The New Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen Autoloading Shotgun
The Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen has finally arrived. It is more honestly referred to as just the "Sweet Sixteen," as the current A5 has nothing whatsoever to do with the old Browning Auto-Five Sweet Sixteen.
The 2016 Sweet Sixteen is an inertia action autoloader, Browning's treatment of the Bruno Civolani floating bolt action that has long been popularized by the Benelli brand. It is an aluminum alloy receiver, split-bolt shotgun renamed the Kinematic Action by Browning marketing.
This is an extremely lightweight shotgun, lighter than most 20 gauge autos. Browning Silver 20 gauges run about 6-1/2 pounds, my Browning B-80 and Beretta 303 20 gauges are at 6-1/4 pounds, the Weatherby SA-08 weighs six pounds on the nose and my Benelli M2 24 inch also weighs precisely six pounds. The Browning Sweet Sixteen weighs 5 pounds, 14 ounces with a 28 inch barrel.
This Sweet Sixteen, like most Browning repeaters, is sorely in need of a trigger job. The trigger pull weight exceeds the weight of the gun. Unloaded, with the safety off, you can balance the entire gun on your forefinger and no click is forthcoming. The trigger pull measures an excessively heavy six pounds.
Although Browning clearly specifies a brass bead front sight for the new Sweet Sixteen, that is not what is supplied. It has a red tubular front sight, along with a worthless attempt at a white center bead. The problem with the white center bead is that it completely obscures the front sight. You could throw the red bead away and, when in shooting the gun, you would never know it was missing. It is ridiculous, so a center bead extraction is in order. I have already done it. The obnoxious center bead is not threaded, just pressed into a smooth hole. I am left with an unsightly hole in the rib, but at least the gun is now usable.
Also supplied with the gun are two plastic spacers to slightly increase the butt stock length. There are no shims for drop or cast. The Sweet Sixteen has a neutral cast stock and fits me well as supplied. While most Browning product has no warranty, the new A5 series carries a five year, 100,000 round guarantee.
Where Browning deserves credit is the 16 gauge DS barrel profile. It is, at long last, a true 16 gauge barrel, not a 12 gauge with a smaller hole in it. The entire 28 inch barrel weighs only 1 pound, 12.5 ounces with the Modified DS choke installed. As a result, the Sweet Sixteen is superbly balanced with a 28 inch barrel. It is slightly muzzle light unloaded, which is ideal for a repeater.
The Sweet Sixteen's bore measures .669 in. The IC choke has a .006 inch constriction, the Modified Choke has a .011 inch constriction and the (lead only) Full choke a whopping .048 inch constriction. It appears that Browning has screwed the pooch on DS chokes again. Browning states that "longer choke tapers are optimized to percentages, not percentage only." Unfortunately, Browning is unable to define their optimization and several factory chokes actually have longer tapers than Invector-DS tubes.
The Citori 16 gauge O/U is available in numerous configurations. The Browning BPS pump, introduced as a Shot Show Special, has become a regularly cataloged item. With this Sweet Sixteen autoloader, Browning offers two repeaters and a vertical double in 16 gauge, something no other brand can claim.
Browning can supply quality triggers on firearms, when they want to, whether it is an X-Bolt rifle or the 725 Citori shotgun. With their repeating shotguns, they apparently do not care. In the case of the 2016 A5 Sweet Sixteen, history repeats itself, for the same issues were present in the A5 12 gauge Hunter models.
However, for the sixteen gauge enthusiast, most of the issues are fixable. Regardless, my feeling is that a $1700 sticker price autoloader should come with a reasonable trigger, you should be able to see the front bead and the choke tubes should perform at least approximately as designated.
Olin/Winchester is licensing the Browning name to sell their ammo. It would seem an ideal time for Winchester to offer some better 16 gauge ammo. Such is not the case, for there is no 16 gauge shell in the Browning BXD Waterfowl line, only one shell in the BPT target load line (1 ounce, #8 shot) and only one load in the BXD Upland line (1-1/8 ounce, #6 shot).
Going through my cache of 16 gauge ammo, there are some Federal Classic 1-1/8 ounce loads (now discontinued, or at least not cataloged), Fiocchi Golden Pheasant 1-1/8 ounce loads (still available) and the excellent Kent Tungsten-Matrix 1-1/4 ounce load (also discontinued). Perhaps Kent will bring it back?
On a more positive note, the new Kent Bismuth is loaded with one ounce of #5 or #6 shot, so "no-tox" afflicted areas are not totally left out of the picture. A quality 1-1/4 ounce buffered 16 gauge lead load is currently available from Federal, but in #4 or #6 shot only.
