In 1898, John Moses Browning patented the working principles of what would have become the “Auto-5”, the worldʼs first semi-automatic shotgun. Serial production of the “Auto-5” started in 1905, and it became an instant classic, the first ever truly operational and effective autoloading shotgun, whose success needs no illustration to whoever is actually into guns: after more than a century it is still a favorite of hunters and shooters alike, and has even served the British Army and the U.S. Marines in two world wars.
106 years later, the Browning Arms Company reprises and reinvents the myth of the “Humpback” with a new series of shotguns that merges the cosmetic lines of the original “Auto-5” with a true concentrate of innovations as allowed by the state-of-the-art technical levels of the FN Herstal S.A. group, the legendary Belgian manufacturer of guns for both civilian and military/professional applications that owns the Browning company and trademark. The New A5 shotguns have been launched at the 2012 SHOT Show in Las Vegas (Nevada), causing great hype and enthusiasm within the attendance.
Browningʼs New A5 shotgun employs a high-quality stainless steel ribbed barrel and an aluminum alloy (ERGAL) squared-off receiver. Finishes and furniture change from version to version: the “Hunter” variant features polished wood stock and handguard and a lucid black finish on both the receiver and the barrel; the “Stalker” variant comes equipped with black synthetic handguard and stock, hard-anodized receiver and opaque black barrel; the two “Mossy Oak” versions come with synthetic furniture, and are entirely finished in two different variants of the most famous hunting camo pattern in the world: the “Break-Up Infinity” and the latest “Duck Blind”, specifically designed to result invisible to waterfowl's eyes.
Browningʼs New A5 shotgun is fed through a tubular magazine that will hold up to three 12-gauge, 3” (a.k.a. 76mm, a.k.a. “Magnum”) shells. Ease of disassembly for cleaning and maintenance is, literally, the key for this component, as its Turnkey™ frontal cap features a peculiar cut that will allow the shooter to remove it with the mere use of a car key as a tool.
The New A5 is available in all its versions with 66, 71 or 76 cm barrels, rifled chamber, longer forcing cone and improved internal finish to provide a higher level of resistance against erosion (especially given the ever-increasing use of steel shots both in north America and elsewhere in the world) and to reduce the pattern spread. Full, Cylinder, Improved Cylinder and the new, Browning-patented, tubular Invector-DS™ chokes are available for the New A5 shotgun − the Invector-DS™ chokes feature a brass band seal around the bottom to prevent plastic and powder fouling from penetrating between the choke and its threads.
Another Browning-patented innovation revolutions the feeding process of the New A5 shotgun: the Speedload Plus™ system will automatically chamber the first loaded shell (for safety reasons it will activate the disconnector at the same time), thus increasing the overall capacity of one round and granting a faster response to possible targets that might come into the hunterʼs view while, or immediately after, reloading. The very same system will speed up the unloading procedure, as it will eliminate the need to arm cock the bolt multiple times in order to eject the remaining live shells from the spent cases window.
The Browning New A5 shotgun also features a system of synthetic recoil-dampening spacers, the Inflex II™, that may be applied singularly or in group to the stock in order to reduce the perceived recoil levels. The Inflex II™ spacers are available in ¼-inch and ½-inch thickness variants, and will work in conjunction with the peculiar design of the gun itself to re-vector the recoil energies downwards, thus minimizing the muzzle climb as well.
The main new feature in the Browningʼs New A5 shotgun lays however in its working system, dubbed the Kinematic Drive™: a gas piston/straight blowback hybrid, the Browning Kinematic Drive™ system sports a spring that will be loaded by the recoil energy and will discharge itself upon the bolt to cycle it; the bolt itself features a single, robust return spring which will lock it back in position once the reloading cycle is finished.
The most expert readers will have, by now, realized how this working principle resembles the In-Line inertia drive used in the Italian-made Benelli shotguns. It is not just simple: it is exactly the same. In fact, the patent exclusivity for the In-Line Inertia Drive system has expired in 2006 and has never been renewed. The Beretta Holding, who owns Benelli, might or might not have something to say about it, but since imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, maybe our dear friends up in Gardone Val Trompia and Urbino might instead think of how the success of their In-Line Inertia Drive system went beyond all expectations.
The New A5 is now undergoing full-scale production for stock building, expecting deliveries in late summer worldwide with an MSRP ranging around US$ 1,400.00 and up, depending from the variant. The initial reports by the very few specialized gunwriters who had a chance to test-fire it either at the 2012 Media Day at the Range, the day before the opening of the SHOT Show, or any time later through Browning-sponsored initiatives, have all been positive. Truth is, the Browning Arms Company itself provides lots of competing products to the New A5 itself, last but not least the innovative “Maxus” line, whose futuristic look might have more appeal on younger shooters than the classic lines of the New A5. Only time will tell if the revived old classic will be able to conquer a new generation of enthusiasts. Damn sure, it has full potential.