The Browning Auto-5 was the original semi automatic shotgun. While the old shotgun ran on a long recoil system, the new A5 runs on a Benelli-esque inertial system that Browning calls their “Kinematic Drive”. Browning LOVES giving every feature a name. But the other thing that Browning typically does is add features and innovation. Let’s see what those add up to. This shotgun was provided by Sylvestre Sporting Goods for review.
Browning A5 Specs & Features
- Available in wood (Hunter models), black synthetic (Stalker), camo, fancy (Ultimate), as well as a few Cerakote finishes
- Barrel lengths in 26″, 28″, and 30″
- Available in 12 and 16 gauge
- Available in 3″ and 3 1/2″
- Inertial driven semi automatic action
- Uses InvectorDS chokes
- Easily removable turn-key magazine tube plug
- In-stock recoil spring
- Speed-load (no need to load the chamber through the ejection port)
Browning claims that the humpback aids in sight plane and bead acquisition. Personally, I think that’s a stretch and that they put the humpback in for nostalgia to the older Auto-5. If it offered a real advantage, you’d see more shotgun manufacturers using hump-backed shotguns.
Browning A5 Usability
I don’t usually praise guns on usability like this, but the Browning A5 does it all so well. Usability out of the box is exceptionally solid; there are a number of features that Browning did right that usually need to be modified on other shotguns:
The shell lifter uses a very mild fork and sits very close to the magazine tube follower. This means you can load the shotgun up without having the lifter snag your thumb. I know this sounds silly, but the lifter on many shotguns out there in production will catch your thumb, especially when you’re under pressure and trying to get a few last shots off.
The shotgun rear stock and forend are both very slim. Browning likes to keep things slim, like they did on the Browning T-Bolt, and the A5 is pleasantly so. While the Remington Versa Max is 52.5mm at the forend, the A5 is a slim 45mm. That probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is. The shotgun comes up and into your shoulder pocket quickly. With the weight of this shotgun being low and pretty far back, it makes the A5 very quick to point. The Browning A5 would be perfectly at home with upland game where a light, pointable shotgun is desired.
The Speed Load Plus feature is mysteriously absent from Browning’s webpage on the A5, but I thought it was a very slick feature. Normally, semi auto shotguns lock the bolt to the rear when they’re empty, forcing you to throw one shell into the ejection port on the side, followed by hitting the bolt release, and then you top up the magazine tube through the magazine loading port. This dance can be learned and the time to reload can be cut down, but it’s time consuming for new shooters. Browning’s A5 has an auto load feature where it automatically loads the shell loaded into the magazine tube so you don’t have to load through the ejection port. It’s very fast and it worked sideways, upside down, and every other way I thought to test it.
The “Plus” part of the Speed Load Plus is because Browning thinks it’s amazing that you can remove shells from the tube by moving the shell catch to the side. This is something you can do on most shotguns out there.
Other features include:
Easy remove keyed magazine tube plug. Using a car key, you can unlock and remove the plug.
InvectorDS chokes. These thin-wall choke tubes are sealed with a brass ring at the bottom to keep shot fowling from getting into the choke threads. This means that you should see fewer seized InvectorDS chokes. These chokes are quite long, which may help with introducing a more gradual constriction to the shot. Of note: Browning went with a different scale of chokes so their IC, Mod, Full, etc, may be different than what you expected.
Browning A5 Reliability
Browning has gone with a 100,000 round, 5 year warranty on the A5. Few people will ever hit 100,000 rounds in a shotgun in 5 years, so treat it as more of a 5 year, “you’re not going to wear it out” warranty. Given that it uses a simple inertia driven action, reliability and action durability should be excellent.
Personally, I found that the shotgun would reliably run 1 1/8 oz target loads, but wouldn’t run extra light 7/8oz loads at all. For a shotgun that is built to run everything from 2 3/4″ -> 3.5″ shells, that’s expected.
The Browning A5 is a refined inertial action shotgun with a few features that are well worth it. Browning’s focus on slim stocks is apparent on this shotgun and combined with the rear weight distribution and low weight in general, make for a sleek, light shotgun. That light weight may make it a poor choice for high volume 3 1/2″ goose shelling days, but fantastic for upland, ducks, lighter goose days, and even 3 gun shooting. Although the action is decidedly Benelli in nature, the rest of the shotgun is very Browning and pretty different than other shotguns available out there.