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My brother graduated high school six years ahead of me and in his senior year he received a Browning A5.
It was late fall when Dad informed me that I would be getting my A5 for Christmas and if I wanted it different than my brother’s that was fine but to be fair, I would pay the difference. I wanted a rib on that 28-inch modified barrel. The gun sold for $299.00 and for $30.00 more I could have one with a rib. I have no doubt that was a lot of money back in 1972 and I dearly loved that gun and used it exclusively for all my hunting until a very tough crow season saw the gun get shot who knows how many times with some pretty stiff loads.
The final clincher was a friend, of a friend, said that he could put choke tubes in the barrel making the gun even more effective than ever before. The problem was that my Browning was a “Light 12” which probably meant that the barrel could not retain the choke tubes if I shot a lot of heavy loads. I would shoot the tubes out of the gun barrel twice that fall and the final time left the barrel too short to be legal.
If you have ever priced a Browning A5 barrel, they are just about the same price as the entire cost of other manufacturers’ entire guns. So, I found a barrel for it that didn’t have a rib, but at least I could still hunt with the gun if I wished.
Sometime perhaps 20 or so years ago, I replaced the wood forearm and butt stock that had taken a beating from waterfowl hunting. I had a composite butt stock and forearm put on that makes the gun pretty durable.
Last year, prior to dove season, I brought the gun out and shot some clay birds with it. It was at that time the safety on the gun broke and I made a promise that I would have the safety fixed before I shot it again. I also made a promise to myself that I would get a 28-inch modified barrel for it. From time to time, I would look for the barrel, but never find one. A little over a month ago, I found a Hastings barrel for it with a screw in modified choke tube. I can do some things as long as they are simple, but there was no way I was going to open up my Browning A5 as I envisioned springs flying everywhere and I would be unable to find all the parts that went airborne! For myself, the very thought of opening up a shotgun that had been together for 49 years seemed very frightening and I chose to put that responsibility to an expert in that matter.
I took the shotgun to Mike Paben of Weapons 2 Wallhangers and after finding out what part was broken, he ordered parts. In a text, I asked him how dirty the gun was inside and his response was that, “When I cleaned the gun, I dug enough pellets out of the gun works that I might have been able to load another shell with them!”
It wasn’t quite that bad. There was also quite a bit of gunk in there, as well. Gunk is a combination of powder and dirt particles mixed with three in one oil and WD 40. Those who live in log cabins could probably use the mixture to chink their logs.
While the shotgun was being repaired and cleaned, the new barrel arrived. Perhaps three or four days after that, I picked up the shotgun. It and the new barrel were united and I couldn’t be happier. I may even put the original butt stock and forearm back on the gun, but they really did take a beating when I had them on while waterfowling. Nothing gets more abuse than a shotgun in the bottom of a boat getting walked on and slammed against the bottom of the boat when waterfowl hunting. Both pieces of wood have small cracks, but Mike is sure he can repair them, so we’ll see.
The Browning A5 is an interesting shotgun that most people have an opinion about it. Most either hate it, or love it. I grew up in a family that love them or at least was their shotgun of choice and receiving was sort of like rite of passage. Dad’s old A5 had a 30-inch full choke barrel and I borrowed the barrel several times during my early turkey hunting career. Even the most casual shotgunner has the ability to look at an A5 and quickly recognize what it is. That’s because it has a very obvious high rear end of the receiver as the action goes straight back and then drops down sharply towards the grip on the butt stock. This creates the look where the shotgun gets its nick name “Humpback.”
I know that everyone has their favorite make or model of shotgun for a variety of reasons. But, when doing some comparisons remember the A5 was the first mass produced semi-auto shotgun and was designed by John Browning in 1898 and patented in 1900.
Browning had already done a great deal of work with Winchester in selling his ideas, but Winchester didn’t like the terms of the agreement. This meant Browning would take those designs to Remington, but that didn’t work out. From what I learned Remington had a heart attack and didn’t get to meet with Browning.
So, Browning went overseas to have the gun produced and it was manufactured by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal who was already producing Browning designed pistols. Remington would later receive the license for the A5 and did so calling it the Model 11.
During WWII, Remington produced both the A5 and the Model 11 until the war ended and in 1952 returned to Belgium. In 1975, the majority of A5s were produced in Miroku, Japan and the last regular production of A5s ended with the exception being a commemorative model which was made in Belgium in 1999. In 2014 Browning Arms released a new A5 which resembled the old Humpback and it was manufactured in Portugal.
Currently ammo is a little hard to get, so I haven’t done a great deal of shooting with my old friend. But, I’m sure that things will open back up before the fall hunting seasons arrive. But I do know this, the A5 will be with me in the dove fields on September 1st just as it was in 1973.
From there it will be teal season in mid-September and then the A5 will be heading to South Dakota in October for a prairie pothole waterfowl hunt. This will be the gun’s first northern hunt. Then it may set out for a while as I will be shooting three or 3 1/2-inch ammo for late season mallards and Canadian geese.
Finally, I will bust the gun out again for some late season crow hunts.
It sounds like my old friend and I will have a busy fall and I can hardly wait!