First Look: The Browning Maxus Semi-Auto Shotgun

By Randy Wakeman

Browning Maxus in action.
Randy Wakeman firing the Maxus. Photo by Patrick Flanigan.

There has been a lot of attention surrounding Browning’s new semi-auto gas gun and deservedly so. The Browning Gold / Silver line of repeaters has been extraordinarily successful for the Browning brand, certainly the most successful gas-operated shotguns in their history, and the most popular semi-auto’s since the Auto-Five. I have had universally excellent luck with Browning Gold’s and the basic action sounds as if it will be around for a long while. I’m happy for that, to be sure.

Shotgunners can be a somewhat fickle lot; we long for the “new” as we simultaneously lament the traditional styling and our sometimes hopeful (if not mythical) view of what craftsmanship used to be. We say we need 3-1/2 inch chambered 12 gauge guns and then we complain when those same 12 gauges don’t cycle ultra-light payloads. No wonder gunmakers seem to have a rough time deciding what we really want, we don’t seem to know ourselves a lot of the time.

I had the opportunity to run half of a case of Winchester AA target loads through a Browning Maxus 3-1/2 inch chambered shotgun while attending the 2009 SHOT Show in Orlando and I was favorably impressed. I found the gun to be light, well balanced and responsive, as well as soft shooting. Despite shooting target loads in a gun that was used very hard all day, there was no hint of any cycling issues.

Whenever a pre-production firearm is given a quick once-over, the impression of it is bound to be somewhat inaccurate compared to the finished, general production run article. However, I can make a few general comments. The Maxus answers many questions, whether people really asked them or not.

For starters, the Maxus retains the speed loading and magazine cut-off associated with Browning since the two-piece shell carrier was added to the A-5. The Maxus has “Speed Load Plus,” which means speed unloading as well that reminds me how quick the B2000 is to unload. While it is hard to say if the Inflex recoil pad lives up to the hype, it has been favorably received on the Cynergy and it does a fine job on a recently tested X-bolt .270 Winchester. In any case, it is a far better pad than the vinyl crucifix vented pads we used to get.

Some folks have found the Browning Golds to feel a bit heavy up front. This is certainly not the case with the Maxus; it has the slimmest forearm that I recall ever being on a Browning gas-operated autoloader. Rather than a forearm cap, the forearm latch is similar to O/U treatments, meaning it is effortless and quick to remove. Golds have always been relatively easy to maintain and the Maxus appears to be even faster and easier to give the magazine tube and gas system a quick cleaning after heavy shooting.

As a pre-production shotgun, the forearm on the gun I was shooting seemed slightly loose, something I was assured will not be the case with regular production. The trigger was crisp and clean, if not especially light. I would expect production models to fall within the current Browning trigger specification of approximately five pounds for their field autoloading shotguns.

It is not hard to see where Browning is targeting the Maxus: it is actually a bit lighter than the comparably harsh-shooting Benelli Super Black Eagle II, a blowback repeater both loved and hated. The Benelli is also notoriously harsh on the wallet as well. The Maxus is noticeable quicker than the comparably ponderous Beretta Xtrema II and easier to clean. Better-handling than both Italian offerings, dramatically more affordable than the Benelli and far more at home serving dual duty for upland use than the Xtrema II, it looks like the new Browning is going to be a real headache for the Beretta Holdings group. Clearly softer shooting than a SBE, my impression is that it is a bit softer and smoother than the heavier Xtrema II as well. In addition, the Maxus is easier and faster to load and unload than both of them.

It is premature to conclude that the Maxus has made both the Benelli SBE II and the Beretta Xtrema II obsolete in one fell swoop, but it appears to be a possibility.

Note: Full reviews of the Maxus Hunter and Sporting models can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2009, 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.