This month’s review looks at the rather stunning Browning Heritage Hunter in 20-bore – a calibre that seems to be getting more popular than ever.
Part of the popularity is the wide variety of ammunition available, with 21 gram and 24 gram lighter loads for those looking for minimal recoil up to some 3in Magnum cartridges with 35 grams of lead if you’ve got a good chiropractor or osteopath. There is great choice in game and clay cartridges – the 24gram No.7 1⁄2 or No.8 shot is a phenomenal clay load.
Looking at the Browning Heritage Hunter in depth
The gun uses the 525 action with the addition of some stunning sideplates, ours with woodcock on one side and partridge on the other, and scroll engraving on the underside of the action, which is complemented by some very high-grade walnut.
The main difference between the 525 and the 725 is that the former has an inertia trigger and the 725 a mechanical set-up. Browning has continued to make the 525 even though the more recent 725 has been in production for some years now. In its basic form it represents incredible value for money and is a superb gun to shoot.
- The overall finish on the Browning Heritage Hunter is first class, with wood-to-metal fit to the usual high standard, well executed chequering and oil finish, together with a set of multi-choke barrels.
- The stock measurements are a great starting point for an off the shelf gun with a 15in length of pull with an additional 1⁄8in at the heel and 3⁄8 in at the toe, the drop measurements are pretty standard at 1 3⁄8 in at the comb 2 1⁄8 in at the heel and just about 1⁄16 cast off at heel.
- The plastic butt plate on these guns is not one of my favourites and it would have to go when I had my measurements put on the gun and be replaced with a Kick-EEZ or similar pad.
- I would also take an 1⁄8 in off the toe measurement which would increase the comfort during shooting. A customer that I look after at the shooting school has recently bought a pair of these guns in 20-bore. We did a fitting for him and the guns went off to Browning to be adjusted, which included replacing the plastic heel pad and also having the stocks finished in English oil. Not only did they look incredible when they came back but they were an absolute pleasure to shoot.
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The gun weighs in at 7lb 1oz, which should help with absorbing recoil and smoothing out the shooting a little though it might not suit those picking up a 20-bore as part of a move to a lighter gun.
However, the Browning 725 or 525 Prestige 20-bore are lighter at 6lb 10oz. The barrels on the gun weighed in at 1,338g while those on the 725 were 1,252g, which might be worth some thought before you buy.
The gun on test had a manual safety which can easily be converted to auto-safe should you so wish, however you should perhaps be putting the safety on before you bring the barrels down to reload, especially if you have only fired one shot.
The history of Browning is well rehearsed, with John Moses Browning and his superposed over-under providing the basis for all modern Brownings.
The gun is as close as you can get to a B25 without parting with the amount of money required – the cheapest new B25 that I can find is £12,000. It is, though, like all the non-B25 models, made at the Miroku factory in Japan, while the handmade Brownings are made at the factory at Herstal.
I do like to use a 20-bore for a lot of my gameshooting, which stems from being an avid woodcock and snipe shooter for a number of years both on my home turf in Devon and further afield in Scotland and Wales.
I found the 20-bore was a lot easier to carry and two pockets of 20-bore cartridges were a lot more than the equivalent 12s.
I haven’t shot woodcock for a number of years now because of doubts over the numbers but I continue to use a 20 bore on many days. It’s an enjoyable calibre to use and effective.
Engineering: 9/10 We have a number of Browning guns at the shooting school in both 12 and 20 bore. Many have had hundreds of thousands of rounds through them – if we can’t break them then they should last the average shooter a lifetime.
Looks and finishing: 10/10 If aesthetics and function are your priorities then the Heritage has both; a fabulous looking gun that performs.
Handling: 9/10 If you’re buying 20-bore to shoot a lighter gun then you may want to also have a look at the 725 or the 525 Prestige which come in at around 6lb 10oz. If you’re shooting a 20-bore for the sheer pleasure and weight is not an option then the Heritage is a great option.
Customer service: 10/10 The action comes with a 10-year warranty and the wood three years which shows confidence in the product. Any work on the gun must be undertaken by Browning to avoid invalidating the warranty – this includes stock alteration. However the service is very good. We have used Browning demonstrators for a number of years and I have yet to have a fault.
Value: 9/10 At around £6,000 the Heritage is a high grade gun that will serve you well.