December 29, 2020
By Robert W. Hunnicutt
Browning’s New Citori 725 Trap Max is a specialized competition gun for trapshooting, and it carries a retail price of $5,860. More than 40 years in the trade tells me that that brief description alone will generate an anguished outpouring of mail from readers demanding to know, “Why do you write about guns I’m not interested in and will never be able to afford?”
Compare the firearms field to the automotive world. You’re going to see the $2 million Bugatti Chiron on more car magazine covers than a new $22,995 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Exotic, expensive cars sell more magazines than bread-and-butter rides. More importantly, consider that those fun features on your crossover appeared first on a Rolls-Royce in 1990. As in cars, innovations trickle down from pricey guns to more humble, everyday models. For example, barrel porting was once limited to top-line competition guns, now the cheapest Turkish pump-action may have it.
Modern magazine economics mean that every story is going to be, to some degree or another, a review. If we’re going to educate you now, we have to work it in while writing about someone’s gun. If that gun is feature-packed, we can work in a lot more education.
Finally, if you read Guns & Ammo, you’re supposed to be an expert. Your jumpy, electric-car-driving neighbor who’s developed a recent appreciation for the natural right to self-defense certainly assumes you are. Being an expert means being interested in and having something useful to say about all guns; even, and maybe especially, the ones you can’t afford.
A good case could be made that the Browning Citori is the most successful over-under shotgun design of all time. It’s been around half-a-century, and while Browning is very cagy about the numbers, it’s certainly sold in the millions in just about every possible gauge and configuration. The 725 Citori began to appear in the 1990s, driven by the rapidly expanding sporting clays market. While the original Citori followed the lines of the Superposed, the 725 had a lower profile that was more competitive with popular Italian brands, and touted for its lighter weight. The basic operating system remained the same, however, with locking by a wide underbolt engaging a bite in the bottom surface of the monobloc. The hammers are cocked by a rather complicated part pivoted at the front of the triggerguard. You probably wouldn’t design it that way these days, but it was an improvement over the Superposed and is certainly well-proven by now.
The trigger assembly is Browning’s FireLite design, and it’s mechanical, in place of the original Citori (and Superposed) inertia trigger. The inertia trigger was invented to prevent doubling, and needs to be reset by recoil between the first and second shots. Inertia triggers work perfectly well barring an ammo-related misfire, but a dud round in competition can cost a target.
So, competition guns, and even a lot of hunting shotguns, tend to have mechanical triggers today, which reset automatically. If you can pull the trigger of an unloaded shotgun twice, the trigger’s mechanical. If not, it’s inertia. Slap the butt of the shotgun or drop it on its butt from a couple inches’ height and the inertia trigger will reset.
As befits a top-of-the line competition gun, the Trap Max comes with Browning’s Triple Trigger System. The trigger blade is a separate piece that slides on a rail at the bottom of the trigger assembly. It can be attached at any of three positions in a range of .323 inches (8mm) by tightening a 2mm hex socket set screw.
Three gold-colored blades are provided. Two are checkered and .393 inches wide, and of those, one is perpendicular to the boreline, while the other is twisted to the right for right-handed shooters. The third blade is smooth and .254-inches wide for those who prefer a more conventional trigger feel.
In the days when there was a trap field behind every VFW hall in the land, you’d have felt perfectly at home anywhere with a Model 12 Winchester or Remington Model 31 straight out of the box, but today’s trapshooter wants very precise control of his sight picture. This is accomplished at either end of the Trap Max. Keeping in mind that the eye is the rear sight of a shotgun, the gun has a comb that’s adjustable both for height and lateral position. This lets you regulate how much rib you see and lets you make sure you’re looking straight down the rib.
Using the supplied 7⁄64-inch (3mm) hex key, turn out the hex-socket screws on the right side of the stock below the cheekpiece. One full turn is plenty. Then, pull the cheekpiece up and out of the buttstock. You’ll see the tubular steel supports ride in transverse slots in an aluminum block screwed to the cheekpiece. Witness marks in the plate indicate four 1⁄16-inch displacement intervals to the left or right of center. Use the same hex key to adjust displacement to your desired setting.
