Reliable, robust and excellent value, this latest iteration of Browning's popular model could be the perfect shotgun for everyday shooters, finds Elliot Roberts
Back in 2019, Browning released a new gun to the market, which caused a great stir in the shooting community. The Browning 525SL (Sporter Laminate) was a fresh take on the firm’s much-loved sporting shotguns. It had stylish looks and a distinctive grey laminate stock. It was innovative, bold and some may say a bit of a risk. But it was certainly a risk worth taking as we have seen the 525SL gain a loyal following and generate strong sales in the months and years following its release.
I first tried the 525SL at the Browning demonstrators stand at the Northern Shooting Show in 2019. Since then it has been near to, if not at, the top of my gun wish list. It just felt like everything I wanted from an over-and-under sporter. At the time of its unveiling it left me wondering what the longer-term plans were from Browning in regards to expanding its Laminate range across to other models, such as the 725 or its line-up of semi-automatic shotguns. Were we going to see Browning release a laminate option across the full range?
In the lead up to 2021, any questions surrounding this were answered. A host of new models have been added to Browning’s line-up this year, which have been great news for fans of the Buckmark. One of the new releases included the B525GL (Game Laminate), and I recently got the pleasure of collecting one for myself from R Macleod & Son of Tain in Ross-shire.
The 525 platform has seen many iterations over the years, catering for most disciplines and shooter preferences. At present, more than 25 variants of the 525 model can be found on the Browning website, and that’s before we get into different barrel lengths, etc. It is certainly one of the most popular over-and-under shotguns on the market and you would be hard pressed to attend any shoot and not see them out in strong numbers.
Over the past couple of years, laminate stocks have been proving that they have their place in the industry. Although they may not be to everyone’s taste, they do offer some undeniable benefits. They are high density, making them robust and far more resistant to knocks and bumps. The manufacturing process ensures the stocks are water resistant, making the 525GL ideal for harsher environments. In a pigeon hide, for example, this gun will take some beating, whereas natural wood stocks can have a tendency to show up scuffs and scrapes more easily and potentially warp over time after long exposure to the elements. They also offer a slightly more modern and utilitarian feel, and for those wanting something a bit different they tick the box nicely.
A closer look
Unlike the aggressive and modern look of its grey sporter counterpart, the 525GL has a natural birch colouring and arguably a more distinguishable appearance/grain than the wood found on the entry level 525 game models. It comes with uniformed laser chequering and at the rear of the stock you will find the signature Inflex II recoil pad, providing some of the best recoil reduction on the market. The Inflex recoil pad can be removed and spacers added should you need to adjust the length at all.
Length of pull, as standard, is around 14¾in. Unlike the sporter, the stock doesn’t have an adjustable comb so it is worth checking gun fit with the help from a good gun shop. I tend to find the 525 range fit me perfectly off the shelf but then as the 525 was my first gun and remains my gun of choice to this day, I may well have just adapted to it from day one.
The action is made from steel and unlike most game guns featuring fancy scroll work, it has a plain finish with only the ‘B525GL’ and Buckmark logo on display. Apart from the cosmetic changes, you are still getting a tried-and-tested, solid 525 action. Personally, I prefer the modern look of the plain actions now seen on the 525 and 725 range – but then I get a bit nervous with high-grade wood and intricate engraving as I see my guns more as tools and am prone to knocking them about a bit when out and about.
Unlike a lot of Browning’s game guns, this particular model comes with an adjustable trigger. Something that is nice to have but as with most of my adjustable trigger guns I rarely play around with them. Purely because I find they are set up pretty well from the start. You may wish to adjust the trigger slightly when you first get the gun to set it up for you. It requires a small Allen key, which is provided with the gun, to adjust the position and after that you will probably find you will leave it be. But, should the need arise, the option is there.
The barrels are available in either 28in or 30in and have a matte/satin finish ideal for reducing glare when out in the field. This clean matte finish works well with the plain action and overall gives a nice minimalistic and modern appearance to the gun. The barrels are topped with a 6mm rib, single brass sight and are back bored and chrome plated. The gun, as is common nowadays, is multichoke and comes with four flush-fitting Invector Plus chokes (¼, ½, ¾, full) and is steel shot proofed.
The fore-end has a nice feel to it with a soft, tapered end unlike the Schnabel fore-end found on the sporter laminate. I have always been a fan of Schnabel fore-ends and all my guns to date feature them. However, I found this fits the hand well and feels comfortable (am I a convert?) The laser chequering runs down either side of the fore-end and feels established but not too sharp or noticeable in the hand.
The gun comes supplied in the standard Browning-branded ABS case. In the box you will find a trigger lock, set of four chokes, a manual and an adapter to switch the gun from manual to auto safety, depending on your preference. I prefer a manual safety, so this is never really a consideration for me, but the option is there should you want it.
The 525GL is currently on sale at around £1,695, which is great value for money, all things considered.
Personally, this gun would be my ‘go to’ gun for pest control and rough shooting. The robustness of the laminate stock, the no-frills approach to its cosmetics and the reliability of the 525 action for me equate to a great everyday gun for rough shooting or an afternoon in the hide. Don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty gun and one I would look after and maintain well. But would I be heartbroken if it got a scratch or a bump out in the field? A lot less than I would with something like Browning’s Grade 5 525 game guns. I have used a wooden stock 525 Sporter One for a lot of my pigeon shooting days and find no matter how careful I am a new mark appears on the stock every now and then and it is always a little upsetting – so I will be interested to see how the laminate stock truly holds up.
I can see this gun proving hugely popular with the everyday shooter looking for reliability and robustness. I don’t expect to see these in huge numbers at clay grounds but I certainly think it will live up to the job on clays for someone looking perhaps for a ‘one-gun solution’ to do it all. I think the 525GL will find its home on the stubble fields, flight ponds, woodlands and shores. It is a gun built for the outdoors and to accompany you on your hunt, no matter the environment.
This may be a good first gun for someone, and at £1,695 it is very reasonable. It may not be long before we start to see one or two secondhand ones available and it will be interesting to see what deals can be had at that stage. As this has only just hit the market, however, the secondhand market for this particular gun will be pretty limited.
If you are undecided between wooden or laminate stocks, my recommendation would be to visit your local gun shop and take a look at one of these in the metal for yourself. I was pleasantly surprised when viewing one for the first time at how much I warmed to it and found myself talking myself into one. It feels solid, well built and well finished. I have always preferred a sporter over-and-under and for years have used a sporter for everything, from clays to quarry. Having a dedicated, hard-wearing and robust game gun is sure to be a game changer and I look forward to many days out putting it to good use.
Will the B525GL prove as popular as the Sporter Laminate released a few years ago? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, Browning is certainly leading the way in looking to the future, innovating and pushing the boundaries.
Tech specs B525GL
- Calibre 12-bore
- Barrels 28in or 30in
- Chokes 4 Invector Plus: ¼, ½, ¾, full
- Top rib 6mm
- Sights Brass Bead
- Barrel finish Matt/Satin
- Action frame Steel
- Stock finish Laminate (Birch)
- Case Browning ABS case
- Notes: supplied with a trigger lock, choke key, 4 x Invector Plus chokes, ABS case, owner’s manual
I can see this gun proving hugely popular with the everyday shooter looking for reliability and robustness.