For this week’s Gun of the Week Mike Yardley tests the latest Browning B725 Sporter that was due to be launched at IWA.
Gun of the Week Browning 725 has developed a considerable following since it was first launched in Hungary in December 2011, an event I attended and much enjoyed. The gun has become popular with both clay and field shooters.
It was a clever re-engineering exercise, retaining many good features of the B25/525 but with a lower action height and changes to the action sculpturing and choking system. The shoulders and fences were re-modelled and there was a new shape of top lever.
The latest Gun of the Week introduced new ‘DS’ (Double Seal) interchangeable chokes with a rear copper-banded seal and a forward thread. The gun still retained classic Browning bolting and a full width cross/hinge pin, in contrast to the trunnion hinging of Beretta and Perazzi.
The 725 was lower in the action than any previous Browning superposed inspired over-and-under. It gained an improved trigger mechanism, and barrels which were lighter, re-profiled, and back-bored.
The latest Sporter version featured here would have been introduced at the IWA trade fair in Nuremberg, had it not been sadly cancelled due to the corona pandemic. The changes in this new model are both cosmetic and functional.
The cosmetic changes concern the new matt blacked finish to barrels, trigger guard, fore-end iron and top-lever, and a simplification of the action body decoration – essentially there now isn’t any. I suspect both will be welcomed by clay shooters. The blacking is non reflective and therefore better for a competition gun.
It also looks good, and is enhanced by excellent surface preparation. On the action body, the wavy lines that used to adorn the side-walls are now absent. I prefer this – less is more. I like my competition guns plain and elegant, and this one ticks those boxes.
There are also important modifications to the stock and grip shapes and new fore-end options. The test gun has a schnabel fore-end, but a wider Trap fore-end is available at the same cost. The comb on the latest 725 is re-profiled and some 2-3mm slimmer.
I think this is a positive, although I thought it might have had a little more taper in its form. The grip has also been slimmed significantly but there is a quite prominent palm swell which has been re-positioned.
Palm swells are not usually my favourite thing unless they are custom made to your hand. This one did not suit me especially well. Nevertheless, it might easily be removed or modified.
I was, however, happily surprised by how good the wood figure was on a base grade gun, and it is nicely finished with competent chequering and a semi-matt oil to the American walnut. The dark colouring was also a positive – I have never been a fan of light coloured wood on shotguns.
On to stock measurements, the drop on this new Sporter should be 36 and 56mm according to Browning’s catalogue. My old imperial bend-stick came up with 1 3/8in at the front of the comb and 2 ¼in to the rear.
This is typically Browning but just a little high at the front and a little low at the back. I found it possible to lose the bead at higher elevations with normal cheek pressure and it creates a greater angle than is necessary against the face which can increase felt recoil.
My preference is 1 3/8 and 2 1/8in, or 1 ½ and 2in. The stock has slight cast as well. When I put the gun up to the right shoulder, even with the slimmer comb I was looking left of the 10mm rib.
More from Browning
- Browning B525 SL review
- Browning B725 Pro Master review
- Browning B525 Ultra XS Pro review
- The story of John Browning
Browning B725 Sporter test: Specifications
Model: B725 New Sporter
Action: O/U boxlock SST
Barrels: 30ins tested, 32in also available, Steel proof, 10mm vent rib
Gauge/Chamber: 12g / 76mm (3in), Steel proof
Chokes: Five Invector DS extended chokes supplied
Weight: Nominally 3.66kg / 8lb 1oz
Special Features: Inflex II recoil pad,
Left handed models available,
Supplied with ABS carry case
Price: £2,329 as tested, with schnabel or Trap fore-end
£2,525 with adjustable stock, schnabel or Trap fore-end
Browning B725 Sporter test: Barrels
The barrels on the 725 are monobloc, as they have been on all Browning shotguns since about half-way through 425 production. They are presented to the firm’s usual high standards, 3in chambered and proofed in Liege, with the fleur de lys marks for steel.
The ventilated sighting rib has a shallow centre channel and mid bead; joining ribs are ventilated too, save the area under the fore-end, a common weight saving measure.
The barrels are both back-bored at 18.7mm, an ideal dimension for a clay gun. The barrels are also exceptionally straight and beautifully presented internally with longer than average forcing cones and hard chromed chambers and bores.
Future legislation in Europe, interestingly, will mean that you won’t be able to get chrome bores in Euro area made guns. That won’t apply to Japanese made Brownings and Mirokus apparently.
What does the 725 feel like when you bring it up to face and shoulder? When I mounted the new Sporter, it seemed quite heavy with a balance point about 1in forward of the hinge pin, even with the re-profiled and lightened barrels.
