March 19, 2012

Servicing the Browning Citori

The Citori, like the Superposed, is an automatic ejecting, over/under shotgun. It has been manufactured in two types. Type I went out of production in about 1976 and is easily identified by its plain, engraving-free receiver. Browning no longer stocks parts for the Type I shotgun, but they are available from Western Gun Parts. All currently manufactured Citori shotguns are Type II, but before we start talking about fixing them, let’s discuss how they work.

Introduced by Browning Arms Company in 1973, the Citori is a direct descendant of John M. Browning’s Superposed, the great gun inventor’s last invention.

The first Superposed models produced by Fabrique Nationale in 1930 had double triggers, one for each barrel. Browning’s son, Val A. Browning, eventually redesigned the gun to have a single selective trigger, which allowed firing either barrel first by moving a thumb selector mounted in the receiver. The present day Citori and the Superposed—models of which are still available from Browning’s Custom Shop—are practically identical, which is just further proof that John M. had few if any equals when it came to designing guns.

The Citori, like the Superposed, is an automatic ejecting, over/under shotgun. It has been manufactured in two types. Type I went out of production in about 1976 and is easily identified by its plain, engraving-free receiver. Browning no longer stocks parts for the Type I shotgun, but they are available from Western Gun Parts. All currently manufactured Citori shotguns are Type II, but before we start talking about fixing them, let’s discuss how they work.

In functioning, the top lever is pushed to the right. This rotates the top lever dog, which is engaged in the locking bolt, to pull the locking bolt out of the barrel lugs and unlock the barrels.

At the same time the top lever is being rotated, the top lever spring retainer rotates to partially retract the under barrel hammer from the fired position before the action can be opened. This feature serves to prevent the lower barrel’s firing pin from dragging in the primer of a fired shell and makes the fitting of the cocking lever less critical in Type II models. As the locking bolt moves to the rear, it blocks the trigger from being pulled before the bolt has been retracted enough to unlock the barrels. After unlocking, the barrels are pulled downward, rotating around the hinge pin. During this action, the cocking lever lifter rotates the cocking lever about its pin and the lever pushes the hammers into their cocked position.

On loading, the shells are inserted into the chambers and the barrels are moved upward, allowing the top lever to snap into position. When the first barrel to be fired is selected, the connector is positioned under the tail of the sear corresponding to that barrel. When the trigger is pulled, the connector raises the tail of the sear and releases the hammer to drive the firing pin into the primer in the selected barrel.

In recoil, the inertia block moves to the rear, pulling the shoulder of the connector away from the tail of the released sear.

The sear spring then pushes the tail of the sear down so it won’t interfere with the connector and the inertia block as they return to the forward position under pressure from the trigger piston spring. When they are returned, one of the two rear shoulders of the connector is positioned under the tail of the second sear to fire the other barrel when the trigger is fully released and pulled the second time.

After firing, as the action is being opened, pins on the sides of each hammer cam the ejector trip rods forward to protrude approximately 3/32 inch from the front of the receiver. At the same time the trip rods are being extended, the ejector extensions are pushed to the rear by camming off the lugs inside the receiver and lift both fired shells partially out of the chamber.

As the action is opened further, the extended trip rods engage the ejector hammer sears. Additional opening of the action releases the ejector hammers, driven by powerful springs located in the forearm bracket, enabling the hammers to strike the ejector extensions. The ejectors, butted to the extensions, in turn eject the fired shells. The ejectors are attached to, and their rearward travel limited by, the ejector extensions, which are themselves limited in their rearward travel by striking lugs on the inside of the receiver’s walls. These same lugs cam the extensions forward as the action is closed to cock the ejector hammers. At the same time, the ejector tip rods are being cammed back into the receiver by surfaces located in the forearm bracket.