Here is a brief review of the Invector-DS choke tube saga. The barrel of the first 12 gauge A5 tested measures .740 inch per Skeet's bore gauge. The Full choke tube is .701 inch, for an aggressive .039 inch constriction. The IC choke is .736 inch, for a puny .004 inch constriction. The MOD choke is .731 inch, for only a .009 inch constriction.
The Invector-DS choke idea is good, but the performance is not as marked, or even close. What actually comes with the gun is a Skeet choke, an IC choke and an Extra-Full "lead only" choke.
In the case of the 725 Citori Field 20 gauge with Invector-DS tubes, the situation improved. Only three chokes are supplied with the 725 20 gauge field, but all three (IC, MOD, FULL) throw patterns in line with their markings. The constrictions on the DS 20 gauge tubes are far greater than the 12 gauge DS, running .007 and .015 inches for IC and MOD. It is no surprise that these constrictions work.
In 20 gauge, the IC tube has 700% of the 12 gauge constriction and the MOD tube in 20 gauge has twice the constriction of the DS 12 gauge. In fact, the 20 gauge Invector-DS uses more constriction than the old 20 gauge standard Invector. A twenty gauge standard Invector tube used .023 inch for a Full pattern, but the new Invector-DS uses .029 inch.
Though the same DS long taper design touted by Browning is used throughout the gauges, the 12 gauge MOD is a mere .009 inch constriction. However, in 20 gauge the MOD tube has .015 inch constriction. With the 16 gauge Invector-DS the MOD tube has a .011 inch constriction.
The 12 gauge MOD throws wide-open skeet patterns. It was fixed in the 20 gauge with more constriction, but unfortunately the 16 gauge MOD has only about 2/3 the constriction of the 20 gauge MOD choke tube. Constriction works, but what Browning is doing here clearly does not.
This has become a longstanding issue, for it was sufficiently concerning that I reported it directly to Browning back in 2011, prior to publishing the first 725 Citori 12 gauge review. Although I was promised that they would get back to me, that was five years ago and Browning customers are still left wondering why factory DS tubes do not perform as marked.
As a practical matter, the Sweet Sixteen throws cylinder, improved cylinder and Extra-Full patterns with the supplied chokes. Normally, this would not be all that important to a prospective new owner, for there are typically two ways to increase pattern efficiencies: better choke tubes or better shells. Ideally, you use both a quality shell and a quality choke.
Patterns are more of a problem with the Sweet Sixteen, for no high antimony shells, such as Remington STS or Winchester AA's, are available. Nor can you just spin on a Trulock Precision Hunter extended choke. The consumer is left with the unsavory option of throwing Improved Cylinder patterns on the next hunt, regardless. That's fine if this is all you are looking for, but after patterning hundreds of shotguns over the years, a .022 inch - .025 inch constriction choke, matched to a high quality shell, general nets the most useful upland patterns and also the most useful sporting clay patterns.
Back to the Sweet Sixteen's handling qualities. This is a well-balanced shotgun. It shoulders quickly, swings smoothly and carries easily. The forearm is commendably slim. For a lightweight gun, the recoil is "manageable." (King Kong probably would not mind it at all. -Editor)
The Speed Loading works markedly better in the Sweet Sixteen than in the 12 gauge A5. In general, the new Sweet Sixteen is a very pleasant hunting gun.
It is also the only game in town, for there is no other option in a new 16 gauge autoloader. It embodies what most 16 gauge aficionados have always claimed they wanted, a lightweight gun with a dedicated 16 gauge receiver and a true 16 gauge barrel. The Sweet Sixteen delivers on these areas and also in the reliability department, as there are no apparent issues.
Weighing 5 pounds, 14 ounces on my scale, it shaves over half a pound as compared to a Benelli Ethos. Even the poor trigger of the Sweet Sixteen is better than the more expensive Ethos. The price of the Sweet Sixteen, while certainly not bargain class, is understandable, since Browning has to recover their significant design and tooling costs from the 16 gauge market alone.
The issues documented here are all fixable, one way or another, but are obvious deficiencies that should not be. However, the Sweet Sixteen has a good safety, easy loading and smooth speed-loading, and good balance. Most important, it is a true sixteen gauge autoloader.
Those of a practical mindset will ignore the Sweet Sixteen in favor of the many competent twenty gauge guns that are more versatile and have better ammunition choices. Sixteen gauge enthusiasts will buy this gun without hesitation.
Copyright 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.