Monday, June 27, 2022

Crosman 2200 Model 1 .22 Pellet Gun Revival

Crosman 2200 Model 1 .22 Pellet Gun Revival

According to the rolled ancient scroll I found stuffed into the buttstock, discovered as I started the rebuild, I purchased this Crosman 2200 Model 1 on June 21, 1983 from an Ace Hardware store with a tin of Benjamin Match dome head .22 Caliber pellets… Ahh the good old days. This revival all started when my wife nudged the Crosman during a garage cleanup last week and asked what I was doing with that piece of rusted junk. The observation unfortunately was correct with a paint finish and stock that looked like hell, huge amounts of surface rust covering the compression tube & barrel shroud all with no ability to develop any compression.


Its condition was 100% from neglect. After I left home for college, the proven and trusted .22 caliber Crosman 2200 Model 1 sat in my father’s barn where it gathered rust for decades and shot the occasional raccoon, rodent or bird. Though surrounded by various cans of oil in the barn, I doubt it saw any oil other than the times I came home and soaked it with WD-40 while lecturing my father on gun care. Contained in the last load of my Dad’s junk storage clean-out was the old Crosman. I again soaked it in WD40 and set it aside as a future project. Back in the present day, my wife had that “get this freaking junk outta here look” and noted that if it was not working, why not junk it… after all how much was it really worth.


I sighed, reflected on my hoarder tendencies and looked at my beloved Crosman Model 1 and said, this was my first gun, how about I tear it apart while we watch TV and see if I can get it working first? Taking notice of the look of fond reflection on my face, she relented with a singular word that only decades of marriage can comprehend the deep meaning - “[Sigh]...Whatever”. The Crosman Model 1 Revival began. Finding the note to myself to memorialize my first gun purchase stuffed into the stock made me laugh - that was a very very long time ago. A quick ebay search before starting on the project noted there was a world of replacement parts available.


I am pretty sure the number of dead animals because of this gun has to be far more than the number of “extra votes” counted in the last election. As I shared the revival project with my Dad, he chuckled and estimated the number of pellets I shot was likely measured in tons - “you loved your first gun, and nearly bankrupted me buying pellets.”


As a kid, the deal between my Dad and I centered around exterminating the aptly named “Scourge or Affliction'' of Starlings. Our home was surrounded by giant 70-80 ft tall red mulberry trees which combined with Scourges of Starlings, which could count in the hundreds, delivered a constant rain of purple bird shit that rained down permanently staining everything from desks, siding and cars to sidewalks. My Dad paid a 1-tin of pellets bounty for every dead starling produced and I always chose Benjamin Dome Match pellets… he greatly underestimated my near perfect eyesight and rapidly increasing abilities. Our farm cats quickly became wise to the food airdrops and would gather under the trees when I walked out with anything resembling a gun. Some days I would shoot dozens and would discount back the rebate back to just two tins plus get a dinner out or even the privilege of using the shotgun. What a fantastic childhood.

It had been many years since I disassembled, cleaned, checked seals, and re-lubed the gun and I had forgotten how it all came apart. The internet rescued me with the Crosman Model 2200 parts diagram which was the previous version of the Model 1 without the walnut stock and upgraded fully adjustable Williams match sights. All the parts came apart just as expected. The rubber seals were a little dry however they were still in good condition. After a short oil rehydration massage, I crossed my fingers that it would all work when re-assembled. The case paint finish was really scraped up, needed sanding and repaint, but the rusted barrel shroud and assembly needed a lot more work. After an initial hand sanding, I gave up and moved over to the bench grinder with a nylon wheel to clean up the rather aggressive rust. The abrasive nylon made quick work of removing the rust, however after some testing with PermaBlue paste, the deep pitting would still make the finish look pretty bad, so it would definitely need a paint finish.


When not selecting the awesomeness of cerakote, Krylon Fusion has been my choice. It seems to bond very aggressively like an epoxy and has proven to be highly durable. In this situation, Fusion is the perfect paint. I chose Gloss Vintage Grey and sprayed everything to start with as a base coat. Then I started thinking that a bit of a battle-worn sci-fi theme would be cool and a different update for a thirty-nine year old pellet gun. The buttstock cap, compression tube cap, trigger and a few highlights were hit with Matte Wild Honey Yellow, and screws and a few other parts painted with Gloss Red Pepper. A very old Bushnell Firststrike reflex sight and .22 rail adapter was added to the build and a few color highlights were added to make it look a bit more sci-fi. After all the various colors and coats were dry and the build was reassembled, I added a few yellow and Gloss Patriotic blue sci-fi stripes and gave them an aged look by dragging a brush through them. The entire build was battle worn with chrome and matt black spray paint sprayed into a rag and wiped carefully over the build with a modified dry brush technique.