Predisassembly Inspection

Make certain the firearm is unloaded, and then be sure to check the following parts of the Citori shotgun, in this order:

1. Trigger let-off for target guns should be 4 to 5 pounds; 4.5 to 5.5 pounds for field guns.

2. With the action cocked, slightly pull the trigger to partially disengage the sear. Release the trigger slowly to feel if the sear returns to full engagement. Perform this test on both sears by switching the selector from the upper to lower barrel or vice versa.

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

These are the Citori’s trigger, piston, spring, and inertia block (image above) and sears, springs, and pin (next image) subassemblies. When the trigger is pulled, the connector raises the tail of the sear and releases the hammer. During recoil, the inertia block moves to the rear, pulling the shoulder of the connector away from the tail of the released sear. The sear spring then pushes the tail of the sear down so it won’t interfere with the connector and the inertia block as they move under pressure from the trigger piston spring.

3. Open and close the action. The top lever should snap into its correct closed position, which is slightly to the right of the top tang. If the lever is centered and the action loose, the locking bolt is worn.

4. If the top lever is properly positioned and the action is loose, the forearm bracket needs adjusting.

5. Check to see that the bottom of the cocking lever is flush with the bottom surface of the receiver. If it isn’t, the cocking lever is bent and requires adjustment. Note: If the cocking lever is badly bent, it will be impossible to close the gun.

6. With the gun closed, use a 0.001-inch shim to check for clearance between the barrel “ears” and the receiver. Any interference here contributes to hard opening or a “sticky” top lever.

Before you can correct all but one of the above, you have to be able to do more than field strip a Citori. Here’s how to do it.

Detailed Disassembly

On the day you actually take down a Citori, I strongly recommend you have a parts box with plenty of dividers in it on your bench. As you break down each subassembly, put the parts in a compartment and mark it. It makes reassembly easier and makes locating something in need of repair easier. It also eliminates the stress that comes with the loss of that small, but vital, item you’re positive you took out only a couple of minutes ago...and what it’s going to cost to replace it.

Remove the forearm by pulling outward on the takedown lever and pulling the forearm down and away from the barrels. Remove the cocking lever lifter from its recess in the receiver. Push the top lever to the right, carefully rotate the barrels downward while you pull the stock to the rear and lift the barrels from the receiver.

To remove the forearm from the forearm bracket assembly, unscrew the three, sometimes four, screws inside the forearm, and pull the bracket assembly to the rear and out of the forearm. The takedown lever bracket assembly can be removed by alternately punching it at each end. The forearm nut can be removed by starting its screw from inside the forearm and tapping gently on the screw.

After you have taken out the trigger guard screws and removed the butt plate or recoil pad, you’ll need a special screwdriver to loosen the stock bolt three or four turns. Don’t try it with a regular blade screwdriver. You could get it caught up between the stock bolt and the stock, think it’s “in the groove” and split out the side of the stock when you turn it. Once the bolt has been backed off three or four turns with the right kind of screwdriver, grab the stock in your left hand and use your right hand to keep the tool engaged with the bolt. Holding everything receiver end up, rap the right hand-held end of the screwdriver on the bench to partly separate stock and receiver. After that you can take the stock bolt and washers completely out and set the stock aside. To detail strip the receiver of a Type II Citori, begin by rotating the trigger guard 90 degrees in either direction and lifting it out of the receiver. After lowering both hammers to the fired position by lifting the tails of both sears, you’ll need a special tool to disengage both mainspring plungers from their seats in the hammers. An ordinary tack puller might do, but so can a flat blade screwdriver notched out to match the radius of the plunger.

Whichever of these you use, lay the receiver on its side and insert the tool between the hammer and the collar on the plunger. Take special care to keep the mainspring captive as you compress it to the rear and lift it and its plunger from the receiver.

To remove the trigger, trigger piston and inertia block assembly, drift out the receiver link pin with a 1/16-inch punch. Inspect the trigger pin for a knurled end and remove it from the opposite side with a 3/32-inch punch. Then, partially extend the trigger from the lower tang slot and remove the connector stop pin with a 1/16-inch punch to free the trigger and inertia block assembly. Inspect the sear pin for a knurled end and drift it out from the opposite side with your 3/32-inch punch to remove the sears and sear springs.

