With its lightweight build, first-class stock design and excellent handling dynamics, the Browning 525 Game Tradition Light is the best alloy-actioned gun Michael Yardley has tested yet
THIS month’s test gun is a 20-bore Browning 525 Game Tradition Light, tipping the scales at just under 6lb 5oz (so, light but not ultralight). It is distinguished by an American walnut stock, 30in barrels with a narrow rib, flush-fitting Invector Plus multichokes and an alloy action with scroll and game scene engraving. There is an inertia-operated single trigger and the usual Browning/Miroku top-strap safety-cum- barrel-selector. The gun came to us for testing courtesy of David Stapley from International Sports Brands, the agent for Browning International.
Browning 525 Game Tradition Light Review
First impressions are fine. The aesthetics and form are most pleasing. The machine engraving is not quite what I would specify – I tend to prefer scroll alone on industrially made guns – but it is in keeping with a field model. Gamebirds adorn both action walls (pheasants on one side, partridges on the other). The silver nitride action finish highlights the decoration effectively without being too brightly polished.
Moving on to the stock, the wood had good figuring with attractive flaring of the grain to the butt. The oil finish and chequering were well done; Browning seems to do a particularly good job in this area. The length of pull was sensible too, at 14¾in (375mm) including a 20mm Inflex 2 pad. The slim fore-end was well conceived and brought the front hand close to the barrels, facilitating pointing; no lip hinders the front of it for those who like to extend the arm (although I can never work out why anyone would, as it checks the swing).
The stock shapes are excellent. Perhaps the only thing that might be improved here is the comb height. The comb profile is fine but the comb is a little too low at heel; 2in or 2⅛in would be a better standard measurement than the 2¼in showing. ‘Mr Average’ will be able to lose the bead with normal cheek pressure above the horizontal. Still, it’s a first-class stock design nevertheless and the heel might easily be raised by bending or at the head.
Action wise, Browning’s is a little higher than some but well scaled in a 20-bore (62mm high and 37mm wide here), which allows for near-perfect spacing of top and bottom straps. Many guns with lower action profiles, which may theoretically reduce barrel flip, suffer ergonomically when this is taken too far, as their metalwork extends rearwards. Grips end up being too small with insufficient depth between top and bottom straps. Lacking depth at this critical point, they fail to effectively anchor the hand.
I have often made this point about grips (the need for relatively even depth front to rear) – perhaps because so many manufacturers get it wrong. Even grip depth is a product of the action dimensions. It allows the rear hand to grip the gun properly and hence enhances muzzle control. There is no need for palm swells or any eccentric shape when the basic grip is right. The grip radius here is particularly comfortable too.
My praise does not just extend to the woodwork and action; the barrels are exceptionally well presented. Almost perfectly straight, they are a good weight for the gun, their relatively low mass made possible by a 6mm game rib and joining ribs absent for half the length of the fore-end. The blacking is to Browning’s usual high standard. Monobloc joins are nearly invisible. Chambers are 3in (76mm) and well machined with unusually smooth, mid-length, forcing cones leading to the 15.9mm bores. The 64mm-long Invector Plus multichokes are steel-shot-friendly. This gun has 30in barrels – a good call for a 20-bore – but 28in and 32in are options (with 28in and 30in available in the 28-bore built on the same action).
The action is familiar and built, essentially, on John Moses Browning’s plan first seen in the 1920s. It is one of the most successful sporting gun designs of all time, combining a full width hinge pin with a large, flat bolt to the rear engaging a slot underneath the bottom chamber mouth. Browning died at his workbench perfecting it. The design has been subject to some evolution, not least by Miroku, which introduced a detachable fore-end and refined the dimensions. In the test gun, the action body is made from forged aircraft-grade aluminium with a steel strip reinforcing the breechface. Helical springs power the hammers, which hinge on the bottom strap (the Browning has solid top and bottom straps machined into the action). As with Browning’s steel-actioned guns, a 10-year guarantee is offered.
I shot the 525 at West London Shooting School and later at Andy Castle’s West London Sporting Gun Club. The gun ticks many boxes. Its aesthetics appeal but they are matched by exceptional handling dynamics. The first time I used it, I hadn’t realised it was an alloy-actioned gun. Its shooting qualities didn’t betray it. Despite its lightweight, recoil control was good and facilitated by great stock (and grip) form and a hi-tech polymer recoil pad. This 30in gun pointed well with the narrow, vented game rib. The multichokes put a little extra weight in the muzzles, creating a balance point just forward of the hinge pin. This is a model where the makers got it all right. Ideal for walking-up, hide use or small driven days, it’s the best alloy-actioned gun tested yet.
BROWNING 525 GAME TRADITION LIGHT INFORMATION
♦ RRP: £2,500
♦ International Sports Brands, Unit 2, Moorbrook Park, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 7HP
♦ 01491 681830