I have come to you with a question I have been contemplating for about two years now. The reason I have decided to ask you is that I like your approach to things; you have many of the same ideas I have.
I have acquired a very nice early 60’s vintage Browning Superposed mag 12. The gun has been shot very little. It would be perfect except for a deep scratch in the bluing on the bottom barrel. Since I like thing to look, as close to perfect as possible I would have this refinished.
The question I have for you is this. Should I have a set of choke tubes installed into this gun, open the forcing cones, and have a stock to my dimensions put on it? Would this make a good durable gun for sporting clays? Or would I be better off spending the money on a quality shotgun like a Beretta 686, then having a new stock put on it?
The choke tube work would be more than my original investment, if this gives you an idea of the money I would have into the Browning.
I am a 6′-4″ 260 pound Lefty with a 38″ sleeve length, and I have never found a gun to fit off the rack. I would like to know what would be the best way to invest my money in a quality shotgun. If you have another idea my ears are open.
Well, I dunno. I always found the magnum B-25 Brownings a bit heavier up front than I would like, but I’m 6′-1″ 220# and don’t handle the weight as well as a larger man. The extra weight of the magnum (the barrels are thicker on that model) will do a lot of good things for you when you add a big stock in the back. You will need some barrel weight to balance out the extra weight of a large stock.
A custom stock is expensive, so I think that I would try to adjust the stock that you have first. I am making the assumption that the stock is at least too short for you now. Here’s what I would do first.
Add some length to your stock. Your goal is to get about 1″ to 2″ separation between the back of your left (being a lefty) hand (usually the rear of the thumb) and your shooting glasses when the gun is mounted in shooting position. My guess is that you will take something in the 15-1/2″ length of pull area. LOP is measured from the center of the trigger to the center of the butt plate/recoil pad. Your gun probably came with around a 14-1/2″ LOP originally. If your gun has a recoil pad, the best way to add length for a temporary test is to buy a bunch of spacers, remove the recoil pad and some similar thread screws that are a good bit longer. For starters stick about 1″ of spacers on the back of the gun, then screw back on the original pad. It’s going to look simply awful, but you don’t care. You are just fitting it for length. Shoot the gun. Add and subtract spacers until get a length that works for you. Ignore the laughter of people who point at your gun.
Once the length of the stock is set, then it is time to work on the height. If the stock is too high for you and makes you shoot high (which I doubt it will be because the longer stock will bring your head further back), stop here and go to a stock maker. You will have to have the stock lowered by bending. Don’t sand it if you don’t want to end up refinishing it. If the stock is too low (more probably), then start layering on duct tape along the top (do not droop it over the sides as that will alter cast) until you get the height you want. Shoot. Tape. Shoot. Tape.
Now you have a gun that has a bunch of spacers sticking out of the back, a recoil pad that no longer fits and a pile of duct tape festooning the top. However, handsome is as handsome does. If the gun shoots where you are aiming, then you have done your job. Take your time testing the fit and shoot a bunch of skeet/trap/sporting or whatever. Add and subtract tape and spacers. If you can get the gun so that it shoots where you want it to and feels comfortable, leave the tape on and the spacers in place, mark an “X” exactly where your cheekbone is on the tape. Take it to a stockmaker and have him bend the stock up and grind the spacers down and add a new pad. If the spacers have added too much weight to the rear, have him hollow them out. The whole job shouldn’t cost your $200, far far less than a new stock.
As to cast: most of the American-spec B-25s came with zero cast. If you find that you need some cast adjustment because your are consistently shooting to the right or left of the target, this is the time to have it bent in. It is easy for a skilled bender to do if he is also bending the stock up at the same time. You just tell him how far left or right you are shooting at a certain distance (it will make his life easier if you test it at 16 yards from your eyeball to the paper), and he will do the rest. Most American shoot very well indeed without any cast at all because we tend to crawl our stocks a bit. Your need for cast will depend less on your lefty/righty proclivities than it will on your facial structure.
That’s about it. Not only is this cheaper than a custom stock which would cost you as much as the gun is worth, but it is also far more accurate as your can incrementally adjust your gun while shooting it for an absolutely perfect fit.
Once the stock fits your correctly, then go ahead and send it to Briley for screw chokes. Check his web site for the list prices. Run the forcing cone if you want to. It will make a tiny difference, but not much. If, once you get the stock the way you want it, the barrels are too heavy, then this would be the time to backbore the gun to reduce barrel weight. Briley will know how much metal he can take out of the barrels and still fit screw chokes. It doesn’t take much backboring to pull a lot of weight, so go easy here. A 10 thou backbore on a 30″ O/U will pull 2-3/4 oz and that is a whole bunch of weight. The last thing that you want is to make those barrels too light and whippy.
The Beretta 686 is a perfectly nice gun but it isn’t in the same league as a B-25.
The Technoid at http://www.ShotgunReport.com
(Often in error, never in doubt.)