Long Lived Guns

Dear Bruce,

Thanks for all the great info! I have an e-mail into Cole guns to see if they have any shims for the 391 that would offer cast-on options. I do have a couple of concerns about the 391. Do you feel the 391 will last as long as the browning 425? I have always believed (maybe falsely) that o/u are very durable and can be rebuilt.

Also I reload my own shells on ( I am ashamed to say it) an old Mec 600 Jr. that I have had forever. Do you think the 391 will reliably cycle the shells?

If not, I am also in the market for a better reloader. Any suggestions?

Thanks again Oh Wise One.


Dear Joe,

I don’t know what the useful life of a 391 is. I have 75,000 logged rounds through one of my 303s and it has plenty of life left. I did have some Remington 1100s that died around 35,000 when the receivers went or when the magazine tube flew off the receiver. The Beretta shows no sign of doing any of that. When it breaks something, I just drop a new part in and keep going.

I also don’t know what the life of a 425 is. I do know that they often need a new opening lever return spring at 25K or so, but that’s no big deal. I don’t own any of the Japanese Brownings now, but I did have one Belgian gun that got to 106,000 before its first rebuild. I had another that loosened up enough for a light rebuild at 50,000. Good as new now. I think that Art’s Gun Shop can rebuild any Browning (Japanese or Belgian) just about forever.

My favorite Browning story is about the US Army Marksmanship unit. One of their men came to the unit as a young lieutenant. He shot Olympic trench for his three years with the unit with a particular Belgian Browning that had already been in the unit’s inventory for a while. Then he left the unit to pursue his Army career elsewhere. After his 20 years he came back to the unit as a Lt. Col. for his last tour before retirement. He was now in charge of the shotgun section. He went into the armory and found his old Browning gun still there after all those years. Being in charge, he assigned the gun to himself and used it during his last tour when he wanted to shoot. Do you have any concept of how much a USAMU gun gets used each year? I simply can’t count the rounds that gun must have had through it. I’m sure it had been rebuilt often, but still. It certainly looked fine and worked properly when I saw him shoot it as a colonel.

Eventually, I think that the Browning (Japan) O/U will outlast the Beretta gas gun, but there comes a time when neither gun will owe you anything and you stop counting. Don’t worry about it. Buy the gun that you enjoy shooting the most. Either gun should be relatively trouble-free for 100,000 rounds. That’s about 200 shells a week for ten years. Just make sure to keep a fresh mainspring in any gas gun. That’s the secret. I replace mine every 10K. If I had done that with my 1100s, they might not have died so young. Live and learn. The O/U is easier and will tell you what it wants when it wants it.

Browning certainly doesn’t have a lip lock on long lived O/Us. Krieghoff, Perazzi, Beretta 682 and a whole bunch of others will last as long. Don’t even get me started on Model 12s and 870s.

I haven’t owned a MEC 600 Jr in a while, but I can’t see why any gas gun shouldn’t shoot reloads from that machine just as well as new ones. If the Jr doesn’t resize brass ( don’t remember exactly how well that little ring works) , that might possibly be a problem, but it usually isn’t. I shoot a 303 quite a bit and usually use “scavenged” hulls from all sorts of guns for its reloads. My MEC hydraulic long ago lost a few teeth from it’s sizing collet and I never bothered to replace it. Thus, I’m not resizing any more but I don’t have any problems with other peoples’ hulls. Yes, I’ll get it fixed some day when I get roundtoit.

That said, don’t let me stop you from a new reloader. If you shoot enough to bother asking how long a gun will last, you shoot enough to go from a single stage reloader to a progressive. Take a look at the MEC 900G. It’s a good machine.

Best regards,

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

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