Dear Mr. Buck,
I have noted in a few “expert” shotgun books and articles a theory that Browning Superposed type over-unders are inferior or at least not as strong an action as Italian over-unders based upon the Boss style, trunion rotating actions. No less an authority than Michael McIntosh is one of these “experts”. My humble opinion is that the Italian over-unders are indeed slimmer in action depth, perhaps even more stylish, due to the action design. However, I doubt they are more durable or stronger than the Browning.
Old John Moses Browning took several years to design his action, and he certainly had to be aware of the British designs at the time. He, however, rejected the British Boss and Holland and came up with a whole new design. He said that the main attraction of his design was the locking lugs and cross bolt ran the entire width of the action, and thus was the strongest lockup possible. McIntosh has hinted that the durability of Brownings are primarily due to the quality of workmanship and steel, and that the design is “flawed”.
I would like to hear what you think about this durability/strength question. Was John Moses only coming up with a reason to have a new patent under his name, or did he really make the stronger design?
Thanks for any light you may shed.
Although Michael and I write for the same magazine (“Shooting Sportsman”), we do not always share the same views of gun design. That wouldn’t be any fun. He is certainly knowledgeable and I do have a great respect for his opinion. He has more experience in fine guns and game guns than I do. I’ve been around target guns for a long time.
In addition to my duties for SSM, I also write the monthly gun review column for “The Clay Pigeon”. As such I get a new sporting clays shotgun each and every month. I’ve also been around shotguns long enough to have seen most of what is out there. After thirty years of clay target competition, you get to form a pretty good idea of what holds up in the real world and what doesn’t.
There is a lot to be said for the bifurcated trunions of the Boss system. The design has the potential for a shallower action, depending on which locking bolt system is used. That said, the B25 action is really not very much deeper than Beretta’s and it is narrower. What you give in one area, you take in another. Do you like your guns shallow and wide or thin and deep? There is the argument for a better (lower) recoil axis with the Boss system.
The Beretta monobloc is a nice piece of work. The hinge stubs engage well up the sides of the monobloc. There’s no hinge pin underneath, but you do have to open the Beretta further than the Browning to load a shell. With a lower axis, the Browning has a superior gape. This is particularly a problem with the Perazzi and Krieghoff, which use hinge stubs like the Beretta. For a target gun ,with it’s constant loading and unloading, the B25 has a distinct advantage here.
The Italian guns carry their ejector hammers and springs in the action, while the Browning design carries them in the forend. I think it’s a wash, but it is an interesting distinction. I don’t really know if one system is more durable than the other. Ejectors have always been a weak point with the Berettas and that’s a design, not manufacturing problem, because it happens throughout their line. Perazzi MX8 ejectors are fine.
The Browning’s deep crossbolt has a mechanical advantage over the shoulder pins of the Beretta and mid-height hooks of the Perazzi. The is a design advantage for the Browning. The B25 also makes full use of locking lugs mating into the bottom of the receiver, compared to the Italian guns. The disadvantage to the B25 is that this puts holes in the bottom of the receiver. The Perazzi uses side cheeks instead of bottom lugs. Perhaps it isn’t a big issue as I seldom see any of them shoot loose. I ‘ve always wondered how the Remington/Krieghoff action ever held up with just that little top hood. But they certainly do.
The B25 design is a long way from dead. Look at Miroku today. The Franchi Alcione Sporter has virtually a dead copy of the B25 hinge pin and locking tongue arrangement. The modern Italian SIG/Rizzini combines Browning’s full width under tongue with very large hinge stubs. Sort of a half and half design.
I think it’s a good point to say that an inferior design can owe its durability to its high quality construction. I’ve always thought that the only reasons that Krieghoffs work is that they are so carefully assembled. Have you ever looked inside one of those actions! Ugh!
In the real world, Perazzi and Beretta certainly dominate the advanced World Class clay target competitions in the Olympic events. Browning (Belgium or Japan) isn’t even close and Krieghoff is non-existent. I’m not sure that it’s a durability thing as much as the fact that the Italians really support world class athletes and Browning doesn’t. Browning fusses with some games (sporting, for one), but the Olympic shooting games are pure Italian. In the field, Beretta and Browning are probably somewhat equal, but hunting is hardly a test of durability.
As to which guns actually ARE the most durable (combination of design, materials and workmanship), I really don’t know. When I think of durability I also think of the ability to be rebuilt. Is a gun that needs rebuilding every 50K, but can be rebuilt for ever, more or less durable than a gun that can go 100K and then must be discarded? I don’t know the answer to that one. I’ve also seen surprising differences in time between rebuilds within the same model of the same gun. So much depends on maintenance and owner abuse. All the good target guns can take a bunch of rebuilds.
I’ve owned numerous examples of Perazzi, Krieghoff, Beretta and Browning B25. I’ve had even more on test. Perazzi and Beretta quality vary as to the model. All Perazzis aren’t MX8s. The higher end stuff is well made, the lower end stuff is chancy. The MX5 Perazzi was definitely not one of their winners. Kreighoffs are Krieghoffs. Like a Mercedes, they are overly complicated, but well assembled.
Superposeds have their problems. Unless you cut a coil or two off of the ejector springs, they have a tendency to crack the lower barrel ejector extension. If you do, they don’t. The thin ribbed models will also shoot the ribs loose if you let them overheat. The wide ribs models won’t. On the plus side, the soft soldering of the barrels makes barrel warpage during joining less probable. Less warpage means a better chance of proper barrel convergence.
I believe that the Superposed’s non-detachable forend is a design flaw. According to Schwing, Browning did that so that you couldn’t lose the forend, but it has been a cleaning curse for Superposed owners since that time.
The design of the Superposed Browning inertia trigger and even their final iteration, the Mark V mechanical trigger, does not provide as crisp a trigger as Perazzi or Krieghoff, though it is the equal of Beretta. On the other side of the coin, the Superposed trigger is more reliable than any of them.
The bottom line is that I won’t argue with Michael if he feels that the Italian/Boss system is a better design than the Superposed design. I don’t really care about theoretical advantages. I want practical, real world advantages.
As an aside, I don’t know about world numbers, but in the US and England the Japanese Miroku/Browning outsells the modern Italian design Beretta for clay target use where durability is a factor. The Miroku isn’t a B25, though it has grown closer in design refinement to the B25 over the years. In many ways (ejectors and forend) it’s an improvement over the B25 design. Miroku quality is extraordinarily uniform (compared to Beretta’s) and you can expect at least 50K from a Miroku/Browning before it’s first rebuild. That is decent longevity and the gun can be rebuilt for ever. No, it is not as durable as a Superposed, but it’s pretty good.
After owning all the brands, let’s look at what’s in my gun safe: Ah, there’s an FN B25 30″ Special trap #6 bunker gun! Oops, there’s another. And a third! Is that a little 28″ 20 gauge FN B25 next to the 12 gauge Grade 1 B25 Superlight? Why, yes it is. On the Beretta side, there’s only my wife’s dilapidated, loosy goosy 687 28 gauge with only 10K through it. Well, there is a 32″ 28 gauge Perazzi MX8/20.
I don’t see myself as a “Browning man” or anything like that. Like a slippery politician, I’m very quick to jump on any local bandwagon. It’s just that when I look for the right combination of balance, handling and durability I keep ending up with Superposeds. When I write a gun review, in the back of my mind I always compare the balance and quality of the test gun to the B25. Maybe I’m just used to them. Maybe they’re used to me.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)