XS Firepower: Vic Harker tests out the versatile virtues of the Browning B525 Ultra XS Pro
Model: B525 Ultra XS Pro
Action: Coil spring boxlock
Barrels: 32in (81cm)
Chamber: 2¾in (70mm)
Chokes: Eight, hand-detachable extended chokes supplied
Rib: Tapered, 13mm – 10mm
Stock: Full pistol grip
Weight: 8lbs 1oz (3.65kg)
List Price: £3,645
Hugely strong and easily repairable – although that will not be required for many years – the Ultra XS Pro possesses all the virtues of the original Browning design, wrapped up in a specification that provides it with a unique versatility.
The Browning action hardly needs an introduction. There have been some variations on it over the years, but in terms of both weight and dimensions, the B525 comes as close as you can get to Browning’s original clay target gun, the Belgian-made B25 series, around which a great number of competition guns were built. Its design will be familiar to seasoned shooters, so regular readers will not require a description, but there are always newcomers to our sport, so here goes…
The reason for the Browning’s depth of action is that the jointing surfaces securing the barrels to the action are all situated below the bottom barrel. This is in contrast to shallower actions, which often have bearing surfaces incorporated into the walls of the action body and at the sides of the barrels’ monobloc, as with Perazzi. The Browning design is a belt-and-braces arrangement; its security is distributed throughout the gun instead of relying on a single solution.
As with all double-barrelled breech-loading guns, the barrels pivot forward within the action when the gun is opened. In the Browning’s case, this is achieved with a forward lump that rotates on a substantial cross-pin at the front of the action. When the gun is closed, bearing surfaces integrated into the monobloc locate through slots machined into the floor of the action body.
The final component that locks the barrels into the action is a full-width bolt, which on closure of the gun moves forward under the breech face and locates in a reciprocating slot, machined into the aforementioned rear lumps. This arrangement is immensely strong and can function for decades without any kind of repair. Nonetheless, if maintenance does become necessary, it is easily provided.
The stock of the Ultra XS Pro has an adjustable comb. Of course, it can also be made to suit a shooter’s individual requirements, but for many the adjustable comb is the best solution. The most important stock dimension is its drop at comb, which determines the elevation of the shooter’s aiming eye above the rib. If the comb is set too low, the rib will obscure the shooter’s vision and the gun will shoot low. Set it too high and your shot placement will be too high as well. The correct amount of elevation is a matter of both taste and requirement. For example, a Trap shooter, who shoots rising targets, requires a gun that shoots higher than a Skeet shooter, who for the most part is shooting at targets with a flatter trajectory.
As well as height, the XS Pro’s comb is adjustable for cast, meaning it can be offset right or left to achieve lateral accuracy. Its adjustable dimensions are complemented by an adjustable trigger blade that ensures the trigger finger is placed correctly and a consistent amount of pressure is employed when the gun is fired.
The XS Pro also has a well-designed pistol grip that provides a comfortable and consistent hold and a hard, rubber, flat-backed pad that locates easily and comfortably in the shoulder. The forend design is also good, incorporating a classic beavertail shape, which together with the pistol grip creates an excellent hands-in-line hold, essential to a coordinated gun mount.
My test gun had 32in barrels, with an extra inch added by the hand-detachable extended chokes, which were made from lightweight Titanium and came in a set of eight. Made to Browning’s excellent design and tapering from 13mm to 10mm, the rib had longitudinal lines from the breech to the muzzle ends, with glare-deflecting machined edges. The total weight of the barrel assembly was a modest 1.543kg.
When the Browning B525 Ultra XS Pro was delivered to me, its weight – more than 8lb – meant that I mistook it for a Trap gun. The first shooting ground I used it at was a Sporting ground without Trap facilities, but I wasn’t disappointed, as the Browning and I got along very well. Though certainly on the upper weight limits for a Sporter, at least for me, I was nevertheless impressed with the gun’s handling characteristics, particularly on targets at long range.
And of course when I finally had the chance to shoot some DTL and Ball Trap with it, it did not come as a surprise that it was an excellent Trap gun. I’ve always been sceptical about guns that are billed as all-rounders, and Browning has not taken that road, but in this case of the Ultra XS Pro it might have been justified in doing so.