Michael Yardley is impressed by the revised mechanics and shooting qualities of this gun, especially with 32in barrels in a light-for-length package
Product:Browning 725 Hunter 20-bore over-and-under
Price as reviewed:£1995
The new 20-bore version of the Browning 725 is all the more interesting because of its 32in barrels and semi-pistol grip configuration with slimmed fore-end. The firm had quite a success with the 12-bore 725. Its launch in Hungary included a memorable driven day and I came away impressed with the revised mechanics and shooting qualities of the 725, especially in 30in sporting form. I had never shot a gun more effortlessly at game.
In a subsequent test I remained taken with an extra-finish model that did not look quite as radical as the plainer versions first launched (their relatively sparse decoration tended to highlight the rather angular new action styling).
The 725s maintained many of the virtues of the classic B25 Superposed over-and-under, but with clever innovations, a lower action profile and a fresh look.
The 32in 20-bore is presented with a new stock in an even more streamlined, light-for-length package than the first 725s. The decoration is similar to that of the 12-bore: wide, sunburst-effect scroll and game scenes. Though machine applied it is acceptable (the birds are a bit basic) but with an RRP of £1,995 it is not
an expensive gun and must be judged at that attractive price. You won’t get much better embellishment without spending a great deal more. Generally, this 725 is not overdone. Considered as a whole, it is elegant.
Apart from its long, multi-choked barrels, the test gun has the same DS (Double Seal) chokes as the 12-bore; five of these are supplied. Unusually, they have threads at the muzzle end and a clever copper-ring compression seal at the rear, which prevents gas leakage between choke and barrel walls.
There are elongated Vector Pro forcing cones (the funnel-like constrictions leading from chamber to bore) and a 6mm vented sighting rib. The single trigger is mechanical with crisp, light pulls. And there’s a highly efficient “Inflex II” recoil pad made of a lightweight polymer designed to take recoil through the stock down and away from the cheek.
The test gun impresses with form and specification. It is also hard to fault on handling. I have been an advocate of long 20-bores since they started to appear a decade or more back. They break the old rules of balance – most are significantly front heavy – but they seem to work especially well on driven game. Although some may think 32in barrels too long and all the more so in a 20-bore, I have never felt over-gunned using them, though I have occasionally had this feeling with a 32in 12-bore in the field.
David Stapley of Browning UK says, “This was the next step in evolution of the 725 for us. We had introduced game and sporting models in various grades and a special-edition gun. We wanted the 20-bore to be slimmer and, if possible, lighter than previous Browning 20s. We also wanted to make it attractive to the British market with a stock more closely reflecting UK taste in a traditional British game-gun and the option of long barrels.”
The test gun is certainly slim but not especially light with the longer tubes. The 28in and 30in versions weigh around 7lb. Nevertheless, the 32in is almost ideally weighted at about 71⁄2lb. The stock has excellent shelf measurements: length of pull is just under 15in (interchangeable recoil pads allow for a reduction of about 3⁄8in or an addition of 1⁄4in). Drop is the standard 13⁄8in and 21⁄8in. The form of the comb is good – full but not excessively so – and the fore-end slim but efficient with no Schnabel beak. However a Schnabel fore-end is available with the standard stock configuration.
The gun is a scaled-down version of the 725. The one deficiency of the traditional B25 design, far less evident in the 725, is its action height. By any standard (and although under-lumps are retained), it is near ideal in this 20-bore. It allows for optimal spacing of top and bottom straps, providing the basis for an ergonomically efficient grip neither too deep nor shallow forward. The action design incorporates a traditional Browning cross-pin for hinging and bolts as in a B25. There is more bearing surface than in bifurcated-lump guns and the mechanics are as strong as ever although the exterior is more compact (an especially clever bit of Tardis redesign in all the 725s). Barrels are monobloc.
I shot the new 725 20-bore with special interest as I use guns similar with regard to length, bore and weight. I have suffered with recoil recently because of injury to a shoulder, and have less strength in my left (front) arm than I did. Irksome though this is, it impacts positively on gun testing because one is especially sensitive to both recoil and handling dynamics; vices are more easily noted.
I liked the 32in 20-bore 725 in principle. It felt good when dry mounted. Shooting it was no less positive an experience. The grip and fore-end provide excellent purchase, the barrels are extremely pointable with no “tromboning” evident. The gun swings well and one has the impression of being able to pick marks out precisely when the need arises. Recoil was light. The excellent mechanical trigger allows for low payloads. The gun is well specified and well made and offers outstanding value. A winner.
Price from £1,995
From BW Arms Ltd
Tel 01235 514550 Email firstname.lastname@example.org