How does Browning's latest gun fare in small bore form? Alex Flint investigates.
The Browning B725 had a lot to live up to in replacing Browning‘s ageing but extremely successful B525. Thankfully, the Belgium-based company produced a gun which has proved popular with the public and critics alike since its launch in the first half of 2013. I was suitably impressed when I tested the 12 bore Hunter (game) model, finding a gun with excellent handling and recoil characteristics together with one of the best off-the-shelf grip and stock shapes you can find at an excellent, highly competitive price.
We find ourselves looking at the B725 once again, this time as a 20 bore. Over the last few years 20 bores have become an increasingly popular and important part of the shotgun market, thanks to their lighter weight and generally superb handling. Most sportsmen and women would agree a 20 bore is tremendous fun to shoot, particularly for those of us who shoot in a more instinctive manner. Similarly, those looking for an extra test are more and more turning towards 20 bore guns as a means of providing a challenge on shoot day. However, as tested, it is the latter group who are likely to get the greatest pleasure from this gun.
Those used to 20 bores being considerably lighter, easier handling variants on their larger siblings in the style of Beretta will be surprised by the B725 which, as tested, weighed in at 6lbs. 15½oz. This surprisingly high figure is most likely down to our test gun’s 32″ barrels, but it is difficult to ignore since this seems perilously close to a standard 12 bore fitted with 28″ barrels. Beretta 20 bores, for example, are appreciably lighter than the 12 bore variants, coming in generally around three quarters of a pound lighter. This is part of the reason for their popularity, so one wonders what Browning is hoping to gain with this unusually heavy 20 bore within its ranks.
As one looks more closely at the details it becomes increasingly clear this gun has not been made with ladies or younger shots in mind, rather it is a serious gun. There are 3″ chambers which are proved for steel shot, meaning the gun can take very heavy loads. The barrels have the same back boring seen in the 12 bore B725, extending the forcing cones and giving increased speed and better penetration of shot together with improved shot pattern. The balance point is well forward, being in front of the fore-end iron, meaning plenty of weight in the front hand. All of this means the gun is capable of handling quite deliberately and shooting the heaviest loads required for high birds.
A couple of visual problems
Moreover, the gun simply looks large; though the depth of the action has been reduced from the old B525, Browning has been somewhat limited by the need to retain the full body pin. The long 32″ barrels do, in fact, suit the 20 bore gun, but when viewed with the 12 bore model the difference is not immediately apparent. This in no way suggests the gun is unattractive – indeed the lines of the gun are very good, thanks to a nice shape to the fore-end and the excellent Prince of Wales style pistol grip stock. The wood, though somewhat plain as you would expect at this price point, has been well selected and finished. Chequering has been well executed and provides plenty of grip but surprisingly is not too rough as is often a problem on new guns.
The engraving design is shared across the B725 range, in Grade I as tested here taking the form of game scenes surrounded by a pattern ofexpanding rays. The bottom plate of the gun has a totally different style of engraving; a strange, rather anaemic bit of scroll work together with the name of the manufacturer and model number. Well executed and on the whole tasteful, the engraving is of the standard you would expect at this price, though it is a little bland.
There are a couple of visual problems to my eyes, however. I would prefer a steel trigger and though the Browning sticker on the bottom barrel is easily removed I do wish they would include it in the box for those that want it rather than putting it on as standard. Of course, preconceptions are often blown aside when one finally shoots the gun and this 20 bore B725 was no exception. It felt an excellent gun to shoot, moving smoothly and dealing with recoil remarkably. While not significantly different from its bigger brother it has an undeniable appeal in the hand and is sure to win admirers on the clay ground and in the field.
Browning B725 in the field
It would be fair to say I was expecting this gun to handle like a bit of a lump. The excitement that usually comes with the prospect of shooting a 20 bore with that light, snappy, instinctive style faded away almost as soon as I picked it up – the weight of the gun really is obvious.
However, I am pleased to report my early judgment proved somewhat rash. The gun comes up into the shoulder in a positive manner, and is delightfully pointable. It stays on line with no effort and swings beautifully, proving adept at longer crossing targets along with high driven birds. Where the gun really surprised me, however, was its ability to tackle more instinctive shooting – it is so positive
and moves so well that any concerns over weight are completely forgotten. Visibility down those long barrels is excellent and the gun feels very secure in the hand.
Recoil is dealt with superbly well, essentially being completely negligible with lighter loads, and trigger pulls are very satisfying indeed. The recoil pad is smooth and hard and so slides into the shoulder easily unlike other, softer, more textured products which can catch on clothing. Also worthy of note is the excellent grip which is nicely swept back and has a lovely swell into the palm of the hand.
All in all, this gun proved a real, positive surprise for both myself and instructor Bruce Marks at Grange Farm Shooting School. I imagine a 20 bore B725 with 28″ barrels would be an absolute riot to shoot.
View from the gun shop. By Bill Elderkin.
This is a very serious gun indeed and is probably not for the feint hearted! At nearly 7lbs. it is quite heavy for a 20 bore but when considered as a gun for a serious shot in need of a challenge it seems quite good value.
The back bored barrels and long Invector DS multichokes will give a good pattern and help to reduce recoil along with Browning’s clever Infl ex II recoil pad. You will be glad of that if you choose to put heavier loads through this gun – I would say you could quite happily use loads right up to 1¼oz.
The new B725 action is the result of a vast amount of time and money spent on research and development and it shows – it is rock solid and will doubtless be extremely reliable, just as the B525 is. Ejection is excellent and the gun opens very positively. Though the action is smaller than the 12 bore model, there is not a massive difference due to a need to retain space for the bottom lumps. Nevertheless, the sleeker lines do suit the gun and bring it more in line with its Italian competitors.
This gun will be good for shooting longer targets, the extra weight being felt in the front hand allowing for a deliberate swing that should be easy to keep on line. The balance being quite far forward will mean you certainly won’t struggle with your follow through either.
This gun sits at an interesting price point alongside the Beretta Silver Pigeon Deluxe or Caesar Guerini Tempio both of which offer the lighter 20 bore experience many will be looking for. As such the Browning, certainly in this guise with 32″ barrels, sits somewhat apart as a serious gun for clay or game shooting. Those looking for the challenge and satisfaction of shooting the toughest targets well with a 20 bore would be well served by looking at this gun.
Undeniable appeal in the hand and good value for money