What is a “salt wood” Browning? How visually can I tell by looking at the gun?
In the late ’60s Browning and a bunch of other gun makers (including the US Gov’t) were sold an idea that salt curing walnut stock blanks would cure them faster and cheaper than air drying or kiln curing. Since time is money when you are waiting around for walnut blanks to dry out, Browning adopted the salt drying procedure. It worked well enough with only one flaw. They couldn’t flush all the salt out of the wood when the process was over. After a while the residual salt began to eat away blued metal where the wood touched the receiver and forend. Browning used the process extensively on guns made in ’68 and ’69 plus also a good many done in ’67 and ’70. The higher grades were affected more than the lower grades as they used the salt curing mostly on the good blanks.
That does not mean that ALL Belgian Browning shotguns whose serial numbers end in S67 through S70 have salt wood, but many did. For a long time Browning replaced the stocks with fresh ones and reblued the guns for free IF you were the original owner. Now, since most of the guns have changed hands since originally purchased, Browning charges you for it. I had some done ten years ago and the charges were at cost.
How do you tell with a casual glance? Well, if you see a rust line on the rear of the receiver where it butts into the stock and the serial number ends in S67 through S70 (on 12 gauge guns, it is a different letter prefix on sub-gauge), you can be fairly certain that you have a salt gun. Other than that, you really have to test the wood with a 1% solution of silver nitrate. Purple is good news. White is bad. Many of the salt wood stocks have been changed out. Browning serializes all its stocks and forends to the gun, so if the stock serial number doesn’t match the one on the receiver and the suffix is a potential one, you may have had a salt gun. Once you substitute the gun and reblue, the salt guns are fine.
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)