Browning 725 Hunter
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- Last updated: 21/12/2016
It is always a bold step when a manufacturer brings out a new gun, especially if it’s long established models have a strong following. The gun trade is not quite like the car trade or the technology industry; there is not really the same appetite for new widgets, and the core product – especially when we speak of shotguns – is so durable. Nevertheless, most manufacturers feel obliged to offer something new periodically. Indeed, they need to do so in order to survive in a very competitive market place. Thus, Browning tried with the very modernistic Cynergy a few years back. This was a radically new design that dispensed with conventional hinging by means of cross or stud pins and had massive bearing surfaces machined into its monobloc. It had an ergonomically effective but very unconventional looking stock incorporating the so-called ‘Inflex’ recoil pad which made the gun look even more different. This may have created some slight prejudice in certain quarters…
Enter the B725
Now, perhaps having acknowledged the conservative nature of most of their old customer base, but wishing to appeal to a younger generation too, Browning have introduced the 725. It is clearly inspired by the B25 as made in Belgium and in modified/simplified form in Japan by Miroku, but this new gun is no mere cosmetic makeover (the usual way gun manufacturers evolve their models if they do not want to take the very considerable risk of an entirely new gun). The stock of the new 725 is conventional too – a wise move – though equipped with a most interesting recoil pad (which looks conventional but isn’t).
The gun has some other very intriguing features. It is lower in the action than a traditional Browning Superposed, but it retains the full width hinge pin and large bolt of the B25 style guns. The action has been cleverly reshaped/sculpted to achieve this. Whether it succeeds aesthetically is a matter for debate, but the re-engineering/ redesign is certainly clever and reduces action height by about 1/8”. The barrels are significantly lighter too, not to mention back-bored, and have extended forcing cones, and 3” (76mm) chambers. The 725 is steel shot proofed too.
Looking at barrels, apart from noting the usual, and impressive Browning quality with near invisible joints between tubes and monobloc, there is only very slight tromboning at the muzzles to allow for the new Invector DS chokes (these are threaded at the front and have a clever brass ring gas seal at their base). The trigger mechanism has been redesigned too. It is mechanical and offers much improved pulls (one of the few weaknesses of the old Superposed). They are noticably lighter and crisper, with trigger movement and lock time reduced. The gun now benefits from an inertia safety system as well.
What of the recoil pad mentioned earlier? The ‘Inflex II’ is quite unlike the first version which looked so odd, and made from a completely different material. It looks quite ordinary as noted, but, it takes advantage of new polymer technologies. It has first rate recoil absorption, and is very light. On handling one off the gun, you are struck by the fact that it seems to weigh almost nothing – less than the proverbial bag of crisps. It comes in various easy-change lengths too, and is ‘non-stick’ for glitch free mounting. The final bonus is that it adds very little weight to the butt.
Returning to the action of the 725, it is not only lower in profile (with reshaped shoulders and fences), and much improved in the trigger department, there is a remodelled, rather short, top-lever (the function of which is excellent). Decoration on the field or, as Browning calls them ‘Hunter’ version (as tested) is a game scene combined with modernistic sparse scroll in an almost sun-burst effect. The birds are well proportioned, but the engraving looks a little thin to my eye. It is, nevertheless, attractive and one must remember the price point of the gun – under £2K. The clay gun has very sparse and modernistic decoration, basically, a few wavy lines cut across the action body.
The stock of the new test 725 is made from walnut of reasonable quality and quite lightly coloured. It has a full pistol grip (there is a palm swell on the sporter, the ‘Hunter’ as tested has none). The forend looks a little different from most with a less pronounced schnabel effect, and again, it contrives to look quite modern. The Deeley forend fastener is good. Chequering was well cut, though the forend borders could have been improved on the test gun. The grip was of good size and well suited to a game gun. It was not being excessively radiused (a tight radius grip may be tougher to hold in the muzzle up ready position). Other dimensions were generally good, although, I thought the standard drop at heel might be raised 1/8”.
I have had the chance to shoot quite a few 725s now. I like them best in 30” sporter form (in which spec. they are a brilliant game gun as well, as is the 525 30” sporter). I do not think the field versions control recoil quite as well (especially with the 28” barrels as tested). But, the test 725 is still a very good gun, and arguably better than its predecessors. The 30” sporter is, truthfully, the way I would go for first class all-round gun at a not unreasonable price.
The design achievement in the 725, meantime, is not to be ignored. The Browning engineering team are to be congratulated. Time will tell whether the 725 will succeed as the 3/4/525 have done so brilliantly. I also think a 525 with DS chokes and a 725 type mechanical trigger would be a world-beater. We’ll see. I will end by giving the 725 a serious compliment, though. I would consider using one as my primary game gun. To see why, log on to Youtube and search: “Mike Yardley shoots the new Browning 725”. I shot 23 pheasants straight with it twice with the camera as witness. That is better than I have done with anything else - ever. So, there must be quite a lot right about the 725.
My thanks to Lyalvale Express for providing the cartridges used in this test (and Browning International/Winchester for the cartridges used in the film).
PRICE: £1,850 (Sporter £1,895)