GUN EXPERT: Mike George
USEFUL BUY: Secondhand Browning B25
SECONDHAND COST: Around £3,900
I recently read somewhere that John Moses Browning invented the over-and-under shotgun. He certainly did not, but his famous B25 became one of the world’s most enduring designs.
Browning filed his first patents on the gun in 1923 and 1924, but he never did get to fire a production version.
He died in 1926, while waiting for Fabrique Nationale in Belgium to finish the first batch of guns. It was the end of a remarkable design career, which encompassed some of the world’s most successful military weapons as well as sporting guns.
The company once boasted that the B25 was made up of 22 different types of steel involving 794 precision operations, and that craftsmen performed 155 hand fitting operations. In other words it was, and probably still remains, a present-day production engineer’s nightmare.
With the exception of the war years of 1939-45, the gun has been in almost constant production since 1926, with a very few minor design changes.
Very early guns had double triggers, then double triggers with the quirky variation that either trigger would fire both barrels in succession, before the more mechanically simple single selective trigger came along.
Over the years there have been variations for every conceivable target discipline as well as game shooting, with 20-bores and .410s as well.
There are even double rifles, and all are still made in the Browning Custom Shop in Belgium.
Those confusing letter and number sequences used to describe the guns – such as B2G and D5G – signify different standards of finish and engraving.
The current catalogue shows more than 22 variations, many of which are side-plated, but there have been many more than that.
And if you can’t find something that pleases you, you can specify a design of your own – as long as you have the money.
However, you could be in for a long wait. In general working principles, the B25 is also much copied.
Similar guns include the lesser Browning guns made by Miroku in Japan, Miroku shotguns themselves, and the old Winchester 101 series, among others.
> O/U boxlock with full-width hinge pin and low-mounted bolt engaging with bite on the barrel lumps.
> Single, selective trigger with hammers hinged at the bottom and sears hanging from the top strap. Two-piece ejectors.
> Most guns have 14.3/4in stocks with drops of around 1 3/8in at comb and 2.3/16in at heel. However, woodwork dimensions and styles, barrel lengths, and rib styles vary, depending on the intended discipline and particularly among guns built to individual order.
> A modern classic
> Excellent quality and workmanship
> Good handling
> Hard to criticise, but I don’t like the non-removable fore end which slides forward for barrel removal. It sometimes leaves a scar in the barrel blacking.
WHAT TO PAY
> The sky’s the limit for a bespoke new gun. An off-the-shelf B2G is around £7,000, with good second-hand examples from £3,900 upwards.
> The UK importers prefer contact to be made through the extensive Browning dealership network.
> Go to www.browningint.com to find a UK dealer. The North American site at www.browning.com is more explicit on the B25, and allows you to download the 2011 catalogue.