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Browning A5 Shotgun

Browning A5 Shotgun

“Let’s get one thing straight, this ain’t your Grandpa’s Auto-5” was one of Browning’s best advertising lines. As they have added another semi-auto shotgun to their portfolio with their all new A5. Like the tag lines says this is not the gun that John Moses Browning designed in 1898 and was in production for 100-years. Making it by far the most famous and the first of the mass-produced semi-autos. The A5 looks like it to a degree with its retro-styling that includes a hump-backed receiver, but inside it’s totally modern. A cynical friend of mine calls it the Brownelli as it uses a similar operating system to what must be the most popular, modern recoil-operated shotgun - the Benelli.

History tells us that Browning was going to offer the Auto-5 to Remington after it being refused by Winchester (big mistake) odd as they had taken all his previous designs. However, while waiting to see Remington’s president, that gentleman died of a heart attack, which forced John Moses to look elsewhere and it ended up being made by FN (Fabrique Nationale) in Belgium who already produced his pistols. As they say the rest is history, though later Remington did make it as the Model 11 and Savage the Model 720.


The Auto-5 has a chequered history and apart from its sporting use it has seen action from WW1 to Vietnam. We British used it in Malaya, Borneo and Kenya and again in Northern Ireland on the bomb disposal (Felix) remote controlled vehicles (wheel barrows). I have even seen one with German waffen amt (acceptance) stamps that allegedly was a guard gun in a concentration camp. Its notoriety was also enhanced by being used by gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow! But as a bird and clay gun it became America’s sweetheart for many years!

Browning designed a long recoil system in that the barrel and bolt move back into the action together for the length of the cartridge. When they stop the barrel unlocks and is returned by a separate spring, this movement also ejects the empty. The bolt then moves forward to feed and chamber. Adjusting for cartridge types consisted of fitting a split, bronze, friction collar around the magazine tube between the return spring and barrel ring. As it moved rearwards it was compressed which caused friction that regulates the movement. When set up properly it worked well, in use this massive transfer of weight combined with the ‘bang/clang’ of the action is noticeable!


Browning’s last semi was the gas/piston Maxus; great gun! So I was surprised when I heard that they would be recreating the A5. I like the hump backed look and retro styling, but feel it’s more of an American thing, and was intrigued when I found out it would be recoil and not gas-operated. There’s little doubt that the Maxus took a big chunk of the market previously dominated by Remington and Beretta’s gassers, so the new A5 would be taking on the most popular of all modern recoil-operated shotguns the Benelli.

The A5 uses what Browning calls a ‘Kinematic Drive System’; unsurprisingly it’s near identical to the Benelli. The rotary bolt closes and the carrier moves forward and cams the four locking lugs into battery. On firing the bolt stays locked until the load has left the barrel and the recoil generated overcomes a spring and moves the carrier rearwards, which in turn unlocks the bolt. Clean, fast and efficient, though any system of this type is reliant on the power of the ammunition. Browning says it will cycle from light target 28-gram (67 – 70mm) to heavy magnum 53-gram (76mm) loads, something I would not disagree with!


The four smaller locking lugs (Benelli use two large ones) combined with a nickel/Teflon coating, we are told gives 8-10% faster lock time and a 40% shorter unlocking stroke. Compared to my gas/piston Maxus I thought the A5 was marginally slower. Controls and functioning are as you might expect. The action locks open when empty and can be released by a button on the right side of the receiver.

Browning have kept the Auto-5’s ‘speed feed’ feature (also used on the Maxus), which allows you to push a round into the magazine, which then automatically trips the bolt and feeds it. I found this useful as it allows you to keep the gun up and scanning for targets while you reload. They have not retained the magazine cut-off, which was a feature of the Auto-5 and also the Maxus.

As before there’s a cross-bolt safety at the rear of the trigger guard that pushes right to left to FIRE. A new feature is the ‘bolt latch’ positioned at the front of the trigger guard; this locks the bolt to the rear when empty and also releases a shell from the magazine if you are starting with a full mag and an empty chamber.


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The A5 is light and handy with an aluminium receiver, the barrel is back-bored and has a Vector Pro™ Lengthened Forcing Cone and uses the new INVECTOR DS™ choke system. It’s available in four lengths – 26”, 28”, 30” and 32”, the bore and chamber are chrome-plated and it’s steel-proofed. There are essentially two models - the Standard wood-stock and blued or the Ultimate that offers a nickled/engraved action in either Ultimate Duck or Partridge version, both having superior quality timber. All have 3” chambers! For tougher work there’s the Composite (synthetic stock) in either all black or camo, here you have two choices Max-4 or Infinity. These guns have a 3.5” chamber so well up for wildfowling.

