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The Browning legacy continues.

When John M. Browning died iln 1926, the world lost the most prolific firearms design genius it has ever known. In the 17 years from 1883 to 1900, beginning when Browning was just 28 years old, he designed and sold 44 guns to Winchester, developed a recoil-operated machine gun and patented no less than six semi-automatic pistols. Such production is difficult to fathom in itself, but when you consider that he was turning out not only quality guns, but pioneering work in the areas of semi-automatic and automatic guns, it seems almost impossible.

To commemorate the genius of John M. Browning, the Browning Arms Company, Rt. 1, Morgan, UT 84050, will, in 1984, 1985, and 1986, offer three Browning Classic series begins in 1984 with the Automatic Five. Probably no Browning invention is more desrving of the honor of kickoff gun for the Classic program. Not only is it recognized as one of the best long recoil operated shotguns ever produced, but its history marks a couple of milestones in the firearms industry.

Browning began to work on the automatic Five in 1898 and the first of his four patents on it was granted on February 8, 1900. The first model was known as the Number 43. The Number 44 was quite similar, but had no side-mounted cocking piece for manually cycling the bolt. The device to perform this function was located on the underside of the stock. The final version, the Number 45, was patented in 1902 and in this model the side ejectionl port and side cocking peace for manually cycling the bolt was back.

While developing the Automatic Five, Browning's biggest problem involved the variety of pressures produed by the shells then available. Remember, at that time in history the ammunition industry was embroiled in the transition from black to smokeless pdwder so they too were working in a new area. You can imagine the headaches Browning encountered in trying to get the world's first semi-auto shotgun to work. He eventually solved this dilemma through invention of the shock absorber, a friction device that distributed recoil throughout the mechanism and produced reliable ejection od sheels of vastly different pressures. In addition, the shotgun had an internal firing mechanism as opposed to the familiar exposed hammer. It also sported a solid receiver.

Up to the time of the development of the Automatic Five, the preponderance of John Browning]s rifle and shotgun designd had beeb bought by Winchester, making the company America's dominant arms producer. But when it came time for negotiations on the Automatic five, a rift developed between John Browning and Winchester's T.G. Bennett. It seems that Browning realized that his automatic shotgun was a very special invention. His asking price was high and he wanted a royalty-something Bennett had never, and would never, consider. then, too, it's thought that Bennett feared that the automatic shotgun would replace the manually-operated repeaters for which Winchester already had expensive tooling, thus he was reluctant to consider it seriously. At any rate, the result was a permanent Winchester/Browning break Browning gathered up his prototype of the Automatic Five and walked out of Winchester's offices, never to return.

Remington would probably have obtained sole rights to the Automatic Five had fate not played a nasty trick. A few hours after leaving Bennett, Browning arrived at Remington for an appointment with the company's president, Marcellus Hartley. Browning intended to offer the shotgun to him, but before the meeting could take place-Browning was waiting in the Remington office-Hartley died of a heart attack. It was then that Browning took his autoloading shotgun to Fabrique Nationale in Liege, Belgium, where he'd already made deals on some of his pistols, and thus began a lasting association that was to result in some of the finest firearms ever produced.

Fabrique Nationale first manufactured the Automatic Five in 1903, in 12 gauge only, 2-1/4-inch chambers. The stock was the English straight grip style, the gun had a five-shot capacity and its weight was approximately 7-1/4 pounds. In 1905, Remington was licensed to manufacture and sell the shotgun and their version was known as the remington Model 11 automatic Shotgun. While it was identical in most respects to the F.N. Browning there were differences in the mechanism, and the Model 11 stock had a hard rubber butt plate and a full pistol grip.

Down through the years a number of modifications have been made to the Browning automatic Five, yet it was 55 years before anyone developed a successful autoloading shotgun to compete with John Brownings's gun. It's still manufactured today and is one of Browning's biggest sellers. How many Automatic Five guns have been manufactured and sold? It's impossible to estimate. Besides those guns made by F.N., many other companies the world over--Remington, Savage, Franchi, Breda and others--were licensed to manufacture and sell guns of the Automatic Five design. Although Fabrique Nationale last made the Automatic Five shotgun in Belgium in 1976, it's still available from Browning--manufactured by the firm's plant in Japan.

But in the Classic series Automatic five shotguns we find a blend of F.N. and Japanese craftmanship. The Gold Classics, of which there will be only 500, serial numbered "001 of 500," "002 of 500," etc., will be made, engraved and gold inlaid by F.N. in Belgium. The Classic Automatic Five guns, of which there will be 5,000, are made in the Japanese plant, but engraved in Belgium by F.N. engravers.

