The Browning A5 shares a profile and a nickname with the classic John M. Browning semi-automatic, but inside it is a completely different weapon. The new A5 is a shotgun that works inertially, much closer to a Benelli than any other Browning that has ever existed. That said, after shooting the A5 both at home and during our duck weapon test at the Pintail Hunting Club, I know John Browning would recognize the brilliance of his design. He would be proud to have the Browning name on this gun, which performed quite well throughout our test and was built to Browning’s high standards.
Although John Browning invented the semi-auto and its original design remained in production for almost 100 years, the Auto-5, though beloved, was also obsolete by the time Browning stopped producing it in 1998. His replacement, Gold, was a remake soft gas gun. It eventually became popular (though perhaps most popular in its Winchester-branded versions like the Super X3 and X4), but Browning customers lack the Auto-5 and the added reliability of a gas-free operation. There was room in Browning’s lineup for another semi-auto, and when Benelli’s patent for inertia function expired, Browning took the opportunity to offer an inertia weapon of his own. Therefore, the A5 has nothing but the superficial appearance shared with the Auto-5 that works with long traction.
The A5 comes in 3 ½ and 3 inch 12 gauges, as well as in a “Sweet 16” version with 16 gauges. Weapons are available in walnut and blue steel, synthetic black and kamo. The most expensive model is the Wicked Wing version we tested (and one of my personal weapons) featuring Cerakote kamo furniture and brass metal, including a pale two-tone kamo model on the receiver and an enlarged bolt release button.
Browning A5 nuts and bolts
Browsing Auto-5 Specs
- Meter: 12 (tested), 16
- Action: Semi-auto inertia
- Capacity: 4 + 1
- Choking: 5 Extended DS Invector
- Barrels: Ventilated flat ribs, white waist, fiber optic front vertebrae
- Barrel length: 26 and 28 inches (tested)
- Finish: Camo and Cerakote
- Length: 49 5/8 inch
- Towing length: 14 (inches (including length dividers)
- Trigger pull: 6.9 pounds
- Overall weight: 6.8 pounds
As an inertia weapon, the A5 functions exactly like a Benelli, with the same strengths and weaknesses. After the shot, the weapon moves backwards and the heavy two-piece bolt remains stationary for its inertia. The bolt actually closes tighter as the gun pulls, while a heavy spring inside the bolt compresses, then pulls, sending the bolt back after the projectile has been fired. Inertia guns are famous for their reliability, especially in adverse weather conditions, and for staying clean because no gases are used to direct the action, so there is no accumulation of carbon in an inertia gun as it is in a gun with gaz. On the negative side, inertia actions do not do much to soften the bounce and the arms are often light, so they can hit hard. It is also possible to hit an inertia gun from the battery, resulting in a first-shot shot.
The A5 has the square profile, with bumps of the original. It also features Browning’s two-piece Speed-Load holder that lets you insert a shell into storage and place it in the room, as well as the Turn-Key magazine plug that you can remove from the magazine tube with just one car key. and without the risk of releasing a magazine spring.
Another difference between other Browning inertia weapons and other inertia weapons is a very conveniently positioned carrier release button (button you press to open the bolt lock) just in front of the trigger guard. Safety is great and very easy to change even for left-handed operation, as it is with the Browning Maxus. The A5 also features the Browning Inflex traction pad with a non-stick insert at the top and a series of particles inside, designed to direct the bounce away from your face.
The trigger was broken at 6.9 pounds, which is heavier than ideal, but the pull was short and not stiff, so it was possible. The A5 uses Browning’s DS choke tube system, which features a brass ring split around the bottom to better insulate the drill to prevent plastic and carbon from accumulating under the tube and to be easier to removed.
How we tested the Browning A5
Our waterfowl gun test consisted of coffee morning hunts, followed by modeling sessions, and lots of shots at the Pintail Hunting Club clay range. The A5 loads the 1 ounce target smoothly, as well as the HeviHammer 1 ¼ ounce steel and bismuth ammunition. Among the four of us who tested the gun, we placed hundreds of bullets through it and had no malfunctions or other problems with the A5. It will ignite incorrectly, like most inertia guns, if you hit the bolt from the battery, which is rare, but it does happen, say when you ease the bolt closure when charging to be comfortable. I did it by tangling a bolt handle on the kamo mesh. Otherwise, the weapon worked perfectly.