Graco, a longtime maker of trapshooting accessories that supplies Browning both the cheekpiece and buttplate hardware, says that moving the cheekpiece 1⁄16 inch moves the point of impact about 1½ inches at 30 yards. Keep in mind, that measure will increase at greater distance, as when shooting handicap targets.
Elevation is regulated by adding or subtracting white plastic washers that surround the support posts. These are also 1⁄16-inch thick, and 16 of them are provided, letting you lift the impact point a full foot at 30 yards. We’ll leave aside whether that would be a good idea. Once you’ve achieved your desired point of impact, a process requiring many hours at the pattern board, you can tighten all the screws securely and go on your way.
The Gracoil buttplate assembly has Pachmayr’s thick and solid back rubber pad mounted on a recoil-reducing assembly that allows the butt to collapse about 3⁄8 inches against spring tension to soften the kick. If you don’t routinely shoot trap, you may be skeptical about the necessity of such a system on a 9-pound ported gun. If you are, ask yourself whether it might seem better after a full day in the baking sun of Sparta, Illinois, shooting the Grand American Trapshoot.
The buttstock itself is quite thick at more than 1½ inches and has a tightly curved, vertical pistol grip as originated by trapshooter and writer Fred Etchen. It’s quite substantial and swells toward the bottom to make a consistent hand position easy. Checkering is at 20 lines-per-inch in a bordered point pattern. This looks great, but I’d like an 18- or even 16-line pattern on a hot summer day. So many shooters wear gloves anymore, the elegant measure is just fine for them.
A straight buttstock and an adjustable comb where all the adjustment is up requires a tall rib to match, and the Trap Max has it. Its height tapers from about ¾ inches at the breech end to 17⁄32 inches at the muzzle, with its width going from 7⁄16 to 5⁄16 inches in the same distance. Made of aluminum with a cross-hatched top surface, it looks like a railroad bridge.
After reading the very detailed instructions about adjusting the cheekpiece in the manual, I was surprised not to see anything about adjusting the rib height, but we’ll figure it out by dead reckoning. The rib is pivoted on a pin in its support at the breech end of the barrels. It attaches to a front support at the muzzle by a thumbwheel with very bold detents. Witness marks are visible below the rib on the right side.
Turning the knurled thumbwheel moves the rib up or down in very subtle increments. You can immediately see this is a much finer adjustment than can be achieved by removing or replacing 1⁄16-inch spacers under the cheekpiece.
Adjusting the front sight for elevation is nothing new. My 1929-model Colt Shooting Master does the same thing. All you need to remember is that a front sight moves impact point the opposite of a rear sight. You lower the front sight to raise the point of impact. Referring to a handy sight correction calculator I found on the internet (sdmfabricating.com/sightcalc.html), it appears each click of elevation should move point of impact about 1 inch at 30 yards. That’s extremely precise for a shotgun. You should ask yourself if you are that precise before getting carried away with the knob-twisting.
Sights are a .085-inch mid-bead and a HiViz ProComp fiber optic a bit over an inch long that provides a 1⁄8-inch bead. The installed bead was green, but the Trap Max came with a little rotary case containing a couple more green, a couple red and a couple white sights. By the time you’re through setting your impact point and choosing a sight, you won’t need to shoot trap for a while.
The barrels are both ported. There was a time when wags pooh-poohed top barrel porting on grounds of “Why do you care if the barrel jumps on your last shot?” It appears those skeptics have all died, because porting both barrels seems to be the norm these days. The top barrel has 18 ports while the bottom has 28, so the greater importance of the first shot is recognized.
Browning came early to the concept of using bores larger than the standard .729-inch diameter for 12 gauge, and hasn’t let up. What is grandly termed Total Barrel Dynamics comprises three different design and manufacturing processes.
