How about firing over 25,000 12-gauge shotgun shells as the testing grounds for two new shotguns? I have heard about gun companies that fire huge piles of shells as the introductory testing of new shotgun models, but I’m pretty sure such testing takes place in a figurative laboratory, i.e. the company’s testing facilities. But I was part of a five-shooter party that fired all those thousands of shells in a genuine hunting situation.
We were gunning the endless doves found in the Cordoba area of Argentina, and each of our quintet was shooting their own Browning model 725 over and under and Browning’s new semi-auto – dubbed the A5. The idea was to have five models of each in five shooter’s hands – pound away at dove after dove with cartridge after cartridge – and thus be able to see if either or both these brand new models held up to the Cordoba torture. I assure you every one of these two guns got red hot – well red hot to the touch anyway.
Showing some savvy, Browning did not produce hundreds or even scores of these new models – only the very few prototypes we took with us. Why? Obviously, Browning wanted to see if the guns held up – and if not – what they needed to do with production models to insure they would hold up when put into the real customer’s hand. It’s a testing practice that hasn’t been done often enough.
So now you have a pretty good idea that both the 725 and the A5 held up (more on that soon enough) or I wouldn’t be writing this. But just what are the new 725 over and under and the new A5 semi-auto? Let’s take a look at the 725 first.
No doubt the easiest way to introduce you to the 725 is to remind you about a very successful Browning introduction to sporting clays shooters – the model 325. As some of you no doubt know, the 325 was first introduced to shooters in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe. The gun sold well. Some say it was especially favored because the barrels seemed lighter. When Americans visiting England started bringing the 325 back to the USA Browning saw it was time to bring out the 325 here on our shores. It, too, sold well.
Always bringing new and sought-after features to its competition shotguns, Browning next came out with the 425. Sales were again excellent. Now you know where this is going – since the 425 was followed by the 525 – and not all that long ago the 625. So now we have the 725 that we shot so extensively in South America. You have no doubt also guessed that the 725 has features that were not included in the pervious “25” series over and unders – or any other previous Citori – competition or otherwise.
All these Browning over and unders, save the Cynergy model, are based on the long-term tested Citori action – with receiver-wide hinge pin for the barrels to pivot upon – and the receiver-wide bolt that moves forward to engage the wide lug milled into the bottom of the monobloc. The strength of this action is legendary. The 725 uses this same receiver lock up, but that receiver is 4 millimeters narrower – from top to bottom. Browning accomplished this via a set of stronger, shorter hammers. Because of the underlocking bolt some have claimed the depth of the Superposed and Citori receivers has been too much – when compared to over and under designs that do not have an underlocking bolt. At least a 4-millimeter reduction in depth in the new 725 is something.
A second new feature with the 725 would be mechanical triggers. All previous Citori models have come with inertia triggers. Decades ago it was possible to make inertia triggers that were better than mechanical triggers. This is no longer the case. Other manufacturers have switched to mechanical triggers, and now Browning has done likewise with the 725. Don’t forget that the Cynergy model was designed with excellent mechanical triggers.
A third innovation is a new screw choke system. Called Invector DS – the DS stands for Double Seal. The idea behind the DS was to reduce the amount of powder fouling and other crud that could creep in between the outside of the screw in and the inside of the barrel. Browning accomplished this by incorporating a ring of brass put in near the base of the screw in. I pulled screw chokes regularly in South America and can tell you the DS system works as designed.
There are both Field and Sporting versions of the 725, the Field offered with 26 and 28-inch barrels, the Sporter with 28, 30 and 32-inch barrels. The Sporter also has vented side panels between the barrels – the Field side panels are not vented. The non-tapered Field top rib measures .250, the tapered rib on the Sporter measures 7/16 at the breech – to 5/16 at the muzzle. In both models barrels are overbored – which I measured at .738 – and wear very long forcing cones – for this Browning calls it Vector Pro – though Vector Pro is not new to the 725.
Walnut stock dimensions for the Field are 14¼ x 1-5/8 x 2½ – for the Sporter 14¼ x 1-9/16 x 2½. However, .275 spacers are included with the 725 – so you can increase the length of pull – to almost 15 inches. You will also find new engraving patterns on the 725, and the engraving on the Field models is considerably different than the engraving on the Sporter models. Prices for the Field model start at $2,470 and $3,140 for the Sporting model.
What about the A5 semi-auto? This one wears the “humpback” look of the old and discontinued Auto-5. Evidently, Browning was getting a lot of requests to bring the old Auto-5 back, but that gun had lots of expensive milled parts, plus wore a steel receiver. The aluminum receiver of the A5 is easier to mill, less expensive to make, but the new A5 does not operate as the old Auto-5 did – i.e. recoil operation. Instead the new A5 has a very strong spring behind the bolt. This spring compresses when the gun is fired. But when the bolt and spring reach the end of their travel rearward that strong spring closes the action – taking the new shell on the carrier with it – and into the chamber. This system is very similar to the Benelli, well known for it simplicity as well as its reliability.
The A5 barrels also come with Vector Pro as well as the new Invector DS screw choking system. Its fore-end look is definitely remindful of the one worn on the old Auto-5. Unlike the 725, the A5 will be offered in walnut, stalker (black composite) and camo versions. I shot the walnut gun in Cordoba. The A5 safety is reversible for left-hand use. Since no powder gases leak around the magazine tube I found that mag tube very clean – never really in need of wiping off. Without the plug the magazine is capable of holding three 3-inch shells, four 2 ¾-inch shells. The plug can be removed and replaced very easily – sort of similar to how it is done on Browning’s gas-operated semi-auto the Maxus. Knock two retaining pins out to easily remove the trigger group for cleaning.
Stock dimensions are 14¼ x 1¾ x 2. However, a set of plastic spacers are included with the A5 – same deal for the 725 – spacers that you easily add between the recoil pad and the back of the butt stock to attain your own personal perfect length of pull. Both these new guns also come with the Inflex recoil pad, a pad not new to either model but one already becoming well known for its recoil absorbing qualities. Prices for the new A5 range from $1,400 to $1,600.
Of all the thousands of rounds we put through the 10 test guns there was not one hiccup with any of the 725s. The first day or so of the trip I had three A5 failures to feed, i.e. the spent shell was ejected, but the shell on the carrier was not carried all the way into the chamber. Considering all the shells that I fired through my A5 I consider this a non issue. However, some of the other A5s had further minor problems, all of which the Browning personnel with us documented so they could make necessary changes to the production guns – before serious production ever started. What a great idea – to put prototype guns to the extreme Argentina test – before ever starting serious production.
By the way, on this gun testing trip I shot at four different lodges. All provided excellent service as well as endless doves. One I suggest you consider using as a base of operations would be La Zenaida Lodge, a part of Frontera Wingshooting. La Zenaida is east of Cordoba city, located right in the midst of a huge dove roost, and that means you don’t travel far to any of the shooting. I could actually see the lodge from each of the three gunning locations I shot at while there. The Detail Company in Houston books La Zenaida (which is the scientific name of the eared dove in Argentina) – so contact Jeri Booth at 800-292-2213 – on the web it is www.detailcompany.com.
Editor’s Note: We would like to welcome the staff at Shotgun Life as contributors to our Guns & Gear section.
Mike P. Editor, Guns & Gear