Browning B725 Ultra XS Pro: why it won me over
Becky McKenzie takes her time but eventually finds the gun enjoyable to shoot
Browning B725 Ultra XS Pro
Price as reviewed: £3,495
The Browning B725 Ultra XS Pro, as used by shooters such as Sam Green and many others, is a competition shotgun in the mid range price. The demo gun I was lent had 32in barrels with an adjustable comb. The Browning arrived in a very nice hard case and was supplied with eight Investor titanium extended chokes, two spacers, three Inflex recoil pads and three spare triggers.
The Ultra XS Pro is one of the latest in the Browning stable, and I have tested the B525 Sporter 1 and standard B725 – if that’s even the correct term for the B725. And now I have the Ultra XS Pro version, with the prestigious Heritage Sporter being a top-of-the-range sideplated gun.
On opening the case, the Ultra XS Pro presented me with a greyed action and a little bit of gold outlining. It had a gold trigger and a small amount of delicate engraving, with XS Pro on the side.
The Ultra XS Pro in depth
The 32in barrels are nicely blacked/blued, with a ventilated top and mid-rib that has a white mid-bead and end bead. The walnut stock and fore-end didn’t bedazzle me with its looks, but I am sure a little bit of love – and oil – would have put this right. However, on taking the barrels out of the case to put the gun together, I noted the engine turning on the sides of the monobloc and ejectors, the same as my old Winchester Diamond Grade, and I find this a very pleasing finish to a gun.
The Ultra XS Pro, though a Sporter, does have a Trap-style fore-end. In my small hands, this feels quite chunky. The stock itself, measurements-wise, is pretty much the same as the B725 Sporter, but has a more radiused pistol grip and palm swell than the B725 Black Edition I tested before. The chequering on the stock and fore-end is pretty good – nothing too sharp, but it gives a good grip. The adjustable comb on this gun is very easy to adjust.
A lot of the Browning range allows you to opt for the ‘stock and barrel’ counterweight system so you really can fine-tune the gun to how you want it to feel and shoot.
The barrels themselves are back-bored Vector Pro, with an increased internal bore diameter and slightly longer forcing cones. These provide the gun with greater velocity, better pattern and reduced recoil. The B725 DS barrels are lighter and, as a result of this, the balance of the gun has moved backwards, more towards the hinge pin, and has next to no muzzle bulge compared to the B525 Invector Plus barrels.
The Inflex II recoil pads, provided in different levels of thickness so the shooter can make the stock longer or shorter to fit, has an exclusive design and material. This promotes a kind of downward direction of the recoil forces, thus pulling the stock very slightly away from your face. The low action frame on the B725 provides the shooter with a better view of the target, and this allows for a more instinctive style of shooting.
So, enough of the technical stuff – what was this Browning like compared with the other two versions I have shot?
I met with a client up at EJ Churchill’s Swinton Estate, as he was also keen to have a go with the Ultra XS Pro. The weather on that day was horrendous – rainy and windy, so the poor Browning didn’t really get the optimum chance to impress. Nonetheless, on shouldering the B725 for the first time outdoors the stock felt just a little too long for me, but I did have a lot of waterproof clothing on and I don’t think any gun would have fitted me too well that day.
Back-to-back testing of my pride and joy, the Winchester Diamond Grade with its 30in barrels, weighing in at 8lb 13oz, against the Browning with its 32in barrels, weighing in at around 8lb 1oz, proved that they couldn’t have felt more different.
The first stand at Swinton gave us a quartering-away looper and a nice right-to-left crosser. Calling “Pull!”, the Browning gave me a clear sight picture, moved quickly and caught me by surprise. It was so quick that I missed the looper.
However, the barrels are smooth enough, so I could nip back to my second hold point to get on the crosser with plenty of time to spare. Calling “Pull!” again, I managed two clean hits this time. The Browning’s Vector Pro barrels, with 1/2 choke in, seemed to pattern pretty well.
Moving on to various other stands, some of which were certainly more challenging with many more speed and angles, the Browning started to feel a little bit more ‘part of me’.
It is difficult to explain what that means. Some guns you can just pick up, like my ancient Winchester, and they will feel like you’re putting on an old pair of gloves. Some guns take more getting used to. The B725 was just a bit harder work for me. There was nothing wrong with the gun at all. It was built well and the fit was good, but my brain, hand and eye coordination wasn’t quite up there. But the more I shot this gun, the more I liked it.
Some of the longer targets that we shot really showed us the quality and capabilities of the barrels. They hit targets hard and clean with no little chips, just powder puffs. The movement of the barrels, like I said earlier, was quick, but smooth and not erratic. The felt recoil was low, and I tested it with 24g and 28g. My client also had a fair few shots with the Ultra and really liked the gun, saying he liked the low action as it gave him a good field of view.
If I am totally honest here, I couldn’t really tell you much difference between shooting the B725 Black Edition and the Ultra XS Pro. The main difference between the guns is that the Ultra XS Pro is based on the B525 action, while the B725 is not. Both actions have a similar lock-up with the full-width hinge pin, recoil lugs that slot into the action body and flat locking bolt, which are all in line. However, the B725 is 4mm lower in the action depth, meaning that it is lighter and more scaled-down – a ‘sporty’ version.
With regards to shooting them both, I can feel no discernible differences, apart from the actual weight difference of the Ultra XS Pro. I can say, however – and I am sure this will not go down well – out of all three guns I tested, my favourite is still the B525 Sporter 1. The B525, in my humble opinion, felt the easiest to shoot, even though when I first put it to my shoulder I convinced myself I wouldn’t like it. But I did. Both Browning B725 are very nice guns and a pleasure to shoot, but the B525 has won me over.
- Model Browning B725 Ultra XS Pro
- Bore 12-bore
- Action Low profile, mechanical trigger
- Barrel length 32in
- Chamber 3in
- Chokes Invector DS multichoke
- Rib 10mm Sporting rib, vented
- Fore-end Trap-style
- Weight 8lb 1oz
- Price £3,495
- Vector Pro barrels
- Inflex II recoil pads
- Trap-style fore-end
- Stock and barrel counterweight system