Vector Pro is a very gradual forcing cone configuration that makes for a smooth transition between the chamber and the barrel. Relatively abrupt forcing cones were needed for paper wads that didn’t expand to contact the bore on firing. Plastic wads have been close to universal since the 1970s, so there’s no reason for a sharp forcing cone. When I was a youngster, it was quite common for gunsmiths to use big old reamers to ream out the original forcing cone. That business, I suspect, is pretty well gone.
Back-boring was a process pioneered by gunsmiths like Stan Baker for trapshooters of the 1970s. The standard .729-inch bore diameter was specified with fiber wads in mind, and there’s no reason it can’t be bigger with plastic wads. Back-boring meant increasing bore diameter, with the goal being reduced recoil and better patterns. The process is well-accepted today by everyone except Italian manufacturers. My gauge showed the Trap Max’s bore diameter measured .738 inches.
Just as it’s a good thing to squeeze the shot charge gradually into the bore, it’s beneficial to make its passage toward the choke smooth and easy. The Invector-DS choke tubes used in the Trap Max are almost 4 inches long and feature a conical-parallel interior configuration that incorporates a cylindrical section at the muzzle end that helps stabilize the wad as it passes out of the gun. The “DS” in the name is for “double seal,” in this case by a brass band at the rear of the tube that helps keep carbon fouling from reaching the tube threads. This comes in handy if you want to use the ½-inch knurled section to turn out the tube by hand. The usual spanner is provided if you install it too tight. A gold-colored ring at the front end is marked with the tube constriction, supplementing the usual tick marks in the front face of the tube. This piece also protects the inside of your gun case from being torn up by the tube’s notches.
Browning’s spec sheet shows the Trap Max being supplied with Full, Light Full, Modified and two Improved Modified tubes. Guns & Ammo’s sample gun turned up, for whatever reason, with two Full (.701-inch), a Light Full (.712-inch), an Improved Modified (.725-inch) and an Improved Cylinder (.735-inch). That’s plenty of potential pattern-testing for anyone! I would have preferred to pattern with Modified and Full tubes, since Modified is fine for 16-yard targets. As one wasn’t on hand, I used Improved Modified.
Ammo was Winchester’s AA Diamond Grade. I suppose you could use this for handicap trapshooting if the Amateur Trapshooting Ass’n, the sport’s governing body, allowed it, but it’s primarily intended for demanding sporting clays applications like Federation Internationale de Tir Aux Sportives de Chasse (FITASC) competition, which is an international clay-shooting association based in Paris.
Winchester’s new AA Diamond Grade load uses selected high-antimony shot, copper-plated, which is not allowed in ATA trap, but OK to use in the international style. Increasing the antimony fraction slightly lowers the weight of each pellet, giving you more pellets to a given charge weight. Copper plating makes the shot flow better and increases resistance to deformation. The result is tighter patterns for a given choke constriction.
Years ago, I came into a supply of Rottweil Supertrap 32, a round intended for international trapshooting. It had nickel-plated shot and was very hard-hitting at distance, even from an Improved Cylinder choke. I kept a few in my vest for the tall ones on the sporting course, while reserving more pedestrian ammo for most shots. Since Winchester AA Diamond Grade carries a price of around $12 a box, that’s how I’d use it. Popping it at 20-yard teal targets would be overkill.
While patterning with the Diamond Grade, I discovered an interesting effect: a sort of silvery confetti would fall from the air when fired. We finally decided it was tiny flecks of copper coming loose from the shot. Don’t plan on seeing this at your local gun club because it takes bright sun on the gun and dark shade on the target. It was fun, anyway. The ammunition is available in four loads: 1-ouncers traveling at 1,250 feet-per-second (fps) or 1,350 fps, and 11⁄8-ounce versions at 1,250 and 1,300 fps.
