Richard Atkins explains why the Browning B725 Sporter II is such a smooth operator
Model: B725 Sporter II
Action: Over / Under
Barrel Length: 32in (30in option)
Gauge / Chamber: 12g / 3in (76mm) steel proof
Overall length: 50in (inc. chokes)
Pull length: 14¾in (375mm)
Trigger pulls (B/T): 4lb / 4lb 4oz
Total Weight: 3.8kg (8lb 6oz)
Suggested retail: £2,990 UK
Distributor: BWM www.browning.eu
When Browning introduced their B725 series, it was eagerly anticipated here in the UK. Browning has an extremely strong and well-established fanbase within British clay shooting circles, as a look around clay ranges and in the gun racks will quickly confirm.
The two most popular brand choices for clay target shotguns have bounced between Browning and Beretta. Each has built their following in the highly competitive ‘quality guns that many can aspire to’ price bracket.
So strong is this allegiance that a common response when beginners ask which gun they should buy is to get a second-hand one rather than a cheaper brand-new firearm. Internet forums regularly feature many such comments to similar questions any time you look – and that’s a powerful message that the big boys are happy to support!
The B725 story is an interesting one and provides a fascinating insight as to how an already successful brand responds to its market. Perhaps the feature we hear most regarding Beretta’s popular models is that of their lower profile receiver.
Browning guns, based upon the original B25 design, developed into the more affordable B325/425 and 525 lines, and they have formed the bedrock of the manufacturer’s success for many years, all featuring quite a tall receiver. This receiver height difference is predominantly the result of their respective barrel hinging methods. Beretta hinge their barrels on two short trunnions mounted in the receiver sidewalls whereas the Browning design employs a full-width hinge pin set into the receiver knuckle. This low-set hinge point results in a taller receiver.
When Browning announced their intention to introduce a new model with a lower receiver, the new B725 was eagerly awaited – would it be a radical redesign? Browning aficionados need not have feared. Having seen their experiment with the very radical Browning Cynergy glean too few who appreciated its novel features, even though the receiver height was lower, Browning took a different approach.
The strength and efficiency of the Browning design is legendary and the company retained this while taking advantage of modern materials and heat treatments. Engineers slimmed down some key components, such as the full-width hinge pin, full-width flat locking bolt and barrel-under lumps. This allows the receiver height to be around 3.8 millimetres lower than a B525 while retaining the same strong locking arrangement for a long service life that has so impressed shooters.
The B725 also retains the very efficient two-piece Browning ejector design, powered by strong coil springs and steel hammers housed in the forend. This system ensures that even partially stuck fired cases can be ejected, as the empty case receives a sharp blow that frees the case and ejects it. The more common, cheaper and less complex design is to have ejectors directly powered by springs set into the breech monobloc but Browning remains faithful to the method JM Browning created.
A success story
The streamlined B725 proved an instant success. Model after model – from the basic Sporter to the Pro Trap and Pro Sport (including some with high, low or even adjustable rib models) – has been introduced to provide a very comprehensive range of features and specifications for the serious clay shooter.
The B725 Sporter has already proved to be a great success – seldom have I seen so many of a new model appear at local shooting grounds in Great Britain. Building upon the positive response, a new and B725 Sporter II has been introduced. Let’s take a closer look at what it offers.
B725 Sporter II
The Sporter II is not radically different to its predecessor but it does have some subtle changes. The action internals offer shorter, more crisp trigger pulls over earlier 425/525 models, and the trigger reset is now mechanical and not by recoil.
A nice refinement seldom found in this price range is a trigger stop that controls the over-travel after the trigger has been pulled. Common in high-grade match pistols and rifles, the trigger stop prevents excess trigger pull movement from disturbing the aiming process. Trigger pulls on the review gun are positive, with sensible and well-matched release weights at 4lb and 4lb 4oz for the bottom and top barrels respectively.
The gold-coloured trigger is fairly narrow with a smooth surface and it is sufficiently curved to ensure trigger the finger is consistently positioned. It’s mounted on a trigger rail that permits the trigger blade to be positioned in one of three positions about three millimetres apart. This, in conjunction with the close radius, competition-style pistol grip and well-placed subtle right-handed palm swell, allows a comfortable grip and precise reach for the trigger finger to be achieved.
The most obvious change from the previous model is that the receiver now features a lightly brushed steel finish. This is personal preference, of course, but you can be sure that such a finish is likely to retain its good look indefinitely. Embellishment is minimal, comprising a thin red line on each receiver wall base with ‘B725’ engraved within a radius – simple and well-suited to a competition gun.