In addition to the Bushnell Firststrike reflex sight a few DIY foam pellet holders were VHB taped behind the reflex sight. Over the years I have found that these DIY foam pellet holders work fantastically well, are secure, and offer very fast fumble-free pellet access. After a good bore scrubbing I headed to the back yard and sighted in. The reflex sight proved to be extremely useful as I saw better than expected groups downrange appear which could be due to the current era Predator Polymag Pellets. The old Model 1 could always deliver good 1-inch 20-yard groups with match grade pellets, and with the polymer tipped Predator pellets it seemed to still deliver that consistency or better. Though the Model 1 and other similar Crosman 2200 series pellet guns noted a maximum of 10-pumps, I always found that my accuracy was best in the 5-8 pump range and the report was a bit softer as well.

I guess I am doing my part for the environment, preventing items from hitting the landfill and reducing my carbon footprint while reducing the overall need for production of yet another pellet gun… yeah well, my wife did not buy it either. The reality is a pump pellet gun like this Crossman Model 1 is a harder hitting .22 caliber pellet chambering that can take on larger rodents humanely and wow, this thing has shot thousands.

Today there is an all new crop of pellets that are higher precision and deeper penetrating and harder hitting and this .22 pellet gun can shoot them all. The Benjamin Dome pellets were around 14gr back then, but they thumped compared to my friends .177 pellet guns. On the top and of compression, the old Crossman was delivering just over 20 ft/lbs of energy and in the 5-8 pump range about 12 ft/lbs with the old Benjamin pellets - which was 2-4 times more than the .177 pellet guns of that time. In fact a lot of the farm kids upgraded to .22 pellet guns after seeing the Model 1’s power after several corn crib rat shoots (it's a farm kid thing). I wish I would have had the red dot and the very deadly and accurate 15.89gr Predator Polymag or 17gr Predator Metalmag pellet back then. If you have ever had to double tap a charging wounded rat then you will understand that a deep penetrating hollow point pellet is a must.

Though I love the convenience, ease and accuracy of my Airforce PCP with Lothar Walther barrels, having a pellet gun that will last an easy 40-years with the only requirement being more oil, pellets and pumping, that is certainly worth saving.







Thursday, May 26, 2022

More than just Sales off for Memorial Day - Founders Cigar Company

More than just Sales off for Memorial Day - Founders Cigar Company

Amidst five pages of Memorial Day sales one company stood out for me... a cigar company.  

Founders Cigar Company did something different promoting a partnership with Operation: Cigars For Warriors

The program is a “purchase and donation” promotion that will allow customers to “buy a cigar for the troops” - For only $8.50, a customer can purchase a cigar, which is then matched by Founders with an additional stick (cigar) and sent every month to Operation: CFW’s Operations Center for inclusion in care packages. To hear more watch this video below.

If you just want to try some great cigars, hit their site at founderscigarco.com to buy some great cigars from a veteran operated business.


Monday, May 16, 2022

NiBx Browning A5 12 Gauge - Resurrecting a Legend - Part 3

NiBx Browning A5 12 Gauge - Resurrecting a Legend - Part 3

We get all excited over the newest shotgun with an extra big bolt release button, phallic symbol length magazine tube, and a charging handle about the size of a baby arm, however in reality, the Browning A5s will still be around 100 years from now long after the others lay broken in a gunsmith’s parts bin. This is the last article of a very long-term nearly five-year three-part series focused on resurrecting a 1926 Browning A5 12-Gauge shotgun. In this part 3, I am cutting the barrel down to a 18.5-inch, reducing magazine capacity to standard 4+1, finishing up the furniture, doing some final tuning and attaching a sling.  Don’t worry, there is more A5 fun to come. I have two more cheap A5s no one wanted which I have converted to Shockwaves with two Sarco virgin Belgium A5 receivers. Yep, my next projects will be making non-NFA “Shockwave Firearms”. If you are an A5 fan read on.

