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Browning Maral

Browning Maral

For driven boar I love my Mauser M03 in 8.5x63, however if I had a choice, which I don’t, then I would pick a semi-auto, either the Browning BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), Sauer 303 Xtro or a Benelli Argo. I toyed with the idea of buying something in Europe and stashing it in Croatia where I do most of my hunting. Good idea but I like to have my guns on hand, so Browning’s Maral straight-pull looks like it might strike a practical balance between gas/piston and turn-bolt systems.

The Maral is in essence a purpose-made, manually-operated, straight-pull BAR and a definite departure for Browning, also an indicator of the winds of change sweeping Europe in terms of gun types! I’m not saying the semi-auto sporter has had its day, but individual countries laws seem to be leaning towards more legislation on self-loaders. In Austria for example you can legally own a semi-auto Steyr AUG; however it requires a butt load of paper work and permissions. However, you can also own a man-opp version as a normal bolt-action rifle far easier. Suffice to say the Maral despite what some might think was not made primarily for the UK market!

UP FOR IT?

I am fortunate to have hunted with semi-auto rifles and for driven-type work they are excellent. As you might imagine; no fumbling with the bolt or position, just keep the gun in your shoulder, swing and shoot. So is the Maral up for it, as experience with hybrid systems like this shows that primary extraction (un-sticking the fired case from the chamber) can be a weak point?

The Maral is not Browning’s only straight-pull action. Many years ago they came up with the T-Bolt, which they resurrected in the last decade to offer a slick little rimfire. Their first centrefire segway was the Acera, which never really caught on. So reverse engineering the BAR appears to be a cost-effective solution.

Technically the Maral stands alone as it’s very much a horse for a course and in that is a little different from the popular Blaser R93/R8. It’s not a switch barrel/calibre design and only offers four chamberings – 308 Win, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Win Mag and 9.3x62mm.

WELL PRESENTED

The Maral comes in a fitted, ABS, combination locked carry case with compartments for a scope, etc. It also arrives with the butt removed, making it a compact package for travel, Browning provides a T-key to fit it. A butt spacer is included and you can get thicker recoil pads. Visually the rifle is elegant and well presented with some nice Grade III, oil-finished walnut. The butt is classic European with a slight hog’s back comb, Bavarian cheekpiece and R/H grip with palm swell. The forend is a tulip-type with a deep/tapered shape and semi-Schnable tip. There are wood panels on the side of the action, not to my taste but not over the top either. Browning does not offer a synthetic version, which is a pity, as it would be tough and probably bring the price down a bit; never a bad thing!

Chequering is well cut but a bit too fine for my liking. QD sling swivels are fitted fore and aft. The straight-line mechanism is simply a modified BAR system that locks by a 7-lug rotary bolt. The bolt sits in a carrier and is cammed in and out of battery. The major change is the drop-back, dog leg cocking handle with large ball end, which and like most hybrid straight-pulls is ugly but does the job. Up front the barrel has no gas port with the gas block (un-drilled) providing a location for the tandem, tensator return springs. Think roll-out metal tape measure and you’ll get the idea!

ENERGY STORING

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This assembly connects to the bolt by twin action rods, similar to a gas/piston semi-auto shotgun like the Remy 1100. To operate pull the handle back all the way which opens the bolt and at the same time unravels the springs to store energy. Releasing it allows the springs to reassert so closing the action to feed, chamber and lock!

The American BAR has a normal, cross-bolt safety catch located at the rear of the trigger guard, which was simple and practical. With the Maral and the Belgium BARs Browning has fitted a massive, tang-mounted, thumb lug de-cocker that I have to say is very heavy in operation, so much so you cannot push it to FIRE when in the shoulder. When set you have to press a button on top to let it slide back down to SAFE mode.

TOO SHORT MAYBE?

Control-wise the mag catch is well placed at the front of the trigger guard and the clip pops out easily. Browning offer three capacities 3, 5 and 10 - the latter only in 30-06. The 3 and 5 clip into the plastic, flush-fit base unit so look no different. The 10 is longer and of a distinctive, swept back design! The barrel is semi-fluted and offers a light, sporting-type profile and is 22” in 308, 30-06 and 9.3, but you get a whole, extra ½” (22.5”) in Win Mag. They are all a bit short with the exception perhaps of the 308; however, 24” would be a better, all-round length. Barrels are made at the FN Plant in Belgium and hammer-forged so I was expecting good performance!

Iron sights are fitted as standard, my tester came with a battue (driven hunts) rear, this consists of a large, reversed ramp with a white line painted on it that leads to a U-notch flanked with Day-Glo, green dots. Up front is windage/elevation-adjustable blade with red insert on a low ramp. The battue rail will restrict scopes with larger objectives for that read much over 24mm! A lower/smaller base is also included, which in use I found gave faster and better acquisition! A Weaver rail is screwed onto the receiver to offer optical mounting and is low enough with its central gutter not to obscure the irons sights.

