May 2017

Browning’s Sweet Sixteen: Still Sweet After All These Years?

Although similar in performance on the patterning board and on clay targets, failure to eject about a half-dozen shells and its hefty price tag left the new Model A5 a half-step behind.

Browning’s Sweet Sixteen: Still Sweet After All These Years?

Representing nearly 60 years of firearms innovation, these three Browning A5 semiautomatics are, from left, a new Sweet Sixteen, a veteran Sweet Sixteen, and a veteran Light Twelve. They performed nearly identically in the patterning tests and on clay targets, with the new Humpback holding a slight edge in handling and paper-perforating performance.

The popularity of the 16-gauge shotgun, in particular the Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen, has never waned among those select shooters with a streak of nostalgia in their genetic makeup. A common refrain of, “I’ve still got my granddad’s old 16 — best bird gun ever made,” is often heard whenever veteran shooters gather to share tales of old or create new memories of quality time in the outdoors.

Responding to a reader’s request, we decided to give the recently unveiled Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen that premiered at the 2016 SHOT Show a closer look to see what motivates the 16 gauge’s small, but very loyal, fan base. The new semiautomatic is built with a smaller, lighter receiver than the old-style Humpback and utilizes a different recoil system than the long-recoil creation of legendary firearms genius John M. Browning, so only time will tell if it has the lasting power of its predecessors.

The Light Twelve was added to the mix for a couple of reasons. First, the older Sweet Sixteen is built on the same-sized frame as the 12 gauge. Also, we wanted to see if the 16 gauge lives up to its reputation as a more sporting shooting tool. And, of course, 12-gauge ammunition is much more available than 16-gauge shotshells, and if the potential wingshooter is in the market for one of these Humpbacks, how much will nostalgia and pride of ownership of a “Sweet Sixteen” override the economics of shooting the bigger gauge, assuming similar performance?

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