Which Browning?

Dear Bruce:

I am interested in buying a lightly used Browning 12 ga. with 30 or 32″ barrels. Would you recommend the 525, 425 or XS sporting, or are they all pretty much equal? Also, would you suggest 30 or 32″ barrels?

Please review and advise at your convenience.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.


Dear Rick,

This is all really pretty personal. Just because I like/dislike something doesn’t mean that someone else won’t feel completely the opposite. I’m also assuming that since you mention “525, 425 or XS SPORTING” that you intended use of the gun is as a sporter.

So, here goes….

For barrel length, I’d get 30″ in that particular gun. In a more lively gun like an English-spec Perazzi sporter or Beretta’s latest DT-10, I’d go for 32″. Personally, I think that the 32″ Citori sporter barrels carry too much weight forward. Add the 1/2 oz that extended chokes add to the front and these guns are just plain too loady for me. I can’t lift a blue ox either. Obviously others felt that way as Browning stopped making some of the models in 32″ for a while, but now they are back at it. Maybe we Americans have gotten stronger recently due to all that McDonalds Super Sizing.

Yes, I know that the 525 advertises “lightweight barrel contour”, but the ones I’ve fooled with didn’t feel any lighter than the other models. A 32″ 525 sporter is given a catalogue weight of 8# 6oz with the lightweight barrel contour, while the 32″ XS Sporter with the “standard barrel” catalogues a weight of 7# 15 oz. Very interesting that the one with the new light barrels weighs a whopping 7 oz more. The guys at the Browning ad agency must be spending a little too much time at the espresso machine.

Which model? I’d personally (there’s that word again), pick either the 425 or XS. The difference is mostly just cosmetic. Both have higher stocks and less aggressive pistol grips than the 525, though the XS now has a Wundhammer swell grip, while the 425s I remember had standard grips. I happen to like higher stocks due to my high cheek bones and longer neck. Those with fuller faces and shorter necks who shoot with a more upright head may feel more comfortable with the 525. One size does not fit all, that’s for sure.

I also prefer the traditional Browning pistol grip as first seen on the Superposed target guns of the ’60s. Those fit my large-size hand perfectly. The bulky, tight and vertical Italian-style grips that Perazzi loves to put on it’s trap guns has migrated to the 525. This forces my hand into a more vertical position than I’m comfortable with. After 18 years of competitive International Skeet, I learned to lean into the gun and tend to carry a high right elbow to keep from rolling on crossers. A traditional target grip, such as they have on the 425, 325 and GTI feels more comfortable to me. The GTI wood always felt the best to me and I much preferred it’s standard forend to the current craze for Schnabel-lipped forends that ding my left forefinger.

The best way to decide what’s right for you is to go to a store where you can heft both the 525 and one of the others side by side. That’s always the best way. The stock length, height, cast and pitch don’t have to suit you perfectly as those are easily adjusted by any stockmaker who can bend/reinlet, but the pistol grip is harder to change without some serious woodworking.

Although I do have some issues with their balance and some of their wood features, the Citori action is first class and their quality control is quite good. Buying a Citori is like buying a Honda. It may not be exactly right for everyone, but it’s never a bad choice. I wonder how the Cynergy will fare in the years to come?

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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