On some guns, you have to push the ejector trip rods fully to the rear before removing the screw-type hammer pins. On others, the hammer pin is a single pin and can be driven out in either direction. Do whichever you have to to remove both hammers, and withdraw the trip rods with the point of a 1/8-inch punch.

You begin disassembly of the selector safety mechanism with the safety in its “on” position. Choose a blade screwdriver small enough to fit up through the slot in the bottom tang, take out the selector spring screw and spring, then remove the spring’s detent pin with a 1/16-inch punch. Center the selector block with the selector safety, check their alignment by looking at them from underneath the top tang, then remove both by sliding them up and out the top tang.

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

Removal of the firing pins starts with another check for knurled ends, in this case, on the firing pins’ retainer pins. You drive both out from the opposite side with a 3/32-inch punch. This generally means driving right to left, but not in every case, so make a point to look for the knurled ends. With the retainer pins out, you can remove the lower firing pin, its spring and the upper firing pin.

The cocking lever may be held in with a 2mm set screw located on the left side of the receiver. Look for it. If it’s there, loosen it, then use a cup punch to drive out the cocking lever pin. A cup punch has a concave end and is always used to drive out pins with a convexly contoured end. The Citori’s cocking lever pin is that kind of pin and going after it with any other tool is sure to ding it up. Once you have it out undamaged, push the top lever to the right and rotate the rear of the cocking lever downward to remove it from the receiver.

This leaves the top lever assembly and locking bolt. Remove the top lever spring retainer screw, the retainer and spring. Secure the receiver upright in a padded vise and raise the top lever about 3/16-inch. Using a brass punch to prevent damage, tap the locking bolt out the rear of the receiver, then invert the receiver in the vise. With a long, 3/32-inch punch, tap on either side of the top lever dog and use the same punch to drive the top lever down and out.

You now have a box full of clearly identified parts and a naked receiver. It’s a terrible time to tell you that you didn’t have to strip it down at all, if the gun was hard to open because there was interference between the barrels and the receiver, but I will anyway. How could you have corrected it before you went this far? As follows:

During your predisassembly inspection you inserted a 0.001 inch shim between the barrel ears and the receiver. Let’s say, instead, that you tried to and it wouldn’t fit. Open the action and darken both upper, inside surfaces of the receiver with a black magic marker. Close the action and open it again. The bright marks on the receiver are where the interference is occurring. Remove the barrels, lock the receiver in a padded vise and use a fine cut pillar file with a safe edge to very carefully relieve the receiver at the points of interference. Clean off any grit from the filing, reinstall the barrels and recheck to see if you’ve removed enough material. If the problem is almost eliminated, polish the receiver with #320 grit emery cloth. If it isn’t, you’ll have to do a little bit more marking and filing before you pick up the cloth. In view of the fact that you’re trying to get a 0.001 inch clearance, underscore the word “little.”

The good news is that anything else that showed up during your pre-disassembly checkout can’t be corrected with the gun pretty much still in one piece.

Let’s assume the action wouldn’t close. It could be caused by dirt or brass shavings under the ejectors. It could be because the cocking lever is bent. You might be able to straighten it out if you have an undamaged cocking lever to use as a comparison, and it’s best to do so rather than replace it due to the amount of fitting involved. To straighten it, you’ll have to heat it up. This will negatively effect the temper of the metal, so you’ll have to deeply harden the lever’s upper arm with Kasenit, then re-blue it. The cocking lever is a restricted part, so if you don’t have an undamaged one or aren’t on the authorized service list, contact the factory about the repair.

If the action was loose and the top lever was in its correct, off-center to the right position, the forearm bracket needs tightening. To do so, place the flat, front end of the bracket on a solid, metal surface and stake it about 1/8 inch to the rear of its forward cutout. If you position the bracket with its rear, U-shaped tines pointing downward, your stake mark will be invisible since it will have been made on the forearm side of the bracket.