The Gold Classic Automatic Five will have generous engraving on a satin grey steel receiver. On the right side of the receiver, in the center, are a pair of mallards inlaid in gold. Near the rear of the receilver is a gold portrait of John M. Browning. All of this is surrounded by meticulous engraving--scrolling work and waterfowl scenes--with the words, "Browning gold Classic" in gold along the bottom edge. On the left side of the receiver, a fallen mallard and a Labrador retriever are set in gold inlay, along with the serial number. The Browning logo, in gold, is positioned on the bottom of the trigger guard and the trigger is gold plated.

The Classic model sports a satin grey receiver with generous engraving. Although there are slight differences, the waterfowl scenes and Browning's portrait on the Classic are similar to those on the Gold Classic--minus the gold inlay work, of course. There is somewhat less engraving on the Classic. On the right side of the receiver is engraved "Browning Classic" while on the left side are the worlds "One of Five Thousands."

The barrels of both Automatic Five Classic models are done in a high polish blue and topped with ventilated ribs. The Gold Classic rib has a large white bead up front and a smaller one about halfway back. The Classic rib has only a single silver bead up front. The barrels are 28 inches long with modified chokes and 2-3/4-inch chambers.

Select grade figured walnut is used in the stocks of all Classic Automatic five shotguns. Wood on the Gold Classic sports a superb F.N. oil finish while the Classic stock has a glossy polyurethane finish. Fine checkering with a carved border decorates the pistol grip and fore-end.

Both Gold Classic and Classic automatic Five shotguns hit the world market in February of 1984. The Gold version retails for $6,500, the Classic for $1,200. With world-wide distribution, I doubt that these elegant shotguns will last long. If you're inclined to purchase one, I'd recommend that you send your order in immediately.

Browning's Classic and Gold Classic offering for 1985 will feature one of the world's most popular semi-automatic pistols, the Browning 9mm Hi-Power. Patended in February, 1927, three months after John M. Browning's death, this was his last pistol design. Chambered for the 9mm Parabellum (Luger) cartridge, it was first produced in 1935 by Fabrique NAtionale and offered as their Model 1935. In the U.S. it has always been known as the Browning Hi-Power.

The Hi-Power represents Browning's greatest achievement in the field of semi-automatic pistols. That it is his best is supported by the fact that it was first adopted as the official sidearm of the Belgian Army and has since been, or still is, the official military pistol of some 64 countries throughout the world--many of them NATO nations. Again, it's impossible to pin down an exact production figure. Besides the 1,300,000 Hi-Powers produced by F.N. through 1982, over 200,000 were produced in Canada for the Chinese Army during World War II.

The Browning Hi-Power is a short-recoil-operated semi-automatic pistol featuring an external hammer, locked breech and 13-round magazine. Browning was the father of both blow-back and recoil-operated semi-automatic pistols. Probably the most famous of these designs in the U.S. is the Model 1911 Government .45, the official sidearm of the United States Armed forces and a pistol generally accepted to be one of the most reliable ever developed. And, just in case you don't know it, the Colt woodsman .22 rimfire pistol was also a John Browning invention. That Browning would continue to develop and improve his handgun designs after the successful introduction of the Model 1911 and the Woodsman should tell you something. The Hi-Power obviously represents what Browning felt was his ultimate in semi-automatic pistol design. That's good enough for me.

The Browning Hi-Power of today is sold in the standard blue model as well as with a nickel finish, silver chrome finish or as the ornate, highly-engraved Louis XVI version with your choice of fixed or adjustable sights on all except the silver chrome model which has adjustable sights only.

You Hi-Power fans will soon be able to add a Classic or Gold Classic to your collection in 1985. The 500 Gold Clasic Hi-Power guns, as their name implies, feature superb engraving on the slide and frame of this satim grey gun with just enough gold inlay to make the pistol a thing of rare beauty. On the right side of the slide, on the flat just back from the muzzle, is a gold detail of an eagle's head. Along the right side of the frame, above and forward of the trigger guard, are the words in gold, "Browning Gold Classic." On top of the slide, just forward of the rear sight, is Browning's portrait in contrasting gold and forward of this is a gold inlayed scene depicting an eagle protecting her young from a marauding lynx. On the left side of the slide, again on the muzzle flat, is the gold detail of an eagle's head and on the left side of the frame is the serial number in gold. A gold Browning logo is located on the botteom of the trigger guard and the trigger itself is gold plated. The 5,000 Classic Browning 9mn Hi-Power guns feature the same engraving and scenes as the Gold Classic, but with gold only on the trigger. Both Classic series Hi-Power guns feature checkered walnut grip panels and fixed sights. The retail price is $2,800 for the Gold Classic and $1,325 for the Classic.

Because of the world-wide popularity of the Browning 9mm Hi-Power pistol, the planned production run of 500 Gold Classic and 5,000 Classic guns will undoubtedly be spoken for even before they become available in 1985. The demand for them will be even greater when it's known that the Browning 9mm Hi-Power, as it's produced by Fabrique Nationale today, will cease to exist with completion of production of the Classic series. That's right--one of the world's great pistols will be pushed aside to make room for anew double-action design.

Finally, in 1986 Browning will close their Classic series with presentation of Gold Classic and Classic models of the famous Browning over/Under shotgun. Here we again find a blend of European and Japanese gunmaking. The Gold Classic will be manufactured and engraved in Belgium by Fabrique Nationale, but the Classic guns will be manufactured in Japan, engraved by F.N. in Belgium. While there are some minor differences in the two guns, both look alike and are essentially models of the F.N. Browning gun.

Not much has been writing about John Browning's work on his last firearms invention, the Superposed shotgun, but it was undoubtedly developed with help, in part, from his son, Val Browning. Val lives today in Ogden, Utah, and it was my privilege to meet and visit with him briefly early in 1984. It was in Val's office at the Fabrique Nationale plant that John M. Browning died of heart failure the day following Thanksgiving in 1926.

By this time, though, the Superposed project was underway. The U.S. Patent had been granted on March 30, 1926, and the Superposed was first produced by F.N. in 1930. It appeared in the Browning Arms Company line in the U.S. in 1931.

I'm one of those shooters who prefers not to puzzle over why, after years of developing automatic sporting and military firearms, John Browning turned his attention to the stacked-barrel, standing breech Superposed. It's enough for me that he did, guaranteeing me hundreds of hours of pleasure each fall. I'm a consummate over/under fan--in fact I own no other type of shotgun--and everytime I swing on a pair of darting doves, or thrill to rise of a covey of Chukar partridge on a rocky canyon slope, I give thanks to John Browning for that sweet, fast-handling gun with which I can get off two shots in the wink of an eye.

The original Browning Superposed gun sported double triggers. Val Browning later designed a twin single-trigger system and then the single selective triggers. For many years the Superposed used an intertia trigger--gun recoil to set the second trigger--but recently F.N. has equipped their Superposed with mechanical triggers. The Browning Citori, made in Japan, still uses the interia trigger system.

The Gold Classic Over/Under features exquisite engraving on the satin grey steel receiver, trigger guard and trigger guard tang, thumb lever, safety and fore-end latch. On the right side of the receiver we find the gold protrait of Browning as well as two flushing quail and a pointer in gold. Beneath these inlays are thw words, "Browning Gold Classic" in gold. On the left side of the receiver the gold work consists of a scene with a setter dog, an airborne pheasant and a pheasant hiding in the brush. The serial number is also located here, done in gold. On the bottom of the receiver is the head of a grouse in gold. The gold Browning logo is located on the bottom of the trigger guard and the letters "O" and "U" on each side of the safety/barrel selector are gold filled. The Classic Over/Under features the same art work as the Gold Classic, but minus the gold.

Both Over/Under Classics are furnished in 20 guage. The 26-inch barrels are choked improved cylinder and modified. Beautifully done in a high polish blue, the barrels are topped with a ventilated rib. Two white beads are located on the Gold Classic rib, a single silver bead on the Classic model.

Browning has chosen select, highly figured walnut for the buttstock and fore-end of their Over/Under Classic guns. The fore-end features the attractive Schnabel design while the buustock has the straight grip design. Fine-cut checkering decorates the grip and fore-end. An F.N. oil finish is used on the Gold Classic while the Calssic has a high gloss finish. Retail price for the Over/Under Gold Classic is tentatively established at $8,800 while the Classic will retail for $2,500.

Why have we reported now on the entire Browning Classic even though the 9mm Hi-Power and Over/Under editions are still one and two years away respectively? Because many shooters will want the entire set and to make this possible, Browning is accepting orders now. However, the retail proces quoted are hard and fast only for the Automatic Five series now being delivered. The price tags for the 9mm Hi-Power and Over-Under guns may change, depending upon what the dollar does on the foreign markets.

While there may be other guns designed by John M. Browning that deserve special recognition, I think all of you will agree that those the Browning Company has chosen to honor with the Classic Series are standouts by any standards. Each is, in itself, a fitting tribute to the greatest firearms inventor of all time.
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Title Annotation:limited editions of John M. Browning classic designs
Author:Milek, Bob
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jul 1, 1984
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