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- Last updated: 15/12/2016
This month we look at one of Browning’s more recent products, and - without giving too much of the game away - a gun that I really rate. It is the improved version of the popular 525 over and under. It is a 30” Sporter (Grade 1), there is a hunting model as well, but this is the gun - the sporter version - that really does it for me. Indeed, it is one of the best buys on the British market in my opinion. Because I like it so much (and have shot one on both game and clays), I have been using the new 525 to teach my son Harry, who is a keen member of the Oxford Brooks Shooting Club, to shoot. From me, that’s a really big compliment, there are a lot of guns out there, but I chose this one to use with my youngest son.
My impressions of the 525 are clearly positive. It is not graced with especially figured timber or deep engraving, but it looks attractive and its basic aesthetic form is sound. Functionally, it feels excellent with good grip, comb and forend shapes and reduced barrel weight (a modification which has transformed the way the gun handles). The chokes are the long (better) Invector Plus type rather than the old (perfectly serviceable) Invector chokes. The 30” barrels are back-bored (with a 28” option available), the single-selective trigger is of the usual inertia type and the sighting rib is a simple but good, ventilated, 10mm parallel design with white front sight and a small mid-bead.
Overall, this is a traditional looking, yet subtly refined design, built around a mechanically familiar action which has been re-sculptured a little at the top and around the fences to good effect. I have no real criticisms of the action (it is a classic), but one might note that the mechanically applied engraving is a little thin. No big deal. What else? As noted already, the wood is not spectacularly figured, nevertheless it show nicely cut chequering, and the oil finish is perfectly acceptable. A small potential criticism concerns the curved line borders to the chequering panels. I like chequering laid out in traditional panels but I’m conservative when it comes to guns. The 525 still looks very good, the basic design is sound, and the fit and finish are A1 (as one usually gets from Browning consistently).
As well as the notable change to their weight, the barrels on the test 525 are extremely well presented with exceptional blacking that is not only deep and lustrous but shows considerable effort has been put into preparation (confirmed by both external and internal examination).
The barrels are monobloc. Browning phased out demi-lump construction mid-way through the production cycle of the 425. These monobloc barrels have as good a joint as you will ever see, moreover. It is almost invisible to the eye and much better than the joints seen in some guns costing much more
The internal barrel geometry has been changed too. This 525 is now back-bored at 18.7mm as seen in some other Browning models and has long forcing cones (something the firm previously avoided). The barrels and chambers are chromed internally. This is a very practical feature as older Brownings did have a habit of rusting.
The familiar mechanical design of the test gun essentially dates back to the 1920s (save for the trigger). It was the last design of John Moses Browning who died at his bench perfecting it. Miroku then modified it slightly for ease of production of their cloned B25 copy (dispensing, for example, with the attached forend). Key features of all guns of this type are a full width hinge pin, lumps beneath the barrels (rather than the bifurcated type with trunnion hinging seen on Berettas), a wide flat bolt that engages a bite under the bottom chamber mouth, and, effective hammer ejectors in the forend.
I have noted in these pages previously that the Superposed has been made in production for something like 80 years, and B.C.Miroku must have been copying it for at least 50! The story goes that they just copied it without permission initially, causing some concern at Browning. A delegation was despatched to Japan to complain, but struck up such a good relationship with the old Japanese firm (a company that is based on an island and also makes auto parts) that it ended with an agreement for Miroku to start making guns for Browning. Few seem to have been dissatisfied with the subsequent results.
What else has been changed on the 525? Well, Browning noted that the trigger has been subtly improved with slight changes to the sear angles and similar. Frankly, I could not tell much difference, the trigger pulls on the test gun were fine, though. Trigger pulls have never been the strongest point of the Superposed and its clones, but the pulls here did the job perfectly well. They were not excessively heavy and little creep was in evidence. The trigger blade is adjustable too.
The length of pull is sensible at 14 7/8” finished with a typical Browning black plastic butt plate. The drop relative to rib axis drop was 2 3/16” at the heel and 1 7/16” at the front. These are pretty good dimensions. I like a bit of extra length in the stock, first because most of us (my son included) are all getting taller, second, because a longer stock allows for the possibility of shortening. The drop dimensions were just a fraction low me - my preference is 2 1/8” and and 1 3/8” - but this is very close to that. The design of the grip is good – even in depth – and the schnabel forend is typically Browningand helps to keep forward weight down.
My son and I have both put a lot of cartridges through the gun at the Oxford Gun Company (his local venue) and we have both been impressed (as has been everyone else who has tried it). This is a gun which points and controls recoil well. It feels good in the hands and is natural to shoot. The lightened barrels and back-boring much improve it too. It is an evolved design. One could always pick at a few very small things, but, I’m not going to because this is so well designed and a fantastic buy (potentially £1,270 now if you take advantage of the current Browning cash back deal).
With the new Beretta Silver Pigeon 1, the new type 525 is one of the best buys - possibly the best buy - on the British market. If you bought either if the guns mentioned you simply couldn’t go wrong. One final point, having shot all the new 525s, I would still get the 30” Sporter as my first choice for game as well as clays. It is one of those guns where everything important seems just about right - and that is a rare beast at any price.