Browning Maxus Sporting Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

Browning Maxus Sporting Shotgun.
Illustration courtesy of Browning Arms.

The new Browning Maxus Sporting is a great looking gun. That simple observation wouldn't be particularly noteworthy, except for the avalanche of horrific looking guns that are out there today. Recently, the evil spawn of ground-up garbage can lid stocks and rough, unfinished metal (“matte”) seems to be sweeping the nation. Plastic has its place, of course. I can't say I long for the days of glass milk jugs. Just because plastic works well for a milk container is no compelling reason to try to make a gun stock out of it. I suppose if it is formed from a black plastic milk jugs you can call it tactical and that way you can charge more for the blow-molded application of ugly. Use two different colored milk jugs, add in a ground-up garbage can lid, and you can call it a composite.

There is something not quite right about a new “low-maintenance” finish when the finish looks fifty years old when it comes out of the box. There are plenty of Ron Popeil – Earl Scheib commemoratives available these days. So, when a shotgun comes along that does not look painted, or suitable for scrambling eggs, I confess to be pleased. While some may long for the days of leisure suits and triple-worsted polyester, I can't say I'm one of them. Recycling is a good thing and we need to do more of it, but guns should not look recycled.

The new Browning Maxus Sporting is best described as an upscale edition of the walnut-stocked Maxus Hunter. What you get with the Maxus Sporting is upgraded wood, extensive laser-engraving, a jeweled bolt and five choke tubes. It is also equipped with a small, unobtrusive center bead, Hi-Viz light pipe type front sight and comes in a plastic hard case. Retailing in 2011 for $1630, the discount retail price is currently in the $1450 area, compared to $1100 or so for the Maxus Hunter.


The tested gun weighed in at 7 lbs., 3 oz. via calibrated Lyman electronic scale. There is no magazine cut-off on the Maxus Sporting, cleaning up the left side of the receiver, but it retains Speed-Loading and the rest of the usual Maxus features. They include the Vector Pro forcing cone, a .742 in. nominal diameter Invector Plus barrel, the Speed Lock Forearm, Inflex recoil pad, adjustment shims and so forth. It is good weight for a sporting twelve, fast shouldering, fast handling, yet still smooth. It is also light enough to be enjoyable on the dove field or chasing pheasants.

It is a very soft shooting shotgun for its weight with 1-1/8 oz. and similar intensity loads. This shouldn't come as any great surprise, as the Browning series of Active valve genre guns has always been soft shooting. This is enhanced by the Inflex recoil pad, but there is no gimmickry present to isolate the action of the gun from your shoulder. As a result, this Maxus an excellent, stable feel to it, without the annoying feeling of the buttstock constantly running to and fro beneath your cheek.


The Maxus isn't perfect, though: it has a crisp trigger, but it is far too heavy at over 6-3/4 lbs. It needs a trip to a good gunsmith, like almost all Browning autoloader and slide-action triggers do. The trigger pull weight is simply unacceptable. There is no excuse for a factory trigger this heavy on shotgun. I have been told that it is on advice of lawyers that Browning repeaters have excessively triggers. That may be, but apparently Browning uses a different set of attorneys to consult about their shotguns than they do their X-Bolt rifle, which has a excellent trigger right out of the box. Regardless of where it comes from it is only fair to consider the poor Maxus trigger against other shotguns that have far lighter, superior triggers. Presumably, the manufacturers of the other shotguns also have attorneys from whom they get advice and they somehow manage to produce sporting shotguns without triggers this heavy.


The Maxus Sporting has a distinctly tapered vent rib. The buttstock has been changed in subtle ways, with a pistol grip that is a marked improvement, getting the hand farther away from the trigger guard during carry. This is an important improvement for me, as with the standard Maxus I can easily knock the safety off with the knuckle of my forefinger. All this is trivia for the clays course, but for hunting it is not. To be fair, I've not heard anyone else refer to this as an issue, so suffice it to say that for me, this Maxus model has an improved pistol grip and fits me the best of all Maxus models. The published specs are as follows:

Maxus Sporting Twelve Gauge

    ·        Magazine Capacity: 4

    ·        Barrel Length: 28"

    ·        Overall Length: 49 1/4"

    ·        Length of Pull: 14 1/4"

    ·        Drop at Comb: 1 3/4"

    ·        Drop at Heel: 2"

    ·        Weight: 7 lbs.

