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The Browning A5 is, to my eye, a bit dated in the looks department. That squared off hump screams “Gramp’s gun!” But based on the number of them that they sell each year, not to mention Dan’s insistence that I “embrace the hump”, I imagine I’m in the minority with that assessment. New for 2016 is a 16 gauge version of the venerable A5 . . .

Those who feel that 16 gauge is the perfect balance between the knockdown power of a 12 gauge and the shoot ability of a 20, feel free to start rejoicing now. Having never shot a 16 gauger in the entirety of my life, I was pleasantly surprised by both a mild recoil impulse and the pure destruction it wrought on clay pigeons. The mild recoil can be attributed to both the load itself, but also to the A5’s proven recoil operated Kinematic inertial drive system.

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In the limited shooting I did today, I found the A5 to run reliably and cleanly while spitting death at approaching clays. It didn’t, however, do well on the springing teal stage. Or perhaps that was your writer. Either way, you can pick up Browning’s Sweet 16 A5 for a (relative) song, a dance, and $1100 MSRP.

42 Responses to Shooting the Browning A5 Sweet 16

  1. I’ve always wanted a 16 gauge, but I’ve always wanted a 16 gauge I could bury under my coat like in the Pearl Jam song from waaaayyyy back in the early days before they started sucking. So maybe pistol grip double barrel?

    • The song is Once, the first song of their first album. I’m a big fan of the band and also thought about the song when I read the article.

      • Their first 2 were great, after that there’d be two or three good songs on each album and the rest was pretty lame IMHO. But yes, Once. Upon a time. I could control myself. Once. Anyway, pistol grip double barrel sawed off 16 gauge, a pair of leather pants and an AMC Javalin with a supercharger that turns on and off with a switch. Then I’d be stylin’. I suppose it would be too much to ask for a copy of 10 on 8 track. Probably need an ATF tax stamp for the shotty too.

  2. The way to hit springing targets is to follow them from the launch upwards, and time the top of the arc.

    Or, if you’re shooting Annie Oakley matches, you follow it down and break it about a foot off the ground to see if you can sucker the next guy in line into firing prematurely.

  3. The 16 ga. is the perfect general purpose gun. But Americans are obsessed with horse power. Some day I expect to see a 4 inch 12 ga chamber.

    In my youth I was fortunate enough to have access to a Belgium made browning sweet 16 to hunt with. It was absolutely great. Even with the paper shells we used in it.

  4. The original sweet 16 Belgium made A5s were owned and hunted by a number of my family members back way when, including my dad. Many birds fell to that perfect gun in my family and when I crack open my dads gun case and handle that firearm, I still think it’s the one to measure all others in terms of weight, balance, shouldering, carry and lethality (with lead of course). My dad “retired” his A5 years ago and doesn’t shoot it (much to my dismay). I told him a few months ago that Browning was reintroducing the 16 in the new A5 action and it was a sub 6 lb gun. At 74 years young, he was excited to hear that he could once again shoot a 16 at pheasants…. And I’ve already found non tox recipes for ITX shot that equal or exceed 3.5″ 12 gauge steel in a 2.75″ 16 gauge load!

    I think the msrp quoted in this article is wrong. I’ve seen $1699, so I would expect $1450-1500 street. However for any shotgun enthusiast, a sub 6lb, modern auto loading 16 gauge that can handle all new shot types is well worth it and may be the “one gun” you’d ever need. I know damm well that was the case for many central Illinois upland/waterfowl hunters.

    BTW that ITX recipe is – Cheddite Hull, Cheddite209 primer, 24 gr. Alliant Steel powder, VP80 wad, 1 1/8 oz of ITX shot in your choice of #2s for Geese, #4s for ducks/pheasant. That is a 1300fps load at only 11000 psi. Pellet counts for 1 1/8 oz of ITX is 119 for 2’s and 190 for 4’s. What does that mean you say? Well consider that a popular goose load nowadays is a Kent fast steel load in 12 gauge 3.5″, which has 1 3/8 oz of BB shot, and that only gives you 99 pellets, or 20 less than you get in the 16 gauge load above with more lethal ITX. Similarly the Kent fast steel 1 3/8 oz 2’s only has 172 pellets, compared to the #4 ITX 16 gauge load which has 190!

