Browning B525 Light Classic shotgun review
The Browning B525 Light Classic shotgun gave our reviewer a eureka moment.
Browning B525 Light Classic shotgun
Pros: A lighter game gun, possibly more comfortable for older Shots
Price as reviewed: £1,680
There is a well-used saying in the gun trade that there is nothing new. This usually refers to technical developments where someone had a bright idea years ago that didn’t come to fruition, either because it was technically too difficult to achieve or rejected due to market resistance.
The other side of the coin is that element of tradition where we grow to expect certain things from different makers, standard of build, a distinctive style, particular technical features, and it is easy to get lulled into complacency.
Then something unexpected comes along that shatters those preconceptions.
A eureka moment
The Browning B525 Light Classic did that for me, providing a sort of eureka moment. For a second or two I could hardly comprehend I was holding a gun of this make that was so lively.
Of course, there have been lightweight Brownings in the past, easily identified with their slim fore-ends, straight-hand stocks and fine barrel tubes, but over more recent years many of their mid-range products have become guns of substance.
To be fair, that is one of the features many owners find attractive, but for those of us with whom age is beginning to catch up, a lighter game gun is most welcome.
This B525 obtains its all-up weight of a little less than 61⁄2lb (3kg, 6.6lb catalogue weight) by the use of an aluminium alloy action body and 26in (660mm) barrels.
The use of aluminium alloy (steels are also alloys) is the bit that has been done before, but years ago it was more often done by other makers for reasons of economy and convenience of manufacture, not always with the best results.
As a consequence there was a certain amount of market resistance to accepting this type of material for good-quality guns.
However, over the years, both the technology available and quality of the alloys used have changed for the better.
Browning, for their part, have not rushed into using this sort of material, adopting what would seem to be a cautious approach, appropriate for a manufacturer with a big reputation at stake.
The end result is a shotgun that, until you pick it up, gives no real indication that it is any different from Browning’s other products.
Clean and tidy decoration
Look closely and there is a steel insert beautifully dovetailed into the face of the standing breech but this is hardly visible when the gun is shut.
Only the action body is light alloy, otherwise, as on any other Browning the top-lever, safety button, cross pin and cocking-lever (the piece that hinges in the bottom of the action like a trapdoor) are all steel, as is the fore-end iron and Deeley-style catch.
Decorating aluminium alloys is not always easy and often lines appear a little unclean in appearance.
Not so with this B525; the pictures of pheasants on one side and duck on the other all have a clean and tidy appearance, much as one would expect with a steel-bodied gun.
Internally with the lockwork it is business as usual. Sears hang from the top strap, helical mainsprings provide the power and the trigger mechanism is of the inertia block type.
Barrel selection is on the safety button with Browning’s usual “U” and “O” marking simple, uncluttered and easy to understand.
As for those 26in barrels, they do not actually appear short and at first glance could easily pass for 27in or 28in tubes.
A part ventilated game rib, a bare 6mm wide, is fitted with traditional brass foresight bead and full but slim side ribs.
This model used monoblock construction so well struck up that the join is almost invisible and, in my view, much better than faux-engraving over the joint.
As for testimony of the inherent strength of both this method of barrel assembly mated to the light alloy action, it is superior proofed for 3in (76mm) cartridges and use with steel shot.
Choke tubes are the 62mm long Invector Plus type, comprehensively marked with their suitability (or otherwise) for use with lead and steel shot.
Five are provided covering a range of full to cylinder choke with lead and are manufactured from stainless steel.
The barrel bores sport long, shallow-angled forcing cones and at 18.7mm (.736in) the proof size follows the trend for being at the larger end of the size range for 12-bore.
Only the action body is made from light alloy.
The top-lever, safety button, cross pin and cocking-lever are all steel.
Balance and handling
This gun balanced almost exactly on the cross pin (sometimes called hinge pin), even with a stock providing a full 14.3⁄4in length of pull.
I suspect the walnut had been chosen for both strength and lightness and there is a fair amount of wood machined out from the inside of the butt behind where the stock bolt fits.
The result is that this B525 handles like a true game gun with quick target acquisition and it is smooth to swing.
There was no trace of that choppy and imprecise feeling than can sometimes come with a shorter-barrelled gun.
Having said that, for a shooter used to a heavier model with longer barrels, there might be a transition period until this gun?s handling characteristics were fully appreciated and exploited.
A variety of cartridges was used on test with loads ranging from 30g to 36g, some being high-velocity loads, and with both lead and steel shot.
With the hotter cartridges, recoil was more noticeable but not especially unpleasant.
It was seen on the pattern sheet that with heavier loads there was a tendency for the shot pattern to be thrown an inch or two higher.
I did not go down the route of using 3in cartridges as this is very much a game gun, or Hunter according to Browning, and for this test it would not really have been appropriate.
I did miss the automatic safety which would be more usual on a dedicated game gun.
Auto safe can be added to the model at the time of purchase or as a retro fit for a small charge.
Trigger-pulls were well up to Browning’s high standard, ejection was good and primer strikes central and even, so all the mechanical bits did what they should.
With handling, the earlier impressions were correct; this was a gun you did not have to think about, just concentrate on the target and get on with the job.
So, has Browning gone down the right route with this lightweight gun?
On the evidence of the examination and testing and an outing under a good pigeon flightline I would say very much so.
For me it was a modern Browning transformed into a true lightweight over-under game gun, and that cannot be a bad thing.
A modern Browning transformed into a true lightweight over-under game gun,