FINISHING UP THE A5 RESURRECTION
In Part 1 of my Browning A5 12-gauge resurrection, I deep cleaned and updated the 1920s vintage Browning A5 with new recoil and action springs and friction rings, a Browning Speed-Feed lifter parts set was added for faster and smoother reloads and a giant amount of magazine capacity was added in the form of a Nordic Components MXT tube extension to a 9 +1 total capacity. 

In Part 2, the entire gun was disassembled and WMD NiBx (NiBo + Teflon) coated which frankly is about as amazingly awesome as any 28-inch barreled A5 can get. The WMD coating process made every part look new. The problem was the MXT extension nut stripped out after a few hundred rounds and shot the magazine tube across the range like a spear gun. Nordic sent out another under warranty which was used in Part 3.

That was well over four years ago and now we have the final format, a Rhodesian style Browning A5.

ABOUT THE BROWNING A5 RHODESIAN
The Browning A5 was used in both World Wars as a trench and combat shotgun and they learned a lot about what worked in warfare, which was more capacity and a shorter barrel with open improved cylinder choke. The Rhodesian model was really the pinnacle design of those defensive needs.

The un-officially named A8 was actually produced for the Rhodesian military so named for its 8+1 capacity and shorter 23-inch barrel with improved cylinder choke. There is some conflicting information that FNH and Remington also made some additional international police models with some shorter 20” barrels versions which only held 7+1. The Rhodesian was so named for its extensive use in the Rhodesian South African war 1964-1979. Technically, the shotguns were FNH Belgium made, shipped to South Africa and smuggled into Rhodesia. The actual Rhodesian models were sterile with no labeling, and were just hand “Rack Numbered” with a vibrating steel pen. These were produced by FNH with eight shell magazine tubes and amazingly long forends. 

Allegedly there were less than a 1000 ever made, some say less than 500, since the serial numbers only indicate a three digit numeric rack number. In the 1990s only about 300 were ever imported by Century Arms into the US. The result is they are VERY rare and expensive when they do come up for sale. Finding and buying a Rhodesian Browning is akin to buying Vibranium Armor - since that does not actually exist, you get the idea. The last Rhodesian I was able to find sold for over $5000 about ten years ago. It was the 1960s factory equivalent of a Browning 3Gun A5.

CHANGING FORMATS
The insane 32-inch overall barrel length (28-inch barrel plus a 6-inch corn cob compensator/variable-choke) was pointless when 90% of the time I was blasting away at 25 yards or less. The insane barrel length was far from a handy length.

After the Part 2 A5 Resurrection build article, I found that the reality of an already heavy all steel Browning A5, obscenely long barrel, and ten total rounds loaded was so heavy it was a body building exercise to shoot. The two times MXT mag tube extension failure was also a motivator to rethink capacity. Most of the time, I was only loading about seven rounds so why have a gun that could hold ten and weigh 10.5-lbs loaded. Another MXT failure had me thinking the stock steel magazine tube cap was the only reliable option. Sadly that meant this Rhodesian style build would only be 4+1 rounds. 

As shown in this Part 3 Rhodesian build with the shortened magazine tube, correctly fitted and shortened solid walnut butttock, and mounted sling, the gun is now down to 8.4-lbs empty and balances perfectly mid-receiver with an overall length of 37.5-inches. I could probably hog out another half pound of walnut from the buttstock, but the balance is really nice at this point.  Break out the hacksaw, we are going to talk though a lighter shorter beast. More on the magazine extension later.


A RHODESIAN-ISH A5 BROWNING
Before the hatemail flows of - “you idiot, you hacked a museum quality A5!” This specimen was originally sold at an estate sale for about $150 to my FFL and to me for $200 - it never was a museum piece. Even if it was, John Browning would be in favor of building something unique with one of his creations. With that noted after the WMD treatment, I actually had someone offer me $3000 as it seems to be the only NiBx coated A5 in existence. With the WMD coating it could in theory be submerged in salt water for 50-years and still come out operational.

What I wanted was a faster, shorter and lighter version like a Browning Rhodesian. What the A5 does need to function is typically a minimum a 1-⅛-ounce load. Lighter loads had not been invented back then so the A5 shotgun was not designed to cycle them well. I can get super light 1oz load stuff to cycle, but it requires removal of friction rings on this build.

I do see a lot of armchair A5 “Expert” forum jockeys note the A5 needs the barrel length and weight to be reliable, yet this 18.5-inch barreled chop job runs great. With the correct load, right spring and friction ring setup, the A5 will run just fine with an 18.5-inch barrel. Most of the time my setup is left in the “heavy” spring/ring configuration.

8-ROUND THEN 5-ROUND BROWNING A5
The capacity was scaled back to 7+1 rounds with the Nordic Components MXT +2 magazine tube extension. Esthetically, the magazine tube length matched perfectly with a 18.5-inch barrel, looked fantastic, but well… shot down range like a harpoon spear again - alas another stripped MXT nut. I love Nordic, but the adapter should have been made from steel to handle the goofy recoil and less than perfect thread on the magazine tube. Back to the proven Midwest Firearms all steel swivel sling magazine tube cap and stuck with 4+1 capacity.

Looking back, I do wish I would have done some beveling and smoothing work on the magazine reloading port area before nibx coating. The abrupt edges around this area do seem a little harsh after getting used to competition tuned shotgun reloading ports. On the next A5 builds, the reloading ports all received a lot of smoothing and beveling.

BROWNING A5 18.5-INCH BARREL
In theory chopping the barrel is pretty quick, but doing it correctly to deliver a uniform shot pattern involves more than a hacksaw and a file and should include a recrown. According to ATF standards, the barrel length is measured from the closed bolt face to the end of the barrel with any chokes removed. Measure, tape, cut, and file… but, crowning proved an issue. Generally, I use Pacific Tool & Gauge gunsmithing tools and they sell the roughing muzzle cutter and the finishing crown cutter. You technically do not need both, however the roughing cutter is designed to chew down wonky hacksaw cuts and the finish crown cutter is not very tolerant to that initial mess. 

The barrel was cut and leveled as good as my eye could get. What I thought was an amazing hand file job on the crown was, of course, considerably off square after using both Pacific Tool crowning tools. So $150 in on more specialized tools, I had a beautifully square 11-degree crown on a 18.5-inch barrel. I will not this crowning delivered such concentric patterns that I thought heavily about recrowning all my shotgun barrels.

A5 FURNITURE REFRESH
After handling many A5s since purchasing this one, I realized the furniture on this model was actually stunningly good and had some character without being abused. I decided to flip from the polymer stock shown in the other builds back to the original wood version, do a bit of steaming out the dents and trimming the original wood buttstock and buttstock replaced with a limbsaver pad and the stock drilled for a swivel stud. 

After citrus stripping, the checkering was cleaned with rubbing alcohol and a toothbrush was all that was needed to prep the furniture for a re-lacquer. Some people go nuts with sanding hand checkered vintage furniture and they usually end up losing a lot of detail. Both the buttstock and handguard were sprayed with high quality satin lacquer. That light refinishing was all that was needed to make them look amazing.

FRONT BEAD
Just as I wish I would have beveled and rounded the reloading port area before sending to WMD for coating, I wish I would have thought through the barrel length thing and also brazed on a front bead mount. With the insanely slick WMD coating, I could not use regular brazed sights and instead had to use a long Williams shotgun sight pipe with VHB tape which has held. Seems pretty well stuck after testing with a few boxes of shells.

AT THE RANGE
This is a blast to shoot, handles great and the crisp and true crown seems to pattern really well for the point blank to 35-yards with various birdshot and buckshot out to 50-yards. Though I don’t expect to shoot an abundance of slugs, 4-inch 50-yard groups seemed consistently easy and my stick on front sight ended up closely zeroed. With the new action and recoil springs and friction rings, the recoil was very well managed by the A5 design to be one of the softest shooting shotguns available and then there it the fact that it remains an insanely fast cycling that will float five empty hulls in the air before one hits the ground.

I own and review many shotguns which most would consider some of the best modern shotguns on the market, however there is just something so cool about shooting something that was designed and patented over 120 years ago and produced nearly 100-years ago that still feels every bit as modern as the newest shotgun available. The sound, feel and cycling of the A5 is really unique and the cycling speed will give my Mossberg 940 JM Pro a run for its money. 

SOURCES

Browning Service - http://www.browning.com/customerservice/partsandservice/

WMD Guns - http://www.wmdguns.com

Nordic Components - - http://www.nordiccomp.com/



Saturday, March 19, 2022

The NiBx Browning A5 12 Gauge - Resurrecting a Legend - Part 2

The NiBx Browning A5 12 Gauge - Resurrecting a Legend - Part 2


In Part 1 of my Browning A5 resurrection, I updated the 1920s vintage Browning A5 with the Browning Speed-feed capability for faster and smoother reloads and cycling and added some magazine capacity in the form of a Nordic Components MXT tube extension to a 9 +1 total capacity.  All the upgrades tested out perfectly, however I knew there was more that could be done to update the nearly century old Browning.
For this upgrade phase, I decided to update the front sight bead to a high viz model and update the steel and metal finishes to update the looks and improve durability for another 100-years and do a little light cleanup on the furniture. THe Part 3 final build tackles the stock finish and transforms it again into something new.
SIGHT UPDATE
These days, a fiber optic sight has become standard equipment on most sporting shotguns. I elected to get all crazy, loosen up the purse strings, and added a $7.19 Marbles Expert Shotgun Red Fiber Optic Sight. This metal housing sight is well constructed, but extremely affordable. 
The Marbles Expert Shotgun Red Fiber optic sight threaded right into my Lyman Adjustable choke and gives me something to stare at and mentally reflect on, after I miss all the clays that were just thrown for me.  I know some are not big fans of even using the front bead, however I have found that if you are shooting at really close static clay pigeons, such is the case in many competitions these days, it can be a handy reference point. For under $10 it was a worthwhile investment and for me, it improved my hit ratio a bit.
CHOKE TUBE UPDATE?
Now that I was considering the WMD NiB-X coating, I stared at the uber ugly corn cob Lyman adjustable choke and then stared at it some more. I must have gone back and forth at least a dozen times on whether to convert to screw in chokes after completing Part 1 of the updates going so far as to break out the torch only to put it away before desoldering the choke. The question loomed on whether I should convert over to screw in tubes.
Although I am not a huge 3 Gun or clays competitor, I do see folks swapping out chokes in competition on a regular basis to combat winds and provide improved patterns at larger distances. This is the sweet spot for this Lyman monstrosity of a choke which allows fast and easy choke pattern changes with just a few spins of the choke. Keeping it, also saved me about $200 in gunsmithing to convert it over to screw in chokes which would have been a purely esthetic decision. With the WMD NiBx coating, the once ugly choke actually looks pretty steampunk cool now. Now I am thrilled with the looks and the NiB-X actually improved the patterns on the choke. I could not be happier and I have something unique that no one else has.
REFINISH & FINISH
Like most affordable Browning A5 12 Gauge shotguns, this auction find picked up for $200 had finish issues. A little surface rust here and there, some ugly spots, and a lot of areas which really necessitated the A5 getting a full re-blueing.  I had done this laborious sanding and polishing task with my old Browning Sweet 16, the A5 12Ga little brother, and was not in the mood to do that task again; especially for a working shotgun. The WMD NiBx (Nickel Boron type) finish for $200 seemed like a huge time saver which offered a permanent solution to rust and corrosion and added operational lubricity as well. I was sold on the WMD finish after my purchase of the MarineCoat Barnes Precision AR15, however any firearm can benefit from the coating; even this old Browning A5. It was the right decision and I even did an old H&K P7 with the process as well.
