Browning Maxus semi-auto
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- Last updated: 14/12/2016
“Francolin, Francolin!” My tracker cried as we pushed through the heavy African bush, bringing the Browning Maxus up to my shoulder I saw the small brown, partridge-like shape flitting through the trees. The first round was a miss but I nailed him with the second. Not bad for me a noted dummy with a shotgun, but what was I doing in Burkina Faso shooting a smoothbore?
Browning has just launched a new semi-auto, which is Fusion-like in some respects. There’s little doubt that they have really got the most out of that design – Fusion, Fusion Evolve etc and not forgetting the SX3, which is near the same gun but with the Winchester badge on the side.
The cynical might consider the new Maxus as an evolved Fusion Evolve, but it is a lot more. There have been some major and notable re-designs both inside and out plus a bit of retro as it borrows features from the classic, Browning (bang & clang) A5 auto!
Having been well received in the US it was our turn to experience the gun first hand. Till Cussmann (Events Manager) at Browning International in Belgium invited the major European magazine editors to come and try the gun for ourselves. Which coincided nicely with the fact I am starting to get into shotgunning, so the chance to go to Africa with three days of intensive hunting was an opportunity too good to miss.
The event was hosted by Nahouri Safaris at a place called Elephant Camp hunting lodge in Burkina Faso, I’d heard of the country but had to look it up in the atlas. Simplistically it’s just over halfway up and slightly left of centre. The trip was more an adventure, as this is the true Africa! A Russian colleague of mine described it thus; ‘Namibia is Germany, but Burkina is real Africa’. I have to agree, with everything happening at its own pace and unique way.
We were bussed around in a fleet of aging 4x4s that included an open topped, original Range Rover; Jeremy Clarkson would have loved it… Despite their age and minor breakdowns they took us over some serious gnarly ground that would have had many an off road enthusiasts worried.
We flew into Ouagadougou air port at 21.00 and the temperature was around 30º C. Arrivals and baggage reclaim was shall we say African; the carousal broke down three times and it was a free for all for the luggage. A bit worrying given we had 10 boxes of guns and lot of ammo too. However, we got sorted thanks to the arrival of the Nahouri Safaris’ PH and his crew, then it was convoy time. Given it was night and we would be travelling up country we got an armed escort of gendarmes with AK47s, which was both worrying and comforting. Like I said this is real Africa, the journey time was down as 2 ½ hours, we left at 23.00 and got to Elephant Camp at 02.30, to be told we would be up at 0.500 and ready to hunt…
This consisted of mornings pushing through the bush acting as our own beaters in terms of flushing game. We were each allocated a ‘tracker’ who would identify species and pick up. In the afternoon we had the choice of doing this again or shooting doves as they flew into water. I found the former hard work; especially in temperatures of 40º C once the sun got up. The latter was very exciting as the birds come in fast and furious and I reckon I leaned more about shotgunning than I ever had. Also this sort of quick reaction shooting really allowed me to test and appreciate what the Maxus offered…
Though no bird hunter, I have none the less used a lot of different semi-autos in intensive Practical Shotgun (PSG) shooting, so feel reasonably qualified to give an objective view on the Maxus. In some ways the quick reactions and loading/operating skills required are similar!
Spoilt Four Choice
The Maxus comes in four options; Composite (all black with synthetic stock), Hunter lightly engraved silver action with wood stock), Premium (as Hunter but with better wood and gold inlays) and the Camo Duck Blind (as Composite but in Mossy Oak Duck Blind camo finish).
The furniture is reminiscent of the Browning Cynergy over & under or X-BOLT rifle as the forend angles away from the barrel slightly, though the pistol grip is reasonably upright. At the back is a thick, Inflex recoil pad and this feature combined with long forcing cones makes what is quite a light gun smooth to shoot and also very recoil friendly. We were using the new Winchester Super Speed 2, 36-gram, #6 loads with a pressure-formed case. I fired around 200-rounds in the three days with no bruising or ill effects… We are told that felt recoil reduction is around 18%.
The receiver is hi-strength alloy with the Hunter and Premium models being nickel-plated, all models have scope mounting cut-outs. The rear curves down as opposed to the stepped look of the Fusion. Both synthetic guns offer shims to adjust the butt angle and also inserts for increasing the length of pull; the wooden ones don’t. Also 3 ½” chambers as opposed to 3” on the Hunter and Premium models. Most noticeable is the fact the Maxus does not have a magazine end cap, as the forend finishes in an uncluttered angled tip with a hidden/fold-down QD sling stud, with a second, fixed one under the butt.
