’s title indicates it has a grade-three finish, below the top-end G5 finish but above the Premium finish effectively marking the entry of the B725 range. To my eye it is certainly successful and a significant improvement over the Premium and Black and Gold models, though without the distinctive carved teardrops and Schnabel-style fore-end of the G5 guns.
Perhaps the clearest area of improvement is in the excellent engraving design, featuring game-scene vignettes on each side of the action body with pheasants and partridges taking flight. These are surrounded by lovely, bold acanthus-scroll engraving, a huge step up from the ‘sunbeam’ borders featured on entry-level guns. This foliate theme continues throughout the gun, with small patches appearing around the action and on parts such as the trigger guard and fore-end release lever. Also worth noting is a rather handsome design on the top lever featuring a pheasant’s head.
Away from the sides of the action and obvious places such as the top-lever, the engraving does appear rather shallow, although it is a significant step above the lower-grade models. Indeed, at least from the point of view of engraving, one might consider the grade-three finish to be the sweet spot of the range, as the grade-five guns can look a little busy.
Elsewhere, finishing is very good indeed and the wood is particularly attractive for a gun at this price point. As with all Brownings, the wood sports a dark-oil finish and is frankly streets ahead of what Beretta can offer at a similar price. The wood on our test gun displayed some attractive figuring and though the overall effect was strong, some visible pores make it clear the wood could take more oil. Should you be so inclined, the gun could doubtless be given some extra attention by a good gunsmith to develop a stunning finish.
As is common on all new mass-produced Browning guns, the chequering has been well executed and is very fine, however it was also coarse on our test gun – though clearly this will ease with use.
Comfortable and secure in the front hand
In spite of the shallow action of the B725 compared to its predecessor the B525, this still looks a large gun, thanks in part to a chunky and quite long rounded fore-end. Though this length means the gun is comfortable and secure in the front hand even when going for tall driven targets – the grip staying firmly on the wooden parts and away from hot barrels – it is difficult not to notice how much wood appears to have been left in the fore-end.
Although the fore-end has been rounded and shaped to slope down to the action body, this part of the gun still seems quite large – especially in contrast to the stock where the wood-to-metal fit is excellent and there appears to have been little left to spare. The presence of the ejectors in the fore-end is a reasonable explanation as to why the fore-end is so large, but it is a shame.
This Browning is rather barrel heavy, especially our test gun with its 32” barrels. However this may actually be a boon. Very few sportsmen will be looking to buy a gun in this specification unless they want to take on high birds or challenging clays, and for those shooters, game and clay alike, this gun will definitely be rewarding. The length of the barrel and shallow action body means there is very little muzzle flip, and recoil is dealt with superbly, requiring deliberate, thoughtful shooting for success.
Visually, this is the sweet spot in the B725 range, and a model in the same specifi cation as our test gun would be excellent for high-bird shooting. Those looking for an all-rounder would probably be best considering a gun with 28” barrels.
View from the gun shop – Bill Elderkin
This is an interesting gun for Browning as it offers a very sought-after specifcation and level of finish at a price point its nearest rivals don’t currently match. This is Browning’s B725 set up for high birds and it shows – it comes in a posh black Opaline case and weighs in at just a shade under seven pounds and seven ounces.
At grade three you get a good quality of wood, well finished, and some more intricate and attractive engraving designs. The wood on this test gun is quite well figured and has been beautifully finished, bringing out the interesting patterns of the grain.
The shape of the B725 is an improvement over the B525, and the manufacturer has made enough changes to make the gun stand out over its predecessor, though the shape of the trigger guard is perhaps a little oblong and looks a tad unrefined as a result.
Many buyers would also doubtless prefer to be able to have their new gun without a big sticker running down the barrel telling everyone who made it – though these are easy to remove.
The B725 has so far proved very reliable and is easily repaired or adjusted. For example, the act of making the gun autosafe using the parts provided in the box takes a matter of minutes. You do get a lot of gun for your money here; really its nearest competitor is a model made by Browning’s other well-known shotgun brand, the Miroku MK60 in grade fi ve – though these come with fixed chokes rather than multichokes as in the Browning.
Beretta isn’t so fond of putting long barrels on its guns and you are unlikely to be able to get anything from the likes of Rizzini and Caesar Guerini of a similar specification at such a competitive price.
In the field
You will spend a lot of time thinking about the size of the fore-end on this gun, as the balance of the B725 is biased towards the front hand. As noted in previous reviews, the B725 makes its weight felt very much forward of the hinge pin thanks in part to Browning’s Invector DS multichokes fitted as standard.
This was exaggerated even further on our test gun, where the long 32” barrels push the point of balance well past the hinge-pin. This forward bias does make for a pretty consistent mounting experience as one cannot help but lead with the front hand. The gun moves very well, if a little deliberately, and shoots pleasingly flat, as is common with Browning guns.
Having a mechanical action rather than one reliant upon inertia for cocking the second barrel means you should have no problem shooting a variety of loads, and also makes for really satisfying trigger pulls. No matter what load you put through the gun it will handle recoil well.
Both myself and instructor Bruce Marks shot with considerable success on a range of targets at Grange Farm Shooting School and came away impressed. The most striking aspect of shooting our test gun was the excellent visual picture available when shooting. While concentrating on the target you were still aware of what the barrels were doing thanks to their extra length ensuring they appeared clearly in my peripheral vision. Interestingly, I always knew how I had missed a target when shooting this Browning and this is no doubt thanks to the clear sight picture provided.
Any fears I had about the balance of the gun proved unfounded, though it did require a more thoughtful style of shooting than perhaps comes naturally to me. The weight and length does mean our test gun is a little more specialised than a standard model and as such I would be hesitant to take it out on a day’s walked-up or rough shooting where it would probably prove a little too unwieldy. You’d also start to feel its heft after a few hours.
As a high-bird gun, either in the field or at the clay ground, this Browning will surely excel and is easy to recommend.
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