Weighing in at 7.25 lbs the Maral feels light and handy, though bulks up a bit with glass on top! I matched it up with a Kahles CT 3-12x50 in Warne rings to check accuracy; equally you could fit a red dot for driven use. Chambered in 30-06 the importers supplied some of the new Winchester (non-lead) Power-Core, 150-grain factory. To check reliability I had a cross section of loads from PPU (180 S/P) Winchester 180 Silvertip and GECO 165 Express and 170 PLUS. Recoil with the true semi-auto BARs is good in both 30-06 and 300 Win Mag, however the self-loading action tends to help here, so it would be educational to see how the Maral behaved!

ON THE PULL

My initial concerns were ease of function and primary extraction, though as it turned out I did not have to worry. Firing 5-rounds as fast as I could cycle the action and repeating for 20-shots showed it hooked out those empties hot or cold no matter what type of ammo used. Equally the spring-closed action fed and chambered flawlessly and was fast and smooth too.

In the shoulder control was equally impressive; to be honest, though a powerful cartridge, 30-06 is surprisingly well behaved when compared to a 308 Win. Recoil was big but smooth and bringing the rifle down on target for multiple aimed shots was not an issue either. I was warming to the Maral and could see that it might just fulfil my needs for a fast fire, high capacity performance.

All this fast fire stuff is very well but how does it shoot?  With a weight range of ammo of 150, 165, 170 and 180 grains the Maral showed a preference for the lighter stuff, with the 150 grain Winchester Power Core shooting sub -1”. All the other fodder shot at just over the inch, so good enough for its primary purpose of driven/close range type use. The barrel is light and gets hot very quickly (within 4-rounds) and groups start to drift out. Not a problem from a cold tube for longer ranges but something to bear in mind if you are hammering away, which can happen. For me the thing I like the least is the overly firm de-cocker, but I could live with it for what else the rifle offers!

I recall testing the Browning Acera many years ago and though liking the concept coming away a little disappointed. The Maral is another and better kettle of fish entirely; smooth and quick to shoot and just that bit different and practical yet in a pleasing, sporting layout. At just shy of £2-grand I think it’s a bit expensive as you are approaching Blaser territory and some might prefer investing a bit more for the switch barrel option!

7 Comments

  • I have since found out that the case the Maral is supplied with isn't wide/thick ? enough to be ideal for air transport.
    As the bolt cannot be removed when the case is closed the Bolt is squeezed up tight against the top of the case.
    I have approached Browning in Belgium and they are aware of it but don't seem to be bothered or intend modifying the case.
    I reckon the case was designed for the original BAR which has a smaller bolt.

    Default profile image
    Eddy McConnell
    27 Mar 2016 at 12:55 PM
  • Yes Matt the Maral does have a ten shot magazine, in Europe it is retailed at 129 Euros, in UK it is around £90.00
    I shopped around and managed to get one for just under £80.
    Not sure about the 30-06 magazine being made to take the .308 cartridge but it certainly fits and the lips look as if it will hold the round until the bullet has started to enter the chamber so it would appear to be compatible provided the actions aren't different like they are on normal bolt guns.
    .308 is classed as a short action whereas the 30-06 is classed as a long action.

    Default profile image
    Eddy McConnell
    27 Mar 2016 at 12:49 PM
  • Hi,
    Does anyone know if Browning have made a 9 or 10 shoot mag for the 308 Maral or if the 30-06 mag will fit into the 308???? It is so frustrating not been able to get a 10 shot mag for the 308 Maral.

    Default profile image
    Matt Green
    27 Mar 2016 at 10:49 AM
  • I have just bought a Maral in 30-06.
    Do not like the flush sockets for the push in sling swivels, they are not as common as 'Uncle Mikes' swivels so makes it a one sling only rifle.
    They are also not compatible with the Bi-pods commonly used by most shooters.
    The holes drilled for the 'scope mounts are not compatible with most of the bases commonly found on the market.
    I have had to order Browning bases from Belgium and am still waiting after five days.
    Nice rifle, looks good, feels good, haven't been able to use it yet as cannot mount a 'scope on it.
    Driven shooting comes later in the year but during the mean time I would like to set it up for stalking.

    Default profile image
    Eddy McC
    14 Mar 2015 at 10:58 PM
  • Good day,

    I am from South Africa and was wondering if it will at all be possible to import the Maral Browning 300 WSM to South Africa.

    Default profile image
    ROBERT
    30 Nov 2014 at 12:22 PM
  • Hello Matt, I handled a Maral at Queensland Gun Exchange last week and was impressed by its feel, price and the fact that I could let go of the handle at the back and return to the trigger while it loaded and cocked itself.
    Do a Web Search on : Browning: and choose the International site, then check the English language page. Get a listing of the Oz Distributor and take it from there. Otherwise go to your LGS and ask. Look thru the QGX Website for a price.
    I want one! In .308 with a Burris III sight. Pigs at 800m!

    Default profile image
    Chili
    17 Nov 2014 at 12:18 PM
  • Hi,
    Im just wandering if the Maral 308 comes with a bigger Magazine and where i could buy one from?

    Cheers
    Matt Green Australia

    Default profile image
    Matt Green
    12 Nov 2014 at 11:10 AM


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