Michael Yardley tries Browning’s B25 SP2010 in 20 bore - his favourite cartridge for driven game shooting
Of all the shotguns that have influenced modern shotgun design I would say that three stand out more than any other, the Anson and Deeley boxlock side by side circa 1876, the Purdey-Beesley sidelock circa 1880, and the Browning Superposed over and under. The latter first saw the light of day in the 1920s. It was the last invention of Mormon gun making genius, John Moses Browning. In fact, he died at this work bench perfecting it (leaving his son Val to complete the first single trigger mechanism – there have been several since). Our gun test this month concerns a rather nice 20 bore specimen of the design, and it might be considered an ideal game gun by many, and is presented in an increasingly popular gauge for field work (I do 90% of my UK driven game shooting with a 20 bore these days).
Good fit and finish
First impressions of the test gun are very good, the B25 (as the Superposed is also known) looks smart with good engraving and wood. It is very nicely finished without appearing too flash. The engraving combines some fairly sparse but good scroll with well executed, if quite simple, game scenes on a silver finished action. The wood work is worthy of more comment. It is exceptionally well figured and finished with hand cut chequering and a traditional oil finish. The grip is full, but not too acutely angled – a good design for driven because it places the wrist under less strain in the ready position – and there are side panels to the rear of the action with well cut drop points of quite sophisticated shape (as befits a deluxe grade gun)
Picking the SP up one is struck by the fact that it feels willing – there is not too much weight forward in the 30” barrels – and well made. It is a little stiff to open and close – but this will no doubt quickly loosen up with a little use. The gun comes to face and shoulder well, and is lively in the hands. Balance is excellent – not as muzzle heavy as many machine made guns with multi-chokes. The B25, although it has machined elements (the basic, un-filed, action body, for example), is still a traditionally bench made gun created with much filing and ‘smoking in’. I have seen them being made, and the Browning workshops look much like any in London or Birmingham still.
London or Birmingham still.The demi-lump barrels boast a narrow, ventilated, sighting rib and have solid joining ribs (as is the norm in ‘game’ guns). The sighting rib is well presented and perfectly true to the eye with a matted top surface. The bead is a traditional metal one, by far my favourite choice on a field gun. The barrels are made from quality steel too, and, are notable for not being as thick in the wall as many cheaper, mass produced, guns (where wall thickness is beefed up both to accommodate multi-chokes and to allow for a greater margin of error in manufacture). The Browning bears Belgian proof marks for 3” (76mm) cartridges. This shows the manufacturers have considerable confidence in their product, (though I never use 3” 20 bore shells). The bores are as well presented as the rest of the metal work. Externally they are well struck up and competently blacked, though my preference would have been for a little more polish on the exterior surfaces.
Turning to the action, apart from being attractively decorated, it is finely engineered and mechanically well proven (indeed, is any more so?). The Browning action is not quite a centenarian yet, but it is one of the most enduring classics and has been in production for nearly 90 years.The design, which I think is at its best in 20 bore as seen here, still looks quite compact. It places the lumps beneath the barrel and includes a full width hinge pin (unlike Beretta who, like Woodward, use a trunnion system). Lock up is achieved by a wide, flat, bolt which comes out of the bottom of the action faces and meets a slot bite beneath the bottom chamber mouth. The plain steel trigger here is particularly well shaped. There is a barrel selector in the usual place on the sliding safety on the top strap.
Earlier I mentioned the stock briefly. It is made from well figured wood and most attractive in both form and finish. It has that indefinable look of quality that comes from good hand work. The Belgian made B25s still score highly in this area. Dimensions were good with a Length of Pull around the 14 3/4” mark and standard drop and cast suiting me well (as Mr. 5’ 11” average). The grip and comb shapes, in particular, would be hard to improve upon. I liked the open radiused but even depth grip a lot – as good as any that has passed my way recently (and made possible because of the relatively even spacing of top and bottom tangs). I also liked the comb which had some taper to it but still offered sufficient facial support. The schnabel forend was classic B25, and suited the gun and kept the frontal weight down.
I shot the gun with my old partner in crime, Andy Norris, of Browning International. We also shot an outstanding side-plated 28 bore the same day. That really sang to me, but this gun was much above the average. I liked the grip a great deal as noted, it allowed for good muzzle control and swift second shot recovery. The single trigger did not miss a beat, and recoil was not excessive either. The gun pointed well and was quick but precise to handle.
Apart from breaking all the clays it was pointed at, it would make an ideal partridge or pigeon gun, and would be great for walking up too. Don’t misunderstand me, though, it would be very useful on most pheasant shoots as well, though my preference for really high birds would be something rather agricultural like an MK38 Miroku 32” from the same stable, or, indeed, the new 725 30” with which I have shot game with especially well (have a look at ‘Mike Yardley shoots the new Browning 725’ on Youtube).
Meantime, this gun is not outrageously expensive at £13,100 considering it is handmade. It can be made to measure and comes with quite a few bells and whistles. In 30” 20 bore form, it is, in my opinion near ideal in specification. It would be exactly the sort of gun I would order if I went for a bespoke B25 (though I would be sorely tempted by a 32” 12 bore as well). GM
|Model:||Browning B25 SP 2010|
|Choke||fixed – ¾ and full|
|Weight||6 ½ pounds approx|
|RRP||£13,100 (with other guns in the Belgian made B25 range from £12,000) Contact: International Sports|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates