March 2007

Battle of 20-Gauge Brownings: Gold Hunter or Venerable A5?

The A5 revolutionized the shotgun world, but how would it fare against its grandson, the Gold Hunter? Our view: The out-of-production A5 isnít worth the premium price we paid.

In the uncertain world of firearms production, where manufacturers have flourished then folded for a variety of reasons, opportunities are rare to match up a time-tested veteran shotgun against its new-generation version.

One of those rare cases is with the Browning A5 semiautomatic, first introduced in 1902 as a revolutionary creation from the fertile mind of John M. Browning; and the Browning Gold Hunter semiautomatic, the updated version that first hit the streets in 1995.

The recoil-operated A5 and its trademark hump-backed receiver quickly became the shotgun of choice for waterfowl and upland bird hunters. What it lacked in cosmetic appeal, it more than compensated with functional dependency, even in rugged hunting conditions.

The gas-operated Gold Hunter followed in this tradition, finding favor with shooters interested in a solid, dependable shotgun for both tough field conditions and occasional trips to clay target courses.

We were able to obtain used, but in excellent condition, 20 gauge versions of both the shotguns to conduct a head-to-head competition between the old grandfather and the young grandson. Duryís Gun Shop in San Antonio, (210) 533-5431,, supplied the guns, and the prices herein reflect their actual counter prices.

To help with the fair factor, several veteran members of our test group began their shotgun shooting days with an A5, but have moved on to more modern scatterguns; while some of the younger members were aware of the veteran semiautomatic, but did not have any shooting experience with the A5.

Our first observation was the similarity of the two firearms, despite the age difference, with both weighing about 7 pounds and both with about the same balance between the hands. Handling qualities were nearly identical, although the hump at the back of the A5 required a little more head adjustment on the stock.

Both shotguns also featured an automatic feed from the magazine to the chamber a speed-loading system that is very quick and easy. There were no function problems during any of our testing with either of the Brownings.

Since both shotguns are designed for hunting conditions, our test ammunition was limited to common field loads. Only 2.75-inch loads were used because the A5 was not designed to handle 3-inch shells. We fed the two shotguns a diet of Remington ShurShot Heavy Dove one-ounce No. 7 1/2 shotshells and Winchester Heavy Target 1-ounce No. 8 shotshells (both with a muzzle velocity of 1165 fps). A small number of 7/8-ounce shells (a typical 20-gauge load) were cycled through both shotguns with no functioning problems.

Hereís our test report:

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