Browning A5 Shotgun History

The Browning Auto-5 shotgun has its own special place in history. As the first semi-auto shotgun, another of the great John Browning's designs for the ages. Browning called the A5 shotgun his greatest achievement, and while other experts may disagree, the A5 is certainly Browning's most star-crossed.

Browning was so sure of the design, he wanted royalties but Winchester refused to meet his terms. He then took the Automatic-5 design to Remington. While Browning was waiting for an answer, the person he was negotiating with died of a heart attack. In frustration, Browning took his revolutionary design to FN in Belgium, who had already produced the Browning-designed pistol. The new shotgun began production in Belgium in 1902.

The A5 utilized a long recoil system. When a shell was fired, both the bolt and the barrel moved to the rear to re-cock the hammer.

As the barrel moves forward, the bolt follows and chambers another shell from the five-round tube magazine.

First and foremost, the A5 was a hunting shotgun. Supremely reliable, and able to take a staggering amount of abuse. The U.S. military used issued versions of the Remington Model 11 in World War II. The Army Air Corps used specially designed Model 11s fitted with cuts compensators, like this one, to reduce muzzle rise to train aerial gunners.

The original Browning A5 shotguns, like this one, were made in Belgium until the start of World War II, when Remington produced the A5 alongside their Model 11s. Production returned to Belgium after the war, but moved to Browning's Miroku plant in Japan in 1975. The last original A5s rolled off the production line in 1998.

In 2012, Browning reintroduced the Auto-5, but not really. While the new gun faithfully keeps the humpback lines of the original, the action has been drastically modified. No parts are interchangeable. The new Auto-5 shotgun is still recoil operated, but it's a short-action inertia type system rather than the long recoil system of the original system. The barrel stays put.


Hosted by actor and gun enthusiast Joe Mantegna, Gun Stories takes viewers through a firearm's history, from the heart of the design through its use on the range. Throughout the series, historians, shooters, trainers and industry experts place these weapons in their historical and social context, making Gun Stories a unique and definitive collection on the history of firearms. Past seasons are available online at Current season airs on Outdoor Channel.

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