Both stock and forend are of oil-finished American walnut with subtle changes in the slightly re-styled tip to the modified ‘tulip’ and the shape of the chequering panels on the stock grip and forend. The stock also has an internal recess that can be reached by removing the interchangeable Browning ‘Inflex’ Sporter-style rubber butt pad. This permits the fitting of balance weights – available separately from Browning – to adjust the firearm’s balance.
The Inflex pad is very good – it has a smooth and rounded top edge that helps achieve a snag-free gun mount while the textured central portion sits well in the shoulder ‘pocket’. The ten-millimetre-thick fitted Inflex pad gives a 14¾-inch length of pull, which will suit most shooters. This can be increased by buying a thicker pad.
Also incorporated into the review Sporter II stock is the optional adjustable comb. This is a very useful feature to have and can make achieving a good fit much easier. Adjustment is simply and quickly achieved by unscrewing the comb-locking mechanism by inserting the Allen key supplied through a small hole in the top of the Inflex pad. Once loosened, the comb can be raised or lowered and moved sideways, inward or outward to increase or decrease cast on or off. It can also be angled slightly if desired. Tightening the screw then locks the comb setting securely in place.
Barrels have seen considerable changes in most modern guns. Browning firearms, now made in the Miroku factory in Japan, use the monobloc barrel construction method like most brands today whereby the two barrel tubes are set into a separately machined breech block. This has proven a perfectly strong and reliable method and is much cheaper to produce than the previous ‘chopper lump’ method.
Most guns using this construction have a band of engraving around the join but Browning make such a fine joint here that it is left plain. The barrel tubes are joined by ventilated side ribs that terminate just within the forend area, saving weight by being both ventilated and truncated.
The top sighting rib is smart and rather like a narrower version of the famous Browning ‘Broadway’ top rib. It measures 8.4 millimetres at the breech then quickly widens to ten millimetres for the remainder of its length. It features a combination of a series of longitudinal straight grooves cut into its centre section with the sides cross-filed to give a clear but unobtrusive reference for the aiming eye.
I personally like the inclusion of a small white central bead; when used in conjunction with the white front bead with a diameter of four millimetres, this allows the gun fit for height and alignment to be easily checked and adjusted. Neither is an important feature when actually shooting, which is why it is good that they are both quite small.
The review gun has 32-inch barrels weighing 3lb 8oz with two chokes, which is light for such long tubes. A lot of effort has clearly gone into their profile and construction. Browning bores are of the now standard ‘back-bored’ internal profile, comprising the main bore being larger than standard at 18.7 millimetres (0.736 inches) with a lengthened forcing cone.
Browning has not gone over to the very long forcing cones, as seen in some new guns, which is a good thing in a Sporting model where fibre wad cartridges may well be required. This arose with one type of fibre wad cartridge tested, showing that it is best to check your fibre loads to see which works best in any gun with extended forcing cones as it is possible for gas blow by to cause some balling of the shot.
Pattern tests with the long DS chokes used in the B725 firearm proved good across the choke spectrum with plastic wad loads. The chambers are 76 millimetres (3 inches) long, although I’m not sure why when Browning already make 70-millimetre chambered clay guns and there are no 76-millimetre-long competition cartridges, but it seems a common trend today.
The handling qualities of any gun are key to how shooters perform with it. Much of what differentiates a gun that ‘handles well’ is in the inherent feel, which consists of several factors. Weight is one but balance is very much another.
Clay guns, especially those for serious competition use, are usually heavier than most others and this helps soak up recoil as well as provide a steadiness to the swing. Browning has made sure the B725 still carries competition weight and even this lower profile model tipped the scales at 8lb 6oz. The surprising thing is that even with those 32-inch barrels, the Sporter II doesn’t feel unduly heavy in the hands and its fine balance, just ahead of the hinge pin, certainly helps.
I have grown up with Browning, Winchester and Miroku firearms so I usually settle in with them quite well, and that was certainly the case with this B725 Sporter II. On the first time out at a local 80-bird shoot, I managed to put in the best card of the day.
A telling point for me was how well I could swing those barrels on faster, closer targets, too. One such stand at another local club has fast targets that burst into view between low tree branches under the shooting stand and then rapidly disappear behind more branches.
The Sporter II helped me smash every one of these and that confirmed for me how these long but light tubes can assist in coping with closer targets as well as more distant ones (with more open DS chokes in, I add!). Feeling lighter than it is and capable of both fast and smooth swings combined with excellent pointing qualities, this gun definitely handles well.
With good trigger pulls, a hand-filling grip, its comfortable forend and low-felt recoil, this is a very capable clay target firearm indeed. The adjustable comb and trigger, plus its excellent butt pad, ensures that you are able to achieve pretty much custom fit every time.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this new B725 Sporter II and I’m sure it will attract plenty more shooters to the ever-growing Browning clan – it certainly has the credentials to do so.
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