I have recently bought an immaculate browning b-80 SL “super-light”. I would like some info. on it if at all possible.. It has a 28″ barrel/vent rib and no chokes. It has ** stamped on the side of barrel. It is chambered only for 2 3/4″ shells. It has wonderful wood and shoots great. I have used it this year on dove with great results and am going to try it on pheasant and quail this fall… Did I purchase a good gun?? Any info would be greatly appreciated…
It just so happens that you are asking the right guy (thank you, thank you, no applause necessary). I have owned a whole bunch of Browning B-80s and still have one left. Initially, they were all sold with steel receivers, but later they became available with a choice of steel or alloy receivers. The Superlight had an alloy receiver. Browning’s chokes system is * = Full, *- = Improved Modified, ** = Modified, **- = IC, **$ = Skeet and *** = Cylinder bore. Your ** means that you have a Modified choke of around .018″.
Your gun is pretty much exactly a Beretta 302 with a “square back” receiver, surprisingly similar to today’s Beretta 390 field gun profile. If you look on the side of your barrel, it will say “Made in Italy” and you will see the initials “PB” in a circle. The “PB” stands for Pietro Beretta. As far as I have been able to tell over the past ten years, just about all the main functioning internal parts of the gun are interchangeable with the Beretta 300-303 series, though the magazine latch stuff isn’t. Your trigger group will function in the new Beretta 390, though its housing is different. For years, when I needed parts for my Beretta 303 competition guns, I got them from Browning by requesting the identical B-80 part. Now, I am not sure that Browning is supporting the B-80 any more, but their parts supply was MUCH more reliable than Beretta’s. Rich Cole (www.colegun.com) has everything these days anyway.
Although Beretta obviously made the barrel, I don’t know who assembled the rest of the gun. My guess is that most of the pieces were made by Beretta and then shipped to Portugal for assembly. I could be wrong, but that’s the most I can remember without rooting through my gun cabinet and actually looking at my surviving B-80.
I just loved the gun. Really loved it. The steel receiver gave it a bit more center weight than the alloy of your B-80 and of all the current Beretta’s. Tougher to carry, but smoother to shoot. It was a GREAT dove gun and I used it in Colombia and Honduras for some serious dove shooting. Once in Colombia, the gun got so hot that I burned my gloved hands on the receiver. Think about that. The barrel was so hot that it transferred heat to the receiver- enough heat to raise a blister through a glove. I have been burned by barrels before, but never by a receiver. The gun never missed a beat.
The only thing that I never liked about the gun was the stock. I just could never get used to it’s ultra long pistol grip. You needed the finger reach of a gorilla to feel comfortable with it. “One of these days” I’m really going to get a Winchester Model 12 trap pattern stock made up for it. That would make it perfect for me.
Some of my B-80s came with 3″ chambered barrels and I had to drill the gas ports on those out to get them to work with standard target or dove loads. I never had any trouble with the 2-3/4″ chambered barrels like yours. They would shoot anything.
My remaining B-80 (I bought a lot for friends when I got a deal at Jaqua’s and only kept two for myself, subsequently selling one), has about 35,000 rounds though it. As a hunting/travel gun it is well worn on the outside, but looks just like new on the inside. The barrel I have on it is the 28″ Invector model with the early short Invectors. They pattern fine if you mike them and remark the chokes properly. With your Modified choke, you don’t have to do a thing- just shoot it. Modified is a great general purpose choke for open areas.
As to the alloy receiver vs the steel receiver- not to worry. All the current Beretta gas guns come with alloy receivers and they last just as long. The bolt locks up on the steel barrel extension, so nothing really bears or wears on the alloy. Well, perhaps the only real part that does get some wear is the rear of the receiver. If you don’t replace your mainspring every now and then, as the spring ages it permits the bolt to come back faster and faster until it starts to peen the rear inside of the receiver. This can’t be good, but I have never seen an alloy receiver break there, so perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Browning and Beretta had(?) some sort of shifting co-ownership. It may have been through GIAT (the French conglomerate that owned Browning, FN and Winchester at one time). I don’t think that Beretta or Browning had any real control of each other, but there were shared directors and all sorts of cooperation. This is why Browning was able to go to Beretta to “borrow a design” for a while.
Browning had not had success with their B-2000 gas gun and wanted a stop-gap gas gun to sell until they could introduce their own design (the ill-fated A500, which sold about three guns). The B-80 was the stop-gap gun. It was moderately successful, but had the same problems that all the Beretta gas guns of that vintage had. The guns were advertised as “shoot anything”, but they wouldn’t. The barrel porting on the 3″ models was too small to permit use with American target loads. It took Beretta almost 20 years to figure out that the average American hunter first tried his duck gun out at the local skeet range using light target loads. If the gun didn’t work properly with those light loads, it wasn’t going to sell. The much more popular Remington 1100 never made the claim that it’s 3″ guns would work with light loads. Even some of the 2-3/4″ barreled B-80s came through with ports so small that they wouldn’t happily digest light American loads. The porting size changed during the production run though and some of the 2-3/4″ chambered guns worked fine with light loads. They all handled heavy loads just fine.
After Browning introduced their new A500 in the late ’80s, they discontinued the B-80. The A500, A500R and A500G were disasters for Browning and they came out with the Gold model gas gun in 1994. You are a lucky guy and have a great gun. It will last just about forever. Enjoy!
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)