The Medallist was a well-designed shotgun for the entry-level mass market, says Charles Smith-Jones
There can be very few people who have not heard of the Browning Arms Company. Founded in 1878, the company quickly developed a deserved reputation not just for the manufacture of sporting and military firearms but also for a wide range of fishing tackle and other sporting goods. Co-founder John Moses Browning is widely regarded as one of the world’s most prolific inventors of firearms and his name is synonymous with quality.
It is, however, important to recognise from the start that the Browning Medallist was never actually made by Browning — it was simply distributed by the company. Early production of the Medallist was instead done by the Italian shotgun manufacturer Zoli to Browning specifications, but for reasons of cost and over-complication of design soon switched to FIAS — better known as Sabatti — another Italian company.
A robust and well-designed shotgun
The Medallist has always been a robust and well-designed shotgun intended for the mass market as an entry-level budget model. Apart from the very earliest ones, which tended to be a little over-complicated, the action design quickly evolved to become much more straightforward and reliable.
Browning Medallist tech specs
- Weight: 7lb 8oz
- Overall Length: 48in
- Barrel: 28 and 30 in
- Length of pull 14¾ in
- Drop at comb: 1½ in
- Rib: 8mm
- Heel to toe: 1 ¾ in
- The single trigger uses a sear system to switch between barrels. The transfer to the second sear is operated by an inertia mechanism driven by recoil. One shooting fault that I have noticed, especially among beginners, is that if the gun is not firmly seated in the shoulder when fired, the transfer will not take place and as a result the second barrel will not fire.
- The safety is conveniently placed in the usual location on the top strap and it doubles as a barrel selector. While the safety catch is non-automatic, it can easily be converted by a competent gunsmith to automatic if that option is preferred, which is often the case when the gun is to be used for field shooting rather than the clay line.
- As far as looks are concerned, the Medallist has a very “Italian” feel to it with a shallow action frame and a slim, well-chequered pistol grip, which is very comfortable to hold. The comb may feel
a little high but, if desired, this is something that can be easily altered. The walnut woodwork is strong if somewhat basic, with a lacquered finish that some owners choose to strip off and refinish with oil.
The action exterior is finished in bright silver, quite heavily but attractively decorated with machined scrolling. The top rib of the barrel is ventilated for lightness and cooling, cross-cut to reduce glare, and fitted with a foresight bead. A brass midsight is sometimes located halfway down the barrel.
- The interior tubes of the barrels are chromed to resist corrosion and the spring-loaded extractors are very positive.
The Medallist can be something of a “Marmite” gun among more experienced shots, some of whom have experienced mechanical problems, particularly with older models. These are usually issues with the woodwork or a dislike of the balance. Others swear by them and point out that the Medallist is certainly not, nor was it ever, intended as a competitor for the more expensive high-end alternatives.
To get a professional opinion I spoke to Chris Lamb, manager of the Country Sports Shop in Newton Abbot, Devon. He likes the Medallist. “The 20-bores are often the better option,” he said. “They tend to be more reliable and the actions have held up better over time. The 12s can be good as well, but need to be checked more carefully as they can loosen up, and take special care with the earlier Zoli production models.”
He also warns that, if a gun doesn’t come a full selection of chokes, you need to be aware that replacements can be difficult to find.
The Medallist is in many ways perfect for the beginner and adapts well for most clay, game and pigeon disciplines, though heavy loads for wildfowling are not really an option.
It is relatively trouble free and any repairs tend to be restricted to simple issues such as worn springs and ejectors, which are easily replaced.
Overall this is a gun that was built to last. It is robust and affordable, a bit of an all-rounder and is certainly worth considering.
The 20-bores are often the better option