If the action was loose and the top lever was in the center of the tang, the locking bolt is worn. Worn locking bolts have to be TIG welded-up and refitted or replaced with an oversized one. Oversized bolts are available from Browning’s Arnold, Missouri, parts department. However, if the action is loose because the barrel lugs are also worn, you have to weld up and refit the locking bolt. This must be done with a TIG welder. (If you don’t have one available, or know a good welder, the gun must be returned to the Arnold Service Center.) The weld is built up on the front ends of both locking surfaces. You then grab the bolt at its rear with a set of vise grips. Grind the weld flush with the top and bottom forward surfaces of the bolt, then file it flush with the sides of the bolt while being careful not to remove any original material.

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

If the gun fails to fire when the hammer falls, look for a broken firing pin, a weak or broken mainspring, a short firing pin, or excessive headspace.

The locking surfaces of the bolt are then fitted to the locking surface of the barrel lugs. On a new Citori, this calls for a 6-degree angle. On an older gun, the angle will change to some degree because of barrel lug wear. To begin the fitting process, file an approximate 6-degree slope on the front of the welded area until the bolt will just start into the barrel lugs. To check this, you only have to install the top lever and the locking bolt in the receiver along with the barrels. Your goal now is to adjust the locking bolt to a line-to-line contact with the bearing surfaces of the barrel lugs, and you achieve it in small, very small, increments. Use 180 grit emery cloth wrapped around a flat file. Check the contact. Use the emery cloth. Check again. You want as much contacting surface as possible.

When you’re a whisker away from it, finish fitting with 320-grit emery. The proof you’ve done the job right is when the top lever stops a little to the right of the selector notch in the tang’s top.

The second thing you did in your predisassembly check was cock the action and only partially disengage the sears before releasing the trigger to see if the sears returned to full engagement. If they didn’t, look for burrs on the tails of both sears at the point of connector engagement. If they’re present, stone them out. Next, check the connector for any rough spots and remove them. See if there are any burrs in the sear spring holes, on the sear pin or in the sears’ pin holes and do the same. Polish everything you’ve smoothed out. If that doesn’t eliminate the problem, it indicates the angles of the sears are incorrect and must be changed...another “factory only” privilege.

Let’s move on to the first thing you checked: trigger pull. For their own reasons—all well-founded in litigation—firearms manufacturers just don’t want their sears messed with. Browning is no different, and sears are among the restricted parts on a Citori.

You should further note, though, that trigger pull can be affected by worn hammer and sear pins, or by weak sear and mainsprings­—which aren’t restricted and should be replaced.

General Troubleshooting

If the gun fails to fire when the hammer falls, look for a broken firing pin, a weak or broken mainspring, a short firing pin, or excessive headspace. Any one of the first three you cure by replacement. The fourth calls for some serious factory adjustment.

If the action is hard to open, it could be because of a bent cocking lever, a broken top lever or top lever dog, a firing pin dragging against a primer, a broken part in the action or interference between barrel ears and receiver. We’ve already covered barrel-receiver interference and bent cocking levers.

A firing pin that drags is an indication the pin is too long. This can be corrected by filing it back while conforming to the pin’s original contour. The factory specification for Citori firing pin protrusion is 0.047 inch with the hammer down against the receiver and 0.070 inch maximum. Stay within those limits.

Corrections for loose actions caused by loose forearm brackets, worn locking bolts and barrel lugs have been previously mentioned. A worn hinge pin can be a contributing factor, but it so rarely occurs it’s not even considered in the factory manual.

Selector problems often show up because of a loose selector safety block. To tighten one, remove the selector safety from the receiver and, with the selector block installed in the safety, stake both sides of the stud on front of the block. Your staking marks should be about 1/32 inch from the edge. The tools to be used are a not-too-sharp chisel about 0.150 inch wide and a small anvil 0.160 to 0.50 inch in its cross section. If you can’t find an anvil, use a piece of steel ground to those dimensions. The selector block should have a small amount of restriction in the selector, but don’t make it too tight.

