Browning B25 Deluxe
By: Mike Yardley
Mike Yardley gets the opportunity to test an exhibition quality Browning B25 Lieben SP
Browning B25 Lieben SPBrowning B25 are modern classics and this Lieben engraved exhibition gun is very special indeed. This month we test a unique piece B25 Browning that was originally made for the IWA international hunting show the year before last. It has been displayed all over Europe and America since, but we at Gun Mart are the first to have been able to shoot it!
Andy Norris of Browning International, often my partner in crime testing his firms products in these pages, told me: “This is not a gun for every man, it is a gun for someone who wants to buy something special, it is extravagantly decorated with scroll and gold line inlay my a master. It is a celebration of the individual creativity and skill of the engravers and gunmakers of Liege, based on the classic B25 Superposed action – the over and under that has defined this configuration of shotgun in the modern era and which has been so much copied.”
Bench madein Belgium
The Lieben Special (referring I believe to Mrs G Lieben, the engraver) is bench made at Browning’s ‘Custom Shop’ - now actually inside the FN factory at Liege. Apart from the unusual decoration (and the game scenes and gold work here are very expertly done), it has a quite conventional, but good, specification – 30” barrels, chokes fixed at half and three-quarters (and therefore allowing plenty of scope for modification to customer requirements). Fairly open radius grip of excellent proportion, three-piece forend (a deluxe touch) and side panels and carved tear drops on the stock (ditto), and beautifully carved fences (ditto again). It weighs something around the 7 ½ pound mark, a sensible weight for a 30” 12 bore. Chambers are 3” as I remember (but do not take this as gospel my note unfortunately was misplaced – but it is the trend from the Custom Shop now as non-toxic shot becomes more common and a 3” case allows for a longer wad and less felt recoil if it has a sensibly designed, compressible, mid-section).
Even in standard form – and I have a lot of time for the base grade B25s and think they offer fantastic value as bespoke guns today with prices from £12,000 - the Belgian made ‘Superposed’ is Browning’s flagship gun and co-exists with the much larger range of Japanese made guns which serve the mass market and are manufactured by BC Miroku.
John Moses Browning
I have noted it many times, but just in case anyone is new to this stuff, the B25 was the last invention of Morman firearms design genius John Moses Browning. He expired at the FN factory completing it in 1926. He had gone there originally to find a maker for his compact automatic pistol. Later, he completed a design for a revolutionary semi-automatic shotgun which became known as the A5. He took it to Winchester, he realised its potential and demanded a royalty agreement (previously he had designed many guns for them – lever actions, single shots, and pumps – but always sold the design rights outright). He was firm, on this gun he wanted a royalty. They wouldn’t budge, so he went to the Belgians who had been making his pistol and the rest is history…
In the case of the B25 there is a twist to the story too, John Moses was not able to complete the trigger. As I remember, I think his last words were: “I think I am dying son.” He had been working on the new design with his son, Val, working as his assistant who had been working by his side. When his dad died, Val took over. He completed the project finishing the soon to be classic gun and developed a single trigger himself. This is not, by the way, the trigger on the B25 which has since been offered with various triggers systems (that on the test gun is recoil activated, although 12 bores from the Custom Shop normally use a mechanical system now).
The superposed as cleverly conceived by John Moses Browning has some distinct features. One is full-width hinge pin. The gun bolts by means of a wide, flat, piece of steel which comes out of a slot cut in the base of the action face and meets a slot – technically called a bite – located beneath the bottom chamber mouth. It has been copied by many other manufacturers since though they may not adopt the Browning hinging arrangement preferring a trunnion arrangment. It is a very strong design with plenty of bearing surface, but it can result in quite a tall action in 12, though in 20 and 16 bore I believe it to be ideally scaled.
The barrels on the test gun, unlike most modern stack barrels, are not built on the monobloc plan. They are ‘demi-block’. This is an unusual term and not generally understood. It it is similar to the chopper lump system used in quality side by sides and, similarly, involves only two main components (excluding sighting and joining ribs). The barrel is not separated from the chamber/monobloc, but part of one piece of forged steel which combines barrel, chamber, and lugs (bottom) and flat (top). Many believe this to be the best plan of all (though I have no problems with quality monobloc barrels).
This gun is a bit to flash for my taste, but there is nothing at all wrong with that, or indeed, with its specification or performance (let’s also note that the blingy decoration is for exhibition purposes and is very expertly done).
The 30” barrels, narrow tapering rib, and a very well proportioned grip all suited me fine. The stock dimensions were sensible too - 14 3/4” LOP with standard drop and case measurements. I shot the gun with Andy at Fennes Shooting Ground and we both broke the birds consisently - whether on the skeet range or off the high tower. It stands as an example of just what Browning can do to. But, if I was ordering a shotgun from this great maker it would either be a fairly light barreled 32” sporter, or a delicate 30” 16, 20 or 28.
I think these bench made B25s, meantime, still stand as modern classics and the fact that you can connect with them for money that is within the bounds of possibility is worthy of note. You don’t have to have the bells and whistles, but you can still have a custom made gun without a second mortgage.
|Model:||Browning B25 Lieben Special|
|Action:||B25 with mechanical trigger|
|Barrels:||30” fixed (1/2, ¾)|
|Stock:||14 3/4”, 1 3/8”, 2 1/4” three-piece forend, tear drops, and rounded pistol grip Weight: 7 1/2lbs|
|RRP||£29,800 (in stock; similar guns take 18 month to 2 years with the base BelgianB25 models being available from 12K).|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates