Is the latest variant of the B725 more than just a fresh lick of paint? Alex Flint attempts to find out if black really does go with everything.
With a long history of slow change in its guns, it should come as little surprise that this latest model from Browning – Browning B725 Hunter UK Black Gold II – offers only small tweaks to an existing pattern. Fortunately, the B725 is a very successful pattern for this famed maker to follow, offering great shooting alongside enviable reliability.
Sharp lines and more powerful profile
Launched as the successor to the B525 coming up on six years ago, the B725 was something of a departure with a low action body more in line with what one might expect from an Italian over-under, though sharp lines and a more powerful profile certainly mark this out as a Browning. This visual distinction is further reinforced with the Black Gold model on test, taking on the colour scheme inextricably linked with Browning and producing a handsome beast. The only really ‘new’ feature of this Black Gold II model is the availability of a Prince of Wales-style pistol grip alongside a rounded semi-pistol grip.
To my eyes this style of finish is far more successful on the 12 bore variant of the gun than the 20, where the darker colours made the small bore gun appear rather more bulky than one perhaps might like. The long rounded fore-end and stock both feature well figured walnut of the darker American variety, again complementing the overall style of the gun.
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Like other models in the B725 range, the engraving is unfortunately rather shallow, however the designs are generally well executed and the gold inlaid birds really do draw the eye – particularly at a distance. Alongside some foliate scroll engraving work there are game scenes on each side the action body, featuring flushing grouse and pheasant inlaid in gold. The bottom of the action body is rather lacking, with the name of the gun in a small banner with some foliate scroll work dotted around. It is notable that the modern Browning logo on the trigger guard and the B725 name, both being inlaid in gold on the previous Black Gold model, have been lost, replaced by a more attractive golden grouse head inlaid on the top lever.
Unfortunately, while the game birds are well engraved and attractive, the rest of the engraving feels superfluous. The engraving work is so shallow that you only really see it when it catches the light – and given the depth of the black finish applied to the gun this is a fairly unusual occurrence! One might argue I am being a little harsh given the price of the gun, however the quality of the finishing and engraving is significantly higher on other models from within the B725 range.
Looks good on the clay ground and in the field
The Black Gold II is quite a handsome gun to my eye but given the disparity in the quality of finishing across the range it seems likely Browning has identified a large enough section of the customer base to whom this model will appeal and who will allow their heads to be ruled by their hearts. Of course, gun buying can be anything but a cold, logical process and you would be quite forgiven for spotting this and being drawn in by its dark and brooding appearance. Certainly, it looks a gun which would be just as comfortable in the field as it would on the clay ground.
An excellent modern over-and-under
Performance-wise the Black Gold II is just as successful as all the rest of the B725 range. In this gun Browning has created an excellent modern over-under, with steady handling characteristics and excellent control over recoil and muzzle flip. In common with all Browning guns, the Black Gold II is a good weight at just a shade under 7lbs 7oz with 28” barrels as on our test gun and has yet to let me down in the field.
I was unable to test the new Prince of Wales-style grip, our test gun having a comfortable rounded semi-pistol grip, however I have tested that style of stock on other B725 models and found it to be comfortable and secure, with a good swept-back profile. Chequering continues to be a little on the coarse side, though security in the hand is never in any doubt.
Ultimately, this is simply yet another solid Browning B725.
Scores for the Browning B725 Hunter UK Black Gold II
Engineering: 9/10 Browning’s latest mass-produced action continues
Handling: 9/10 A consistently pleasurable experience no matter the model name.
Looks & finishing: 7/10 Divisive. Handsome enough with good gold inlays, though the rest of the engraving lacks depth.
Reliability & customer service: 9/10 The shotgun is as strong as an ox
Value: 7/10 While you are getting a lot for your money, the Black Gold II faces some tough competition from its own siblings.
View from the gun shop
Yet another variant of the B725 has made its way to our shores! The sceptical amongst you might wonder whether or not the market is on its way to being saturated soon since Browning is not alone in producing seemingly endless variants of the same guns. At least this Black Gold II model does looks significantly different to the other guns in the B725 range – though for me it is not entirely successful.
- While the gold inlay work is actually rather good, for me the gun doesn’t quite come together fully visually.
- The contrast between the gold and the black of the metal work is a bit stark, largely down to a lack of depth with the rest of the engraving.
- Sadly the engraving of the landscapes in the game scene vignettes gets rather lost and I wonder whether it might have been better for the gold inlay work to have been applied to a plain, unengraved action.
- The wood on the gun is the American Claro walnut used on all Brownings, which by its nature has a much darker finish than French or Turkish walnut. As a result the gun is rather dark all round; from a distance the gun looks a bit imposing and almost military-like.
- It’s all a bit too much for my tastes.
- The B725 is a very popular choice in this price bracket, up against the likes of the Beretta 690 Field III or similar guns such as the Rizzini Artemis or Caesar Guerini Tempio, as it is such a solid bit of engineering – these guns just keep on going and are very reliable.
- The mechanical action is a boon given the variety of cartridge types around today, and though the gun is not autosafe as standard it can be easily converted.
- Ultimately, this is hardly a classic game gun but it is not pretending to be.
- Mechanically and performance-wise there is very little to complain about here – its appeal will ultimately come down to how you feel about the look of the thing.
In the field
The Black Gold II is satisfying to use in the field, proving as solid and secure in the shoulder as its appearance suggests. This comes as no surprise, however, given how consistently well the B725 has shot across the many variants and bores I have tested. The gun is fairly weighty, though this weight is well distributed and the gun is very well balanced so although you are aware of the mass of the gun it never becomes too wearing, even after extended periods of fairly hectic shooting.
With the 28” barrels as fitted to our test gun I found the Black Gold II mounted consistently well and was a real pleasure to swing, staying on line with ease even when rather tricky wind necessitated rapid changes of direction. It provided a very flexible shooting experience, though if one were to be spending most of one’s time taking on tall driven birds or really challenging clay layouts one might be tempted to specify a longer set of barrels.
Satisfying to use in the field, solid and secure in the shoulder