First let me say I enjoy your ruminations on everything! I purchased a Browning Golden Clays Ultra with a 32″ barrels. The gun has an adjustable comb and I had a new pad installed as well as having the forcing cones lengthened. My other gun is a Browning Special Sporting with 28″ barrels. I am a fairly large person and felt the extra length would help the swing and the weight would not affect me.
I believe my mind is playing tricks on me as I feel tired after 80 or so targets with the new gun. Shooting with the old one does not produce the same result. Am I imagining things?
Let me point out one other thing. I ordered a 30″ version and when the gun arrived with 32″ barrels I allowed myself to be talked into taking what I did not request. This is my fault, however, could the 30″ version (2″ does not seem to be that great a difference) be that much different. I am also told that the lion’s share of sporting clays guns being sold are 32″.
Well, I dunno if that barrel is too long for you or not, but it sounds as though it is. Yes, an extra two or four inches can make all the difference in the world, especially on a gun like the Ultra which can be nose heavy to begin with. I once shot a 32″ Browning Ultra for a bit and it was way too much for me. Like you, I also have a bit of size.
The two dominant brands of O/Us in the sporting clays market place are the Japanese-made Browning and the Beretta. The Browning outsells the Beretta by a wide margin in the US. Both Browning and Beretta use just about the same choke system, though Browning’s Invector Plus is a lot heavier. Both manufacturers selected a mass produced choke system that was cheap, strong, relatively precise and HEAVY! To install their screw chokes they simply jugged out the barrel, threaded it and screwed in the chokes. Because no metal was ever removed (the way it is when Briley retro-fits chokes) , this method adds the entire weight of the chokes to the existing barrel. This is why factory choked Brownings and Berettas can be so nose heavy. The longer the barrel (like your 32″ Ultra), the more the nose heaviness is accentuated. In the case of the Browning Ultra, the problem is accentuated by the “new and improved” longer Browning chokes which weigh an entire ton. Beretta’s chokes are not fashionably long, but they are a good bit lighter.
Beretta, always a heavy barreled gun in the recent versions, seems to have recognized this fact and does not sell their gun sporter models in 32″ versions. The gun would balance like a pig on a snow shovel. Browning, as you found out, does.
In England and in New England, one of the most popular sporting clays guns is the Miroku M-38 or older M-3800. This is nothing more than the Browning Citori’s sister brand (Citoris are made in the Miroku factory), but with non-screw choke light weight barrels (remember those, you old timers) meant for the English market. This gun is most popular in the 32″ version because it is light and lively. Beautifully balanced, it approaches the that paradigm of balance, the Fabrique Nationale Belgian Browning.
What is the difference between the Ultra 32″ and the Miroku M-38 32″? Partially, it is due to the added weight of those screw chokes and also to the factory “backboring”. If you remove the chokes from your gun and then feel its balance, you will see what your gun was meant to feel like. The other cause of the Ultra’s nose heaviness is the fact that the Ultra is factory “backbored”. The barrels have been made with an increased interior diameter of about .742″, compared to the old .725″. However, the original barrel wall thickness has been retained so now there is just plain more metal in the barrels. Aftermarket backboring reduces barrel weight. Factory “backboring” increases it. Factory “backboring” may be a great advertising ploy, but it sure doesn’t do much for the dynamics of the gun.
What to do? As I see it, you have three choices: 1) start lifting weights; 2) sell it to someone really strong, or; 3) try adding a bit of weight to the stock. Two or three ounces of lead sinkers in the bolt hole beneath the recoil pad can sometimes do wonders for a nose heavy gun.
One last thought. You COULD backbore the barrels to remove weight. This gets involved as you would have to relabel and recut some chokes as well as convince someone to do it. Machine shops hate to backbore screw choked guns because they can lose choke skirt clearance on the choke tubes. Some shops will attempt it, some will not. Briley would not as of about six months ago, but they may have changed their minds.
I wish that I had some better answers for you. Perhaps someone else does, but that is the way that I see it.
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, but never in doubt.)
As always excellent advice, I really enjoy reading your thoughts. About this particualr case I had the same problem, with an Winchester 101 pigeon grade, 32″ barrels, and solved it by adding some weight to the stock, as suggested, (4 oz lead in my case) but it takes some testing and shooting to adjust, the difference is notorious, the gun is much more balanced and easy to swing, it was night and day. Please bear in mind if adding weight, the closer to the receiver the weight is added , more you will need for the same effect, change in balance, but the gun will be “better balanced” weight closer to the hands, if the weight is added at the end of the stock, near the pad, you will need less weight, but the balance will be off, the gun will feel more unstable, easier to move, but also quicker to stop, as I said some tweaking, testing and shooting, should find the sweet spot.
Another option could be titanium chokes, I recently got a Teague extended titanium choke, for a Beretta mobilchoke barrel, and the weight difference, for the extended steel choke is enormous, it is a 200€ + investment, for a pair, but it could, and should, make a significant difference. Cheer´s