Richard Atkins puts the Browning B725 Hunter through its paces and, small though the gauge may be, it has a big future as a favoured game gun
Some smaller gauge guns have an appeal all their own. When based on classic lines like the Browning we have here, taking the trimmer B725 format but now in 20 gauge so the remodeled frame becomes slimmer still, attractiveness is enhanced. Like the sleek lines of a well-designed sports car, where the elegance makes it more than a mode of transport, so it is with the B725 Hunter Grade 1 20 gauge, making for a truly “light and lovely” O/U shotgun.
“Like the sleek lines of a well-designed sports car, where the elegance makes it more than a mode of transport, so it is with the B725 Hunter Grade 1 20 gauge”
Now is the ideal time for Browning to introduce their svelte new gun. For many years the 12 gauge shotgun has ruled supreme as a hunting/game gun, for more formal shoots as well as walking the fields but that dominance is changing. The fact that smaller gauges can prove very effective is becoming well recognised with their lighter weight and easy handling characteristics increasingly appreciated. This can be seen by the proportion of shooters now happily equipping themselves with 16, 20 and even some 28 gauge guns. Of these the 20 gauge is becoming a firm favourite with more models from major makers arriving.
Very significant in the advance of 20 gauge guns is the greater choice of ammunition types now available. The two most popular shot weights for game/field use, 28 gram (1 ounce) and 32 gram (1⅛ ounce) are readily available in a choice of types; fibre and plastic wad, standard and high velocity and from a wide range of makers from home and abroad. Increasing sales have also brought prices very close to those for 12 gauge ammunition, removing that former downside. Specialist loads in lighter and heavier charge weights and shot sizes increase the versatility of the modern 20 gauge guns too.
The B725 format is the latest incarnation of the original B25 design but now trimmed down with reduced receiver height. Importantly, all the prime features John Moses Browning embodied in his original design remain: the full width hinge pin totally supported in the steel receiver, breech under lumps that lock into recesses in the receiver floor and the full width flat, tapered locking bolt now also employed by numerous other makes.
The immense strength and longevity provided is well proven over this design’s 90-year existence. Modern materials, heat treatment and surface treatments now allow the same principles to be incorporated within the more compact design. Overall receiver height reduction is achieved with a combination of smaller diameter hinge pin and shallower locking under lumps but strength and integrity remains. Overall this produces a neater looking package in the 12 gauge: in the 20 gauge it is, frankly, almost exquisite.
“The B725 Hunter Grade 1 has a closely grained walnut stock of nice colour and modest figure with a polished, oil type, finish and fine line chequering”
I must confess to being a fan of Browning style guns. My first O/U was a Winchester 101 that relied heavily on JMB’s design, my first competition gun a Miroku 800S Skeet and my Trap gun a Citori. That I have them all still, over 40 years on, probably confirms things!
But my background is in engineering, so things have to work besides feeling satisfyingly practical to gain my approval; and these guns do. I’m therefore delighted to have observed their evolution and to feel an affinity with what I see today.