The famous gunmaker’s new upmarket over-and-under impresses Michael Yardley with what traditional bench craftmanship can still add to a gun
Browning’s new over and under has unusual pedigree, with metal parts made in Japan but assembled and stocked at Browning’s Liège workshop. Michael Yardley is impressed by the Browning B15.
With Browning launching the new Browning B15 in the UK, Jonathan Young looks back at the history of this iconic gunmaker. Read the genius of Browning.
The B15, a new over-and-under model from Browning, has an unusual pedigree. Its metal parts are made in Japan but it is assembled and stocked at Browning’s Liège workshop. It reminds a little of the old B125 (a B25-style gun machined in Japan but assembled and finished in Belgium) but there is more hand work in the new gun. Not only is it stocked and finished in Belgium, it is colour case hardened there with components smoke-lamp fitted in time-honoured fashion. The benefits of CNC and the bench are thus brought together.
The Browning B15 is clearly intended to look good and carries side-plates and high-grade wood. The visually arresting engraving is hand cut, although the patterns are laid out by laser initially. The test gun features deep scroll on its sides with more scroll and an image that looks like the Green Man on its belly. I am fond of this pattern of engraving, which is practical as well as attractive, and the chthonic creature’s head made me smile (reminding of the old gods of the forest – an appropriate embellishment).
The gun does not disappoint when handled, either. The balance is slightly forward and the barrels are subtly tromboned at the muzzles to accommodate the latest, long pattern of Browning DS multichokes. The stock shapes are first class. The grip is full but not too tightly radiused and the comb is well profiled with a good taper and particularly nice shapes at the nose (the sort one only gets with hand stocking). The fore-end is of a lovely, rounded pattern – my favourite. The wood is richly figured and finished as a best gun with oil and exceptionally good hand chequering. Dix points.
Any niggles? Not many. I did not like the Phillips-look screws that attach fore-end wood to its iron (visible when the fore-end is off). There was a slight distortion to the trigger guard, which is probably the result of colour case hardening. Dimensions were good. The length of pull was 15in with an extra 1⁄8in to heel and 3⁄8in to toe. The drop was just a little low at 1 ½in to the front of the comb and 2 ¼in to the rear.
The action, taken from the recently introduced 725, is also extremely well presented. It is lower than the old B25 and has a different sculpturing of shoulders and fences. There are ornamental sideplates, as noted. The standards of fit and finish are what one would expect at the price point: excellent. The Browning B15 does not feel like a mass-produced gun when closed; it has that hermetic feel of the best gun. Most interestingly, the harmonic (a sense of vibration) one sometimes notes with mass-made Brownings and Mirokus on closing was not present. The B15 felt different – in a good way. The difference may be down to the tight tolerances of all the hand work. It shows that traditional bench craftsmanship really does add to a gun. It is not just a question of making it look superficially prettier, it can make a gun function better, too. Trying the gun with snap caps, one noted crisper than average pulls. The stock shapes provided efficient purchase and control as the gun was brought to shoulder.
This is one of a range of new B15s. The test gun is a Grade C (RRP £11,800); there are also Grade B (game engraved with an RRP of £9,800), D models (RRP £13,300) and E Grade (RRP £15,300). The Grade D and E grades have steel-capped pistol grips, a skeletonised metal butt-plate and a faux “three-piece” fore-end (visually similar to a high grade B25 but actually a single piece of wood).
BROWNING B15: TECHNICAL
The Browning B15 presents no great mechanical surprises but incorporates some interesting features. The 3in-chambered barrels are back-bored (18.7mm) and proofed for steel shot. The action is B25-inspired but lower in overall height although retaining a similar locking system and a full width hinge pin. The gun benefits from the new DS (Double Seal) multichokes that incorporate a clever sealing system to prevent gas leakage. The single-trigger mechanism is mechanical rather than inertia operated, which is a bonus in a game gun. Browning/Miroku-type hammer ejectors are fitted in the fore-end. The sighting rib is well laid and unusual in that it is both solid and very narrow (a 6mm-4mm taper design).
BROWNING B15: SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS
The Browning B15 felt and looked right and nothing on the shooting field divested me of that positive first impression. The gun may incorporate 725 metalwork but, hand stocked and bench-finished with an excellent sighting rib, it feels and seems substantially different. There was less resonance and trigger pulls were noticeably better. There was more weight between the hands because of the side-plates and general handling qualities were enhanced. Felt recoil was average although the gun weighed almost 8lb with 30in barrels fitted. The stock was exceptional, offering improved purchase and recoil control (without palm-swell), first-class shapes and sensible standard measurements. The B15 offers beauty and neutral and forgiving shooting characteristics, demonstrating that “extra finish” means more than improved cosmetics. The Browning B15, though a bit pricey, impresses. It is also one of the most stylish guns we have tested recently. Only 100 a year are being made; delivery is off the shelf or about three months.
Price £11,800 (Grade C)
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