I might be tempted to introduce a little weight into the butt end. I usually prefer 30in guns with a more or less hinge pin balance; for a 32in my preference would be about 1in forward like the test gun – although much depends on the individual gun.
The good news, though, is that the test gun is equipped with the facility to easily add Browning ‘Pro-Balance’ weights to the butt – and to the barrels should you need them, although I can’t imagine why in this case. Tinkerers like me can play to their heart’s content to achieve a perfect balance.
Browning B725 Sporter test: Technical
Very little has changed on the technical front between this gun and its predecessor. The cleverly modified B25/525 action is the same – lower than classic Browning but retaining the same locking system and a full width hinge-pin.
The gun also has the excellent new DS ‘Double Seal’ chokes. They are 100mm with the extension, relatively thin in profile and, sensibly, threaded forward. To the rear is the clever copper band seal so gas does not escape into the area between the choke tube and the barrel wall as it does on so many multichoked guns.
The new 725 also boasts the impressive new mechanical trigger with improved internals offering crisper and lighter pulls as well as reduced trigger movement and lock time. It is the best trigger that I have encountered on either a Browning or Miroku to date. There is an inertia safety sear within the mechanism too.
The trigger blade is adjustable for length of pull by means of the usual allen key. Trigger pulls are set at about 3lbs and feel fine with very little obvious creep. The safety is non-auto, but can be converted to automatic operation if required – not something most clay shooters want unless they want to take their clay gun into the field.
The gun also boasts an ‘In-Flex II’ recoil pad. This is made from a high-tech, lightweight polymer and is available in several sizes for easy stock length modification – 12mm fitted, with 20 and 25mm options. The shapes of the pad are impressive, with an ergonomically efficient concave butt sole as well as a good ‘bump’ – the protrusion at the top near the heel.
Often absent, it is an important feature in my experience as it enhances mounting security at the shoulder and prevents the butt sole slipping in recoil. The toe is not too pronounced either, good news for many middle-aged men carrying too much weight in the chest.
Recommended viewing – Browning B725 mechanics explained
Browning B725 Sporter test: Shooting impressions
I was looking forward to shooting the new 725 because I liked the old one a quite lot. With a fixed comb stock and a plain action, it is exactly what I would have gone for myself.
Let’s cut to the chase or, to be more specific, the combined Skeet and Trap range at the Fennes shooting ground in Essex where I begin nearly all my tests.
Low House 2 is my normal datum bird before proceeding to anything else. Every gun I test starts there. The gun was natural and instinctive to use. I did not miss any of the first 30 or so mixed Skeet, Trap and Pro-trap targets. I was impressed with the new 725 on longer crossers.
I kept hitting them, even when I tried to talk myself out of a few and made small mis-mounting errors as a consequence of negative thinking.
Overall, the 725 felt solid in the hands, seeming slightly heavier to me than its actual weight – the test gun is nudging 7lbs 14oz. The balance is forward as mentioned, which can give an impression of more weight.
Nevertheless, I would say the all-up weight here is ideal for a serious clay busting tool. There is enough to absorb felt recoil, but not so much that you need to be the Incredible Hulk to lift it.
Any negatives? No major ones. The trigger pulls were crisp. The action of the combined safety and barrel selector was positive, if stiff. Function, generally, was excellent.
Some felt recoil was noticeable with the light 24gram Lyalvale loads I was using – a little more than another similarly specified Italian gun that I happened to be testing the same day. Recoil was not a major issue though – it was not unpleasant.
This did prompt me to ask myself why this was happening with a good all-up weight, back-boring, and elongated cones? These features are often associated with reduced felt recoil. It could relate to head-spacing or chamber size, or possibly stock shape. Perhaps the latter, as my new 525SL has low felt recoil with a marginally higher weight.
Any other issues? The right hand palm swell was a little too big for my average sized hand and there was a tendency for the hand to be pushed forward. If I bought the gun, I would reduce the palm swell, or possibly remove it altogether.
The handling and shooting characteristics of the new 725 were very good, though. It was one of those guns that just kept hitting the birds even when you made slight errors – a forgiving gun to use. As for the quality of the product, I thought it exceptionally good at the price point: a lot of gun for sensible money.
There might be a few small things that I would change, but this is a gun that I would seriously consider buying myself, and that’s big praise. There is an adjustable comb version, left-handed models, and high ribbed guns as well, including an attractive and well priced Grade 5 version.
This review originally appeared in our sister publication Clay Shooting Magazine