Salt Wood Brownings

Dear Technoid,

As a loyal follower of your column, I have often read of your fondness for the Belgian Browning. At this point I may even buy one for conversion to a Sporting Clays gun. I’ve been shooting a 28 inc ch barrel just because of the additional weigh in the newer models.

The questions that I have are:

1. What is meant by “Salt Wood” and what should I look out for? What years or serial numbers are problem children?

2. If I buy a trap type stock and would like to bend it how much bend can a stock bender put into a stock? The reason that I ask is that a competent fitter (H&H) recommended a drop in the comb at my eye of 1.5 inches. With a 1 3/8 x 1 3/8 inch trap stock I figure that a bend of 1/2 inch at the end would be just about right. Is this a reasonable thing to attempt?

Boots on and waiting.


Dear Joe,

You are absolutely correct that I have always had a fondness for the B25 Belgian Browning. They are indisputedly tough guns and have a balance and feel that generally works well for me. They aren’t perfect and have little weak spots, but generally I prefer them above all other O/Us.

“Salt wood” guns occurred generally between 1967 and 1969, but occasionally occurred in guns as late as 1972 and as early as 1966. In the 12 gauge models the last three letters of the serial number will read “…S8” for 1968. In the ’70s it would read “…S70”. Stock blanks were soaked in salt and then leached clean to hasten the aging process. They didn’t get all the salt out and it comes back to haunt you. The only cure is to replace the wood. Glass bedding has generally not proven a satisfactory fix.

The usual clue of a salt wood gun is that there is a line of rust where the receiver joins the rear of the action. Sometimes you see it in the forend, but usually in the buttstock.

Many salt wood stocks have been replaced. Browning stocks are serialized, so if you pull it, you can tell if it has been replaced by the factory. If you are the original owner, they replaced the wood for free. If not, there used to be a modest charge. It may be more now as second and third owners come on stream.

If you are looking at a Browning made in the “salt” years, you can easily test it for salt. Even if there are no outward signs of rust, you might want to pull the butt plate/pad and scrape an area to expose a bit of fresh wood. Put a 1% solution of silver nitrate on the fresh wood. If the solution remains a light purple, you are fine. If it turns whitish, you have a salt stock or forend. Check both the stock and the forend.

Most of my Browning trap stocks are more or less, sort of, around 1-3/8″ sloping back to 1-5/8″ at around 14-3/8″ lop from the factory. Every B-25 trap gun that I have seen (maybe a couple of hundred) has had a standard trap stock with no cast, no Monte Carlo and no parallel comb. I have never seen a parallel comb or Monte Carlo B25 trap stock, but they may exist.

It is always best to speak to you stock maker, but the bend at cheek of 1-1/2″ that you describe ought to be a piece of cake. While he is bending the stock, you might also want him to shave down the big beavertail forend if your particular trap gun comes with one. I find the FN trap forends just fine, but the American B-25 trap forends too bulky. It is easy enough to shave it down to anything you want, rechecker and refinish.

If you do find a nice trap gun, remember that exact measurements change between guns. You might luck out and find that you can shoot the stock just the way it comes. I have to lengthen the stocks one inch on my guns. That brings my face back down the sloping stock very slightly and I find that I don’t have to bend a thing. Everyone is different, but try it the way it comes for a bit.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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