At 35 yards, with a modified throttle, the A5 placed more than 80 percent of a Federal Speed-Shock shell 3 inches, 1 1/8 ounces, 1550 fps within a 30-inch circle. The gun shoots absolutely 50/50 for me out of the box, too.
Si performed A5
Handling and Ergonomics
The Browning A5, like most inertia weapons, is quite lightweight. This one, with a 28-inch barrel, weighs 6 pounds. This is very easy for a 3 12 12 inch gauge (I shot 3 1/2 of this gun and it is an eye-opening experience), but it is surprisingly manageable with 3-inch hunting ammunition. I appreciate the fit of the gun, which is perfect for me, and the Inflex pull pad, which really seems to work. Long and light weapons are often easy to shoot well and this weapon is no exception. Also, inertia guns do not have springs or parts of the gas system in front, making them shortened and easy to steer with the front hand.
The controls are also easy to use. Neither the action spring nor the cartridge tube spring are particularly rigid, and the wearer does not grab your thumb, making this an easy weapon to load and unload. It doesn’t really matter in a 70 degree hunt, but it definitely does matter in cold weather, and I pulled out this gun on some bad days at home.
Workmanship and Aesthetics
The weapon is well built at the Browning plant in Portugal. The fit and finish are good, and the square lines of the gun are definitely attractive and appealing. Personally, as a man of wood and walnut, I can take the end of the ceracotta with kamo and bronze or leave it alone, but not everyone feels that way. One of the other hunters at the Pintail Hunting Club offered to buy the gun from me on the spot, as soon as he saw it. When I said no, he printed his business card on me in case I changed my mind. There is no doubt that this weapon is distinguished in the camp as well as mixed in the field.
The light weight of the A5 and the 3 oma inch room, and the 50/50 hitting point tells me that this is a weapon you can take to the turkey forests in the spring. Likewise, it would be easy to carry around in the field behind the mountain birds. He moved light bicycle loads well enough to serve as a pigeon gun. He proved his worth to Texas waterfowl, as he has done on other hunts for me – though I would have liked it to weigh a little more if I had planned to shoot a lot of 3-inch ammunition. Nor would I choose this weapon for serious clay target shooting. Although I find it easy to shoot, light weight and inertia operations mean it would hit hard for serious, high-volume clay use.
The Wicked Wing A5 we tested sells for $ 2,159, which is a little more than you would pay for a Benelli Super Black Eagle 3. You can get into a 3-inch, black Stalker A5 for $ 1,659, but at that price , it’s hard to call the A5 a “valuable” weapon. If I were to buy an A5, I would choose a 3-inch gun and save $ 140 or more, as the guns are so light that I would never shoot 3 1/2-inch bullets at it. There are other inertia weapons on the market that sell for less, so if there is an area where this weapon falls, it’s worth it.
What makes the Browning A5 better
The A5 is a duck weapon, but it is light enough, fancy and shot to serve as a versatile hunting weapon and is extremely reliable and easy to fire. I actually prefer a little of most other inertia weapons for ease of loading, safety and for its dead point of impact. Browning rifles are known for their quality, and the A5 is a well-manufactured shotgun.
What makes the A5 worse
As much as I like the A5, it’s not perfect. It is an expensive weapon in a market with many other reliable weapons of inertia. The light weight that makes it easy to carry also means that it hits hard with heavier loads. Although, as mentioned, the Inflex cushion works and helps to soften the bounce. Finally, if you compare it head-to-head with the SBE3, which is fair, as they are similarly priced weapons, the A5 lacks the SBE3 Easy Locking bolt, which completely eliminates defects outside the battery that strike inertia guns .
Final thoughts on the Browning A5
Hundreds of hunters grew up seeing the square back of a Browning receiver. The A5 gives them the familiar look of a new, lighter, just as reliable shotgun. The A5 fits what modern duck hunters want, having light weight and reliable firepower. The A5 offers it in warm and cold conditions, and in any finish you may prefer, from walnut to synthetic black in camouflage, to Wicked Wing camouflage and Cerakote finish. It’s a costly weapon, but you won’t regret it if you spend it – unless you plan to shoot a lot of 3-inch ammunition.
Our testing team really liked the gun, but, of course, we were just testing it, not buying it. It remains up to you to make the decision to pony for the A5 or not. But if you do, long after the money is forgotten, you will still have a great waterfowl weapon.