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A Classic Updated: Browning A5 Review

by Payton Miller   |  February 22nd, 2012 16

Browning A5

Ask most guys what the essential John Browning-designed military arms are, and odds are that most of the responses you’ll get will include the 1911 pistol and the M2 .50-caliber heavy MG. Sporting arms? Well, the Winchester Model 94, of course. And then there’s the great Auto-5 “Humpback”—the first mass-produced autoloading shotgun. To refer to it as “a classic” would be something of an understatement. In production from 1902 to 1999, it’s been manufactured—at various times and in varying model numbers—by FN, Browning, Savage and Remington.

I owned a beater-grade Model 11 Remington for years and loved it, so I was pretty excited when I heard about the “reintroduced” A5. Why the quotes? Well, as Browning’s promotional material says, “This ain’t your Grandpa’s Auto-5.”

Indeed it isn’t. First off, it’s got an aluminum receiver and a lightweight barrel profile, which combine to make it livelier than the old A5s. The distinctive humpback profile is still there (which is still pretty tough to beat when it comes to lining up the sighting plane without having to fight your head down on the comb). But the action is considerably different. The old long-recoil (or barrel recoiling) system has been replaced with a short-recoil inertia system called “Kinematic Drive,” which requires no adjustments for light—or heavy—loads. It’s robust, simple and unabashedly “Benelli-esque.”

The new A5 has other bells and whistles as well: a lengthened forcing cone, the Speed Load Plus feeding system that automatically sends the first shell you stuff into the magazine directly into the chamber and a Turnkey Magazine Plug that allows the magazine plug to be removed quickly.

Also worth noting is the Invector-DS choke sytem. The tubes have a gradual taper and brass seal at the base that prevent gas and fouling from getting between barrel and tube. The upshot? The tubes don’t require nearly as much scrubbing and maintenance as conventional ones.

I spent four days at R&R Pheasant Hunting near Seneca, South Dakota, along with several shotgun-oriented gunwriters and magazine editorial types. Using the new A5, we shot sporting clays, hunted pheasant and even managed to squeeze in a couple of chilly late afternoon dove shoots. This entailed pounding through a lot of 2¾-inch 12-gauge ammo, which included Winchester AA 7½s and Winchester Super Pheasant 5s.

Thanks to the sheer volume of shooting, I really took to the A5’s Inflex II recoil pad, which contrasted very favorably to the flat steel buttplate on my old Model 11. The short-action Kinematic Drive System worked as advertised, although I must confess to missing the long, recoiling-barrel ka-chunk of the old model (this new A5 sounds modern somehow).

The Speedload Plus system? I didn’t warm up to it at first, feeling it to be a bit of unnecessary “lily-gilding.” But after a day or so, I sorta changed my mind. It’s easy to stoke the chamber without looking down for the ejection port. And being able to unload without running rounds through the chamber counts as a good thing, particularly when it’s cold and your hands are clumsier than usual.

Most of the pheasant shooting I did was with a 26-inch-barreled Hunter A5, a high-gloss walnut model. It’s light and handy inside the corn rows yet, with a Modified tube, I had little trouble on the long shots when I was walking the outside edges. On the dove shoots, I used a 28-inch-barreled Stalker A5, a black synthetic version that’s also available in Mossy Oak Duck Blind and Break-Up Infinity camo.

It was windy and the shooting was very, well, sporty. Those late-season birds came in at long intervals, and the shots were generally at pretty long yardage. Again, I stuck with the Modified tube, which is a tighter choke than I’d use if things had been busier and closer.

In fact, it was slow enough that I had no problem keeping the gun loaded. But if things had been more intense, the Speedload Plus system, I’m sure, would have paid off even more than it did on the roosters.

All in all, the new A5 has the classic profile of the original. A lot of guys shoot a humpback configuration better than almost anything else, and I’m one of them. The new enhancements—major and minor—put the A5 back in the game in a big way. For high-volume shooting, or “carry a lot, shoot a little” situations, it’d be tough to beat.