The biggest update to looks, durability, operation, and reliability was definitely sending almost all the metal parts off to WMD Guns for their NiB-X coating. Actually, the only metal parts that did not get coated were the small pins, screws, and the bolt assembly simply because I could not get it fully disassembled which is required for the treatment.  
Even after bending three punches I could not get a couple of the pins to budge on the bolt, so a portion of the bolt was the only metal left untreated with the WMD NiB-X coating. I dark blued the bolt and reblued the screws and pins to add a nice color contrast against the Nib-X coating.
The WMD Guns NiB-X finish is roughly similar to NP3 or Nickel-Boron (Ni-Bo) finishes, however WMD’s proprietary Nickel-Boron finish (includes Teflon) adds a huge amount of lubricity and ups the durability as well. 
This was a $200 upgrade. Disassemble all the parts, package them up and send them off to WMD for coating. In about 60 days, you will have all your parts back fully NiB-X coated. They treat both aluminum and steel the same, so even if you have steel gun parts and an aluminum extension tube they come out the exactly the same finish. In this case, the parts came out unbelievable and looked factory new after the process
Honestly the most difficult part was not the disassembly, but actually the re-assembly. I must have watched the initial noted disassembly video fifty times to get all the pieces back into the A5 and working correctly.
For this resurrection of a firearm nearly a century old, the silver/grey finish was a huge update to looks, however the WMD treatment does so much more. NiB-X finish that will resist scuffs, wear, and moisture, minimize cleaning and lube requirements, and give your action a noticeably smoother feel…permanently.
The net result of the treatment was a gorgeous factory new looking Browning A5 which anyone could swear just rolled out of a high tech 1920’s factory in Belgium.  The finish is amazing, eye-catching and also very very slick. I would say that the newly treated parts are nearly twice as slick as they were previously and tuning of extra-light, medium, and heavy loads with the friction ring juggle was far less sensitive and required less lube for reliable operation.  All around much more than just a pretty finish upgrade.
FINAL THOUGHTS
There is no doubt that this redue has the same appeal to many as a taking a beautiful classic car and then hot rodding it, but hey they made like 3 Million of these A5s. In fact, estimates are that this old Browning A5 is circa 1920s which puts it well into the vintage category of firearms.  I was thrilled to be able to breath new life into this nearly 100-year old but fully functional gun with a little TLC and a few upgrades.
I have run around five boxes of 2 3/4" shells through the updated WMD coated A5 and it seems to be much faster cycling after the NiB-X treatment than before and is certainly exponentially smoother cycling. The coating of the Lyman variable choke also seems to have tightened my patterns a abit as well; perhaps because it smoothed and slicked up the choke.
Of note, there are three different tuning positions the recoil and friction rings can be placed for different load powers. The lower power clays loads used extensively in clays, 3Gun competitions, and upland game hunting were very reliable with my previous "medium" tuning spring setting, however lubricity of the WMD NIB-X finish definitely provides a wider reliability range on each each tuning stage without running the spring really wet with lube.
The WMD NiB-X finish is top notch and consistent even among aluminum and steel parts and my little fiber optic Marbles sight has really helped my clay busting game.  The only update that is left which needs addressing are the worn stocks which either need a finish refresh or new stocks completely - Stay tuned.
This A5 is set to deliver another 100-years hunting and clay shootings. After all, given the technology John Browning used on this original design, I am sure he would celebrate these high tech upgrades to his classic design.


