Browning A-Bolt 12 Gauge Slug Gun

By Randy Wakeman

Browning A-Bolt 12 Gauge Slug Gun
Illustration courtesy of Browning Arms.

Years ago, when I spent an extreme amount of time testing and comparing the available rifled barrel, twelve gauge slug guns, the Browning A-Bolt Slug Gun was a standout. It was the only slug gun at the time that looked like a real rifle, with a real rifle action distinguished by a smooth bolt action, flawless feeding, an excellent trigger, very good metalwork and excellent accuracy at 100 yards with Winchester-BRI saboted slugs. It was priced higher than the sloppy shotgun action competition and was not a great commercial success.

Slug guns, as a class, don't seem to get as much respect as big game hunting rifles, yet that's exactly what they are. Many deer hunters discovered how truly competent and desirable the A-Bolt was, but after it had already been discontinued. Due to its performance, new or lightly used Browning A-Bolt have been widely sought after, bring in $1500 or more on the used market. For 2011, the A-Bolt Slug gun has returned in essentially the same format. The primary distinction is the use of a faster rate of twist barrel: now 1:28. The factory specs are as follows:

  • Gauge: 12
  • Magazine Capacity: 2
  • Barrel Length: 22"
  • Nominal Overall Length: 43 3/4"
  • Nominal Length of Pull: 14"
  • Nominal Drop at Comb: 1/2"
  • Nominal Drop at Heel: 5/8"
  • Nominal Weight: 7 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Rate of Twist: 1 turn in 28"
  • Chamber Size: 3"
  • Site Radius: 15 7/8"
  • Metal Finish: Low-Luster Blued
  • Wood Finish: Satin
  • Stock / Grip Material: Walnut
  • 2011 MSRP: $1,200.00

What Browning calls low-luster blued finish is a big jump up from many rough �matte� type finishes, or "unpolished" finishes. The bluing is evenly and well-applied, I'll call it a satin blue, as opposed to high gloss, but it is extremely well-done and appropriate for this type of hunting rifle.

Scope bases are not supplied with the A-Bolt, an oversight, particularly as it uses the proprietary Browning Integrated Scope Mount System. It is a $50 retail set, made of aluminum and offered in two heights for one inch scopes only. Not pricey, but not versatile. 30mm tube fans are out of luck and the choice is .400 inch or .500 inch height. My feeling is that if you want to go proprietary, it really needs to come in the box on a $1200 MSRP slug gun. I tried to get a set, they are readily available from Browning I'm told, but nothing arrived remotely in time for this review.

The supplied iron sights are excellent, all you could want for hunting in the timber. I was trying to test the article itself, not my ability with iron sights, so I did my shooting at 50 yards with three different premium slug offerings from Winchester. They were all 2-3/4 inch shells: the 300 grain XP3 at 2000 fps, the 1900 fps 385 grain Partition Gold and the 1800 fps 375 grain Dual Bond. Every single shot taken meant "dead deer," but the clear edge in this test gun was the Winchester Partition Gold rounds, holding right at an inch at 50 yards.

This gun is a kicker, which is an understatement. It is painful to shoot. Twelve gauge slug guns kick like the devil!

This is no condemnation of the A-Bolt, for its smooth action, crisp four pound trigger and excellent build quality make it one of the best 12 gauge slug guns ever produced. The merciless painful recoil of this rifle isn't helped by the rock hard, vented butt pad and the gun's fairly light weight. It is very well made, one of the most aesthetically pleasing slug guns. If you think you want a 12 gauge slug thrower, The Browning A-Bolt is a high-quality choice.

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Copyright 2012, 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.