Mike Yardley looks at Browning’s 525 over and under in .410
Two shotgun brands dominate the British shooting scene more than any other today – Browning and Beretta. Both firms make a wide range of guns, but both are perhaps most famous for their mid-priced products which must have sold in millions. The Browning ‘525’ and the Beretta ‘Silver Pigeon’ lead the world. I am a great fan of both. Interestingly, both companies have recently introduced improved 12 bore models which, to use the vernacular, rock; Browning have the lighter barrelled, back-bored 525, and, Beretta, the opti-bored Silver Pigeons. They are simply fantastic guns for the money.
Both Browning and Beretta also offer excellent value small bores. I am a great fan of the Beretta 20 and 28 bore Silver Pigeons and EELLs. I also like the Browning 20s and 28s, and their little .410 – the latest version of which is our test gun. It is of particular interest, moreover, because it has 30” barrels and weighs in at just under 7lbs. This is long and heavy for a .410 and probably better for it should you be someone seriously interested in using this diminutive bore for live quarry or clays, and seeing just how much performance you can squeeze out of it. The big problem with lightweight .410s – indeed any lightweight gun – is that they are typically quick to start and quick to stop in the swing. That’s not a problem here.
A bore too far?
Frankly, for most people, though, I think the .410 can be a bore too far – the 28 is usually a much more forgiving gun. In performance terms the 28 is not that different to a 12 or 20, it can even handle an ounce of shot in a heavier gun. The .410 does present a sporting challenge, however. I have shot quite a few pigeons with my own .410s – most with Lyalvale 2 ½” 14gram loads (which I have found especially effective in my single barrel Hushpower). I even shot a long, high tower, crossing clay with a 9 gram 2” shell the other day! It took me four or five goes to get the 45 yard target, but brought a smile to my face! While we are talking case length, what of the 3”? I have never found its performance much better than the 2 ½ (probably because of the very long column of shot). They are also more expensive, so I usually stick with the shorter, less pressured, 2 ½”cartridge. If I was more serious, I probably would go down the 3” route, though.
The test gun
O.K. on with the test, this is a long barrelled .410 and its no lightweight as noted – it is, in other words, a pretty serious test bed for what a .410 can do. The same day I tested it, I also tested an excellent Browning 28 bore over and under with an alloy action, and, I will not be giving much away if I state that I found it significantly easier to shoot!
The spec of the test .410 was - barrel length and weight apart - what you would expect from Browning; a single selective trigger, full cross-pin action, and monobloc barrels. The gun has a flat, ventilated, sighting rib, definitely my preference, and - not being built on a dedicated action – has wide joining ribs. Chambers are 3” and the test gun bears Belgian proof marks. The side ribs are not vented. The sighting rib is 6mm wide. At the muzzles, there is quite a large brass bead. The top surface of the rib is neatly machined and there is no centre bead – an unnecessary addition to most guns unless you are a trap shooter with eye dominance issues.
The chokes on the test 525 are of standard, short, Invector type – and look rather diddy as you might expect when removed. I might note in passing that one big problem of many fixed choke .410s is that they are over-choked. Here, at least, you have an option (mine would be half and three-quarters – I like a bit of choke in a small bore for clean hit or miss shooting, but not too much as seen in many cheaper guns).
General impressions of this 525 are that it is good in all departments – indeed the spec is much better than most .410s for the reasons discussed. Stock shapes are traditional, the grip is quite large, there is a schnabel forend. Finish on wood and metal parts is well up to standard, wood to metal and metal to metal fit are excellent. The action styling is inoffensive – a mixture of fairly light scroll with some game birds, with the same theme carried on to the belly of the action. No one minds traditional scroll, but this immediately hits you because it is rather different. The trigger is non-adjustable trigger and gold-plated, its shape isn’t bad at all.
The stock timber was not especially dense but well figured. The chequering and oil-type finish to both butt and forend were good. I can’t give you precise stock dimensions, but I will note that this was a full sized adult gun and the stock was notable for not being too skimpy. It was comfortable, there was good purchase on all gripping surfaces and the shapes and angles were all about right. The grip was not too tightly radiused, the lipped forend is not my favourite style, but was classic of its type, and, indeed, typical Browning.
Well the first thing you notice with this gun, or don’t notice, is the recoil. There isn’t any. Well, not so much that would bother you at least. I did not find it an especially easy gun to shoot, this was not a deficiency in the 525, which has an almost ideal spec for breaking birds, it is because, unless you shoot one a lot, a .410 is a tough bit of kit to master. I smashed skeet birds with it without much bother, but I struggled on the longer stuff.
If I was going to acquire a serious .410, though, this might very well be it. I don’t think the specification could be much improved, save, perhaps, for taking a few ounces out of the barrels (perhaps by slotting the joining ribs and back-boring – a modification which can much improve .410 performance). The basic quality and engineering is extremely sound. I leave this test a little frustrated though because I still want to become a better shot with this most challenging of bore sizes.
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