March 6, 2014

Converting Old Browning Model A-5s

Newer versions of this famous shotgun use roll pins instead of screws to hold certain action parts. Here’s how to convert early Auto-5s.

(GunReports.com) — Around the turn of the century, John M. Brown­ing had a long-standing arrangement with U.S. Repeating Arms Company regarding his gun designs: He submitted a prototype to the company, and if the design was accepted, USRAC and Browning came to a financial arrangement whereby the design was sold outright.

However, that pattern was thrown out when Browning was granted U.S. Patent No. 659507 in 1900. That patent covered a locked breech, long, recoil-operated semiautomatic shotgun. Up to this point no one else had come up with an automatic repeating shotgun, and Browning felt, rightfully, that his design was worth more than the usual arrangement he had with Winchester. As a result, he insisted on a royalty payment rather than an outright purchase price. After much argument back and forth, no settlement was reached. As a result Browning ended his 17-year relationship with Winchester. Finding no manufacturer in America who would produce the design, he went to Belgium, where he entered into an agreement with Fabrique National d’Armes de Guerre, and shortly thereafter, production of the Browning A-5 automatic shotgun was initiated. The first models rolled out in 1903, and the gun has been with us ever since. With the exception of a few minor modifications over the years, the A-5 has remained basically the same since its introduction.

American Gunsmith, Book of the Shotgun

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

Old style A-5 shotguns can be converted to the current model (shown) that uses 3/32-inch roll pins instead of screws, eliminating the need for trying to find or make the screws. The arrows show the locations of the cartridge stop/carrier latch/magazine cutoff pins (part #PO11098), where the screw holes on old models are. Install the new pins in these spots.

Early-model Browning A-5 automatic shotguns used small headless screws to hold in the carrier latch, cartridge stop, and magazine cutoff. These screws were basically pins with threads on one end, slightly larger than the pin diameter. These screws are no longer available and are damn near impossible to make. Newer model A-5s, however, did away with the screws and use roll pins in their place. The old style A-5 can be converted to the current configuration that uses 3/32-inch roll pins instead of screws, eliminating the need for trying to find or make the screws.

To make the changeover, first remove the stock, trigger guard assembly, action spring assembly, and bolt. With a sharp 3/32-inch drill, drill completely through the existing screw holes in the bottom of the shotgun. In the accompanying diagram, the locations of part numbers PO11098 (cartridge stop/carrier latch/magazine cutoff pins) show where the screw holes are. Install new pins.

The factory pins are 3/32 inch wide and 15/16 inch long, and are available from Browning’s parts department. However, they can also be fabricated from standard 3/32-inch roll pins. I buy the standard pins a hundred at a time from a tool supply company at a price far less than what Browning charges. The roll pins, most of which are 1 inch in length, can easily be cut down with a Dremel type tool and a cut off disk. The length of the pin is important because the pins are removed by driving them from the bottom into the receiver, after stripping the receiver. If the pins are too long, they will jam against the receiver, and you will be unable to remove them without destroying them.

American Gunsmith, Book of the Shotgun

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

The arrows show the locations of the cartridge stop/carrier latch/magazine cutoff pins (part #PO11098), where the screw holes on old models are. Install the new pins in these spots.

There are special punches made for removing roll pins without damaging them. They come in most sizes and are available from Brownells and most tool-supply companies. I would recommend buying a 3/32-inch roll-pin punch for this purpose.

When installing the roll pins, insert a piece of metal the same thickness as the race that the bolt rides in. Drive the pin in until it stops against the metal in the race. Check to make sure the pin does not protrude into the race that the bolt slides in.