    ·        Chokes Included: Improved Modified,  Full,  Modified,  Improved Cylinder,  Skeet 

    ·        Chamber Length: 3"

    ·        Rib Width: 8-6mm Tapered

    ·        Wood Finish: Gloss

    ·        Stock / Grip: Select Walnut

    ·        2011 U.S. Suggested Retail: $1,629.99


You can trick the Maxus action to lock up. If you de-cock the gun then put the safety on, the safety cannot easily be disengaged nor can the action easily be re-cocked easily. Rather than pound on the breech handle, I elected to take out the trigger guard and manually re-cock the trigger. The “fix” is really no fix at all, just don't do that. If you de-cock or otherwise dry-fire your Maxus, you might not want to push the safety to the “on” position until you re-cock it.


There is some Val Browning present in the Maxus. It was Val Browning who designed his Double Auto to get rid of the aesthetically vulgar fore end nut. No forearm nut is present on the Maxus, so all of the welded on forearm nuts and POI shifts due to thermal barrel expansion are absent. Another thing you see a lot of, in clays guns, are “improved bolt releases.” Even some improved bolt releases are “further improved” with garish aftermarket add-on bolt releases. They often look like cheap survival-style can-openers.


It was Val Browning who patented the two-piece shell carrier, giving his Dad's A-5 “Speed-Loading.” You have speed loading on the Maxus as well, meaning the first shell loaded from beneath the receiver goes directly into the chamber and the bolt automatically closes. You won't need any improved bolt release with a Maxus. In fact, you don't have to hit the bolt release button at all, you just feed shells from the bottom of the receiver into the gun the same way every time.


The dilemma a few shoppers will find is comparing the $1100 street price Maxus Hunter against this $1450 street price Maxus Sporting. For me, personally, it is easy to pick the Maxus Sporting, as it fits me better. That alone does it, though the upgraded wood, laser engraving, and the tapered rib would likely do it for many folks. It is a great looking, great handling, very soft-shooting autoloader. The flaw is the unreasonably heavy trigger. It is even more unreasonably heavy for a sporting clays competition gun. I'd consider a trigger job a necessity. The rest of the Maxus is superb. Autoloading shotguns, as a class, handle poorly compared to most doubles. This is true. There are reasons for the sluggish handling and poor balance of autoloaders. A lot of it is how there are weighted, meaning center mass and weight between the hands. Magazine tubes, gas arrays, barrel rings, threaded rods and forearm caps are not between the hands, so balance and handling invariably suffer.


Steel receiver versions of the older Browning B-80 handle better than the later alloy versions. The steel receiver adds weight and that weight is between your hands, making for a smoother, better balanced gun. Val Browning got rid of a heavy barrel ring in his Double Automatic, with a diminutive recoil lug sliding into a barrel guide. He got rid of the forearm cap as well, using a single steel drift pin to attach the forearm, and also got rid of the tubular magazine. These are some of the reasons Double Autos handle so well, even in the alloy receiver Twelvette and Twentyweight configurations. In the Maxus, it is the elimination of the barrel ring and forearm cap that helps its handling, even though it has an alloy receiver with an aluminum trigger guard.


With one ounce loads in the Maxus, there is little noticeable recoil or gun movement. You can just barely feel the action working; there is just a click and the clay breaks. It is a lot of fun to shoot and not at all burdensome to carry.


In any case, both the previously reviewed Maxus Hunter and this Maxus Sporting score big for being among the most attractive, soft shooting, autoloaders being produced today. This latest Maxus gas action is the cleanest yet from Browning. The Maxus Speed Load Plus loading and unloading is the best shell-handling system found on an autoloader today. You might as well schedule your trigger job when you order your Maxus Sporting, but other than that this is a satisfying shotgun.

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Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.