Browning Heritage Sporter
Mike Yardley gives his assessment on the very popular Browning Heritage Sporter
There was a time in competitive clay shooting circles when Belgian made Browning B25 over and unders completely dominated. In the 1970s, Miroku, making clones of the John Moses Superposed, began to intrude on the British scene (see box), not to mention Beretta with their stable of low profile stack-barrelled guns. Beretta lead the way today with high tech mass-manufacture, and there are other Italian makers of significance like Perazzi, Gamba and Guerini (not to mention German firms like Krieghoff and Blaser). Browning, however, retain a very loyal band of followers. They still make generic B25 type guns in both Japan and Belgium not to mention the modernistic Cynergy over and under and a wide range of semi-automatics.
A Japanese Browning
The focus of our test this month is a 30” barrelled side-plated ‘Heritage’ Sporter. A deluxe version of the 525, it bears the Browning name but is, in fact, a product of the BC Miroku factory in Japan. This is no bad thing, of course, Miroku are a company with a well earned reputation for consistent quality and a long association with Browning. Indeed, there are some who actually prefer the Miroku made Brownings to Belgian-produced B25s because they tend to have steadier handling characteristics than the finely crafted, typically lighter barrelled guns from the famous Custom Shop in Herstal. My personal preference favours the original in pointable and lively 32” fixed choke form - but the bottom line starts at over 10K.
First impressions of the Heritage (RRP £4,814) are pretty good. It looks smart with ritzy engraving, a silver polished action, and generally up-market finish. To my eye, though, it is just a little chunky on the aesthetic front – a bit too angular in the action. It would appear to be Browning’s answer to the Beretta EELL. It does not, however, have quite the svelte looks of the latter gun which benefits on the stylistic front at least from a lower profile action. Bring the Heritage to the shoulder though, and the well distributed weight (just under 8lbs) and good stock shapes score. It feels controllable and solid, like most 3, 4 and 525s one encounters.
I have always opined, moreover, that Brownings suit those who are picky about grip shape. They are slightly deeper in the action than many modern over and unders, because of their full width cross-pin design - most OUs today have stud pins and shallow, bifurcated, barrel lumps. This slightly greater action depth is not necessarily a negative. It adds a little weight, but creates a situation where the distances between top and bottom straps are almost ideal for good grip shape. Consequently, there are few grips better than those seen on Browning and Miroku guns. In most cases, they fit the hand very naturally. There is no tendency for the hand to slip forward in recoil. Purchase is maximised and muzzle control improved.
There is not much innovative in the Heritage, but everything mechanical is well proven (as a 525, is the latest in a line of Japanese made Browning guns that has included the Citori, 325 and 425). All these guns are based on a slightly modified Browning Superposed/ B25 style action. The Japanese made guns have some differences with regard to their trigger mechanism (amongst other things, the inertia block of the selective single trigger mechanism is wider). But, the most obvious difference is that the forend is detachable on disassembly unlike that on a Belgian Browning (where it remains connected to the barrels on basic take-down).
The 3” (76mm) chambered barrels on the Heritage are monobloc and chromed inside. Monobloc barrels are a relatively new feature on Japanese made Brownings (they were introduced on later 425 models - previously, all Browning over and under barrels were demi-lump). The internal chroming is an even more recent development, however, it is one to be much welcomed, as older Brownings have always had a tendency to rust, especially in the chamber area. This irksome characteristic is eliminated by plating the bores and chambers. It makes the 525 a significantly better gun than its predecessors.
The sighting rib of the test gun is a 10mm parallel design. It has a mid bead in a shallow centre channel and there are vented joining ribs. The Heritage is equipped with Invector multi-chokes (as all 525s) rather than the longer Invector Plus type. The gun is steel shot proofed. This superior proof is indicated by Fleurs de Lys marks. With regard to bore dimension, both barrels are stamped at 18.4mm. This is typical of 525s but my preference is for the back-boring offered on other models. Back-bored guns produce significantly less felt recoil in my experience.
The looks of the Heritage did not excite me greatly, but it shot well when used on both skeet and sporting layouts. Recoil control was good with 28 gram loads as well as 24. The stock felt comfortable as noted. The gun was reasonably pointable and steady in the swing.
There are some things that are a given with a Browning. The single trigger mechanism functioned flawlessly. The trigger selector was excellent and the ejectors well timed. The Heritage gets full marks for integrity of manufacture and finish. The chromed bores are a big plus. I think, however, that the aesthetics could be improved with a little more work. I would also like to see back-boring and long chokes introduced throughout the range – I see no point in offering anything else. A lighter 'hunter' version of this gun will be out later in the year, for those who prefer a faster handling gun, it may be a better choice. As it stands, the Heritage is a useful sporter and might be a near-ideal English skeet gun.
Browning and Miroku
Legend has it that Browning were not especially please when BC Miroku started knocking out copies of their famous over and under. As a consequence, a generation or so ago, they dispatched some executives to Japan to discuss the issue. Precisely what happened is lost in the mists of time, but shortly after the meeting, a deal was evidently struck because BC Miroku started making a significant part of the Browning over and under line – guns like the Citori, 325 and 425 – and continued with their own production of similar B25 style guns as well. This situations continues to this day. It has many benefits for the shooting public. It allows those who favour the classic Browning design to have a quality gun at a reasonable price. One can buy either a Japanese made Browning or a Miroku and be assured of a well made, utterly reliable product. For those who want to pay the premium, the option of a bespoke, Belgian made, B25 still exists.
|Weight||just under 8 pounds|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates