Despite the B725’s evolution, Vic Harker still appreciates Browning’s original design in the Browning B525 Trap 1
Model: B525 Trap 1
Bore size: 12g (18.7mm)
Barrels length: 81.5cm (31½in)
Chamber: 70mm (2¾in)
Chokes: Four detachable Invector Plus
Rib: 11mm parallel
Stock: Pistol Grip
Weight: 3.721kg (8lb 2.9oz)
Price: £1,544 inc VAT
Distributor: Browning (01235 514550)
It may surprise some to hear that whenever a Browning over-and-under lands on my desk for review I still greet it with pleasure. I’ve handled a few Brownings in my time, but I always keep in mind the many new shooters who haven’t, and this gun, in any form, is good news. I would add that I’ve never before had the opportunity to field test the B525 in Trap mode and so my task was even more enjoyable.
Though we have recently seen some changes made to John Browning’s over-and-under in the form of the Model 725, the B525 made to his original design is still one of my favourite shotguns. The reason for this is its strength and integrity, and no corners have been cut, something which is immediately apparent when you dismantle the barrels from the action.
They pivot on a substantial cross-pin by way of a forward lump, which provides a bearing surface that locates through the bottom of the action. The barrels are now secured by a full-width tapered locking bolt coming forward under the standing breech, which fits into a reciprocating slot machined in a rear lump.
The hammers are cocked off the forend iron by rods running through the action body that engage with overhead sears suspended from the action’s top strap. These mechanical features are durable, they function reliably and the parts rarely require any replacement. The B525’s Grade 1 engraving is best described as adequate and takes the form of a roll design with a silver nitride finish that contrasts well with the gun’s dark walnut woodwork. More elaborately decorated versions are available.
The barrels are bored, externally struck off and polished to Browning’s usual high standards. The rib design is a favourite of mine, and, in the case of the Trap gun, it’s 11mm wide from the breech face to the muzzle ends and incorporates finely cut longitudinal lines with machined edges. These features create an excellent point of reference in relation to the target without it being obtrusive to the extent it distracts the shooters eye.
There are also front and middle beads that provide a useful guide as to the elevation of the aiming eye above the rib. Many shooters like to see the front sight sitting on the centre bead in a figure of eight, while I prefer a higher point-of-impact and like to see some gap between the two beads. This is a matter of preference, but the usefulness of the two beads in providing a clear indication as to how high the gun will shoot is a valuable aid to achieving the point-of-impact you require, should alteration be required.
The B525 barrels are supplied with four interchangeable choke tubes, Full, Improved Modified/¾, ½ and Improved Cylinder, 6cm long and invisible in situ. The pattern plate revealed regular, well-distributed patterns with the two brands of cartridges I used for this test.
Browning’s traditional Trap stock configuration, which features a thin tapered comb from heel to face combined with a ventilated concave recoil pad, now seems a relic of the past. In its place, or at least in the case of the B525, is an excellent 20mm-thick solid recoil pad, carefully shaped to provide just the right amount of even contact between the heel and toe and so locates comfortably in the shoulder. The stock’s grip is of excellent design with a tighter radius than used to be seen on Browning Trap guns and incorporates a palm swell that with the B525’s adjustable trigger provides all the control you could wish for.
The forend wood is of a conventional beavertail design with finger grooves, unexceptional but providing just the right kind of hold for the leading hand. As a Grade 1 gun the woodwork is plain and finished with a dark lacquer, but more importantly, it is light years away in terms of ergonomics in comparison to Browning stocks of earlier vintage.
With an all-up weight of 8lb 2.9oz (3.721kg), the B525 cannot be described as a heavyweight even though my sample came with 32in barrels. However, with that much weight out of the leading hand, its handling characteristics might best be described as a tad front heavy and I was initially shooting behind some quick Ball Trap targets. This was quickly cured by extending my hold on the forend further forward, distributing more of the gun’s weight between the hands. Shooting was then resumed and I began breaking targets consistently.
The B525’s stock configuration and its measurements had a lot to do with this. With drop-at-comb of 30mm and at the heel of 38mm, the most crucial dimensions were almost identical to my own requirements. Length-of-pull at 38cm was also close. I would have preferred the gun to provide more heft between the hands, which could be easily provided with a heavier action body.
That Browning choose to utilise the same action for the Sporter as they do its Trap gun must be put down to economies of scale, but I would hope at some stage they will reconsider this matter and incorporate a dedicated action. Meanwhile, the gun’s trigger pulls were nicely regulated to the extent they represented the best I’ve experienced on a Browning. They were crisp and though the lock-works geometry creates an inherently long pull, this was barely noticeable.
To conclude, as always in the case of these Japanese-made Brownings, I’m obliged to say in terms of John Browning’s fundamental design and standards of manufacture, for the money, they are unbeatable.