Browning Silver Hunter 20 gauge Shotgun
New for 2008 is the expanded line of Browning Silver series shotguns, the latest permutation of Browning’s Gold gas-operated five-shot capacity shotguns that have been on the market for nearly fourteen years. To say that the Gold series is successful is an understatement: they have been well received as the Browning Gold, Winchester SX2, Winchester SX3 and I imagine that their popularity will endure in the Silver line.
As for the basic specifications:
This 20 gauge, sold back in 2005 as the Browning Gold, had a MSRP of $1025 and weighed six pounds, ten ounces. In essence, it is a twenty gauge Gold with the improvements introduced in the Superlight series (profiled safety, reduced weight) at a very similar price point to what the original Gold 20 cost three years ago, which is no small feat.
There has been a lot of commotion about Browning “discontinuing the Gold,” with many folks apparently panic-stricken. This is one of the penalties Browning is paying for having such a popular shotgun. Although Browning’s own Citori has had countless variations over the years, just as you would expect (and people demand) in annual new model introductions, the ruckus over the Gold’s “demise” has been loud and long.
Fundamentally, the Browning Gold gas action has not changed in fourteen years and it isn’t changing now. Though there have been undoubtedly minor tweaks in its spring rates and small running engineering changes, the main “change” has been Browning assigning it the name “Active Valve.” The action remains the same.
The silver receiver treatment is distinctive, but the finish is the only really new thing here. In fact, while the Silver 12 gauge models no longer have the "speed loading" feature of the original Gold, the 20 gauge tested does indeed have speed loading. It is a feature I appreciate and it is distinctively Browning, going back to the time when the two-piece shell carrier was added to the A-5. It is retained on the Silver 20 and I’m glad for that.
As supplied, the Browning Silver had the excessively heavy trigger that I have come to expect on Golds, breaking heavier than the gun weight itself. A few of my previous Golds have had excessively stiff safeties as well, a problem thankfully not present in the tested shotgun.
Back to the heavy trigger: this time I did a little extra checking with Browning to determine the Browning specification. As it turns out, Browning specifications on Gold, Silver and BPS triggers is 5-6 pounds. This is hardly lightweight, but it is far lighter than actually supplied. Browning customer service has always been good, certainly vastly superior to any other shotgun maker with the same first initial, so off it went to Arnold, Missouri for some trigger attention. It came back in just a few days with a far better, 5 pound 10 ounce trigger pull. Still not as light as I would like, but it had (and has) very little creep and initial take-up, so in the field the heavy pull wasn’t noticeable. It had no discernible effect on my shooting.
At the pattern board, I was pleased to see that the Silver shot to point of aim at 40 yards, printing exceptionally good patterns with Winchester AA 1 oz. #7-1/2 shells (a dove field favorite) and a George Trulock Precision Hunter Improved Modified extended Invector Plus choke tube.
The 2008 Silver Hunter 20 is a combination of several features previously presented on one or more Gold / SX series shotguns over the years. The basic forearm and buttstock shape is similar to the first Gold 20's, this time with a satin finish. The semi-hump receiver was previous available on later Gold Hunters; it is included here along with a bit higher rib. The round receiver or semi-hump receiver preference is just that; for many shooters it is unimportant. Either way, the back of the receiver is not consciously focused on in use. The refined magazine tube and lighter weight of the “SL” Gold are also retained in this model.
Before testing the gun, I groaned a bit. I do not like shiny receivers and have found glossy, high-glare receivers a distraction when shooting on sunny days. The Silver receiver looks brighter than it really is. The Silver finish is matte and caused no glare in the dove fields, so my main concern about this model was quickly laid to rest.
It is soft shooting enough to pop doves all afternoon with 1 oz. AA loads, which are terrific dove medicine. Lighter than most 12 gauge autos and significantly lighter than the original Gold itself, it an easy shotgun to carry. For extra steam on late season pheasants, the Federal 1-15/16 oz. 3 inch shells and Fiocchi 1-1/4 oz. shells in #5 shot are hard to beat. These are not comfortable loads to shoot, but they can be tolerated for the few shots taken during pheasant season. Blazingly fast to shoulder, the 20 gauge Silver is a fine choice for most upland hunting applications. With 7/8 oz. target loads, it is so pleasant to shoot that you can buy it for your wife or son, or at least pretend to.
The Browning gas action is the most easily maintained on the market and has been for some time. It is very easy to clean the magazine tube, where most fouling resides, and there isn’t much else that the casual user needs to do. Heavy shooters might wish to drop out the trigger group as part of a thorough cleaning cycle, which takes only a few moments.
This shotgun fit me just great, as it did most everyone who tried it. There really isn’t much not to like in the Browning Silver. It is faster to mount and quicker to swing than many O/U models and softer shooting than all of them. Easy to load and without barrel regulation issues, it is a hard gun to resist buying. In fact, I couldn’t resist and purchased the test gun for my personal use. Congratulations to Browning for offering the best (affordable) twenty gauge autoloader on the market!
Copyright 2008 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.