This Ain’t Your Grandaddy’s Humpback! Browning’s New Auto-5

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by Scott Mayer


Perhaps the most complicated and expensive to make sporting shotgun is back. For 2012, Browning brings back the Auto-5, but with a new and simpler action.


The original Auto-5 utilized a long-recoil-type action in which the barrel moved backward along with the bolt. The new Auto-5 has a more familiar short-recoil, or inertia-type action.


Anyone who has ever owned an old Auto-5 knows that there are a series of springs, friction rings and brakes around the magazine tube that have to be in the right

http://www.browning.com/

Browning’s Auto-5 is a no less an iconic firearm than Winchester’s Model 70 or Colt’s Single Action Army. The beloved “humpback” was in almost continuous production from 1903 to 1999, and has been manufactured in variations by Fabrique Nationale, Remington, Savage, SKB, Miroku and almost certainly by other, smaller companies. On November 26, 1997, Browning announced that the Auto-5 would be discontinued, and the “last” of them were shipped out in February 1998. Then, in 1999, Browning manufactured a limited edition of 1,000 “A-5 Final Tribute” guns, sold them out in 2000, and so ended a legacy.

No offense to all you Auto-5 fans out there, but if you’ve ever suffered the nightmare of taking an Auto-5 apart, you have to wonder why it took so long to drop this gun. Taking one apart has probably accounted for more gunsmithing “bag jobs” than any other shotgun. It is so complicated that even NRA’s “Firearms Assembly…Rifles and Shotguns” dares not go beyond basic field stripping.

Considering how complicated and expensive the Auto-5 is to produce, you have to ask why Browning is bringing it back for 2012. Simple–this ain’t your grandaddy’s humpback. While the new Auto-5 looks like its namesake, it’s a completely different gun behind the sight bead.

Probably the most significant difference anyone is going to really care about on this new Auto-5 is whether or not you have to worry about the arrangement of friction rings to compensate for different power shells. On original Auto-5 shotguns there are a series of spring, friction rings and brakes on the magazine tube that you have to arrange properly (and differently) for heavy and light loads. Forget to do it, and your gun either won’t cycle reliably, or you subject it to excessive battering. If remembering those permutations wasn’t enough, when the 3-inch 12-gauge chambering came along in 1958, the spring/ring/brake combination had to be made differently from the 2 3/4-inch guns.

I’m happy to report that on the new Auto-5, there are no friction rings or brakes to fool with. You can load this gun with any recommended length or power shell and run through them just fine without having to change or adjust a thing. Less of a practical concern and more of a technical one is that while the new Auto-5 remains recoil-operated, it’s short-recoil (or inertia-operated) instead of long-recoil like the original. With the long-recoil gun, the barrel reciprocated along with the action during cycling. Most shooters probably never even noticed, but a reciprocating barrel is yet another wear part you have to worry about, and thankfully the new Auto-5 doesn’t have it.

Though mechanically different, there is one function retained from the classic version—it’s the “speed load” feature that lets you pop a shell into the magazine and have it instantly shucked into the chamber. That’s not only a neat trick to watch but as someone who loves hunting ducks, I can tell you that it’s a welcome feature after you’ve missed a teal with all three shots in the magazine and then look up to see a mallard drake pitching into your stool of decoys. You can’t legally have a 4th shell in the magazine, even if it fits without a plug in the gun you are shooting, but you sure are allowed to load another shell as fast as humanly possible, and this Auto-5 makes this much more possible for the average human who just missed three shots in a row.

Before SHOT Show, Browning representatives told me that the new Auto-5 would have the familiar magazine cut-off so you can isolate the shells in the magazine and change out only the shell in the chamber. Honestly, I’ve never used that feature on a shotgun. Folks claim that they use it, for example, to change out a duck load for a goose load when the seasons overlap and a goose is coming into their duck decoys. It won’t matter, though, because the guns we saw and shot at Media Day the day before SHOT Show didn’t have the cut-off and I was told there that the new guns would not have the feature.

Despite those similarities, Browning assures me that the new Auto-5 is so different from the original design that no parts are interchangeable right down to the new Invector-DS (double-seal) choke tubes.

I find I use Improved Cylinder choke for just about everything, so it’s kind of hard for me to get excited over choke tubes. I’m sure serious clay shooters worry over them quite a bit as they do tend to change chokes frequently to match the shots at different stations. For those folks who change their chokes a lot, then, the most significant “new” thing about Browning’s Invector-DS tubes is the brass seal at their base. Its purpose is to keep the threads and choke tube recess clean of powder fouling so your hands don’t get all messy from station to station. The folks I spoke with at Browning seemed pretty excited about the new chokes. That said, they were not sure when, or even if, the new pattern would ever replace Invector or Invector-Plus tubes across all of Browning’s shotgun lines.

