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Browning 725 Citori

Browning 725 Citori

It’s not every year I get to shoot pheasants on my birthday, let alone overseas, or with a new gun. But that’s precisely the plum I was offered when editor (Pete Moore) couldn’t go to Hungary for the launch of the new Browning 7-25 Citori shotgun. Organised by Gael Bienfait and his team at Browning it allowed the shooting press the chance to get acquainted with their latest O/U.

I have to admit I’m not a massive fan of Browning sporters, with only their Cynergy O/U really appealing. However, the 725 though looking like traditional has a new, low-profile action, and a host of other innovative features that testify to the company’s commitment to progressive design.

Getting There

The hunt would take place in the small town of Bodony (pronounced B’doyn). As things worked out, however, I didn’t reach Budapest until the evening (though it could have been worse, as my suitcase wouldn’t arrive until the following day). A great start! But the outfitters (HuntInHungary’s) manager Peter and his PA Andrea saved the day, laying on transport, and even giving me the pick of a room full of shooting gear to tide me over until my luggage was sent on.

Arriving at the lodge, the car swept through a wide entrance planked by wrought iron gates into a cobbled oval courtyard, in front of a grand, two-storey building. In the centre was a life-sized bronze of a wild boar. Inside more trophies big and small than you could shake a stick at! These, it transpired, were the life’s work of the lodge’s owner Janos, whose genial presence did a great deal to making everyone feel at home, even in such opulent surroundings.

Sporter or Hunter?

We had two days’ driven pheasant shooting ahead of us, and a choice of either the Sporter or Hunter versions of the B725. There’d been a chance to try them out on clays on the afternoon of the first day, but I’d missed this so took a tip from Mike Yardley, who was also present, and elected to start with a Sporter.

We were issued with matching Browning gun slips and cartridge bags. Suited and booted, we lined up, facing the team who would be our loaders for the day, who doffed their caps as one of their comrades sounded a fanfare on his horn to salute the day. This done we were divided into two teams, assigned to our loaders and driven to the hunting grounds to begin the day’s sport.

The landscape was characterised by low, rolling hills, covered for the most part in mixed deciduous woodland, separated here and there, especially in the valley bottoms, by expanses of grassy scrub and strips of cultivated land. As we forged ahead, we passed a large flight pond, teeming with remarkably tame duck, saw plenty of pheasants scurry less than urgently into the remaining cover, and caught the occasional glimpse of a wild boar. 

Wrong Choice

The first drive saw us lined up on a reverse slope, with a wood at our back and a blackthorn thicket to our front. My loader, Peter, had taken charge of my gun slip and cartridge bag, and as I stood watching the horizon with a Winchester Ranger 12g cartridge in each barrel, he took out his hunting horn and signalled the start of the drive. After a short pause the birds began to appear, mostly over my neighbours, though I did get a few chances of my own, and they were enough to inform me that I’d picked the wrong gun for this kind of work.

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I’m sure it would be an excellent clay gun: it’s steady, evenly-balanced; the grip gives a firm, consistently-repeatable mount; and the Inflex II butt pad and low-profile action manage recoil very well. But it’s not a gun for snap-shooting pheasants appearing over a brake at 25 yards, not unless you judge their line perfectly the moment you see them and get your gun mount spot-on. As the 725 S1 feels like it’s running on rails, which is great for clays, and even for high pheasants, but all wrong for quick work in the brush. Mr. Yardley, on the other hand, who was at the bottom end of the line, with a bit more time to see the birds coming, gave a much better account of himself with the same gun, so I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

All Change

I resolved to switch to the Hunter at the first opportunity, and was able to do so almost at once as Browning’s Tancrède Fritsch kindly offered to exchange guns with me. This model is a couple of ounces lighter, but the open-radiused grip and shorter 28” barrels made it an altogether different animal.

My performance on the next drive was worlds away too. I found that I could concentrate on the target and just let the gun do its job, which it did very well. The last time I shot game with a borrowed gun that felt as naturally responsive and precise as the B725, was with a Browning, Cynergy Hunter, and I rather suspect that’s no coincidence.

Each time I killed a bird, Peter, my loader would say bravo, which let me know that the bird was accounted for: freeing me to watch for the next one, and giving me an extra fillip that helped develop a ‘bird-bang-bravo’ rhythm in my mind, with very positive consequences.

The birds were plentiful and evenly distributed along the line and prompt to answer the signal to start the drive. This along with their general demeanor, led to suspicions that their passage over the guns was just a waypoint on a decidedly short journey from crate to game cart. Nor were there many exceptions to this rule, since there wasn’t a dud gun in the whole team! Even if there had been, we were sufficiently close-pegged that one missed would always be in range of at least two other guns.

When In Rome…

As might be expected, this changed the nature of the shooting, presenting each gun with a choice between taking any bird to their front as quickly as possible, or assuming the status of a spectator and gifting it to their neighbours. Of course, this also meant that many birds were taken too early, before they had had a chance to ‘develop’ into more testing targets. To be honest we didn’t get the quality or variety of targets we might have if the line had been more open. But we were there to shoot Browning’s guns and Janos’ pheasants, and Browning was picking up the tab, so we got on with it. The sheer intensity of the drives overcoming any misgivings about the sporting nature of it all. As a wise man once said: ‘When in Rome…’

The B725 functioned flawlessly; the Invector DS chokes with their brass seals working as advertised, and the well-timed ejectors kicking the empties comfortably clear without sending them into the next county. Despite working my way through the better part of 200-cartridges each day neither my shoulder nor cheek suffered any discomfort whatsoever, thanks to the gun’s design and the effectiveness of the Inflex II recoil pad.

Unbeatable Atmosphere

Once we had finished shooting on day two, and after another handsome meal characterized by game of various kinds cooked in the Hungarian style, we were ushered out into the courtyard. Here the birds we had shot were laid out in neat concentric circles, enclosed by a ring of green pine branches, cocks on the inside, hens on the outside, and all pointing to the bronze boar at the centre.

At the far side, the estate staff were lined up: our stuffers in their loden capes on the right, and the beaters in their blaze orange waistcoats and caps on the left. And between them and in each corner were iron braziers blazing with split pine. Standing at the foot of the steps, with a pair of loden-clad horn players to my left, and a uniformed waiter bearing a silver tray of champagne in crystal flutes, overseen by a suited majordomo in white gloves, to my right, and the light fading over the hills beyond the gates, the atmosphere was unbeatable.

In conclusion, my thanks go out to all our hosts. Browning’s generosity towards us, the helpfulness and professionalism of the staff at HuntInHungary, and the unstinting hospitality lavished on us at the lodge at Bodony (they even came up with a surprise birthday cake complete with candles!) With the B725 Browning have a gun whose merits, in design, construction, styling and handling speak eloquently for themselves. Watch out for a full test when we get one. The only question left to answer is: what on earth am I going to do for my birthday next year? Over to you, Mr. Moore…

Contact: BWM Arms Ltd, 01235 514550
www.browning.com

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