Red-Headed Stepchild: The Browning A500

red browning buckhead

Over the years, Browning has produced some memorable shotguns like the legendary A5 and the unparalleled Superposed over under.  It has also produced some less than memorable offerings like the B2000 and much loathed A500.

Built in the early 80’s, the A500 was introduced as a short recoil auto loader that could cycle both 2 3/4 and 3 inch rounds which was something the A5 could not do without changing friction rings.  From 1987 to 1992, the gun was offered in two separate types: the A500G which was gas operated and the the short recoiling A500R.

I’ve been a proud A500R owner since 2000 when my dad traded some old dog kennels for the showroom condition Browning with a 28 inch Invector choked barrel.  His intention was to put together a turkey gun for me so he sent it to Jim Crumley for a hydro dipped Mossy Oak Hardwood livery.  A Carlson extra full choke and a set of 3 dot sights rounded out the picture.  It shot a great dense pattern but because of the 1/4 inch rib, the point of impact was always 3 to 4 inches high.  I turkey hunted with it for a few years before another turkey gun replaced it.  From there on, it became my do it all utility gun. Waterfowl, dove, squirrel, upland game, you name it, it’s killed it.  After I stopped turkey hunting with it, the A500 was able to show its true colors.

A quick Google search on the A500 reveals a lot of negativity.  There is simply no gray area.  People either love it or hate it and it seems like most folks hate it. I once heard this gun called Browning’s Edsel.  A quick search on most shotgun forums return results like these.

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I’m going to keep my opinion confined to the A500R.  I have no experience with the gas driven version, but have put a considerable amount of rounds through my A500R in a variety of loads so I feel qualified to render an accurate opinion.  That being said, not all guns of the same model are created equal and I’m sure there have been some lemons in the bunch, but I would hazard a guess that they are in the minority.

First and foremost, how does it shoot?  It throws an amazing pattern, but the point of impact is about 3 1/2 inches high.  The A500R came with a 1/4 rib which is pretty high.  If you stick the bead on a target and pull the trigger, you will miss high every time.  This is the biggest reason I stopped turkey hunting with it.  There’s too much to worry about when you’ve got a turkey in gun range and remembering to hold low is just one more thing I don’t need clouding my head.

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Unless I’m shooting steel shot, the Carlson X full choke stays in it all the time.  I know it is tight and a lot of people think it’s unnecessary but I like a tight choke.  The shot above was with a Rio 1 1/8 oz game load in 6 shot from 25 yards.  There is a good dense pattern, but the point of impact is 3 1/2 inches high.  This is why  this gun is cut out solely for flying targets.  Shooting a flying target is an instinctive shot and when a shotgun fits you, you’re really not looking at the barrel.  You’re looking past the barrel and where you want to hit.   After a few shots, you will subconsciously compensate for the point of impact being high and start to crush targets.  If you’ve ever heard a shotgun shooter talk about “floating a target,” thats what they’re talking about.

Shotgun pattern

Here is why I turkey hunted with this thing.  This is the pattern at 25 yards with a Federal 2 oz load of 6 shot.  How’s that for tight?  This gun will knock a turkey stone dead at 50 yards.  Just hold it low.

rough finger

 

I hadn’t shot this gun without gloves on since I put the GoPro mount on it.  It knocked a nice chunk out of my finger before I realized it should be on the other side.

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As far as ammunition the A500R likes, the heavier, the better.  It is recoil operated so stay away from the super light stuff.  The lightest load I will shoot is a 1oz 1210 fps target load.  They’re good for doves, pigeons, and starlings.  I’ve shot crows with them too but they’re bit light.  They will cycle just fine for 250 rounds or so and then you’ll have an occasional failure.

As far as 2 3/4 inch shells though, the workhorse load for this gun though is anything 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 oz in the 1300 fps range.  They will cycle fine for extended periods between cleaning.  Recoil is considerable, but not bone jarring.  I shoot this stuff at clays, pheasants, grouse, and crows and it works just fine.

I’ve yet to have a 3 inch magnum round not cycle through my A500R.  They’re plenty robust enough to do the job and after a morning in a goose blind, you’ll have a sore shoulder.  I’ve really only shot Federal 3 inch Magnums out of this shotgun both in the Premium turkey loads and the Black Cloud waterfowl load.   They both preformed flawlessly.

I might be biased but I think the Browning A500R doesn’t deserve the bad rap it has.  In the past 14 years, I’ve literally shot thousands of rounds through it and other than a sheared firing pin, I haven’t had a single mechanical issue.  It isn’t the A5.  Fine, I’ll give you that.  The quality isn’t there in every aspect it should be, but to be honest, it is right on par with any Browning autoloader made today.  I don’t mean that in a snarky way, but they don’t make ’em like they used to.  Overall, its a great gun as long as you take care of it and shoot a fairly stout shell.  For the money they’re going for online, you can’t really go wrong.

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