Matt Clark tests a game gun that stands out from the crowd but doesn't cost a fortune
Based on Browning’s tried and tested 525 action, the Browning 525 Shadow is a special edition with upgraded American walnut, matt black action and gold trigger. The designation is also inlaid in gold on the underside of the action, which is a nice touch.
Many won’t like the gold trigger blade, arguing that the gold will wear off, but on the Shadow it lifts the look of the gun from utilitarian to something a little more special. After all, the trigger blade could be replaced if it started to wear.
And perhaps some of you will worry that the black action would wear when you hold the broken gun over your crooked arm – but is it so bad that a well-loved gun shows signs of use? At least it will show that you are not a newbie and many antiques take on this sort of wear (called patina) and look all the better for it.
There is engraving on the sides of the boxlock action, which you would expect on a game gun. But it might not be to everybody’s taste. It reminded me of the basic engraving on my Miroku M6000, which dates from 1983; I love that old gun because it’s superbly made and shoots well.
Browning 525 Shadow Action
Being out of the same stable, the Browning Shadow is also well-made and beautifully finished. If you open and close the gun, you can hear a solid ‘thunk’ with no rattles or ‘tings’ from inside the action.
- In recent years, the Browning 525 action has been streamlined – but not as much as the 725 – and the barrels are of a monobloc construction.
- The Shadow is chambered for 3in cartridges and has high performance proof marks, so you can stuff it with pretty beefy loads.
- This gun has back-bored barrels, which are a little wider in bore diameter than most 12-bores, and have long (3in) forcing cones. These developments, combined with the stock ergonomics and the Inflex recoil pad, mean that recoil is managed well. This is something you will appreciate with heavy load cartridges.
- Backboring is also said to produce better patterns.
- The barrels are chrome lined so they won’t corrode and the gun comes with a set of flush multichokes, making it versatile and more saleable second-hand.
- Weighing just over 7lb, the 30in barrel version of the gun is about average weight for an over-and-under game gun, although you might find it a bit heavy if you trek up hill and down dale on a walked-up shoot. If that’s your sport, then you might be better off looking at the 16- and 28-bore versions, which are lighter.
- Like all Brownings, the safety and barrel selector toggle is on the backstrap of the action. As the Shadow is a game gun the safety is automatic but a gunsmith could change that to manual easily.
Even though the test gun had a 30in barrel, it felt very lively. That’s because Browning has reduced the weight of the barrels, bringing the point of balance back to the shooter’s hands around the hinge pin. Recoil was soft and manageable, especially considering I was testing the gun wearing only a light skeet vest. Later in the season, when you are wrapped up in bulky clothes, the Shadow would be a very comfortable gun to shoot.
At 14¾in, the stock is of average length. It was a little short for me (I’m just over 6ft) but had I been wearing winter clothes it would have been a perfect fit. If you need it longer or shorter, a thinner or thicker pad could achieve that. Just be aware that by altering the length-of-pull you will alter where your cheek sits on the comb and thus effectively alter the height of the comb.
The comb was just the right height for me, although some might find it a little too high. Something else some shooters may not like is the schnabel tip fore-end (Browning calls it a ‘tulip’) because they like to point at the target with the index finger of their leading hand and this type of fore-end makes that difficult.
However, what the lefties among us will appreciate is that Browning has produced a version of the Shadow with a left-handed stock. Considering that only about 20% of the population is left-handed, this is a generous move to accommodate those who shoot southpaw.
I have always liked the Browning 525. It’s well made and performs above its price point. With the Shadow you pay an extra £400 for a black action, ‘blingy’ trigger and high-grade wood. Is it worth it? Yes. As a limited edition gun it’s unlikely you would see anyone else with the same gun, so it makes the Shadow a shotgun for those who want the reliability and affordability of a 525, but without their gun looking as commonplace as the standard 525.
- Build quality: 24/25
- Handling: 24/25
- Styling 23/25
- Value for money 23/25
- Gun tested: £2000
- Weight: 7 ½ lb
- Barrel: 28 or 30in (tested)
- Length-of-pull: 14 ¾in
- Drop: 1 ½ in at toe and 2-in at heel
- Rib: 6mm top ventilated