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- Last updated: 20/11/2017
The modern age is undeniably good at advancing technology, the way we think about things and the way we approach our sport. There seems to be an ever-increasing array of equipment and ‘must have’ items to improve your skills and it can be a bit of a ‘rabbit in the head lights’ moment too.
Manufacturers will always want you to buy the latest kit and that’s fine, but there are still a lot of secondhand shotguns out there that were good when they were made and still are. Dependent on the history, or life of the shotgun, you can pick up a real bargain in the second-hand marketplace. If I am really truthful and being honest here, improvements on new models can just be a marketing ploy sometimes and the previous model can still be an excellent gun!
Also, some of the early models of shotguns were made when CNC machining was in its infancy and far more of the manufacture was handmade or assembled. You also had some cracking walnut available for stocks and engraving was often better cut. However, many modern guns have excellent walnut since the Turkish gun invasion, and dependent on model, engraving can also be very good. Hence a quick look at the second-hand market for a good used shotgun can often give you a better grade gun for the same price as a standard model but from a new range.
So long as the gun has had a good life and been cared for and not knocked about and abused, you can be just as satisfied with a good second-hand gun, as you would with a new one.
A lot of second-hand choice stems from the buyer’s loyalty or just preference for one make of gun; like a camera or car, people tend to go for the brands they know and trust. This is a sensible approach, as there are more models and guns available to choose from, so you can cherry pick the best. However, there are many lesser known makes that are just as good.
If you stick to a known brand like Browning, Beretta, Miroku etc. you also have a lot of spares available, so no problems to repair. Also, some older models by now have had all their initial flaws or negative points exposed, so as a savvy second-hand buyer you can check these specific points on a s/h gun to negotiate a better price.
I was after a second-hand over-and-under shotgun for my son, Jake, as he has a real interest in shotguns, whereas I am certainly more rifle biased. Having chatted to Phil Wood from FA Andersons and after a series of shotgun lessons from Guy Bond at GB Shooting school, the advice was a 20-gauge, to ease him in and a good s/h Browning would be ideal. Jake had been using a Browning B325 in 20-gauge at GB Shooting and, like learning in a car for driving lessons, familiarity breeds confidence. The B325 is an old gun from Browning now, being on the B725 model at present! The new B725 Game grade 1 model at £1891 would be a superb starter gun and in fact do anything gun for the type of rough, informal shotgun shooting we do. But Phil suggested for nearly the same price you could have an older 325 or 425 models but instead of a grade 1, a grade 5 would be obtainable. This means that for the same money you get far superior wood quality and engraving and a gun hopefully Jake will cherish all his life.
As luck would have it, it was not long before the phone was ringing and Phil had a really nice, little used, 20-gauge grade 5 B325 that a gent had used only for the odd partridge day – perfect! The B325 is a lovely little gun, either in 20g or 12g, it exudes real quality and finesse that modern guns don’t quite have, it’s probably that age of patina and old world quality.
This is a Game gun, so designed to be fast and lighter than say a Sporting gun, so ideal for learning the basics and toting around the farm.
It is 45-inches in overall length and weighs in at 6.5lbs, so in 20-gauge it handles like a whippet, yet recoil is still very manageable. You have a rib of 10mm, a little large for a Game gun but it does not obscure your target whilst swinging and twin white beads are almost naturally aligned, so your eye concentrates on the flying clay, pigeon or pheasant.
The barrels were chambered in 20-gauge 3-inch and to start with some nice lighter loads of Hull Pro Twenty 21- or 24-grain loads would be ideal.
These barrels were standard choked with ¼ bottom barrel and ½ top, so good middle of the road choking. These guns did come later with multi choke systems, or were retro fitted, so check it has been done correctly and chokes are a smoothly inset and remove easily. For a starter gun, fixed chokes are fine, just learn to shoot, swing and hit the target first and then subtly change chokes, if fitted, as you gain confidence and knowledge with differing shot sizes and loadings. These barrels are 28-inches long, which is a good blend of length, weight and swing potential. I know people do like longer barrels but personally a shorter barrel for our type of shooting makes more sense for manageability and weight reduction for prolonged days out.
The action conforms to the Browning monobloc system, with rear lower locking bolt to the rear lugs and protruding lugs that lock into the base of the action. This design is timeless and originates from the B25, the best shotgun of all time, and not only keeps the action safe and tight but lends that air of real craftsmanship to the overall design of this model.
These older guns had some excellent engraving to the action and all the little extra parts of the forend lever, top lever, trigger etc. It has real class, with none of that more feeble, light type of chequering on newer guns. The Grade 5 model has really nice, tasteful engraving of rising Pheasants to the left side of the action, three ducks to the right side and a gun dog to the base.
Best of all, is the depth of the engraving, giving a real sense of quality texture and also tactility that all adds to the overall appeal of these older guns. Being an older gun, the action needs to be tight, so check for wear and a top lever at mid-point and lose or quick opening action and any sideways slop to the barrel to hinge pin movement.
The real clincher to buying a s/h gun like this is the really superb wood Browning used in those days, which would cost a packet now. Seeing that the wood is a large part of the overall gun and what really sets one gun above the rest, because the figuring is so individual, the high-grade walnut used on these early B325s is worth the asking price alone.
This model stood out due to the superb colour and figuring to both sides of the stock, with excellent walnut and that lovely old oiled finish that has gained a real depth to the finish due to hands-on use and polishing over all the years.
No cracks and few scratches Gun shops with a shooting ground attached, such as Oxford Gun Company, Ian Coley’s etc. are good places to try and buy, giving you greater confidence that the shotgun fits you correctly and that all the firing pins, safety and ejectors work correctly before you purchase.
The Browning B325 certainly is one of those shotguns that has stood the test of time and continues to hold its price very well. Some say it was the best shotgun Browning made and I have to say, I agree with them. You just have to check the prices of second hand B325s to see that they are still a desirable shotgun to own. This B325 is now ingrained into the Potts family memories and will be passed down throughout the years no doubt, as quality is always quality. The B725 Game grade 5 is £4285, a second hand B325 grade 5 is £1500.
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