Mark Heath was left speechless by the handling, performance and value of this brand-new Browning
The shotgun on test this month is the Browning 525 Laminate, a new offering from Browning that will be available in the UK from June 2019. Featuring grey laminate woodwork, it is aimed at the clay shooter and has a recommended retail price of £2,175.
The demonstration model arrived at the shooting school in an ABS case complete with a full set of extended chokes. We screwed the half and three-quarter chokes into the 30in barrels in preparation for the test. Measurements first, however.
The overall weight of the 525 was 8lb 4oz, which is a great starting point for a clay gun. The barrel weight came in at 1,501g which, for 30in tubes, is about right. There will also be a 32in version. The length of the stock to the mid-point was 14 ⅞in, which is in the normal Browning territory.
The stock comes with a fully adjustable comb which, when left as it is, has drop measurements of 1⅜in at the comb and 2⅛in at the heel — standard and, again, a good place to start. With the comb left at its start point, there is ⅛in cast at heel, which is perfect for an off-the-shelf gun. If you are unsure about gun fit it is worth getting some advice before you fiddle.
The barrels came with a small white centre bead, which I prefer to remove as I am not a “pre-mount and see the figure-of-eight picture” shooter — I like to get the measurements right and then get on with it. The bead on the end of the barrel can be switched in and out to change the colour.
The safety catch is manual, as you would expect, with standard Browning/Miroku barrel selection. In my view, the safety catch on these guns is one of the best in the business.
The grip and radius felt comfortable during handling prior to the test, as did the measurements. We left the comb in its original position and did not feel the need to make any adjustments.
Paul Gendall, an instructor at the shooting school, joined me to put the 525 through its paces. We started as usual on a 40ft tower to get a benchmark, moving the trap to different angles. The handling of the gun was first class and the breaks were exceptional.
We then moved on to some more testing competition-style targets. We have a couple of Super Sporting-type areas at the shooting school where there are four or five traps sending some interesting targets. We started on a simultaneous pair of fast going-away orange targets, which were crushed into powder, then moved on to a single target — a fast right-to-left orange target against the bank which, if you gave it too much thought, would get the better of you. Again, the 525 did its job well.
It was now time for a right-to-left fast-rising gem of a target which, at the break point, is 65 to 70 yards away depending on when you pull the trigger, with the perceived lead close to the proverbial two five-bar gates. This was followed by a standard target under full spring climbing the bank 40 yards away.
We are seldom lost for words during a gun test, but this proved an exception. The handling and performance on these targets was eye-opening, especially given the price of the gun.
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There is one small point worth noting: the demonstration gun came with a bright green bead, which is interchangeable, but as we were shooting close to dusk it was a bit like having a fluorescent candle on the end of the gun. Some duck flew over towards the lake as we walked up the path back to the shooting school. I am sure they shot us a “we are out of season” look.
The 690 Sporter standard and Black editions from Beretta are probably the nearest competitors to the Browning 525 Laminate. All are great-value competition guns that are a dream to handle and so it really comes down to personal choice. Other options from Browning would be the standard 525 or 725, or even the Miroku Mk 38 series.
With an RRP of £2,175, the Browning 525 Laminate is a lot of gun for the money