Charles Smith Jones says most take to the Browning Gold Hunter as soon as they have fired off a few rounds
The Gold model was introduced to the Browning catalogue in 1995 and was offered in a variety of configurations for the clay target and field markets. The target models tended to come in a 2¾in chambering, while the field versions were 3in or 3½in. The clay shot had a wide array of furniture and finishes to choose from, whereas the Browning Gold Hunter was more likely to be limited to a smaller variety of wood or synthetic stocks in plain or camouflage finishes. One variant, the Gold Light 10, was even chambered for 10-bore as it was aimed at the US wildfowling and turkey hunting market, though it is unlikely that you will find an example in a UK showroom.
Taking a closer look at the Browning Gold Hunter
On the surface this is a plain gun with black metalwork and only its name engraved into it, while the pistol grip and fore-end have functionally cut checkering. The stock on most models is adjustable using shims, which allow it to be changed to improve fit to the individual. New guns were generally supplied with choke tubes in full, modified and improved cylinder in their Invector system, for which spares remain readily available. The vent-ribbed steel barrels have chromed chambers and should come proofed for use with steel shot.
The gun is operated by Browning’s “Active Valve” system that not only effectively controls the felt recoil but also means that Gold shotguns have a deserved reputation for cycling a wide variety of loads. With lighter ones most of the gases are used to work the action. Where magnum loads are involved only a small proportion of the gases are necessary and the remainder are vented through the Active Valve and away from the receiver. Additionally, because the gas piston and valve operate independently of each other, there is less pressure on the piston itself and as a result there is less wear and more efficient operation. There are no valves or friction rings to adjust, nor any O-rings that need replacing. It’s a good and proven system.
Reduced recoil is an important side-benefit of this process and one reason why the Gold remains popular among shooters. The 20-bore version has a special reputation for being gentle on the shoulder, with a very smooth working action, and is an excellent choice for the young, new or slightly built shooter. Whatever the calibre, this is a gun that you can put a great many cartridges through over a short period without experiencing any serious discomfort.
The Browning Gold Hunter also offers a speed-loading system. When the bolt of an empty gun locks to the rear, inserting a cartridge into the magazine will send it straight to the chamber and ensure that the gun is ready to fire immediately without the need for any further actions. When the shooting is fast and furious, such as in a busy pigeon hide, this is a very handy feature.
If Browning shotguns have ever tended to have a fault it has usually been the trigger pull, invariably heavy in a new gun but easily rectified by a gunsmith. The trigger itself though is comfortably rounded and more ergonomic than some others you come across. The safety catch is where you would usually expect to find it just in front of the trigger guard; it is slightly larger than the norm and easy to find even with gloved hands. One feature offered in some models is the unusual option of it being reversible, a real bonus for left-handers.
The Gold Hunter is one of those guns that you pick up and just take to after firing only a few cartridges. With its natural fit and smooth, easy swing it has converted more than one “gas gun” hater to a true believer and for good reason. Reliable and pleasant to shoot, it is not difficult to understand why it has a huge fanbase. If you are looking for a rugged and well-constructed semi-auto that comes with a strong reputation, it’s a great one to include on your shortlist.
Tech specs for the Browning Gold Hunter
- Configuration: Semi-automatic
- Action: Gas operated
- Choke: Multi choke
- Chamber: 3in or 3½in
- Barrel length: 26in to 30in
- Magazine: Available in both FAC and SGC capacities
- Safety catch: Non-automatic, reversible
- Weight (12 bore): 7lb 7oz
- Available in calibres: 12 & 20 bore
- Cost new: N/A
- Cost used: From around £450
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If you are looking for a rugged and well-constructed semi-auto that comes with a strong reputation, it’s a great one to include on your shortlist