Browning CCS 525 Elite Double Express rifle.
Double rifles are not for everyone, but they do attract admiring glances when you show one to fellow shooters.
There is something timeless and elegant about the lines of a double rifle, be it a side-by-side or an over-under, that harks back to a time when life ran at a slower pace.
The Browning CCS is one such rifle.
The over-under double barrel arrangement is enveloped in a high-grade walnut stock and its overall handling characteristics are appealing.
Usually, you would expect to see a rifle like this for running game such as boar.
Indeed, as Britain?s boar population increases, more doubles are being sold, but they also make an excellent woodland stalking tool.
As its name suggests, the Elite model is a higher-grade version of the 525 range with a better walnut stock, engraving and steel action. It is available in 8x57JRS, 9.3x74R and 30R Blaser.
The design is certainly biased for the use of open sights, as the comb is low, but this also helps in the swift, solid, good handling characteristics of the rifle.
Typically Continental in styling, the stock has a hog?s back profile with a Bavarian cheekpiece that has ribbed or fluted detail to the lower edge ? a nice touch.
The slim plastic recoil pad is less good, especially considering the calibre of the test rifle of 9.3x74R, which kicks a bit, so a rubber pad would have been appreciated.
The Elite has a grade three walnut stock and the upgrade shows in an attractive grain structure and colour with an oiled finish, making the Browning a handsome rifle to hold and a practical one as well.
The fore-end is slim and narrow with a cosmetic Tulip tip that prevents your supporting hand from riding too far forward.
The chequering is cut and well-defined and has a tartan pattern.
ACTION, TRIGGER AND ENGRAVING
The standard 525 model has an aluminium action chassis, which is made of an aircraft-grade light alloy that has high-tensile steel inserts at strategic points to strengthen it.
This allows a light yet strong action.
However, the Elite has a full steel action, which I prefer as it gives the 525 a better feel when handling and helps to soak up some of the recoil.
The classic over-under design locks positively with Browning?s oversized hinge pin and the top-mounted tang opening lever is smooth yet solid.
It has a sliding manual safety catch beneath that selects either the top or bottom barrel to fire first.
The trigger is a single-stage unit that activates or cocks the hammer for the second barrel with the recoil from the first shot.
There are double ejectors and extractors that only eject the fired cartridge?s case and it cleanly and briskly throws them to the rear.
The engraving by machine is rather good with a combination of scroll work and animal scenes.
The roebuck looks attractive against the greyed steel finish, which looks less gaudy than the polished alloy finish on the standard 525 model.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
The 525 Elite comes with a test target at 60m that shows two shots from both the top and bottom barrels only 1.5in apart ? this is very good for a factory double rifle. Regulated for Norma Alaska ammunition, I bought these, as well as some RWS factory loads.
The Norma shot to the point of aim and within 1in with a muzzle velocity of 2,284fps and 3,302ft/lb of energy.
Similarly, the RWS, with a bullet weight of 285-grain, shot 2,232fps and 3,154ft/lb energy, but the grouping was not to point of zero and was 2.25in, so a different regulation barrel ring is in order here.
Trying to replicate the accuracy of the Norma loads was difficult, as subtle changes in velocity or bullet weights can greatly affect the point of impact and bullet convergence in any double rifle.
The 285-grain weight is the best bullet weight.
I did manage some nice 2in groups from the Hornady 286-grain bullet propelled by a load of 64-grains of RL19 powder, but considering this rifle will only see light of day on special boar trips, I would just get a couple of boxes of Norma factory ammunition.
This is a fast-handling rifle, designed for swift-moving game in cover. The barrels on the CCS are therefore short at 22in, and feel even shorter, as the receiver length is not the same as that of a standard rifle.
The barrels are joined for most of their length, but the top barrel is separated from the central rib with an interesting collar arrangement near the muzzle end.
This is the barrel convergence adjustment system, which allows a different point of aim or both shots to fall together if you use different ammunition from the factory test regulations ? in this case, Norma Alaska 285-grain loads.
This has to be done by a gunsmith.
The finish is typically deep blue-black, which suits the style of this type of rifle, and is a nice contrast to the greyed steel action.
The rifle comes with a set of usable open sights.
The rear sight is of the traditional Battue type which uses a long-sighting rib that covers the rear third of the top barrel.
Within this is a simple dove-tailed blade that is adjusted for windage, while the front sight has a highly visible fibre optic that gives a good and quick sighting picture, especially at a darting boar.
The rear rib also has the facility to mount fixed or detachable scope bases, which further enhances the usefulness of the CCS rifle during low-light, normal deer stalking duties.
It is hard to fault a double rifle that is accurate, good-looking and handles well.
As is to be expected from Browning, the build quality is very good and I would certainly go for the heavier Elite model over the standard CCS 525, as it feels better and soaks up more recoil.
The open sights are actually more than good enough, with a good sight picture, but the ability to attach a scope is certainly a benefit for shooting boar in low light conditions.
For the price, you get a lot ? gun and case, test target and all the barrel adjustment rings should you wish to change bullet weights.
Double rifles are a niche market, but they are always pleasing and have a very practical role in today?s sporting world.
Browning 525 Elite Double Express rifle