Browning Hunter Black Gold
- 16 Comments
- Last updated: 27/04/2018
Browning have followed in the pedigree shotgun lines with the new B725 last year and had themselves another winner. It’s an up-dated version of their lineage of B series shotguns that cover the gamut of sporting, clays and wildfowl usage.
I tested the Hunter 12g version recently and found it a lovely gun to shoot and now it’s the turn of the B725 Hunter UK Black Gold version in 20-gauge. This is the UK version that has a great style to it and superb looks. We have a slim 20-gauge profiled action that is finished in a black/blue, accented with gold inlaid game scenes and very traditional rounded pistol grip in high grade walnut.
Combine this to the B725’s great handling characteristics, balance and fluidity in the swing and reliable performance and you have a cracking little gun. If the black action is not your speed, then you can have a Premium version with silvered/ grey action, or Light version at 2.6kg instead of 2.95 for walked up game or a standard B725 styled stock if the rounded pistol grip is not to your liking. So, lots of good features, lets see how she shoots.
First, that lovely stock. Its my sort of stock, both in looks and styling as well as handling. Although I like a Schnabel forend, this Hunter Black Gold edition has that authentic air of a gun from yesteryear. The grade three walnut has a really rich and deep natural colouration of wood. It has a great dark walnut hue, interspersed with some light and dark veined figuring. You have an undelaying horizontal figure with a more vertical fiddle back on top that gives depth and a classy look. The oil finish also sets the Gold apart from other guns, as it has the classic lustre that only gets better with age and that patina brings out the figuring. With oil, you also have a natural barrier to the elements that can be ‘topped up’ as you need and minor scratches are easily remedied.
The forend has similar figuring to the walnut too, which matches very well to the butt stock and so looks perfect together. The forend has a slim profile befitting a 20g and a rounded bull nose to it, again classic looking. The chequering too is well cut and has a good coverage for maximum grip. The pistol grip is similarly chequered but has a rounded profile gain – very classically English in nature. I love it and its long rake, no palm swell and slim grip fits be fine despite my big hands. The dimensions of 36mm drop to comb and 56mm drop to heel ideally suit the low-profiled action design.
To finish off, is the Inflex 2 recoil pad, smooth edged and profiled it gives a really soft recoil, even with lighter 20g and 28g loads.
This 20-gauge Gold has an allsteel construction, with a slim and low profile to the action; again, a combination of elegance and strength that Browning do so well. It has the ability of feeling low in the shoulder, so you really look down that rib in a natural manner and the B725 feels part of you, thus giving a very instinctive swing and hold. There is also the benefit of the recoil returning in a straighter line, so that it has less swing up and is absorbed more in the mass of the shoulder and not your cheek! Therefore, a second shot can need little alteration to the swing from recoil and feels a lot easier to get on target or lead in front.
Visually, the Black Gold UK Edition looks very tasteful in my view, with a deep blue/ black semi satin finish and enhanced with smalls scroll of engraving to both sides, base and trigger guard. Inside, the scroll work is engraved woodland scenes with rising partridge accented in Gold on the left face. To right, also in gold, are two flighting woodcocks. I am not that keen on gold accenting but this is subtle and enhances the overall look.
The top lever too has a Gold partridge head inset, which is a nice touch and more scroll engraving. Browning actions always have that sense of strength about them and feel good and tight and lock up really solidly. The large hinge pin remains and the locking bolt system that engages the lower bite is as strong as ever and with a 10-year guarantee for the action against defect.
This Hunter 20g Black Gold version came with 28-inch barrels, although you can opt for a 30- or 32-inch barrels as your style of shooting dictates. For this model, in 20-gauge and its shorter length, it makes sense with 28-inch barrels, as it allows a quick swing in a woodland scenario.
Overall finish is typical Browning; deeply blued and highly polished with a good fitting solid mid rib and ventilated top rib. This is 6mm wide befitting a game gun and has a fine serrated finish and a single low silver bead near the muzzles.
The barrels are chambered for 3-inch (76mm) cartridges and proofed for magnum and steel shot i.e. fleur de lis proof marks up to 1320-bar pressure. So, good for all types of cartridge, clay and hunting uses.
The chambers on all B725s are Vector Pro, which means there is a longer forcing cone and the barrels are back bored. This means that there is less friction and each cartridge have more velocity and thus hit harder down range. Also, due to the back-boring, the shot column is less restricted in the barrel, which means less pellet deformation that transcends to better patterns down range.
The Gold also uses the Invector DS choke system, a full complement of 20-gauge chokes of Cyl, 1/4, 1/2, ¾ and Full. They are also very clearly marked for diameter, and also, importantly, lead or steel use.
Remember, a ½ choke with lead gives a ¾ choke with steel, so a fitment of a ¾ or full choke is not for steel use.
The trigger is a mechanical design, not inertia, so the hammers fall on each of the trigger pulls and I like this, as it feels more reliable to me. The trigger pull too is very crisp for a shotgun, and weighted at 3.15lbs, broke very cleanly.
The gold trigger blade is well curved and is also adjustable on a dovetailed rail, so you can alter the length of pull to suit you. Standard length is 14.5-inches and I stuck to this and it felt fine. The safety is non-auto function, although you can order an automatic version if you so please. In the forward position, you are ready to fire and downward is for safe, with also left to shoot top barrel and right to shoot bottom barrel first.
I tested a variety of 20-gauge shells through the Hunter Black Gold, all of which were shot at pattern boards at 30-yards and with the ½ choke. All patterns proved very evenly spread and with a lot of pellet strikes, i.e. a good tight pattern. maximising the ½ choke rating.
First up were the Fiocchi Speed load. These have proven to be really good cartridges over the previous tests in other guns and so it proved in the Gold. With a No. 7.5 shot size and 28-gram loading, this is ideal for clays or pigeon. I had a total of 274 pellet strikes at 30-yards, with a very good overall spread. There were 161 pellets in the outer 30- inch regions and a superb 113 No. 7.5 pellets clustering in the inner 15-inch circle; escape that, pigeon or clay!
Gamebore Traditional Game. I had the 28-gram load No. 6 shot load, with a fibre wad and 65mm case. This, as its name suggests, is a traditional 28-gram fibre wadded load with No. 6 shot, so fine for pheasants. I had a whopping 261 pellets on the pattern board, distributed 146 pellets in the outer sector and 115 in the inner portion. Again, very dense, even pattern and a superb pattern from the load and those back-bored barrels from Browning.
Hull High Pheasant Extreme. This load is famed for its longrange, hard-hitting capabilities. The load used was the large shot size of No.5 shot, for more striking energy but less pellets with the 30-gram load. You therefore need a good barrel to pattern well with this load with less pellets. The Hunter Black Gold did not disappoint and I had a total of 190 pellet strikes and an excellent, almost even split, between the inner and outer sectors of 93 outer and 97 inner. Brilliant load this one.
Lyalvale Supreme had a mild pay load of 21-grams of No. 7.5 shot but still managed 248 pellet strikes. 155 pellets of these were in the outer 30-inches and a dense 93 spread within the inner 15-inches, a slight right bias but very mild to shoot and again, great patterns.
The pattern boards never lie and they really show how unfussy the Hunter Black Gold is to the variety of cartridges, loads and pellet sized used, they all shot amazingly well.
The Gold has superb handling, light recoil for a lighter 20g even with 28-gram loads and is built to Browning’s unenviable standards. I like the walnut especially and the English or UK styling to the woodwork is most welcome.
A great addition to the Browning line up!
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