Gun reviews: Browning B725 Hunter G1 shotgun
Browning B725 Hunter G1
Though almost universally excellent, recent iterations on its mass-produced guns based on the B25 action, such as the B425 and B525, have been hard to differentiate between.
With the new Japanese made B725, however, things are clearly different from an aesthetic and mechanical point of view.
Most obvious is the new, much shallower action, which brings the B725 in line with its Italian competitors.
This has a significant impact on the appearance of the Browning, making it look more refined and modern thanks in particular to a reduction in size of the gun’s fences.
This push towards a more contemporary-looking, sleek gun has had no impact on the mechanism’s strength or safety, however, since the full body bolt has been retained.
It also has the benefit of reducing muzzle flip, since recoil is kept in-line along the length of the gun, from the muzzles right through the action to the butt plate.
The model on test has a number of features that separate it from its more sporting brethren.
The Prince of Wales-style pistol grip is swept back slightly more than the norm, much like that found on older English game guns.
This makes the Browning particularly pleasant to hold and use.
It also helps those with larger hands as it reduces the chances of the little finger slipping off the grip when swinging and firing.
The B725 has a lovely rounded fore-end not found on other models, which lends the shotgun a slightly more streamlined appearance than the B525 and is extremely comfortable in the hand.
However, the machined chequering is a little broad and rough, as you might expect on a new game gun at this price.
A little use should soon make it more bearable.
WHICH BARREL LENGTH?
With 3” chambers and proof for steel shot you should have no concerns about putting heavy loads through the gun, though you might want to think twice about selecting 30” barrels – they push the weight a bit far beyond the hinge pin for my tastes.
A longer barrel and the heavier weight that comes with it will reduce muzzle flip, which is more apparent when using heavier loads.
Testing both barrel lengths before buying would be a good idea.
There is also a new trigger system on the gun, being a mechanical rather than inertia-based system.
Trigger pulls are shorter and faster than on older Browning guns, and also mean you should have no problems putting lighter loads through.
The gun is non-autosafe as standard, but the relevant parts to alter this are contained in the large grey ABS case in which the gun is supplied, and any good gunsmith will be able to fit this part with few problems and at low cost.
In common with all Brownings, the gun opens and closes very positively, staying open at a good gape and not springing back as many over-unders do.
This means reloading is hassle-free and consistent, unlike some other guns we have tested, where the mechanism has to be held open to load the bottom barrel.
HIGH BUILD QUALITY
The standard of construction is excellent, with good wood-to-metal fit and nicely oiled and finished wood.
Some figuring is evident in the stock – though don’t expect too much in the way of stunning walnut at this price point.
The wooden parts will happily accept more oil should you pick up any small scratches.
The butt plate is in the form of Browning’s new Inflex II recoil pad, fitted to all B725 guns as standard, which the manufacturer claims offers the best recoil absorption possible on a shotgun.
The pad supplied is 20mm deep, though 12mm or 25mm pads are also available as an option.
Appearance-wise the gun holds up well, with the new sleeker action and longer rounded fore-end doing much to improve an already attractive design.
Engraving is fine, though rather shallow, with game scene vignettes on each side but little embellishment beyond this.
Overall, this is an excellent addition to the over-under shotgun market, and one that should make any interested shopper stop and think.
Though the Browning B525 is still available, it is set to be phased out in the coming months and its younger sibling is an improvement in almost every way, making your choice obvious.
VIEW FROM THE GUN SHOP
Bill Elderkin casts his expert eye over the Browning B725
This gun is quite weighty at 7lbs 7oz (nearly 3.5kg), which might make it a chore to use for long stretches.
However, the extra weight means recoil and muzzle flip with heavy loads will be well handled, though I found it to be too biased towards the front hand.
If I were buying the gun I would specify 28” barrels. Internally this gun features the same mechanisms as any other Browning, and is all the better for it.
The fore-end has the ejector hammer and springs inside the wood, and I prefer this design as it tends to be far more reliable than systems where the ejector springs are behind the extractors.
There should be no concern over splitting, since the rounded design leaves plenty of wood behind in the fore-end, giving lots of strength.
The barrels are back-bored, meaning the forcing cones are extended, resulting in improved shot patterns and reduced recoil.
Chokes are in the form of Invector DS multichokes, which are unusually long at 80mm and come in cylinder, quarter, half, three quarters and full.
They feature brass sealing rings which help to prevent gas seepage between the chokes and barrel walls.
Brownings are famous for their strength and reliability, and there is no reason to believe this will be any different.
It looks a good price too, and I can see it being extremely popular.
As with any new gun, you will be losing money when you take it out of the show room, but if current prices are any indication the B725 will hold its value well.
IN THE FIELD
There is a pleasing solidity in evidence as soon as the B725 is brought to the shoulder.
And that solidity rapidly translates into results when the trigger is pulled.
Recoil is almost non-existent and it’s a pleasure to shoot, which inevitably leads to consistent success.
As Bill Elderkin notes elsewhere in this review it is no lightweight, and for that reason I wouldn’t want to take it on a day’s walked-up grouse shooting over the moors.
But it’s perfect for shooting driven pheasants or sporting clays.
BILL ELDERKIN’S ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
The sub-£2,000 price point is a very competitive sector of the UK gun market; my customers are forever on the look out for an overunder at this price and often end up with a Browning or Beretta.
One obvious competitor is the Beretta Silver Pigeon, which starts at £1,550 and is one of the most sought-after second-hand guns around.
It is the quintessential Italian gun, with a shallow action, good wood, nice engraving and fine handling.
The Deluxe model with improved engraving and wood would be a very interesting proposition pitted against the B725.
Beretta also offers the Ultralight Classic from £1,800 and Ultralight Gold from £2,100. Caesar Guerini offers a range of very fine guns – though perhaps at a slightly higher price – that are attracting attention thanks to their endorsement by Richard Faulds.
The most obvious competitor, however, would be a Miroku.
These are essentially Brownings in all but name, produced in the same Japanese plant and with slightly different looks.
They work on the same action and are similarly strong and reliable, though obviously come without the cachet of the Browning name.
Although there isn’t a direct Miroku equivalent of the B725 yet, something like an MK-70 Hunter would be a good buy at £1,430.
Engineering: One of the most successful shotgun actions given a 21st century makeover. 9/10
Handling: The 30” barrels make the gun slightly unbalanced, though shorter barrels would alleviate this. 7/10
Looks and finishing: New fore-end and refined action bring elegance, and finishing is good, but the engraving is slightly disappointing. 8/10
Reliability and customer service: Made and imported by Browning. They are famously reliable guns – you should have no trouble. 9/10
Value: An excellent new gun, well worth the asking price. 9/10
Browning B725 Hunter G1 shotgun
Gun reviews: Browning B725 Hunter G1 shotgun