Vegemite pass marks!
David Crofts is a fan of Browning’s versatile B525 SL shotgun
The Browning Arms Company and the many types of firearms they produce under the Browning banner are well known in this country, having been imported for many years and during that time sporting shooters have used them successfully for targets and hunting. The Browning shotgun under review here is the B525 Sporter Laminate, a fairly recent addition to their stable being, I believe, introduced to the European/UK market in early 2019.
The B525 is one of the latest variants of the original Browning Superposed with the standard type of deep action produced in Japan by Miroku Firearms for Browning. Around 60 years ago Miroku modified John Moses Browning’s original design of the Superposed to allow easier use of a more automated method of manufacture, the biggest and most noticeable difference to those who use them being the fore-end is detachable and not captive as on the Superposed. Initially Browning were none too happy about the Japanese imitation of the Superposed and sent a delegation to Japan to meet with Miroku, the outcome being a working partnership between the two ever since.
A significant amount of hand finishing still goes into Browning products made by Miroku, including jointing of the barrels, barrel regulation and chequering of the woodwork on all their over-and-under shotguns, including this one. The gun is imported by local distributor Winchester Australia whose website at time of writing had the RRP of the B525 SL as $5220, thought doubtless a web search will throw up some retailers advertising them for quite a bit less.
The gun is supplied with four Invector Plus Midas chokes, a choke key, three Allen keys, manufacturer’s documentation, trigger lock, automatic safety conversion bar and a Browning hard case. I first saw one of these guns while on holiday in the UK in late 2019 and John, the gunshop owner who showed it to me, described it as a Marmite gun – meaning something you either love or hate (if you haven’t heard of Marmite, it’s the UK version of Vegemite).
On the model tested these are 30” (762mm) with 32” available, 3” chambered, back-bored with Vector Pro forcing cones and have Invector Plus Midas extended multi-chokes as standard. The chokes supplied with the gun are Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified and Improved Modified.
The barrels are fitted with a 10mm tramline-type parallel rib with a white mid bead and green hi-viz pipe-type front bead (other hi-viz type coloured plastic rod/pipes are available after market). The barrels are hand-regulated in the factory for point of impact testing and when I used the gun on the pattern board at my local club, results revealed the top and bottom barrels shared the same point of impact.
The barrels are monobloc in construction and joining of the tubes to the monobloc is so well done you have to look closely to find the actual spot where they meet. The exterior of the barrels is finished superbly with a dark gloss blue/black and no indication of rivelling or unevenness.
The interior of the tubes is highly polished to a mirror-type finish and chrome plated. The barrels weigh in at 1503 grams, good for 30” barrels fitted to a Sporter and this lighter weight compared to those usually fitted to a Trap gun can be a significant benefit in a model intended for use in a Field/Sporter role. When the B525 SL are sold in Europe they all go through CIP Superior Steel Shot Proofing in Liege, Belgium which is handy for a sporting shooter who wants to use the B525 SL for hunting ducks too, as they’re safe to use with high performance steel shot cartridges.
The action design is of the classic, proven Browning/Miroku trapdoor type with full-width hinge pin and sliding locking bolt which engages into a slot machined into the monobloc beneath the chamber of the bottom barrel, the action powered by coil springs as are the ejectors. Design of the Browning action, due to positioning of the hinge pin and locking bolt, means the receiver has a slightly higher profile when viewed from the side than a Beretta or Perazzi bifurcated-type action. The action is a matte satin/French grey-type finish with minimal embellishment, just the Browning ‘Buckmark’ logo on the fore-end iron, triggerguard and ‘B525 SL’ engraved on the action, both with a black fill.
The metal-to-metal fit and finish of this particular gun is excellent and of high quality. The trigger is a three-position adjustable (using the Allen key provided) and has a matte grey finish to match the action. Only one trigger blade is supplied, the narrow Olympic type. Barrel selection is obtained the usual way on a Browning via positioning of the safety catch left or right prior to pushing the safety to the ‘off’ position. Trigger pulls are good straight out the box, averaging 3.75lb for the bottom barrel and 4lb for the top though these can be adjusted by a competent gunsmith if needed.
The Sporter Laminate variant of the B525 has timber furniture made from a grey (salt and pepper) laminate hardwood which I understand is sourced from Scandinavia and the wood-to-metal fit is, as with the metal-to-metal, excellent. Stock shapes are generally good with a fairly open radius pistol grip and no palmswell (ideal for Sporting Clays and game), a slight right-hand cast and length to centre of 375mm. It includes a Browning Inflex 2 recoil pad with different length pads and spacers available to adjust stock length. The stock is fully adaptable vertically and horizontally, being equipped with the Browning Pro-fit adjustable system, so in theory there should be no problem with gun fit for most shooters.
The fore-end is of the classic Browning/Miroku Schnabel type usually fixed to game and sporter models and the laminate furniture has a waterproof lacquer finish. Note the laminate material has the benefits of increased strength so shouldn’t swell or warp with heat or moisture. And with the extra weight of the material the B525 SL should handle punchier shot shells, such as heavy field loads, far more comfortably.
The B525 SL felt good in the hands, weighing 3.75kg and balancing at 60mm from the breech face, the balance point just on the muzzle side of the hinge pin which to me felt close to ideal for a Sporting Clays gun with 30” barrels. As someone who prefers a nicely-figured walnut stock I was initially hesitant as to whether I’d like the laminate furniture, though it did grow on me and I believe this model, with the extra weight of the laminate, does have some improved handling characteristics over the B525 standard Sporter.
Using the gun at my club on Skeet, Trap and 5-Stand layouts I was impressed by its handling characteristics and versatility and also noticeable was the low-felt recoil, even with 1350fps 28-gram High Performance target loads. I managed to achieve some good scores in testing and the consistent patterns produced by the Invector Plus Midas Chokes broke the clay targets I connected with in a satisfying way.
The B525 SL is an excellent product which offers good value, especially considering the longevity you can expect. Not only is this a great Sporting Clays shotgun, it will also handle up to 3” (76mm) heavy, high performance steel loads which potentially makes it a great option for the duck hunter too. This is a shotgun which handles superbly, has Browning’s reputation of reliability and should last a long time. So I suppose in Australia we could call the B525 SL a Vegemite gun – well I love Vegemite and if I was after a new Sporting Clays shotgun the B525 SL, despite its unusual and non-traditional appearance, would be high on the menu.
|Model||B525 SL (Sporter Laminate)|
|Barrel length||30” (32” also available)|
|Chamber||70mm and 76mm|
|Chokes||Invector Plus Midas (four included)|