Browning B525SL Laminate
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- Last updated: 24/05/2019
When you think of Browning, you immediately think of beautifully designed and well-made shotguns that handle well and usually sport some classy walnut. But, as with rifles, there is a definite trend these days towards the desire for excellent quality and engineering but with the more practical ability to shrug off a few knocks and dings and, of course, our lovely British weather.
Browning have just introduced their SL model of the legendary B525 series and, do you know what, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like a laminate stock on a thoroughbred like a Browning; however, having tested and shot this SL model, it makes sense and boy, does it shoot well.
Let’s look at that stock first. As you know, I like walnut but I also like the practicality of laminate or synthetic on my rifles, but this stock is pure Browning, as the handling and balance is still the same, as is the shape and feel and you actually have a slight bonus of a more stable and heavier stock to firstly reduce recoil further, steady the balance just in front of the action and of course not warp or twist in any climatic changes.
All those features are winners; looks wise, I like the alternate black laminate layers epoxied together, as the way it has been profiled means that you get a nice overall effect or feathering of the laminate.
You have a satin varnish finish to the stock, and this is then cut through with chequering to pistol grip and forend. There is a degree of less defined and pronounced diamonds to the chequering, because of the differing nature of laminate over walnut.
The tulip forend is comfortable and has a brushed steel inset release lever. The butt section of the stock has an overall length of pull of 14.75-inches, with 38mm drop at the comb and 58cm drop at the heel with a small amount of cast putting my eye looking right down the rib.
It is finished off with an Inflex technology black rubber recoil pad that really does allow a speedy, yet secure gun positioning in the shoulder. Look closer, though, and you will see a small hole cut into the top left of the pad and this is where the long Allen key (supplied) is inset to adjust the final part of the stock, the elevating check piece. This is a full 8-inches long and stretches from the back of the pistol grip to 1.75-inches from the recoil pad. This allows a cheek position anywhere front or back or at a height that suits you personally. As I said, fully low was good for me but it’s good to have a choice to custom tune to your face or desired point of impact for the down-range shot pattern.
On this SL model, you have a choice of 30- or 32-inch lengths with 3-inch chambers, Vector Pro and back-bored barrel bores and steel shot proofed. They also come with a set of four chokes. These are the Midas Gold extended type that are Invector Plus but longer and stick out of the barrel by 20mm.
They can be hand tightened, although a choke key is provided. Being primarily meant as a clay gun, the SL comes with chokes in Cylinder, ¼, ½ and ¾ sizes. This example came as bottom barrel ¼ and top barrel; ½ which is a nice combo, for my type of hunting any way.
The back-bored barrels mean that the internal dimensions are slightly over-sized, which gives a smoother passage of the wadded shot column. This increases velocity, due to reduced friction and recoil is also reduced due to the smoother, wider bore surfaces and ease of the shot column passage down the bore.
I had the 30-inch barrels and it was perfectly weighted for balance in front of the action that really aided in a fast swing and unstrained hold.
The barrels are vented, and the top rib is 10mm wide and has 15 vents that are small and close to the barrel’s circumference and a mid rib has larger, longer vents of six then a solid section at forend and then one long vent to the monobloc. Both aid in weight reduction and increased surface area for effective cooling. The finish is Browning’s typical deep rich bluing that perfectly complements the satin silver nitrided finished action, part of the hardening process that makes for an incredibly durable surface. It looks great too. There is a single white bead half way along the rib and the muzzle sports a long, thin Day-Glo sight that lines up perfectly together for a highly visible aiming mark.
This is the all steel action B525 type and, as such, has a good solid yet smooth operating feel to it. It is superbly machined with little or no tooling marks and on this SL model has an overall finish of silver nitrided steel. It looks really good against both the laminate stock and blued barrels and is practical too.
Only the Browning name and model designation to the side faces and bottom adorn it, with twin Browning Buck logos to the steel plates behind the forend that interlock to the action on closing.
The usual locking arrangement, with steel locking lugs protruding through from barrel lugs and relatively deep action profile, gives this Browning that classic, yet great handling and performing action type. These locking lumps through the base of the action just fit so well and are a reassuring sight.
You have a non-auto safety with an inertia type striker system with the barrel selector where left is for the top barrel and right for bottom barrel. The trigger is wide and smooth polished steel and adjustable for the length of pull, adjusted via a small inset Allen key into the actual trigger blade.
With the top barrel and half choke fitted, I set up some pattern boards at 30-yards and thankfully today it was windless, so good patterns should result.
A nice clay load is the Clever Mirage Competition from Garlands, not expensive and it shoots softly and patterns well. This is a 2¾-inch case and I used the 28-gram load with No. 7.5 shot with a plastic wad, called the Maxi Wad, to reduce recoil and maximise velocity.
It was a pussy cat to shoot in the SL and I had a total of 255 pellet strikes, of which 98 were in the inner radius and the rest, 157 pellets, very evenly spread around the outer 30-inches.
The Eley Superb is a good clay load and always shoots well when tested in a variety of guns. The SL was no different, superbly even and dense patterns and very soft on the shoulder too for an easy second shot if necessary.
The 28-gram No. 8 shot with fibre wad produced a veritable bee swarm of pellets down range and the SL shot 381 pellets total, distributed with 222 in the outer 30-inch area and 159 within the central section; no holes and no clumping of shot either, excellent.
Being a hunter, I had to try the Hull High Pheasant Extreme cartridges, with their heavier, 32-gram load and No. 5 shot size. Again, despite the stiffer load, the SL soaked it up with ease and produced 71 inner strikes and 100 dead outer hits for a total of 171 No. 5 pellets on the board and nicely distributed for a clean ‘kill’.
I wasn’t sure if I would like the laminate; however, as soon as I saw the B525 SL, I knew it would be alright! It’s a Browning; of course, it’s all right. The laminate is actually a really nice and practical look on a shotgun, and it will have some followers and admires I am sure. The B525 continues to be a best seller and, with this new stock and action finish, as well as the adjustable comb, it will appeal to both clay shooters and hunters alike.
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