SOURCES

Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Nordic Components - - http://www.nordiccomp.com/


The Browning A5 12 Gauge - Resurrecting a Legend - Part 1

The Browning A5 12 Gauge - Resurrecting a Legend - Part 1


The Browning A5 shotgun is a stunning achievement of engineering and in fact John Moses Browning noted the A5 was his best achievement as the first ever semi-automatic shotgun. The A5 and later the military and police focused A8 were named for AUTOMATIC 5 Shell (4+1) the A8, AKA Rhodesian, was a 7+1 capacity. It was patented in 1898 and first produced in 1920 until 1999. Over 3 Million were produced. It remains one of the highest production shotguns ever and likely one of the more complex.

Disassembling the Browning A5 will confirm the genius of the design and confound most armature gunsmiths, but shooting a properly setup A5 will deliver the fastest and softest shooting shotgun of anything still on the market. People are still shocked how fast A5s will cycle. It was and still is a revolutionary design which still outperforms many, if not all, new shotgun designs. Not only does the shooter get a softer recoil of a semi-auto bolt on the A5, but the long-stroke barrel recoil design which reduces recoil further with the barrel moving with the bolt backward during cycling. Admittedly it is not a light shotgun which helps dissipate some additional recoil. The result is a very soft shooting shotgun. The downside of course is that the Browning has well over 50% more parts than a Benelli, Remington, Mossberg, or really any modern shotgun, but those parts do things that the new guns don't. I wanted… no, I needed a high capacity Browning A5 12 gauge. This has been an ongoing project that has taken some interesting turns which started with these 3Gun style mods.
I am a huge fan of the tank-like durability of the Browning A5 design and have been shooting a Belgian Browning Sweet 16 since I was barely walking.  Yes, I am of the belief that there is no quality comparison between the finely made Belgian models and the bastardization that the Japanese factory delivered labeled as a Browning. Lately though, 16ga shells have literally been impossible to find, so I have kept an eye out for a good deal on a 12ga Belgium Browning A5.  
In good condition, an A5 can run as high as $1000, in excellent condition quite a bit more.  $600 will usually give you a well worn A5 in working condition with the updated speed-feed and maybe fitted with screw in chokes, but they will be nothing pretty to look at. After over three years of being patient, my gun dealer had a very old estate auction specimen in decent condition available for only $200 complete with smooth top barrel and beautiful furniture.  I would have liked to have a vent rib and screw in chokes, a little less surface rust, higher condition stocks, and it desperately needed a good cleaning, but it worked. Why only $200? Sadly it featured a very old Lyman adjustable "corn cob" choke which killed the value. Adjustable chokes are great from a hunting perspective and most will agree they work awesome, but look like hell and always cut the value in almost half. The other part of that price was it was very old Gen1, which meant some unique features.
When I say this was an old A5... I mean like 1920s, nearly a century old Browning A5. Due to the age, it had the pre-speed feed one-piece-shell-lifter which meant that loading required pushing the bolt release button for each shell loaded - a total pain in the butt.  The lack of the very cool and fast speed-feed feature, meant goofy two handed feeding requirements, plus the 2-shell magazine limiter, were big bummers for a gun I was transforming into an awesome fast handling 3-Gun shotgun. But... “Gentlemen, We Can Rebuild this Browning A5. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first 3 Gun A5. This A5 will be that machine. Better than it was before. Better. Stronger. Faster... and hopefully even sexier.

LIST OF UPDATES & UPGRADES
OK, yeah I was not attempting to make a six-million dollar A5 and this is almost certainly not the first A5 used in 3 Gun or Sporting Clays competition. Once I placed the Browning on the stretcher and had the guts all pulled apart for a deep cleaning, I decided it was time to add in a list of updates including a 2-piece lifter and speed feed conversion, increasing the magazine capacity. Let’s get through the first of multi-part upgrade.
UPDATING THE LOADING - BROWNING A5 2-PIECE LIFTER SPEED-FEED CONVERSION
The earlier initial versions of the A5 had a front trigger guard vertical sliding safety and the one-piece lifter. The next newer GEN2 A5 version included the Speed-Feed feature and moved the safety to a tradition button cross-bolt location at the rear of the trigger guard. This old specimen is vintage and had the front trigger safety and the one-piece lifter.
The speed-feed is a very unique feature in the world of shotguns. With the bolt locked back, you can just feed rounds into the magazine, the action will recognize the magazine not has a shell and will close the bolt and autofeed that first round into the chamber and boom you are shooting again. None of that goofy one round in the breech, hitting the bolt close button and then worrying about feeding the magazine tube. On an A5 with auto feed, you just feed the beast right into the magazine tube and you keep shooting.
There are actually two big advantages of the Speed-Feed upgrade. The first is that it allows the Browning to be loaded fast when empty - push a shell in the mag tube and the magic of Browning's machine chambers it at the speed of light. Doing the conversion is a huge speed and ergonomics update.
The Browning locks open after the last round is fired, which provides the auto-loading benefit of the Speed-Feed feature.  This allows very fast reloads especially if you just emptied your gun and only need one or two rounds to finish a stage. As a lifelong Browning shooter, I am always stunned on other guns; “what do you mean I need to feed and rack or close the bolt?”

If you get lucky enough to obtain a A5 in good condition with this feature, rejoice and be happy, if not, luckily the older version’s feeding can be easily upgraded with four key parts ($129 factory drop in parts direct from Browning Service). You will still have to manage with the sliding safety unless you upgrade the trigger housing as well… easily another $150 in parts, but doable.  Surprisingly the four Speedfeed parts upgrade is easily if your screws have not all rusted tight. In that case, turn it over to a gunsmith who will charge around $100 to install your parts. My A5 came apart easily and I had the updated 2 Piece Carrier Assembly, Carrier Spring, Carrier Latch, & Carrier Latch Spring swapped in about 30 minutes including watching the below well done disassembly video - 

