Many British shooters over the past two decades have begun their careers with a Browning Medallist - the cheapest gun available through the famous Belgian company's importers in the UK.
We can’t help but think this has been a sensible move. A newcomer who learns to enjoy his sport is likely to want to upgrade to a better gun in a year or two, and a satisfied Browning owner has an excellent incentive to stick with the marque. It also gives the newcomer something to boast about: ‘I shoot a Browning’.
Full marks, then, for psychology!
Yet this Browning is constructed like no other, and with the exception of the new and revolutionary Cynergy – which is far more expensive – it is the only break-action Browning built on a low-profile action.
In fact, truth be told, the Medallist isn’t a Browning at all, although it is built to the specification of the Browning importer. Therefore it enjoys all the advantages of being brought into the UK by a reliable company, with their guarantee of long life and constantly available spares.
What’s the best starter gun? It’s a subject for constant debate, with guns from Lincoln, Lanber, Baikal, and various relative…
Who makes it?
The Medallist is made not, like the majority of Brownings, by Miroku in Japan, but in Italy by FIAS. FIAS is an abbreviation for Fabbrica Italiana Armi Sabatti, which is part of the Sabatti Armi group based in the Gardone valley, near Brescia in northern Italy. It is run by brothers Emanuele, Antonio and Marco Sabatti, whose family – like those of so many current Italian manufacturers – is steeped in the history of gun making in the area. They make shotguns and rifles in a modern and well-equipped plant.
How adaptable is it?
The Medallist is a good beginners’ gun, and is highly adaptable to almost anything except trap shooting and the use of heavyweight fowling loads. Medallists are in regular use for clays, game and pigeons.
How does it work?
The mechanical layout of the Medallist is typical of a gun with a low-profile action. The barrels hinge on stub pins let into the forward ends of the action walls, and lock-up is achieved by a full-width bolt running along the action floor to engage with a bite in the barrel lump just underneath the lower chamber.
Inside the action, hammers are pivoted at the bottom, and are driven by low-mounted coil springs running on guide rods. As the gun opens, the hammers are cocked by rods running just underneath the bolt. These are forced back by a cam on the fore-end iron. The cocking mechanism also serves to trip the spring-loaded ejectors when the gun is fired. The ejectors, which get a good hold on the cartridge rims, run in dovetails in the barrel monobloc, with their coil operating springs directly beneath the heads.
Safety thumbpiece and barrel selector form the usual single unit in the usual position on the top strap. The safety is non-automatic, but the construction of the top lever mechanism is such that it is a relatively easy job for a gunsmith to convert it to automatic for those who prefer the feature for field shooting.
Sears hang from the top strap to engage with bents cut into the tops of the hammers. The single, selective trigger lifts each sear in turn, and is transferred to the second sear by a recoil-driven inertia mechanism. In fact, the inertia weight doubles as the sear lifter.
The exterior of the action is in a bright silver finish, decorated in a leaf and scroll pattern with machine-applied engraving. The top lever, safety thumbpiece and trigger guard are also in bright silver, and the trigger blade has been treated to a gold finish.
– The 70mm (23/4in) chambers are built on the monobloc principle, and come in 28 and 30in. versions.
– The 8mm top rib, and the side ribs, are ventilated for lightness and rapid cooling.
– The top rib carries a small, red foresight bead.
– The tubes are internally chromed for corrosion resistance and ease of cleaning.
– A set of multichoke tubes comes with the gun.
– There may be a few fixed-choke versions around on the second-hand market.
– Relatively plain walnut, but straight-grained and strong in the right places.
– Pistol-grip stock length is 14.3/4 in, with drops at comb and heel of 1.1/2 in and 1.3/4 in respectively.
– Fore-end is a schnabel design.
– The chequering is quite functional, and affords a good grip.
The Medallist weighs about 7.3/4 lb – a nice compromise weight for an all-rounder.
What the tester thought
Two second-hand tests in Sporting Gun, in August 2000 and March 2002, make interesting reading because they highlight the gun’s value for money and reliability, but also point out the few things liable to go wrong after many years of use. These concern easily-replaced and relatively cheap items – ejectors which can prove a little fragile after a lot of use, and fore-end cocking cams which can give a little trouble.
Other than those two minor niggles – and every gun has small problems which can show up as the years go by – the Medallist scored relatively highly for a gun in its price bracket. It got 6 out of 10 for build quality and styling, 7 for handling, and 8 for value for money.
High points noted were the price and the spares availability. The tester commented: “…buyers can rest easy in the knowledge this gun represents excellent value for money. It is an attractive proposition for anyone who has a limited budget but wants an all-round gun.”
The Spanish-built Lanber and guns in the Italian-built Lincoln range form the main opposition.
Ask any Browning/Miroku dealer.