And so begins a new Browning Auto-5 legacy, and that’s just fine with me. We weren’t able to shoot the new A-5 today because of the heavy crowds, but hopefully we’ll get one in soon to look at more closely.

http://www.browning.com/

{ 36 comments }

{ 36 comments… add one }

  • Garren Conyers January 17, 2012, 6:49 am

    I have loved my old browning A-5 Ive shot them for years and baged many birds. I have always trusted it and have two of them. They shoot great, if the new one’s are anything like the old Browning, they have a winner but I have to wate and see.It well be hard to replace, This is from a old Duck Hunter. The old Browning a-5 was flawless to me.

    • Lewis McDowell January 17, 2012, 11:51 am

      Yes I have one of these as well but it sits in my closet and I was considering selling; wood is not in the best shape. I don’t want it sitting around so I was considering selling, can you tell me what they are worth and how to tell. I know this one probably dates prior to 60s because my step dad had it in the early 70s as I recall

      Lewis

  • Iron15 January 17, 2012, 9:49 am

    I have my Dad’s old A-5, I remember hunting with him using it in the very early 70ies, it still runs like a champ, great memories…

  • John January 17, 2012, 9:53 am

    I have been a A5 user and own several. The looks are similar but does not appear to have the A5 appeal for me. (might just be photo) At first glance it looks like the old 2000 series. The break-down, for cleaning purpose, would be a plus, the friction rings have never been a problem for me (if I keep them clean), the recoil change would be a problem if it punches like one of my Beretta’s. I would prefer the Benelli effect. The “speed load” is a major plus that they continue. I use this and the cut-off religiously. If they do not have the cut-off it would be a deal breaker for me.

    • Bodine January 18, 2012, 6:30 am

      Agree totally…No Mag cut-off, I’ll remain old school !

  • Robert Holder January 17, 2012, 12:05 pm

    I have several A-5, Rem. 11 sportsman, and 745B Springfield, I love the hump back design, It help’s me get on target quicker. I use the 12ga. 23/4 for small game and dove shoots. And 3in. for ducks, geese, If I buy one of these it would have to have mag. cut-off feature. Why go to the trouble, to come back with the hump back without all the old features. Does the recoil remain the same?

    • Robert January 25, 2012, 9:36 am

      My A-5 has solid Rib barrel 28″ Mod. I’ve been using it ever since the 50′s. I was big rabbit, birds and squarrel hunter. It’s had thousand rounds run threw it without a failure. I can’t wait to purchase one from bass pro shop and retire my old one, even though its still in perfect condiction and never failed me it deserves it. Thank you browning for all the memberies.

  • Maurice January 17, 2012, 12:34 pm

    I am excited!! I am a big man that finds the A5 is the shotgun with the perfect fit. Just throw it up and shoot, no need to aim. As I said , perfect fit. But to shoot steel in 3 and 3 1/2 required another shotgun. I got the Benelli Black Eagle, great gun, but some days I could hit everything I shot at, other days the side of a barn was to small.
    If this new A5 has the same overall fit and feel as the old A5, I will be their first customer. By the way, my first A5 was a Japanese built model that I purchased around 1980. ( if my memory serves me correctly). Have shot thousands of rounds and have never suffered a failure that cleaning didn’t correct. Yes difficult to disassemble, but so well built, that it is rarely necessary. I’ve never had to do it. Just hope the new A5 is a sturdy and reliable as the old model.

    • A Five Guy August 20, 2012, 6:31 pm

      Mr.Maurice I read your e-mail and I agree about the fit I’m a big man also.just wanted to say I sent my a5 barrel
      down to Briley in Texas they were able to backbore it to .742 and install screw in chokes and I shoot steel with it no problem.

  • BURT COLEMAN January 17, 2012, 1:11 pm

    I bought a Light 12 in 1972, I don’t know how many shells i have run through it. It has had the receiver chucked full of weed seeds from huting afield, put a little kerosene on the friction tube and it will run great at 30 below zero and 90 below wind chill hunting pheasants in Iowa. I will back up the old Humpback any day. Burt Coleman

    • Evert L. Carter January 17, 2012, 2:17 pm

      I have several A5′s in 20ga,12ga,and sweet 16,they are all considered very reliable and fun to shoot.Will Browning market the new A5 in 20 and 16 gauges?

  • Tim Murta January 17, 2012, 8:21 pm

    I own ten A5′s and can’t wait to see the new one! I have killed deer, hogs, geese, predators etc. with my old vent rib mag. .20 and it looks nearly new!

