Michael Yardley is pleased to be reacquainted with an old friend as he puts this deluxe version of the Japanese-made over-and-under through its paces
Micheal Yardley is pleased to test another Browning 725, an old friend featured several times in The Field. This time it is the ‘bells and whistles’ version, the Browning 725 Grade V.
For more, read Michael Yardley’s review of the Browning 725 20-bore.
BROWNING 725 GRADE V
This month, I’ve tested a 12-bore Browning 725 Grade V. It’s a 30in, multichoked, over-and-under weighing in at just below 8lb. It’s a deluxe version of a popular, relatively new model and made, like most modern Brownings, in the Miroku factory near Kōchi in Japan. The gun was provided for testing by David Stapley, the managing director of International Sports Brands (and country manager for Browning) and came via Eastern Sporting, my local, excellent gun shop.
We have looked at several versions of the 725 previously in The Field, including the particularly impressive 32in 20-bore English Game model. Thirty-inch, 12-bore 725s bring back happy memories for me, too. I attended the launch of the gun in Hungary in 2011 where some spectacular grande battue pheasant shooting was offered. I shot with a 30in 725 ‘Sporter’ taken from a rack (I liked the feel of its slightly heavier barrels compared to the dedicated hunter model also available) and was mightily impressed with it on the peg, too. I have never shot game better before or since. The dynamics of the gun seemed to suit me especially well. It wasn’t the best-looking gun that I have ever shot (I thought it quite modernistic in form and decoration in sporter guise), nor was it the most refined (it was a basic model), but, for me, it worked on driven birds better than anything else I have yet used.
The test gun is very similar in spec (and notably weight) save for a narrower rib (6mm, compared to 10mm on the Sporter) with much better wood and floral and game-scene engraving. The monobloc, back-bored barrels are 3in chambered and steel shot proofed at 1,370 bar in Liege. They are multichoked with the new Browning DS system chokes (see Technical), which necessitates no obvious bulging at the muzzles. They also have extended forcing cones that, combined with the larger than average bores, may contribute to better patterns and reduced felt recoil.
The stock wood – which Browning describe as ‘Grade V’ (not to be confused with the model name of the gun itself) – is richly figured European walnut and oil finished competently. The chequering is hand cut with crisp, mid-sized diamonds that make for good purchase on a well-shaped pistol grip. The borders are neat and the chequering is laid out in conventional panels, which I prefer to more radical designs.
The stock dimensions are generally good – just under 15in for length of pull and 2¼in for drop at heel. There is a nice, concave shape to the sole of the polymer recoil pad. As is usually the case with Brownings, I thought the comb could be a little higher for the average user. The grip radius was excellent, however, not too tight, nor too large or small – near my own ideal. The ‘tulip’ fore-end was reasonable, though a rounded field pattern would be even better in my opinion, aesthetically and functionally. The existing fore-end might easily be modified by reshaping its front.
I don’t want to damn with faint praise but, overall, the basic stock form of the 725 is sound and the proportions of the butt are particularly good. In an ideal world I would raise the comb a bit, as noted, and introduce a little more taper into it, but this, like any changes to the front of the fore-end, might easily be done by a competent gunsmith post-purchase. Most mass-produced guns might be refined with a little added hand-work by British bench craftsmen.
Bringing the gun to the shoulder one has a sense of control with good purchase on the excellent gripping surfaces (something I usually like about Brownings). The grip allows for even pressure to be applied throughout its length, improving muzzling control. The narrow rib, meanwhile, presents a good picture to the eye and promotes pointability. The balance feels good, too, just forward of the hinge pin but not much.
Many years ago, the classic Browning B25 Superposed design was modified to facilitate mass manufacture. Japanese-made Brownings and Mirokus are made to a slightly simplified design that dispenses with a detachable fore-end and therefore some action machining (B25s have a hinged extension to the fore-end iron that engages in a keyway in the gun’s action belly). The 725 is a more radical modification, or, rather, evolution, of the basic and much copied John Moses design. It retains a full-width hinge pin and bolt but does this in a significantly lowered action. The hammers are powered by coil springs hinged to the bottom strap. The re-engineered single-trigger mechanism is mechanical – preferable in a game gun because of its reliability, no matter the payload. The trigger pulls are improved. The 725 also introduced a new, impressive choking system, the ‘DS’ (Double Seal). The chokes are, unusually, threaded to the front; there is a copper ring ‘compression seal’ to the rear. Both frontal threading and the rear seal prevent gas leakage. Ejectors are the familiar hammer pattern powered by coil springs.
I was interested to reacquaint myself with a 12-bore, 30in 725, a gun I have shot well in the past. It’s always a good thing to reassess first impressions to make sure one is not overcome with ‘new gun syndrome’. This test was especially intriguing as I also had a Grade V 30in Miroku MK60 of similar weight to compare with it. The 725 was pointable and steady. So was the MK60. I thought it would be hard to call it between the shooting qualities of the two excellent guns, however, the 725 just pipped it. There was slightly less felt recoil and visible kills on clays seemed better. I also preferred the handling of the lower profile 725. The basic 725 is not expensive; this ‘bells and whistles’ version with better wood and more engraving is significantly more but, it would not disgrace itself in any company.
BROWNING 725 GRADE V 12-BORE
♦ RRP: £4,799
♦ International Sports Brands (ISB), Unit 2, Moorbrook Park, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 7HP.
♦ 01491 681830