If you are comfortable building an AR15, then you can complete this update.
Required parts from Browning Service/Parts - 50440-B1111064 - 2 Piece Carrier Assembly 12ga, 50467-B1111107 - Carrier Spring, 50537-B1111269 Carrier Latch, 50540-B1111277 Carrier Latch Spring - $129.
Some say this conversion requires fitting. My parts dropped in without an issue. I do know that fitting is required for the 16 and 20 gauge model as there are none of these parts left in existence.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THERE 
The Carrier Latch Assembly which is a flat lever contraption with a flat spring attached on the internal side of the receiver area with a tiny flat-head screw pin uses the staged round to push a catch to prevent the next round in the magazine from double feeding. There are still only about $20 new-old-stock, so if you can always replace it. Many times the magazine catch portion gets bent flat over the years and needs to be bent back to its original position which should be flat with the inside bore of the magazine tube. If you cannot hand feed the A5 without jams, or it double feeds while shooting, chances are very high this is the culprit not the recoil springs. These are one of the parts that can requiring some tuning to get the timing and magazine spring tension of the next round right for reliable operation.
 
NORDIC COMPONENTS MAGAZINE TUBE EXTENSION
I love the innovation of Nordic Components and it was no surprise to me that they offer one of the only Browning A5 MXT magazine tube extensions.  These kits include the nut and spring which can add +1 to +9 rounds depending on the length you select. This is a simple upgrade; unscrew the existing magazine tube cap and screw on the Nordic MXT tube extension with the included spring. In this case I added a +6 extension which updated my A5 to a 9 +1 total capacity with 2-¾” shells. Note that if you want to swap back to hunting 2+1 hunting capacity, all you need to do is remove the tube and reinstall the original spring, limiter dowel, and handguard nut and you are back in the hunt.
Two big tips when installing the tube and 4 foot long magazine spring. First wear safety glasses. Second, read the directions regarding trimming the spring, and third, place a 1/4" dowel rod in the magazine tube, thread the spring on, and then the Nordic extension on with some of the dowel exiting out the end of the tube. The Nordic extension specifically has a hole in the end of the extension for this spring install method. Screw the extension in place and pull the dowel out. This method will keep the spring in line throughout install, keep the cursing to a minimum, and save about 500 calories from chasing a spring around the room. I did buy the clamp on Nordic picatinny and QD swivel, however since the A5 barrel recoils and moves, you cannot use it like it was intended.
CHOKE TUBE UPDATE?
I really went back and forth on whether to keep the adjustable choke or convert over to screw in tubes. Many consider an adjustable choke a huge feature for a hunting shotgun.. I am a believer. They are one of the simplest choke tube devices on the market with no barrels to swap out or chokes or wrenches to lose or store. That noted they look horrible and this permanently mounted Lyman “Corncob” version is among the ugliest yet with the expansion chamber brazed in place. Despite its looks, the expansion chamber and compensator was marketing as a recoil reducer. Without a direct comparison, it is hard to say for sure.
Although I am not a huge 3 Gun or clays competitor, I do see folks swapping out chokes in competition on a regular basis to combat winds and provide improved patterns at larger distances. This is the sweet spot for this Lyman monstrosity of a choke which allows fast and easy choke pattern changes with just a few spins of the choke. Keeping it, also saved me about $200 in gunsmithing to convert it over to screw in chokes which would have been a purely esthetic decision. In Part 3 years later, the last update, this choke did go since the barrel was chopped to a 18.5-inch length and I could not be happier.
FINAL THOUGHTS
There is no doubt that this redue has the same appeal to many as restoring a classic car. In fact, estimates are that this old Browning A5 is circa 1920s which puts it well into the vintage category of firearms and likely a $2000 gun restored with an appropriate vent rib. Whatever, they made 3 Million of these, and I was thrilled to be able to breath new life into this nearly 100-year old but fully functional gun with a little TLC and a few upgrades.
So how does it all work? Awesome! Like any Browning A5, you do need to lube down the spring and friction rings and assure the friction rings are tuned/placed in the correct position for your load. I have run a few hundred boxes of 2 3/4" shells through the updated A5 and it works just like any of the updated speed-feed A5’s do. A great deal and a fun project which still has more surprises around the corner.


SOURCES

Check BROWNELLS for the best deals on firearms and accessories

Nordic Components - - http://www.nordiccomp.com/