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

Courtesy, American Gunsmith

The selector safety should snap crisply “on” and “off” with 4 to 5 pounds of force. If it doesn’t, replace the spring with a new one or bend the old spring down to put more pressure on the detent pin.

If the hammer falls to its safety notch, the trigger pull is too light, the sear tails are rounded or the connector is rounded off. Return the gun to the factory for a new set of sears and a new connector.

When the gun fails to set up for the second shot, look for burrs in the trigger piston hole of the inertia block system. Also check for debris that has found a home between the top of the tang and the rear end of the trigger. Another cause for this malfunction is too close a tolerance between the sear tails and the connector. It should be 0.012 to 0.014 inch and could become less than that if the stock bolt is overly tightened during stock reinstallation.

I haven’t mentioned ejectors for several good reasons. There’s a lot to digest about the Citori’s ejection system, what can go wrong with it and how to repair it. That information is every bit as important as that I’ve already given you about the rest of the gun. It will be covered in another chapter.

Reassembly Tips

During reassembly, inspect all parts for burrs and rough spots. If any show up, polish them out with #320 or #400 grit emery cloth.

The Top Lever. Insert the lever into its hole in the receiver and invert the receiver on your bench. Use a brass punch to tap the top lever dog into position.

The Locking Bolt. Raise the top lever as you did in disassembly. Insert the locking bolt from the receiver’s rear with the cutout for the top lever dog toward the top of the receiver. With the top lever centered and the locking bolt partially inserted in its track, hold downward pressure on the top lever and tap the bolt forward until the top lever dog drops into its recess in the bolt.

The Cocking Lever. Rotate the top lever fully to the right and insert the cocking lever from the bottom of the receiver. Install the cocking lever pin to accommodate its set screw, if there is one, and tighten the screw. Otherwise, just reinstall the pin.

Top Lever Spring Retainer Assembly. Place the larger end of the spring into its hole in the right side of the receiver. Position the end of the coil on the spring’s small end toward the outside of the receiver. Install the spring retainer screw through the retainer, then position the stud of the retainer in the spring and the screw into its hole in the top lever. Use a small tool to compress the spring so you can tighten the screw, taking care not to cross thread the screw in the process.

The Ejector Trip Rods. Install them both with the bellied sides of their rear ends positioned downward and their flat sides against the receiver. Then align their holes with those in the receiver.

The Hammers. Install both hammers, plus their respective hammer pins, through the holes of the ejector rods.

The Sears. With the sears’ milled sides facing inward, simultaneously align both, plus their springs, with a 3/32-inch punch. Be sure the springs are seated in the top tang, then drive out the punch with the sear pin.

The Selector Safety. Turn the receiver upside down and position the selector spring in the top tang. Install the selector spring screw a turn or two into its hole. Center the selector block with the safety and position it in the rear slot of the tang by guiding the stud of the selector between the two arms of the spring. Lay the receiver on one side and install the selector spring detent pin below both arms of the selector spring. Be sure to center the detent pin with the stud.

Now tighten the selector spring screw through the slot in the bottom of the tang and cycle the safety to check for positive detent function. It should snap crisply “on” and “off” with 4 to 5 pounds of force. If it doesn’t, replace the spring with a new one or bend the old spring down to put more pressure on the detent pin.

The Trigger and Inertia Block Assemblies. Push the selector safety to its “on” position. Position the inertia block in the receiver and install the receiver link pin through the link. Guide the connector and trigger piston down through the lower tang slot and position the trigger piston spring and the trigger piston into the hole in the trigger. Partially insert the trigger into the lower tang slot, compress the piston spring, install the connector stop pin behind the connector and seat it with a 3/32-inch punch. Next, insert the stud of the selector safety into the slot of the inertia block, position the trigger and install the trigger pin. Pull the inertia block to the rear and release it to check for free return on both barrels. ★