Tested: Browning A5 Wicked Wing Sweet Sixteen

Deck: A gentleman’s gauge that will be a for-sure waterfowl wrecker for those that put their trust in it. 

I have never been much of a sub-gauge fan, and I imagine it stems from the fact that lead shot was outlawed for waterfowl use only a year after I got involved in duck and goose hunting, and early steel shot sucked. 

Watching 3-inch 12-gauge loads filled with large BBB bounce off ducks and geese like pinballs at point-blank range was hard enough. I wasn’t about to go to a 16- or 20-gauge with a lesser payload. 

Of course, things got better. Ammo manufacturers started crafting quality steel blends, and I fell in love with 12-gauge 3 1/2-inch Federal Premium Black Cloud BB for honkers and Winchester’s Blind Side #2s for mallards over decoys. 

One of my favorite duck and goose slayers of all time is Browning’s 12-Gauge A5, and when my buddy Rafe Nielsen asked me to give Browning’s new-for-2022 A5 Wicked Wing Sweet Sixteen a test drive, I didn’t fight him.

The Gauge

The 16-gauge made an impression on wing shooters during the early 20th century. Those that toted the gauge appreciated the shotgun’s reduced recoil, lightweight nature, and adequate killing power. However, when skeet shooting rules were finalized, the 16-gauge didn’t cut the mustard, and ammo got extremely hard to find. Rather than fight the fight, ammo makers stopped making 16-gauge shotshells, and this “gentleman’s gauge” dropped off the map. 

However …

Many hunters considered the 16-gauge a near-perfect gauge — enough killing power and easy on the body — and it’s making a comeback for these reasons. When paired with today’s top-end steel, bismuth, tungsten, and hybrid (steel and another metal) loads, the 16-gauge gets the job done and is a joy to shoot.

At A Glance

This shooter is a beauty. The composite stock and forearm on the tested model were blanketed in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat camo. The Humpback receiver and 28-inch (26-inch barrel available) feature a Cerakote Burnt Bronze camo finish. The tested model was a Shot Show Special, and additional artwork was lasered in the receiver, adding to the shotgun’s sexy nature. 

Assembly is simple, and with three extended Invector-DS choke tubes to choose from, you can quickly match your choke to your hunting situation. Plus, the chokes are sweet. Browning went the extra mile to ensure the waterfowl crowd noticed this super-sweet rig, and the extended chokes resemble waterfowl bands found on the legs of some ducks and geese.   

The slim, ergonomic forearm only sweetens the build, and at just 6 pounds 2.08 ounces, the gun feels fantastic in hand and swings up, down, left, and right with a silky brilliance you’ll notice from the get-go. Chalk this slim forearm up to the no-gas operation system. Cheek weld on the composite stock feels natural — no raising, lowering, or canting the head is necessary, and the sights line up perfectly. 

The action is butter, and the Cerakote-covered lever is curved and gridded for increased functionality. I like its sizeable nature. The action lock on the bottom of the shotgun just in front of the trigger guard and the oversized bolt release will be appreciated when Mother Nature is nasty and hands are in bulky gloves. Though not overly big, the push-button safety sits outside the trigger guard, above and behind the trigger, and is highly functional. The Sweet Sixteen is fitted for a sling, and two attachment points are found — one at the stock’s backend and the other on the forend cap. 

Loading the shotgun is easy. The shooter accepts 2 3/4-inch 16-gauge loads, and shotshells gently glide into the chamber and create an audible click once seated. Browning’s effort to make an uber-balanced shooter shines when you shoulder the gun. Browning calls this Ergo Balance. This technology blends the shotgun’s zero point of impact (50 percent of the pattern above the target and 50 percent below the target) with the legendary Humpback receiver and flat-rib barrel design to give the shooter a larger sight plane. A larger sight plane means less opportunity for shooter error. 

Field Test

Duck and goose season had passed in my neck of the woods when my A5 arrived. Still, I shot multiple sporting clays over several months and patterned each choke with various loads. This shotgun is a shooter, and finally, when September rolled around and migrating morning doves started to fly, I got to swing the 28-inch barrel topped with a fiber optic front sight and squeeze the gold trigger at something with a heartbeat. 

My choke was the Banded Invector-DS Extended Improved Cylinder, and when paired with Federal’s 2/3-inch High-Brass 16-Gauge #6s and Winchester’s 2 3/4-inch Super X High Brass #7 1/2s, I puffed feathers well beyond 40 yards. This is the type of shotgun that’s a joy to shoot. It’s easy on the shoulder, and because it balances perfectly, it makes you feel like a better shot than you are. 

When the trigger is pulled, the Kinematic Drive System blows spent hulls a reasonable distance, and after more than 600 rounds and not a single cleaning, this shooter is still operating like a top. This is not the only feature of this system. The Kinematic Drive harnesses the energy that would otherwise be transferred to the shoulder and creates enough power to make the action operate. It’s an excellent system, and I’ve been a fan of it for years. 

After three days of dove hunting, I noticed that I could pull more doubles and triples than average. Yes, even more than with my trusty A5 12 Gauge Why? The shotgun’s slim, lightweight design, married with a perfect length and lack of recoil, allowed me the ability to swing through the target, pull the trigger, and immediately acquire the next target. 

Not only did I shoot the shotgun, but so did my wife, 17-year-old, and 11-year-old. They loved it. Browning’s A5 Wicked Wing Sweet Sixteen has earned a place in my shotgun arsenal, and when webbed feet start showing up in my area, it will be a go-to for my fall and winter waterfowl pursuits.

Browning A5 Wicked Wing Sweet Sixteen Specs:

  • Gauge: 16
  • Chamber Length: 2 3/4 in.
  • Barrel Length: 28 in.
  • Overall Length: 49 5/8 in.
  • Length of Pull: 14 1/4 in.
  • Drop at Comb: 1 3/4 in.
  • Drop at Heel: 2 in.
  • Weight: 6 lbs. 2.08 oz.
  • Magazine Capacity: 4, 2 3/4-in shotshells
  • Front Sight: Fiber Optic
  • Choke System: Banded Invector-DS Extended
  • Barrel Material: Steel
  • Stock Material: Composite
  • Trigger Finish: Gold Plated
  • Trigger Gaurd Finish: Matte Black
  • MSRP: $2,379.99

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  • Richard Oliver November 8, 2022, 1:29 pm

    Looks like you are ashamed of the gun. You take pictures of everything but the gun. Is the article about YOU or about the gun? The pictures you do take are at extreme angles that skew the gun to angles that really hide its real dimensions.

  • Clif Keely November 8, 2022, 11:16 am

    I have an early production 870 in 16 with the long barrel and a full choke. It reaches as far as any 12 kills as well at range, and it has been with me for what must be well over 50 years. In my younger years it put a lot of pheasant on the table and broke a lot of clay pigeons. I prefer it to my mod. 5 in 12 gauge. it just shoots better for me but that is a personal thing I guess as I have fired a lot more through that sweet 16.

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