I always found the AUTO-5 to be a hard kicking gun, despite its weight, the A5 does not follow! At the rear is an Inflex recoil pad that really soaks up the punishment with the back-bored barrel and lengthened forcing cone adding to the comfort. Guns come in a plastic case complete with three chokes, length of pull spacers and shims to adjust angle.

For the US, guns have a 4+1 magazine with a limiter plug that only requires a car key to remove. In the UK you will have the choice of Sect 2 (2+1) with a ringed mag tube or un-restricted Sect 1 (FAC). Browning will be offering a mag extension tube too.

HUMP BACK The hump backed

The hump backed look of the Auto-5 is an acquired taste, certainly in comparison to modern semis, but it does allow you to get your head down behind the action and offers a longer sighting plane. The A5’s is not so pronounced; equally unusual on an auto is the higher butt comb, again a throwback to the original.

I was lucky enough last year to be invited to Morocco by Browning to have two days on doves with the A5. I love these birds as they are fast and canny and we had windy weather, which made them go like missiles when it was up their tails. Fine sport indeed! We were allowed 50 birds a day (25 AM and 25 PM), that may sound easy but believe me it was not!


We set out pre-dawn and were positioned in fields and gullies and along with local pickers up we were ready. Though of similar dimensions to the Auto-5 the A5 is lovely and light and balances well and I was expecting it to kick some. A 26” Standard weighs 6lb 11oz with the 30” barrelled version adding 4oz! We used a mish mash of local shells; normally on these trips we would be using Winchester, as we did with the Maxus launch in Burkina Faso in 2008!

Birds started coming in and the guns started popping. I’m not an amazing shotgunner but I can shoot OK and the first thing I noticed was the high comb. I tend to shoot more like a rifle and get my head right down on the stock, with most modern semis this is not a problem as they are low combed. I found it awkward to assume this position and my shooting suffered for it. However, dropping in some shims back at base increased the angle and sorted it to a degree.

My gun was pretty reliable given the cross section of ammo we had, though I did have some slow bolt movement, which could have been blown sand getting in the action. Like the Maxus the speed feed feature was brilliant. Scanning for targets, holding the gun up in the right hand it was a doddle to push the first round in the mag tube and hear/feel that satisfying slide/clunk as it was chambered. No having to look down and fumble with buttons!

The lightness and balance of the A5 made it very agile and with doves it’s all about fast reactions. Typical of me I got through a lot of ammo in two days, which really allowed me to get to know the gun - warts and all. Equally it proved that the A5 is very recoil-friendly as - though trigger happy - I did not suffer at all from bruising. I admit I missed a good few first time but also pulled off some good shots and some doubles, though I never got a triple like I did in Burkina Faso with the Maxus! In the end I think my tally was 87, so I did not bust the allowed century, but I was more than happy.


We were told by the Browning crew these guns were sort of finished pre-production models and were asked if we had any problems? Apart from the occasional feed hiccup, which happens, my one beef was the sharpness of the edges of the loading port. In the heat of the moment you are ramming shells in the gun as quick as, and when I finished I noticed fine cuts on the sides of my thumb. I duly reported this, but the gun I have now is the same; guess the machines were already running and weren’t going to stop. Where this my gun I’d just profile those edges ‘stat’!

So what do I think of the new A5? I love the retro look and though available as a black or camo composite, for me and this might sound odd; I’d have the standard wood/blue model as I think it looks wrong any other way!  There’s little doubt the A5 can go head to head with the Benelli, though in the UK I’m unsure if the retro looks are going to work! I hear the US market is going crazy for it, unsurprisingly.

Given I have a Maxus would I buy an A5? Tricky one, for me the Maxus fits better and I do have issues on the A5’s higher comb. It is also has a tad slower cyclic rate, but it still shoots fast enough for me! What I dislike about the Maxus is its limited capacity as you can’t fit a mag extension, not an issue with its 4+1 payload, but as a practical sort of guy I’d like that option, which the A5 gives.

  • Browning A5 Shotgun - image {image:count}

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  • Browning A5 Shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Browning A5 Shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Browning A5 Shotgun - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge


  • Name: Browning A5 Standard
  • Type : semi-automatic recoil-operated
  • Calibre: 12-bore
  • Capacity: 4+1 (Sect 1)
  • Barrel: 26, 28, 30 and 32”
  • Weight: 6lb 15oz (30” model)