Browning Gold Semi-Auto Shotguns
The name Browning has always meant shotguns and pheasant hunting to me. It has taken a long time for Browning to replace the Auto-5 with a worthy successor, and I've gone through the previous attempts: the gas-operated B-2000 (a sales flop, but I really enjoy my 20 gauge), the B-80 (essentially a Beretta 302-1/2), the A500R nee A500 recoil operated disaster (initially recalled), and the A500G gas-operated version offered only briefly. Though reliable it was one of the strangest fitting shotguns I've ever owned. Meaning, I really didn't understand how it could possibly fit any human being.
After all this, at long last came the Browning Gold. (The Browning Gold is also marketed as the Winchester Super X2 in a somewhat plainer configuration.) I've owned, and extensively hunted with, at least five Browning Golds. These include a pair of 12 gauge 3" chambered models, one 12 gauge 3-1/2" version, and (at least) a couple of 20 gauge Golds. All have been outstanding performers, providing a couple of tweaks are made.
Here are the basic specifications for the Gold Hunter, what you might call the standard model:
Fit and finish are what you would expect from Browning, with cut checkering on the pistol grip and forend. The speed loading has functioned without a hitch, and the longer tube "Invector Plus" chokes have generally patterned well, but not remarkably better than the older Invector (Win-Choke copy) non-back bored barrels.
The self-regulating gas system handles a wide range of shells, from magnum to standard, interchangeably. The gas piston design is a good one, and has done a good job handling a huge variety of loads in all the models I've owned. The Gold 3-1/2 is helping to re-obsolete the 10 gauge again, handling 1-1/8 oz. 1200 fps loads all the way up the ladder to 3-1/2 inch Mags, which is a lot to ask of any semi-auto action. All have been soft shooters.
Every Gold I've owned has had a heavy trigger, heavier than the gun itself, so a trigger job has always been the first order of business. The oversized triangular trigger-guard safety is one of the best ever, hard to miss even with gloved, frozen hands. However, more often than not, it had been very hard to get off due to stiffness. An eight pound trigger and a fourteen pound safety has been the norm. Both are taken care of in the same one-time trip to the gunsmith.
After the initial trigger and safety attention, you have one of the very finest semi-autos on the market. As time has gone on, more and more models have been introduced, to the point whether you are a clays enthusiast, male, female, youth, Browning has enough breadth in their product line to satisfy.
The 20 gauge, in particular, is just an amazingly soft shooter. Not a flyweight in standard configuration, with 7/8 oz. dove loads the recoil is exceedingly mild; you can barely feel the gun working.
My Golds were standard models, the stocks not shim adjustable, but the semi-hump "Classic" versions are shim adjustable, so most can be fit without any stock work. The "Fusion" models are lighter, and for 2006 the Super Light series in being introduced, losing weight from its magazine tube, an approach I prefer over lightening the action.
Whether skeet, sporting clays, dove, pheasant, or in the goose blind, the Golds that have been rode hard and put away wet have never hiccuped for me. I convinced my friend, Dave Metcalf, an expert gunsmith and shootist to try scattergun sports for a while. Well, Dave can take a dare. Many shotguns came and went, but his 12 ga. Gold stuck around, and he's done great with it.
It took a lot of convincing to get my father to shoot a gas gun, but after eleven shots fired and eleven Illinois roosters picked up during his "test," his 20 gauge Gold has become one of his favorites. For flushing birds, the 26 inch barreled versions come up better for me; for clays work the longer sighting plane of the 28" barrel seems more appropriate, but that's just personal taste.
As it is today, the Browning Gold in 12 or 20 gauge is one of the most competent, fun-to-shoot, hassle free semi-autos you can buy. The available configurations are increasing every year, so if you are in the market for a semi-auto it should be on your short list. They are wonderfully reliable, soft shooting, smooth swinging shotguns that by now are extremely well-proven performers. Regardless of your shotgunning needs you owe it to yourself to spend some time with one of them, if not two or three.
Note: Two full length reviews of Browning Gold Superlight Hunter shotguns can be found on the Product Review Page.
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.