Richard Atkins puts the new Browning 525 Super Sport Prestige to the test and it comes out shining
Brand names don’t come any bigger or better known than that of Browning. It could be argued that the original design for a ‘superposed’ shotgun by John Moses Browning, the B25, gives Browning guns a major claim in the development of shotguns for clay target shooting. The advantage of the single sighting plane the stacked barrels concept provides, readily enhanced by the addition of the top rib, was soon picked up on as being advantageous for shooting targets. The lower felt recoil of the bottom barrel was another factor appreciated by target shooters, who fired more rounds at a session than was usual for most other forms of shotgun shooting. That design gave rise to many imitators, and the best known of these is the Japanese firm Miroku.
The overall combination of easy handling, quick pointing and steadiness in the balance and beavertail forend made this another gun I settled in well with. On its second outing on an extremely blustery day that saw some incoming clays rocket like teal and low crossers ‘bouncing’ before diving into the grass, I managed a reasonably tidy 41ex-50 to sneak home first at a local club shoot. On a testing day like that, the handling characteristics with slightly forward balance helped, and fatigue was definitely reduced compared to wielding substantially heavier guns; this is something that shooters with a few miles on the clock, such as myself, will no doubt appreciate.
The build quality, elegant looks, fine handling and retained value of Browning guns has ensured their place in the affections of generations of clay shooters. Could this be another Browning ‘classic’ in the making? It certainly has all the correct credentials.
Immediately noticeable on handling the 525 Super Sport Prestige is that it feels significantly lighter than some previous models, despite its 30” barrels with long Invector Plus choke tubes. The barrels weigh just 1.55kg and the stock is hollowed out to keep the point of balance just ahead of the hinge pin. Lightweight side ribs join the two tubes. These are ventilated, further reducing weight. Briley-made chokes manufactured from titanium are fitted. Although 83mm long, even with their 20mm extensions they are sufficiently lighter to make a noticeable difference when screwed into the muzzles. The top rib is also narrower than recent clay gun trends, being .30” (7.6mm) wide as opposed to the more usual 10mm these days.
Barrels are made on the monobloc principle: Browning and Miroku have evolved a method of finishing the top tube such that it’s very hard to detect where it joins the breech block, being well polished to a smooth finish without the need for a line of engraving to obscure the join as many makers do.
The bores are what Browning call ‘back-bored’, meaning that the bore diameter has been enlarged from the standard 18.5mm to 18.7mm (about .007” above standard bore size), which is claimed to improve patterning qualities, increase velocities and reduce recoil. The gun is chambered to accept 3”(75mm) cartridges and proofed to 1,320 bar. Internal polishing of the bores and exterior finishing and blacking is of a high standard, as expected.
The wood on this model is very nice indeed with plenty of figure to the grade 4.5 walnut used; it may not make it shoot any better but combined with the prolific leaf, hand-finished engraving that covers the receiver on all sides, plus the top tang and top lever as well as the forend catch, it produces a truly elegant result that will give great pride of ownership. The pistol grip is of radius between open and competition style, with no palm swell. There is very little cast to the stock, though it mounted well and is comfortable in use.
The butt pad is of conventional hard plastic; the wood is oil finished which looks good and is easy to keep looking good. The chequering is fine line and hand cut to a traditional pattern with crisp diamond form. A nice finishing touch is the inclusion of a silver oval in the underside of the stock, where the owner can have his or her initials engraved.
A feature I really liked on this model is the use of beavertail form forend. I grew up with a similar style on my old Miroku 800S and it suits me. Beavertails fill the hand well while allowing different hold positions; this works well with Sporting targets as well as being steady for Skeet and Trap, so it’s no real surprise to see it making a return.
The trigger pulls have clearly had some hand attention, as although there is some free play in the mechanism before the sear lifter engages, both triggers release at less than four pounds and are surprisingly crisp for a bottom-hinged tumbler with overhead sear design. The trigger blade itself is adjustable for position fore and aft, and three styles of trigger blade are supplied with the gun: standard style, one narrow blade and a curved wide blade option.
The stock set up pitched the pattern around 60/40 for me, just high enough for Sporting targets that can go low as well as high. Recoil proved surprisingly moderate given the gun’s fairly light weight and no recoil pad, even with some quite brisk Kent Velocity loads used in testing. The range of chokes supplied will tackle any target. I also like the white bead sight arrangement with a small central bead complementing the larger front one. I was unaware of the top rib’s narrower section when shooting.