The forend locks to the magazine tube by an Anson and Deeley type, pull-down, latch underneath, like an over & under. This is a clean looking design, however it means the maximum capacity is 4+1 only. On that point the guns can be limited to 2 +1 with a dedicated restrictor for countries that demand it. This new layout also makes the Maxus a doddle to strip with no faffing about having to position the barrel/piston etc.
It’s what’s inside that counts
The Maxus shows a redesigned, Fusion-like operating mech, which as before is self-adjusting. Unlike a conventional gas/piston drive it uses a free, short stroke tappet/tube. This strikes the bolt carrier to knock it open, there are no connecting rods to cause drag so dwell time is reduced.
Called the Power Drive Gas System it shows a new piston design that’s more reliable, regardless of heavy or light loads. There’s also a larger exhaust port that dumps gases faster on heavy loads. A new enclosed, O-ring seal keeps residue out of the action for cleaner operation. The piston has a 20% longer travel making it potentially more reliable with light loads.
Further the rising lug bolt has been modified, with the most noticeable aspect being the omission of the firing pin spring. Retraction is now done by the carrier, so again saving a bit of weight and with slightly less inertia to overcome, perhaps aiding the cyclic rate.
A new trigger mech (Lightning Trigger System) has also been added. This offers a crisp pull of around 5lbs with minimal travel. Lock time averages .0052 seconds and it’s rated 24% faster than the nearest opposition.
Barrels are steel proofed in a choice of 26 or 28” and back bored for less pellet deformation. They also have long forcing cones that helps reduce recoil. The tube shows a flat rib and replaceable, hi-vis, coloured front beads, with a small pack included. A set of three InvectorPlus chokes is standard issue and the chamber extension shows a sprung ejector, which gives a consistent throw.
Combining all these elements together – long forcing cones, Inflex recoil pad, improved operating system, new trigger etc., makes for a significantly improved and advanced shotgun. In the US the Maxus seems to be winning fans over both the Benelli and Beretta semis; which is no mean feat…
Controls are simple with a cross-bolt safety at the rear of the trigger guard and a bolt release button below the ejection port. Adding to this are a magazine cut-off lever (front left of the receiver), which allows the feed to be interrupted so a different shell can be chambered. Same as the A5 Browning, likewise the speed feed facility. With an open bolt the first round is pushed into the magazine in the normal manner, where it’s immediately fed and chambered. So no mucking around dropping the shell into the action then punching the bolt release. I found this useful as you can keep the gun upright and scan for targets and reload without needing to look down or press buttons. It also has a speed unload that allows you to dump the magazine contents.
The Maxus proved 100% reliable apart from one occasion when I was moving through heavy cover and unknown to me the magazine cut-off had been pushed ON by a branch. I fired at a bird and the gun stopped, thinking it was empty I went to reload only to find the mag full and the bolt open. It took me a few moments to realise what had happened, but I consider that an extreme case.
Pleasing too is the trigger guard, which compared to other makes is large with plenty of finger access. However, the safety catch is quite long and when set to FIRE (right to left) a fair bit sticks out to the right. I am used to a flush fit in this area and occasionally as I swung onto a bird I could feel it sticking out against my trigger finger. This gives the impression that it might be ON; especially in the heat of the moment…
Apart from that no complaints. For me the Maxus proved itself on the doves as the shooting was fast and furious. Light to start and stop and easy to keep full, I soon got my head around it. Most noticeable was gun control. If for example I missed with the first shot (not unusual) the gun was back on target for the second in an instant, which usually hit.
More by luck than judgement I actually got a triple, with three doves coming in over my right shoulder I lined up and shot and swung across and to my amazement I dropped them all. By this time I was in the zone and just as in PSG shooting you are literally at one with the gun and everything appears to be very slow, yet is actually fast and totally instinctive…
In total I got two guinea fowl, three francolin, 36-doves and something that looked like a big pheasant. OK I’d be the first to admit that it took a lot more than 42-rounds to do so, but there’s only one way to shoot and that’s to pull the trigger and learn by your mistakes. Walked up hunting requires you to carry the gun at the high port all the time and unless you are used to it; it puts massive strain on your supporting arm and shoulder muscles as I discovered. As a deer hunter I’m more used to the rifle slung or at the low port for the final part of the stalk!
Apart from having a great time and a very different hunting experience, I was most impressed with the Maxus. They should be in the UK by end of March this year and I will get a grown up shotgunner to test one. But from my novices’ view point I reckon Browning has made a decidedly better mouse trap…
I’d like to thank Till Cussmann and the Browning crew for putting on such a great event. Plus all the guys at Nahouri Safaris for showing us a brilliant time, I have to say the trackers were great and some of the nicest keepers I have ever met…
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Camo Duck Blind £1154
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