The Browning Citori O/U Shotgun

By Chuck Hawks

Citori Lightning Grade I
Illustration courtesy of Browning Arms.

The Citori is based on the John Browning designed Superposed, the first commercially successful over/under shotgun in North America, and it shares most of the Superposed's features. By the late1960's that famous shotgun, made in Belgium, had become so expensive to manufacture that only wealthy shooters could afford to buy one. Escalating labor costs in Europe were pricing the Superposed out of the U.S. market.

Browning realized the need for a more affordable O/U that could be sold at a price within the reach of middle income shooters. The Citori, made in Japan to Browning's specifications by Miroku, was the result.

The Citori was introduced in 1973 to a somewhat skeptical shooting public. Firearms made in Japan were not common at that time. But the Citori's obvious quality carried the day and it soon became the best selling O/U shotgun in the world, a title it holds to this day. For several years Browning retained both the (then) mid-market Citori and top-of-the-line Superposed in their regular shotgun line.

Unfortunately, the cost of the Superposed continued to rise and sales continued to fall. Eventually the Citori, by then an expensive gun in its own right, completely replaced the Superposed as Browning's regular production O/U. Superposed (B25) shotguns made in Belgium are still available, but only on a special order basis.

The Citori is available in a number of models and grades. The 2006 Browning Catalog shows some 22 Citori models and too many variations of those models to count.

The most famous and popular Citori is probably the Lightning Grade I field gun, and that is the gun reviewed here. The standard Grade I Lightning comes with a select, checkered, American walnut stock and forend and light scroll engraving on the receiver. The stock has a durable glossy finish and the metal finish is a high luster blue. The 2006 MSRP is $1678 (12 and 20 gauge) and $1743 (.410 and 28 gauge).

I have owned both Grade I and Grade VI Citori Lightnings, and there is no difference in fundamental quality, fit, and finish. All Browning Citoris are fine shotguns that anyone can be proud to own and use.

Citori actions are hand fitted and come standard with selective hammer ejectors and a single selective single trigger. Both work as they are supposed to. The hammers are powered by durable coil springs. Like the Superposed, the barrels of Citori shotguns pivot on a full-length hinge pin that can be replaced should it ever wear. The chambers are chrome-plated to resist wear and corrosion. The wood is carefully hand fitted to the metal, and it shows.

Also like the Superposed, the barrels are locked closed by means of a traditional underlug and bolt. The locking bolt is tapered, as is the locking lug recess. This means that as wear occurs over the years the action stays tight. By the way, always close any break-open gun gently, holding the top lever to the side as the gun is closed. Never slam one closed. It is rough closing, not shooting, that loosens the actions of break-open guns.

The barrels are struck full length as with traditional high quality doubles--no monoblock construction here. The barrels are back-bored and come with Browning's Invector Plus choke tubes. All Citoris come standard with ventilated ribs.

Lightning models are distinguished by their rounded semi-pistol grip buttstock and slender, rounded forend. The comb is fluted and the checkering pattern generous on both the grip and forend. Lightnings are, to me, the best looking of all Citori models. They look and feel as an over/under should, not too light and not too heavy.

The basic specifications of the 12 gauge Citori Lightning Grade I field gun are as follows. Barrel length: 26" or 28"; Choke tubes included: Full, Mod., I.C.; Chamber: 3"; Average weight: 8 lbs. 2 oz. (28" barrels); Overall length: 45" (28" barrels); Drop at comb: 1 5/8"; Drop at heel: 2 1/2"; Length of pull: 14 1/4"; Rib width: 5/16"; Gold plated trigger; Recoil pad standard on 12 gauge guns.

The specific Citori reviewed is a 12 gauge Lightning (Grade I) field gun with 28" barrels. This gun is blessed with particularly attractive walnut. Its fit and function is perfect, showing considerable attention to detail during manufacture. Like the other Citoris with which I have had experience, it is a cut above other guns in its price class.

Shooting a Citori is uneventful, as it should be. Everything works as intended. The barrel selector is combined with the top-tang safety. I normally leave it set to fire the lower, more open choked, barrel first. The gun unobtrusively does everything is it is supposed to, allowing the shooter to concentrate on the target. The shooter must focus on the target, not the gun, to be a successful wing shot. Everything is so perfect about a Citori that the gun never intrudes on the shooter's consciousness.

The supplied Invector Plus choke tubes were Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder. In addition, Improved Modified and Skeet tubes were purchased and tested. All performed as expected and delivered satisfactory patterns. Patterns were comparable to those I have fired with other high quality guns (including other Citoris) equipped with interchangeable choke tubes.

For whatever reason, in my experience, interchangeable tubes pattern well, but not quite as good as traditional bored chokes. They do, of course, offer greater versatility. This is not a criticism of Citori shotguns, but an observation that applies to all guns equipped with interchangeable choke tubes. The only exception might be guns custom fitted with Briley choke tubes.

I shot a few rounds of trap with the Citori Lightning, as well as some informal clay targets, and found that the clays broke decisively when I pointed the gun correctly. My scores were typical for me shooting an O/U field gun, but a little lower than if I were using my old Browning Broadway trap gun. No surprise there.

The Citori swings a little smoother and kicks a little less than many similar O/U guns because it weighs a little more, which is a good thing. Such "shooting tests" prove nothing, of course. The Citori will break clays and kill birds with the best of them if it fits the shooter and the shooter knows how to get the job done. Like any shotgun, the Citori is just a tool, albeit a very well designed and beautifully made tool. It is the skill of the shooter than matters most.

In summation I can only say that I regard the Browning Citori to be an excellent O/U shotgun and a good value. It is an expensive gun, but you get what you pay for--actually a little more than you pay for in the case of a Citori, and that is a good measure of true value. The Browning Citori Lightning is my Number 1 recommendation in an over/under shotgun.

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Copyright 2004, 2006 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.