  • Rick January 17, 2012, 8:32 pm

    Can anyone tell me where the new A5 is made? they ought to know by now. Is FN making it in Belgium or Miroku in Japan? or FN in South Carolina. I can’t believe no one has that info , I have googled and searched numerous websites

  • A. Addison January 17, 2012, 8:45 pm

    Daddy gave me mine when I was 15 I got to choose between it and a new winchester 1400 I choose the A5 and for the next 25 years it was the only gun I shot. A long wheel base truck couldn’t hold the game I shot with it. It failed one time in 25 years I somehow got hold of a 3 inch shell ( it was a 2 3/4 gun ) it fired but would not eject it all the way! If there is any finer gun ever made I haven’t seen it. It did all I could ask of it. I lost it in a house fire in
    1998. If this new one is half the gun it was they will have a winner!!!!

  • Mark Wynn January 17, 2012, 9:02 pm

    Interested in your opinions presuming you get to shoot it. My father’s, and my mother’s clans all carried Browning Sweet 16s from the 40s to the 60s, and I would love to have that familiar look in hand again.

  • DALE RUPERT January 18, 2012, 12:01 am

    MAN I HAVE NO IDEAL WHERE YOU BEEN, BUT IV OWN AND SHOT A-5 FOR OVER 50YRS, AND THERE EASYS GUN STRIP DOWN CLEAN OF ANY GUN MADE, I STILL GOT ONE OLD ONES THAT SAFTY UP FRONT AND KEEP IT LOAD JUST FOR THE HOUSE BECAUSE I NO WHEN I PICK IT UP IT GOING FIRE EVERYTIME, I NEVER HAD A-5 EVERY QUIT SHOOTING AND I SAW SOME VERY DIRTY ONES, ALLSO I LOVE 2000 IT WAS JUST TO BAD THAT THEY NEVER MADE IT IN THE 16GA, BUT I BOUGHT 12 AND A 20 WHEN FIRST CAME OUT AND WHAT NICE ABOUT THEM IF I WANT SHOOT 23/4″ OR 3″ SHELLS I HAVE DO NOTHING BUT SHOOT AS LONG I GOT 3″ CHAMBER BARREL. SO GET OFF THE OLD A-5 THEY BE AROUND AS LONG THERE HUNTERS. BROWN SCREWUP WHEN THEY QUIT MAKING AND SELLING THEM, THAT WHY THERE TRYING BRING THEM BACK,,,,, DJAUCTIONS AND GUNS SALES

    • Robert Bolino January 18, 2012, 8:24 am

      I see the love bug bite you to.

    • Doc Holliday January 31, 2012, 8:07 am

      Mr. Rupert. Please return to the 4th grade and learn how to write. You are an embarrassment to us all, and give gun owners the reputation of illiterate hicks. Thank you very much.

      • Robert February 1, 2012, 11:14 am

        Doc, He strip down a A-5, that,s good enough for me.

      • R Johnson July 17, 2012, 7:27 pm

        So called “Doc Holiday”, what a silly name, “assuming” you are a grown person, some of the finest people i have known in my life were so called “illiterate hicks”. His writing doesn’t embarass me nearly as much as it would knowing a grown man calling himself Doc Holiday. Grow up silly boy!

  • Robert Bolino January 18, 2012, 7:51 am

    I’ll never buy one that does not have that tube shutoff on it.That’s is one of the reasons, why you wanted a Browning. And I’m still mad they moved the safety from inside the front of the trigger guard like the M1.
    I won’t part with my prewar at any money. But those new Italian guns do shoot softer.

  • Robert Bolino January 18, 2012, 8:05 am

    Why waiting for moderation?
    Why did they have to take off the things that made it perfection?
    The shorter stroke sounds like a improvement and they could have soften the recoil for those that have not figured out the 1-2 count so you would not be shooting in the air.

  • Robert Bolino January 18, 2012, 8:17 am

    I see you don’t want the truth! So I won’t wast my knowledge of a life time with the hump back.
    But that’s when my love with it started. With my first tear down and cleaning as I replaced a broken stock on a inhered one.

  • Chuck Engel January 19, 2012, 1:32 pm

    I have owned an A-5 since I inherited my Dad’s in 1967 at the age of 13. That gun was like shooting a radar controlled gun. If I could see it and it was in range I would drop it, from pheasants and quail to ducks and geese. Never had a moments trouble, but the friction ring moves could become necessary at the worst times. I feel the same about the Magazine block feature. If it isn’t there, I’m not interested.