Browning A5

  • old vet

    How about prices? Or at least ball park idea. Looks like a really nice take on a classic, though nothing could have the feel the old gun had when fired, with that long recoil action it had. Probably way too expensive for a poor guy like me.

    • pig_killa

      Check out this site for more info on the new A5. It also includes some "suggested retail" pricing. I grew up using 1950's A5 for hunting and absolutely loved it. Definitely glad they are bringing back an updated version of it. Might just have to put this one on my wish list.

  • Jim B.

    I've got a round know 20ga A5 with IC & Mod vent rib barrels that I use for wild quail an phesants. The IC barrel was opened up to skeet and the forcing cone has been lengthened. It's one heck of a quail gun.

  • Barry

    Not sure about the "new" stuff. John Moses would have to sign off on it first. I've got a 1936 Auto 5 that just keeps on going. I'll give it a few years before i decide to pick one up. Anybody remember the short lived A500???

    • Tanner

      My father has an A500G that I always admired when I was younger. I now own a light 12 Auto 5 that was made in the 80's. I shoot trap, sporting clays, pheasants, quail, dove, and anything else I can with it and love every shot. In my opinion it's the best semi-auto shotgun ever made.

  • Sqwat

    I'm a owner of one of the new A-5's and took it out for opening Duck season this past weekend and ran into one major, major issue. I'm left handed and the enlarged safety lines right up with my trigger finger so every time I squeezed the trigger the concussion would cause the safety to activate. Virtually every time making it a one shot shotgun. I'm hoping this is something I can have adjusted or reversed. Now that being said the gun did shoot super smooth, accurate, and was a blast. If I can get the safety adjusted than I would say it was perfect. If I can't…Southpaws beware.

    • wingmaster

      Sqwat you should be able to take that gun to any certified gun smith and have that safety reversed that is what I did with my Maxus

    • mike

      safety is reversable

  • Mac

    Do you think Browning will come out with the new A5 chambered for upto 3 1/2 inch shells? I do a lot of goose hunting and it would be nice to be able to shoot 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 shells. I know the maxus offers this but I grew up shooting the old A5 and I shoot the best with the humpback design.

    • Carlos

      they did!!

  • JDJack111

    I have a 1968 A5 light weight 12ga with the vent barrel that I bought new after I graduated from high school. I would not take any gun on the market for it. I have taken quail,duck,doves,deer and anything else that I have hunted. I have a total of four A5 browning's at present. I have many more shotguns but nothing compares to the humpbacks.

  • Stefanos Bouratzis

    hi.since yesterday iam the first proud owner in greece of the new A5 shotgun.i selected the 28″ barell.i believe eventhow we have a crisis in my country this gun will hit the top.thanks BROWNING.keep up the good work.

  • Stefanos Bouratzis

    i have a question.why A5 is sold only with 3 chokes?are they expensive?why browning follow the same path like beretta a400 &a300 series? i bought the gun yesterday for 1620euros.its not a cheap shotgun you know.i would like a fair answer.have a nice day.

  • Stefanos Bouratzis

    If someone wants to shoot 3 1/2 shells better buy a maxus or a beretta A400 xtreme2.

  • Chris Brown

    After shooting my ’43 A5 light 12, every other shotgun seems to pale in comparison in a few different ways. After speaking to some people who have shot the new A5, it’s definitely next on my buy list. The hump back design in my opinion, still has the fastest sight acquisition than any gun out there.

  • JAYMAG Brownstone

    The browning A5 is also one hell of a slug thrower,For a smooth bore!!! I get 3inch shot groups touching in the bulls eye at 50 yards and 4 inch groups at 100 yards.The Best slug for mine is the old Winchester super x rifled slug 2 3/4,Nasty round!!.I have a Burris 2×7. This setup has dropped countless amounts of deer!!I never had a reason to buy a rifled barrel and shoot sabots. The gun is a deer slayer.Forget about just birds!!!!

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