This 20 bore from Browning certainly stands out from the crowd but, as Alex Flint discovers, there is plenty of substance here too
Since its launch in 2011 as the successor to the B535, the Browning B725 has proved a popular choice for both game and clay shots. I have reviewed the B725 in 12-and 20-bore form and found both offer excellent value and entertaining shooting. These high quality characteristics are largely thanks to the low profile receiver which marks the significant change over the B525, offering good recoil control and reduced muzzle flip.
The B725 Hunter Black Gold offers a number of other improvements over its older sibling, including the longer Invector-DS multi-choke system which uses a brass seal to stop gas and dirt getting into the space between the barrel and the choke tube. There are lengthed forcing cones, a new mechanical trigger and the new Inflex II recoil absorbing pad which Browning claim absorbs more recoil than any other, moving the force down and away from your cheek. As is the case with many new shotguns, Browning has not completely revolutionised the design of the shotgun with the B725, instead choosing to continue the development of John M. Browning’s original B25 over-under shotgun, retaining the full-width hinge pin and tapered locking bolt. In common with modern Browning shotguns, the B725 also retains back-bored barrels along with 3″ chambers proofed for steel shot.
A different appearance from other Browning shotguns
Where this 20 bore is a real departure from its already well received siblings is in its appearance. You will not be surprised to discover the B725 Black Gold features black metalwork picked out with gold highlights – quite a departure from the otherwise classically styled, somewhat subdued Browning range. How attractive one finds this design is, of course, entirely subjective but it is handsome enough and suits the gun quite well.
The wood used on the gun is American Claro walnut which is found throughout California and Oregon and naturally of a much darker colouring than the Turkish walnut we see more commonly on shotguns. It has been given a good oil finish which lends some depth to the interesting feathering of the figuring in the stock. The deep colour of the wood is a good match for the blued metalwork of the action body, top lever and tang, trigger guard and fore-end lever.
The engraving pattern is similar to that seen on the B725 Hunter Grade I, featuring partridges picked out in gold framed by an expanding ray pattern rather than flushing pheasants. There is also a gold trigger, and the new Browning stag’s head logo picked out in gold on the bottom of the trigger guard, along with the model number in gold on the bottom plate of the action body.
Whilst the colouring and gold engraving may well split opinion, it is difficult to argue these details help the gun to stand out amongst the crowd. Two real aesthetic highlights, however, are the lovely rounded fore-end and excellent Prince of Wales style rounded pistol grip. Not only do they lend the gun some very attractive lines they also have a practical benefit, proving very comfortable and secure in the hand. Similarly, the low profile ventilated top rib and low profile receiver help to lend the gun a lithe feel – even if it weighs in at a fairly significant 6lbs.11½oz.
This is an improvement over the B725 20-bore I tested last June which weighed in at nearly 7lbs. thanks to its 32″ barrels. Given how well that gun handled I was expecting great things from this Black Gold gun thanks to its 30″ barrels which I hoped would hit the sweet spot in terms of weight and balance with instinctive handling characteristics. I was not to be disappointed, the B725 handling well on pigeons on my family farm.
In terms of pure handling characteristics and comfort the Black Gold variant of the B725 is probably the pick of the bunch. The rounded fore-end and grip shape of the long, sweeping Prince of Wales style grip make for very comfortable shooting and recoil control is remarkably good no matter the load used. The only question, then, is one of aesthetics, and then it’s really up to the individual buyer.
In the field
Given I had tested the 12 bore and 20 bore variants of this gun previously on the clay ground, I decided a more practical test might be in order for this new take on the B725 so I headed back to the family farm in Lincolnshire for a crack at some pigeons. An afternoon’s shooting soon proved this gun to be just as good as its siblings, with the 30″ barrels really hitting the sweet spot in terms of balance and handling characteristics against overall weight.
Trigger pulls are very crisp indeed, and in having a mechanical trigger rather than one operated on the inertia system, as is common in many modern shotguns, the B725 certainly marks itself out as a little different.
Though you might think this would have no practical impact on your shooting day-to-day, it actually makes a lot of sense for a gun in 20 bore form. In the past I have tested a number of small bore guns using lighter loads which have often failed to activate the inertia system for the second shot. Whether you are shooting clays or game this can be incredibly frustrating, so it was a great pleasure to suffer no such problems while taking on the pigeons with the B725.
The gun comes up into the shoulder easily and consistently, with a tremendous view over the shallow action. Smooth, instinctive shooting was made very enjoyable and recoil was dealt with tremendously well whether I shot 25gram No.6s or 28gram No.5s.
Ejection was strong and the overall shooting experience was very enjoyable – the only black mark being the lack of an automatic safety catch on the gun as standard. This is easily remedied, however, as Browning now supplies its guns with the relevant parts to make the gun auto-safe which are easily fitted by any gunsmith.
View from the gun shop by Bill Elderkin
The first thing I notice on the gun is the shape of the trigger guard – it is quite square which is unusual and really grabs the attention. On the whole the gun is quite dark in appearance and whilst certainly striking how successful this is will entirely depends upon personal taste. This contrasting black and gold design has been around for a long time. We have seen it on Beretta guns and even some of the very best guns from Purdey so clearly there is a strong market for it.
The pistol grip is well shaped but very full. This, along with the weight of the gun makes it very clear this shotgun is a 20 bore meant for serious shooting and perhaps would not be suited as a gun for a youth or lady.
I would imagine a lot of readers would relish the chance to take on some high pheasants with this gun, and it’s certainly crying out for that particular use.
Wood to metal fit is very good and there are some nice touches in the finishing, such as the carving of the wood at the fences. The design of the gun means the ejector kickers are in the fore-end, meaning the cartridges are ejected with some force rather than merely pushed out. This is an advantage with a 20 bore, especially when using bigger brass cased cartridges. I would like to see a little more of a push on the extractors, however, as trying to remove smaller 20 bore cartridges can be a little fiddly at present, especially if you have larger hands, most annoying at the end of a long drive on a cold day.
Scores for the Browning B725 Hunter Black Gold shotgun
The B725 action continues to impress with its excellent low profile receiver. 9/10
Mounts consistently well, swings beautifully and deals with recoil remarkably. Non auto- safe as standard. 9/10
Looks & finishing:
Finishing is very good but looks will be divisive. 8/10
Reliability & customer service:
Browning shotguns are mechanically sound and reliable. 9/10
A very good, reliable and fun gun to shoot at a good price but appearance will be the key factor in its appeal to you. 8/10
Bill Elderkin is the managing director of Elderkin & Son (Gunmakers) Ltd. of Spalding in Lincolnshire – call 01775 722919
A very good, reliable and fun gun to shoot at a good price