  • Jon January 30, 2012, 5:04 pm

    I located a new Belgium made Browning Light 12 in 1976, I shot thousands of rounds through the gun killed hundreds of Doves, Quail, and also and unbelievable amount of ducks and geese. This gun never misfired, and after the thousands of rounds of ammo shot thru this weapon it still looked like a new gun…. the sad part of the story is my ex-wife Melinda May of Pisgah, Alabama stole that gun and 13 others, along with a pistol, 15 or 20 knifes, thousands of dollars worth of old coins. Maybe her son Davey who now has the guns that they did not sell will have one blow up in his face.!

    • Robert February 1, 2012, 10:38 am

      Ron, Two wrongs want make a right.

  • lt February 18, 2012, 2:46 pm

    If you’ve ever been on a guided hunt where you enter and exit a vehicle with a shotgun, then you have had an opportunity to use the magazine cutoff. In South Dakota our guide rides us between different fields in an old school bus. If you don’t have a mag cutoff you unload every shell every time you get on the bus. With the mag cutoff you flip the switch, remove one shell and the breech stays open.

  • Paul P Andoni April 21, 2012, 2:04 pm

    I have a Browning Sweet 16 . I bought it Sept 1960. I love the gun and would like to have info and the specs on the A5 12ga. Regards, Paul

  • john May 7, 2012, 2:53 pm

    i have one of the old a5 it still shoot like its brand new and i love it wouldnt traid it for the world but is the new going to have the same quality as the old one and shoot the same or is it going to be junk

  • Robert.H June 12, 2012, 2:41 am

    I SHOT A BROWNING A5 20 GAUGE WHEN I WAS 16 AND I GOT VERY GOOD AT HITTING WHAT I AIMED AT AND I LOVED THAT SHOTGUN…WISH I HAD IT TODAY…

  • Old School June 20, 2012, 9:09 pm

    I’m sure the gun will be a great work-horse but… The magazine looks cheap, plain-Jane. No scroll work like on the REAL A-5′s. Looks like they just stuck a hump on the back of a new smooth-lined shotgun, similar to the Maxus, and called it an A-5. Half the ‘love’ of an A-5 is the distinct sound it makes when recoiling, with the barrel slamming back, won’t get that now. And I don’t know why companies do this, roll out a new gun with only one gauge, 12. Where’s the 16′s and 20′s? Take the place by storm! Roll out all the gauges. Cause a frenzy! Ruger did the same with their side-by-side Gold Label. They would have sold thousands, 10′s of thousands, of 16′s and 20′s. I think these companies have too many ‘show booth’ hunters, ‘video show’ hunters, and not enough ‘real’ hunters on staff in marketing and design.

  • Bob November 30, 2012, 1:09 pm

    I am looking for a a Browning BAR 308 that is being parted out. One that is broken but has the magazine floor plate intact. Serious sellers only please. I am willing to purchase the rifle as long as you can send me a picture of the magazine opened and the magazine closed intact. I will part this rifle out to make mine usable. Thanks! Bob R of Montgomery, NY

  • Jake December 17, 2012, 11:11 am

    I have two of these new A5s, and I love them! I own several makes and models of shotguns, and these two have quickly become some of my favorites of all time. I have the Hunter model as well as the MODB synthetic model. The Hunter has a 26″ barrel, while the MODB has a 28″. And, yes, I would use these guns over my Benellis any day of the week.

  • English-A50-lover February 22, 2013, 6:42 am

    So this is an A-5 only in name.
    If John Moses Browning didn’t design it, then it is not an Auto-5.
    End of Story.

  • Bennie January 19, 2014, 7:33 am

    My dad bought a new 3 in mag in 1976 30 in full choke barrel it has been and still will be the best gun I have. I have been asked to sell it and been offered as much as 1000 dollors for it. I couldn’t even start to count the shells that have been and still go through it or the ducks it has killed. I did change the barrel to have screw in chokes for steel shot but thats the olny thing that I’ve had to change. So when the a5 came back out I bought one just as he did mine is a hunter model 3 1/2 chamber 28 in barrel. I’ve shot everything from one ounce light target loads to the heaviest 3 1/2 in mag loads. The new a5 holds the same high standards as the old one I have been a browning fan and will continue to be they make a very good gun and I have no complaints I would recommend one to anyone even for the price that it is very worth it.

  • Daniel Colburn May 19, 2014, 6:13 pm

    I’ve owned my Humpback since WWII. Trapshooters don’t like to be art the next station since had a Cutts Compensator installed. I bought a new barrel and everybody was happy/.
    At 92 I’d like to sell the gun, extra barrel and all’
    Call me (310)373-5206,
    I’ll deliver it anywhere in California. Any takers?
    Dan

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