Becky McKenzie is drawn to the look of the distinctive grey laminated Browning Sporter, but will she likes how it shoots? Read her review of this weeks Gun of the Week, the Browning B525 SL to find out!
I spied the Browning SL or ‘Sporting Laminate’ stock a few years ago when I was abroad shooting a Fitasc competition. That grey laminate stock wasn’t on the B525 shotgun however, but on a rifle belonging to the gentleman running the Browning stand.
I liked the stock, which really stood out to me, and was certainly a bit different to standard walnut – I said at the time that I reckoned it would look really nice on one of their shotguns.
In due course, Browning brought out their B525 SL, although not on my say-so, of course! I’ve been keen to give it a try, but never had the opportunity until now. Clay Shooting magazine’s editor, James Marchington, owns one, and brought it to Orston Shooting Ground when we met up for a day of gun testing and photography. I eventually managed to prise it from his hands, and was instantly rather taken with it.
Leaving aside the distinctive grey stock for a moment, the B525 SL comes with barrels of either 30 or 32ins. The barrels are back-bored to 18.7mm, with extended forcing cones of 32mm.
The chokes are the Invector Plus Browning Midas Extended type, and the gun comes supplied with cylinder, ¼, ½ and ¾ tubes. I was impressed with the pattern I got with these chokes – they produced really good kills, even on tricky, edgy targets. James had fitted the ¼ and ½ choke tubes, and I felt no need to change that – it’s one of my favourite choke combinations.
The top rib is 10mm wide, and ventilated. I prefer a tapered rib myself; the rib on my K80 is tapered from 10mm to 6mm. At the end of the Browning’s barrel is a long high-vis sight in green rather than the more commonly seen red. The B525 SL has a three-position adjustable trigger, and is steel shot proofed.
Browning B525 SL – Tech spec
RRP – £2,175
BARRELS – 12 bore, 30 or 32ins, back-bored
CHAMBERS – 76mm (3ins)
RIB – Ventilated, 10mm parallel
SAFETY – Non-auto, selective
STOCK LENGTH – 14 ¾ ins
DROP – Comb 38mm, heel 58mm, adjustable
WEIGHT – 3.65kg (8lb approx)
CHOKES – Invector Plus Midas Extended, four supplied: cylinder, ¼, ½ and ¾
WEB – www.browning.eu
Proven 525 action
One of the key features of this Browning is the renowned B525 action. Outwardly this one is finished in a plain, polished silver colour, with just the B525 SL name engraved on the sides and bottom of the action.
There’s also a discreet Browning buck logo picked out in gold on the underside of the trigger guard. All in all, I found it understated and pleasing to the eye, and felt it went well with the grey laminate stock.
Inside, the action is the well proven and solid B525, with a profile that is a little higher than most other modern manufacturers’ over-and-under shotguns. It has full-width hinge pins and a wide bolt, meeting a bite in the lump beneath the bottom of the chamber.
The lugs of the barrel lock together into the recess in the base of the action. The locking bolt, recoil lugs and hinge pin are all positioned in a straight line, which means that all the force of recoil is directed straight back, reducing the ‘felt’ recoil.
This Browning model is intended for clay shooting, from Sporting to Skeet and Trap disciplines. However, I feel it is more than capable of managing game shooting and taking out some flying pests too. It comes as standard with a fitted ABS case that also contains the additional choke tubes, stock adjustment key and the usual warranty documentation.
That laminated stock
The lovely grey laminate stock has a nice stain finish applied to it, and the stock has an adjustable comb that is easily adjusted by loosening and tightening with the long hex key supplied, inserted through a hole in the rubber butt-plate. The stock is 14¾ins long, with a drop at comb of 38mm and drop at heel of 58mm, although of course the adjustable comb means you can alter that to suit yourself.
The laminate itself is made up from thin layers of wood glued together with resin under high pressure. This gives an interesting effect to the wood, and also makes it very weather resistant and hard wearing – unlike some walnut stocks I have come across, that seem to just absorb the rain and need a lot of care and attention.The fore-end is tulip style, and made of the same material to match the stock.
There are usually only a few choices in stocks, with most being offered in different grades of walnut or black composite plastic, with a few exceptions such as the Ergosign stock. I really took a shine to this grey laminate.
Walking round Orston Shooting Ground with the gun, it drew a few admiring glances, and I received some positive comments about its appearance when we were taking photographs. It certainly does catch the eye.
The laminated stock adds some weight to what you’d get with traditional walnut, making this gun around 8lb in weight. You might think that sounds quite heavy, but the way Browning has put this gun together, you don’t seem to feel the actual weight.
Upon first putting it on my shoulder, I was impressed by its weight and balance. It felt a lot lighter than my own Krieghoff K80 – but then, to be honest, everything feels a lot lighter than that!
That said, it did have a really good feel between my hands: it was nicely balanced, not too front-end heavy, yet not heavy in the stock end either. It has a good view down the barrels, with the rib a slim 10mm wide and not looking like a runway.
How did it shoot?
I have only ever shot a couple of standard B525s some time ago, and this felt very different to the standard model – much beefier, if that’s a good technical term. Though it’s a slim gun, the palm swell fits well and the chequering isn’t too sharp. It feels like a substantial gun, not at all ‘cheap’.
The quality of the SL comes in the distribution of its weight, low recoil, and its ability to easily smash more difficult, rangy targets with some ease. The
heavier style butt pad doesn’t seem to alter the overall balance of the gun, and helps reduce the recoil – which to me felt very low indeed, probably the lowest out of the three guns I have recently tested.
The gun came into the shoulder with ease, and its handling was smooth and very willing. The target is easily seen, the barrels were quick to reach the target, but not erratic in their movement, and the gun produced a smooth pull-away.
All in all, this is the best Browning I have shot so far. I could really shoot this gun for a long time, and enjoy it too! Its ease of use was mesmerising, making the more technical targets much easier to hit consistently. This is an excellent gun by any standards, and at £2,175 it’s one you can’t ignore if you’re looking for a new gun.