What You Need to Know: West Mercia Q&A on Firearms Licensing
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There are two types of Browning's, aren't there. There are Browning's and there are Japanese Browning's - today we bring you a Browning…
Before we move on, let's just qualify that comment. So Brownings originally, before they were made by Miroku en mass, were made in Belgium by FN Herstal. This B25 is one of the remnants of that age, in fact, this is actually quite an old one but the B25 is one of the remnants of that age. It is the hand-built (or at least very much hand-built) Browning shotgun. I mean to all intents and purposes they’re extremely similar to a Japanese browning, but they're not quite the same. This particular B25 is a B2G skeet gun so let's come in close, have a little look and see what we have to offer…
So here we have the Browning hard heel plate. The fact this is called the Browning Custom Shop kind of gives you a bit of a flavour as to what these guys do; they build custom guns. So as much as they have a standard spec sheet for what a B2G should be, you’ll see a variety of B2G's or any model that will have slight variants because when you're ordering one of these new as they are today and as it was when this was built back in 1976, you can have whatever you like. You're paying enough money so you go ‘actually no I don't want the plastic heel plate, I'll have it finished in wood or I'll have it finished in metal or soft pad’, pretty much whatever you want. So this one has the Browning plastic heel plate which again is obviously hand-fitted to the hand-finished, oil-finished stock.
This is just a standard B-grade piece of wood, nothing too exotic, however we have seen plenty of paid upgrades and also some downgrades for some reason. We've seen some very plain B2G's, but this one actually is very nice! For what it is, it’s got enough character, it's a bit plain in areas but on the whole not too bad.
Moving on, you have hand checkered grips. Very fine checkering on this model, I've seen fine and I've seen course but I've seen much more of this kind of stature; about 28 lines per inch with a triple border, which is a real treat. It’s executed obviously very well because it's a real Browning. Japanese Browning's are hand-checkered as well but not to this kind of style - you have drop points or teardrops or whichever you'd like to call them on the sides there, and a fixed swept back trigger. Again trigger options are rife and you'll see many choices out there. It's a very open grip and for a late-70s skeet gun, is pretty much a standard recipe. 27 and 1/2 inch barrels fixed, skeet and skeet, fixed grip slightly swept back to give you a quicker mount. A swept back trigger so you're not fussing or trying to find it at any point. Altogether rather exciting!
Manual safety, gold inled ‘S,O’ and uses a manual selectable safety, so now we get on to the action. The action is where a B2G comes into itself and is extremely recognisable for what it is. This is a B2G engraving and the engraving pattern is fairly set. You have a partridge on the bottom, pheasants on the right and ducks on the left, all surrounded by scrollwork and this nice textured background. All of the borders are nicely cut out and these carved fences lead straight into the barrel work that make for an absolutely stunning metal-to-metal fit. It’s worth saying at the same time, the wood-to-metal fit on this gun is just heavenly; this is how guns should be made. But we'll get onto why they should be made like this in a bit and why they’re not made like this on the most part, because that really revolves around price.
The engraving is done very well. Well enough in fact that the chap who did it put his signature on there and we have ‘JM Boulanger’ on the side there lovely right?
It's nice to actually have a piece of art that someone's put their name on and there are certain ones who are better and certain ones who are less good, but for the most part, a B2G is a B2G and they’re all pretty good! Certain ones are slightly more sought-after but that’s less of an issue.
As you can see, it's kind of stylised to the period, but they haven't changed a huge amount. So these Ducks are very stylised as is the Partridge, as are the Pheasants. There is a certain speed element to the way they're done; it's not a thousand hours per bird kind of thing and it’s not somebody spending a month on each animal to create this perfect bit of artwork, because as much as it is a custom gun it's kind of a custom production gun, so when you pick up two B2G’s the patterns will be slightly different but pretty much the same. You’ve got to imagine if it was your job to just work on the right-hand face of actions, you'd get very good at roughing out that until you got it perfect for someone else to finish, and that goes for the whole action.
There’s a long trigger guard there with two screws and again that’s all hand engraved and lovingly inlet into the woodwork, absolutely perfect. Hand engraved lovely little borders and a beavertail forend. It almost seems funny now to see a beavertail forend without a full pistol grip, but this is the way skeet guns were built back in the 70s and to a certain extent up until about 20 years ago.
Balance-wise you're about an eighth of an inch in front of the hinge pin, however it's a little forend fussy where they've put so much weight in that forend versus the stock with short barrels. It handles like an early skeet gun, extremely quick but without being erratic - very nice actually. The forend obviously was designed by John Browning to be attached to the barrels, because God gave us two hands so why would you have three parts to a gun… correct! As such, on almost every B25 you have this lovely little wear mark on the front here and there's very little you can do to avoid having that, apart from having a very rattly forend which kind of defeats the object of having such a nice gun. The forend is not quite a full beavertail but it is plentiful enough. One large checkering panel covers the bottom there.
Ejector-wise, the ejectors run on a very similar system to your modern Browning's, obviously with all of the spring work inside the action. So you have to prime the ejectives, push the forend forward, pull the top lever across, close the tongue down and push it in.
So a 27 & ½ -inch barrel, skeet and skeet choked gun. For starters who wants one of these? Not that many people. What people now want is the variety that life can bring them in a multi-choke 30-inch sporter that’ll shoot everything they want. However, I think this has a lot of underestimated value as we've shown on a couple of occasions, to take a skeet gun out and shoot your average clay shoot it's plenty more than adequate to go and shoot normal pheasants and decoy pigeons. It’s plenty more than adequate in fact (or some would say it's probably the perfect gun) for lowland shooting.
Mechanically this gun is absolutely sound, but aesthetically it’s slightly less good which means this gun is just over £3,000. That's a fair amount of money, but for a hand-built gun is it really when one of these new is going to set you back up and near £20,000? Yes, you can pick a fairly rancid one up for about £2,000 but I'd rather have something that was mechanically good with just a little bit of metal tarnishing that you can get cleaned up, instead of something that was aesthetically beautiful but had been absolutely shot out.
The favorite bits on a B2G? Always that carving work around the top, any sort of decent quality metal carving is lovely. It's a hell of an art, isn't it? Almost as much as engraving itself, but actually the metal-to-metal fit and the wood-to-metal fit that this gun provides over anything else… that's just second to none. Let alone when you open one up and have a look at the insides and every little part is polished, it makes you tingle inside. There's so much in this gun that makes you feel value for money.
There are very few other places in the world where you’d be able to pick up a completely hand-built gun for under £4,000 in almost mint condition and that in itself is just a wonderful thing - this is the art of gun making. The Browning B25.