Browning 525 Sporter 1: you can’t help liking it
The gun snob in Becky McKenzie really did not want to like Browning's new 525 Sporter 1, but, ultimately, she could not help herself
Browning 525 Sporter 1
Price as reviewed: £1,549
What a lovely job I have: coaching lovely clients and testing (mostly) lovely guns. What more could a woman want? This time, I am looking at the new Browning 525 Sporter 1. This is the entry-level Browning, and the gun does look fairly basic. There’s no bedazzling Turkish walnut, it has a silver action and comes with a small black box rammed full of chokes. I admit that my first impression was that I was not going to like this gun. (Read more on chokes here.)
Browning 525 Sporter 1 on test
Putting the B525 S together, I noticed the hinge pin is part of the locking device. It is quite big and you hook the barrels to the action. It clunks together solidly, which is a good thing.
Browning must have sent me a new gun because the opening lever was very tight, showing no signs of previous use. On the latest B525 S, the action is fairly simple and silver, which is new. Previous versions were engraved with the Browning logo at the front of the action and ‘B525 S’ at the back. On the new gun, there are smooth lines all round.
I popped a bit of grease on certain parts of the Browning. I like to take care of ‘my guns’, even the ones on loan to me. Putting the gun into my shoulder for the first time, I thought, “It’s considerably lighter than my own gun”. Yes, everything is now compared with my gun. The total weight actually surprised me at 8lb 1oz, which was heavier than I thought, though I was using my kitchen scales. But my brain told me it felt light, and it’s going to kick like a mule.
I investigated further. The trigger-pulls were bottom barrel 4.11lb and top barrel 4.42lb, pretty even and reasonably crisp. Length of pull is 14¾in. The barrel weighed in at 1.497kg and had a matt blued finish. The gun is proofed for steel. The stock is Grade 2 Turkish walnut and plain to look at, with straight grain. Nothing wrong with that at all. Straight grain means the wood is strong, and pretty walnut doesn’t make us shoot any better, does it?
The stock configuration is as follows: drop at comb 36mm; drop at heel 56mm; oil finished with a pistol-style grip. The chequering on the stock and fore-end is good, neither too soft nor too sharp, and it felt nice in my ungloved hand. The stock is adjustable, which means it could accommodate most shooters, but it fitted me reasonably well straight out of the box and I felt no need to alter it. There is also an Inflex recoil pad.
It felt light, and I was convinced I wouldn’t like it because I prefer guns with a bit more heft. I was testing two other guns on the day I was putting the Browning through its paces. One I thought I’d absolutely love, the other I felt would be OK but was very heavy, which I don’t like either. Then there was the Browning. I felt it would come in third place because I am a gun snob and was probably influenced by the bargain price of £1,549.
So, off to the first stand at Garlands Shooting Ground in Tamworth I went. Not having shot there for some time, I didn’t have a clue where everything was coming from. Right, I thought, let’s get the Browning out of the way. Gritting my teeth, popping it into my shoulder for a pre-shot waft around, I noticed the wide 10mm rib staring at me, ready to break my concentration.
I called “pull”. It was a left-to-right quartering-away rabbit on report. Bang, bang – pair dead. All that I initially thought about this gun went out the window. “No, I do not, definitely do not, want to like this gun,” I said to myself. Before shooting it I just didn’t feel this was the right gun for me, but I was forced to change my mind. I shouted “pull” again with the result being the pair dead.
Now to explain the sight picture. It was easy on the eye and I could clearly see all the targets well. The gun moved with such ease. As I usually shoot a 32in barrel gun, I thought the 30in barrels would feel light and whippy. They do not. The whole gun feels under control.
On to stand two. As before, I didn’t know what was coming – fast left-to-right, on report, or steady left-to-right. Again, the Browning proceeded to demolish my first impressions. Stand three. Right, Mr Browning, I’ll have you now. The third stand was on the corner of the woods, so I couldn’t even see where the traps were. The first target was a high, right-to-left, off the tower. It was motoring away on report, a fairly standard crosser. Again the darned B525 S smashed the clays. Calling for the second pair, I decided to push more lead on the first bird; still the clay broke. I was almost trying to miss now. What on earth was going on here?
Perceived recoil was pretty low, considering I thought it would bump me around. I do feel recoil or am at least sensitive to it. I don’t really know why I thought I wouldn’t like the gun. When your friends tell you “that gun is rubbish” or “this gun is what you should have”, don’t let them influence you. Try different guns before you buy, especially the Browning B525 Sporter 1. It’s definitely worth it and you could be surprised.
Carrying on round the shoot, I was falling more and more in love with this gun. It was so easy to use. My only gripe was a stiff top-lever, but that eased over the next few stands, so I didn’t notice it any more. The stand over the big pond (stand nine, I think) had a big long left-to-right crosser and the Sporter 1 smashed that up.
I am ashamed to tell you that I didn’t even know what chokes were in it. I know the Browning comes with the Invector Plus chokes in improved cylinder (¼), modified (½), improved modified (¾) and full. What was actually in the barrels, I don’t know, but gosh, it sure did pattern well – even on my attempts to do silly things with it and miss. I even tried a couple of sim pair teals, my current bogey bird. There was one on the way up and one on the way down, but the result was the same: two puffs of clay dust. (Read our list of the best clayshooting vests.)
There are more versions of the new Browning Sporter 1, such as standard stock with a Schnabel fore-end, standard stock with a Trap fore-end, an adjustable stock with Schnabel fore-end and a RS model (reduced stock) for smaller people, like me. For the left hookers, there is a true left-handed model, with – and big applause here for Browning – a left-handed opening top-lever.
The Browning B525 S surprised me. I can even say I liked it a lot. It reminded me of shooting with my old Beretta Teknys semi-auto because I was staring at a wide 10mm rib, which initially I hated, but you don’t look at the rib, do you? It is so pointable, a pleasure to shoot and has an excellent sight picture. The minimal recoil was impressive and the barrel patterned well. It’s just an easy gun to shoot. Fair play Browning, you’ve done one hell of a good job with this gun. It is good fun, and at a reasonable price. I am most impressed.
- Model Browning B525 Sporter 1 Adjustable
- Bore 12-bore
- Action Boxlock ejector
- Barrel length 30in (32in available)
- Chokes Invector Plus
- Rib 10mm, non-tapered
- Fore-end Tulip style
- Weight 8lb 1oz
- Price £1,549
It is good fun, and at a reasonable price.