When I first pulled the Trap Max from its box and assembled it, I thought, “How am I going to shoot this log?” You feel every bit of its 9 pounds, and the thick buttstock and robust pistol grip made me think of various dangerous-game guns I’ve tried.
Sighting it gave a panoramic view of the left side of the rib, and I immediately went to work on the cheekpiece. I thought moving it a notch or two to the right would be plenty, but I had to take it all the way to the stop to put my eye in line with the rib. I thought that configuration might be uncomfortable, but I didn’t notice the step between the buttstock and cheekpiece a bit. More importantly, the general feel of the shotgun was improved far more than I would have suspected. The fact that I was no longer struggling to get a good sight picture clearly made a difference. Once that problem was eliminated, the Trap Max immediately felt livelier.
A trap gun has to be tested on the trap field, but I typically get some casual function-fire after patterning. I didn’t expect much here, but the Trap Max was actually perfectly shootable on a variety of targets that hardly duplicated trap presentations. Someone somewhere is going to use it on sporting clays, and probably will get away with it.
The trigger pull was truly excellent at 3¾ pounds. That’s plenty light for a competitive shotgun. Breaks for both barrels were crisp, with minimal overtravel. We really are in a golden age of triggers. If only they’d been this good in the 1970s! I used the twisted wide trigger, and it was quite comfortable.
For shooting trap targets, I selected Federal Ultra Clay and Field, a low-priced load that’s pretty much the opposite of AA Diamond Grade. We used the Improved Modified tube at 16 yards and the Full tube at 24 yards. I have shot at 27, but that was during the sunny Reagan years.
On a clear summer day, the green fiber optic stood out like a torch; the red fiber might have been a better choice, but there was no difficulty finding the muzzle.
Improved Modified is pretty tight at 16 yards, but it certainly provided impressive breaks. It might have been a better selection for 24 yards, but we’d have been deprived of the hard breaks at distance provided by the Full tube. When you’re pointing the 725 right, either tube punishes the target.
My usual trap gun is a Remington 1100, and the 9-pound Trap Max certainly requires a different approach. It takes a little more time to get out in front of them, making patience your friend. The Gracoil system, combined with the gun’s weight and the porting, makes recoil inconsequential. I’d put it in the 20- or even 28-gauge range.
Is the Trap Max really worth almost six grand? Consider that competitive guns from Krieghoff and Perazzi are $12,795 and $14,838, respectively. More importantly, remember that buying a trap gun is exactly like buying a dog. Just as the $300 the rescue league charges you for that three-legged, one-eyed mutt named Lucky is only the beginning of your pet expenditures, buying the gun is the cheap part of trapshooting. Ammo bills, shoot fees, Winnebago payments, diesel fuel and necessary presents for the wife will soon make the price of the shotgun look like chump change, and you only buy the gun once.
And cheer up; Soon, we can hope, Columbus will again be safe on his plinth, Portland, Oregon, will return to punchline status, and your nervous neighbor can go back to sipping Chardonnay while listening to the soothing sounds of NPR radio. By then, we’ll be writing up more popular-priced pump guns. In the meantime, relax and try shooting a little trap.
Browning Citori 725 Trap Max Specs
- Type: Over-under
- Gauge: 12, 23/4-in. chamber
- Weight: 9 lbs.
- Overall Length: 47¾ in.
- Barrel Length: 30 in. (tested), 32 in.
- Length of Pull: 143⁄8 in.
- Drop at Heel: 23⁄16 in.
- Drop at Comb: 113⁄16 in.
- Trigger Pull: 3¾ lbs., both barrels
- Accessories: Two Full (.701-in.), Light Full (.712-in.), Improved Modified (.725-in.) and an Improved Cylinder (.735-in.) choke tubes, spanner, hex keys for trigger and stock adjustments, three trigger blades, eight fiber optics and case
- MSRP: $5,860
- Manufacturer: B.C. Miroku Ltd., Kochi, Japan
- Importer: Browning, 800-333-3288, browning.com
Browning Citori 725 Trap Max Performance
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