July 18, 2011

Browning Silver Hunter Twenty No. 011350605 3-inch 20 gauge, $1079

In a Gun Tests shoot-off, the staff looked at a familiar name associated with gas-operated shotguns: Browning’s Silver Hunter Twenty No. 011350605, $1079.

GT’s test ammunition included both 7/8 oz. Estate loads and Winchester Super-X Heavy Game Loads No. XU20H7 with 1 ounce of No. 7 1/2 shot—what our shooters use as an everyday dove load along with Fiocchi 20HV75 shells. GT also patterned with Federal Mag-Shok high-velocity lead 3-inch 1-5/16 ounce No. 5 shot (No. PFC258) and Winchester Supreme 1-5/16 ounce 3-inch shells with No. 5 shot (No. STH2035). The staffers shot patterns at 40 yards, the patterning all shot from bag and cradle. They also fired the guns extensively at the range and in the field to record what they liked and didn’t like about the guns. Here’s what they learned:

Initially, the staff had concerns about the Silver’s silver receiver, as prior chromed or polished-silver receivers have generated enough glare and shine in times past to be irritating. TShooter were pleased to discover the receiver had a frosted, matte finish that didn’t pull our eyes away from the matters at hand.

The Silver Hunter with 26-inch barrels weighed in at 6.75 pounds. Right out of the box, the Browning’s trigger break was heavier than the entire gun at over 7.5 pounds—we shot it anyway, but the heavy trigger pulled us off clays, making smooth swinging and proper follow-through a chore.

A quick phone call to Browning, and the staff was advised that Browning’s trigger-weight spec runs 5 to 6 pounds on field guns, and they’d be happy to take of it. Off went the Silver to Browning in Arnold, Missouri, where Browning turned it around the same day. It arrived back with a 5.75-pound trigger break.

Courtesy, Gun Tests Magazine

Courtesy, Gun Tests Magazine

The frosted, matte finish didn't distract; the Browning properly ejected every shell we fed it; the gas action did a good job of lengthening the recoil pulse to make it feel like a soft shooter. It was a joy to carry all day, and the company's customer service department resolved a trigger problem promptly.

As the staff had previously noted in a Browning BPS 20-gauge test, even though the trigger was still heavy on the Lyman calibrated electronic trigger gauge, the wide trigger face of the Silver made the trigger seem substantially lighter than it really is. After a small amount of free travel (not the long, tortured creep of the Beretta), the Silver trigger broke crisply and consistently. The staff didn’t even notice it when shooting and hunting.

Gun Tests fed the Browning a variety of 20-gauge shells, including 7/8-ounce Estate loads, the 1-ounce Super-X loads that the Beretta couldn’t handle, and the Federal and Winchester 1-5/16 ounce loads. The Browning eagerly gobbled up and properly ejected every shell with no failures to feed, fire, or eject.

Testers ound the Browning to be a joy to carry all day during a day of working ditches for pheasants, and after a couple of limits of doves in the sack, shooters characterized the Silver as a very comfortable shooter.

There has been some confusion as to what the "Silver" action is and is not. In 20 gauge format, the Browning "Silver" is identical to recent 20 gauge "Golds," retaining the speed-loading feature that sends the first shell inserted into the bottom of the receiver instantly into the chamber of the shotgun when the shotgun is empty, bolt-open condition. Shooters used and appreciated this feature constantly, never having to take their eyes off the sky in the dove field, for example. It is equally handy on the skeet field or in the duck blind.

Courtesy, Gun Tests Magazine

Courtesy, Gun Tests Magazine

The Browning Gold/Silver once-piece gas valve, dubbed the active valve by Browning, made its debut in 1994. Over the last 15 years, it has seen refinements. The beauty of the Gold system is one-valve assembly, no loose o-rings or concoctions of loose springs. We can't call the Gold self-cleaning, but what residue remains after firing forms right on the magazine tube, making it easy to get to and wipe off. The forearm nut is just a nut, the tube that drives the action back is structural polymer, and the Gold Active Valve has been the basic platform from which the Winchester SX2, SX3, and naturally the Silver has been derived. It appears that the major rework this treatment is being given in Browning's Maxus extends it even further.

At the patterning board, GT found that the factory improved Cylinder and Modified tubes gave generally consistent patterns with Winchester 1-ounce No. 7-1/2 shot and both Federal and Winchester 1-5/16 oz. No. 5 shot loads, but the patterns turned splotchy and less even with the factory Full choke Invector Plus tube in all cases.

The wood of the Browning Silver was typical Browning Grade I walnut, darkly stained, with the forearm and buttstock evenly matched in color and tone. GT found it attractive but plain, essentially straight-grained with very little character. Browning has done a very good job with its metalfinish work in recent years, and the Silver is no exception with its evenly applied, deep rich blue, which is more black than anything. As a whole, the Silver is muted but well finished. Though the Beretta has far better wood, it also has a plastic trigger guard. The Browning Silver’s alloy trigger guard is more of what GT shooters like to see in field guns.

Our Team Said: GT shooters really liked the handling of the Silver: it was quick without being whippy, light to carry yet easy on the shoulder. The entire gun has a nice, neutral balance to it. The Browning was balanced so well, in fact, GT found it easy enough to shoulder, swing, and drop doves with one hand.

The frosted, matte finish didn't distract; the Browning properly ejected every shell we fed it; the gas action did a good job of lengthening the recoil pulse to make it feel like a soft shooter. It was a joy to carry all day, and the company's customer service department resolved a trigger problem promptly.

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