    Yup, welcome back 16, can’t wait!

  5. “Having never shot a 16 gauger in the entirety of my life,…”

    Nor I.

    12’s and .410s only, and quite a bit of difference in punch between those gauges.

    So, at the risk of sounding like an old Monty Python sketch: “What’s it like?”.

    (Meaning 16 and 20, the gauge, not the age…)

    • 16’s were remarkably well balanced guns overall.

      Without over-writing the issue, the 16 used to be the predominate upland gun 100 years ago. It was a very well balanced gun, lighter than the 12, but typically built on the same receiver frame as the 12’s. A 2.75″ 16 gauge shell will hold up to 1 1/4 oz of shot, max, but most loads were 1 or 1 1/8 oz. 16’s were seen as a good all-around gun for upland game shooting, the occasional duck or buckshot-on-deer job. The 12 gauge was seen as the “farmer’s gun,” because it was capable of throwing a bit more shot. In a 2.75″ shell, you can have up to 1 3/8ths oz of shot in a 12 ga. At this point, a lighter 12 gauge gun will start to become somewhat objectionable for many people in the recoil issue. As you move into the 3″ magnums, you can now start seeing loads as heavy as 1 5/8ths or even 1 3/4 oz of shot, and now these will start to rattle your teeth loose.

      Where the 16 started to fall off was when the clay shooting games became really popular after WWII. Trap rewards those who have more shot, and heavier guns are no problem in trap because you’re not swinging that much or that hard. So the canonical trap load became a 1 1/8 oz. In skeet, the 16 was lumped with the 12’s in their rules, so there was no advantage to using a 16 over a 12. If you wanted a lighter, faster-swinging gun in skeet, you went to a 20.

      Then as semi-autos became more popular, the 12 really took over.

      Today, if you’re seeking to get started in shooting antique SxS shotguns, you can find some very nice Fox or Parker 16’s at very reasonable prices compared to a 12 or 20. There were many more 16’s made than 20’s in those days, and today, most shooters want a 12. For most non-waterfowl shooting, a 16 is the same as a 12. They can launch the same shot weight, no problem.

  6. Very hard to take you seriously with those hipster red square frame glasses on…

    But regardless, I like the A5, never shot a 16ga before tho, but I imagine it’s a sweet shooter. J.M. Browning design if memory serves…

    • “Very hard to take you seriously with those hipster red square frame glasses on…”

      He’s on vacation. He’s in Vegas. Someone else is paying for it. 🙂

      He’s allowed to wear ridiculous eyewear.

      Hey, Tyler?

      The internet *never* forgets.

      I predict that pic and the pic of your pale legs will haunt you in, oh, say 30 years…

      *snicker*

    • The modern A5 only shares the hump in the receiver with its predecessor and it’s only decorative. The new A5 is an inertia gun and the original is long recoil operated, although both types of operation are counterparts chronologically.

  7. I’ve got a 12G A5 from the Belgium factory back in the ’50s. It’s the most mild shooting 12G I’ve ever shot.

    • The original (ie, the “real” A5’s – today’s A5 isn’t a real A5, it is just shaped like an A5) could be tuned for heavy loads or light loads, and the mass of the bolt and the gun itself soaked up all kinds of recoil.

      The original A5 was quite the gun. Brutally strong, well built (the Belgian ones were very nice), very straightforward to work on.

      • The Japanese guns actually had better workmanship than the Belgium guns although they did cheapen them a bit with roll pins instead of tiny screws on one part of the frame and a plastic buffer in the stock. I have one of the very last sweet 16 gauge guns with the browning screw in chokes and would not trade it on any Belgium gun. The only draw backs to the original high quality A-5s were the fact that they were very tedious to take apart to clean and sometimes the pin holding the bolt to the carrier simply refuses to come out. The trigger guard was held in by screws which was a real pain to take off the frame as well. The later made split carrier was also a real pain to get back into the action on reassembly. The recoil was vicious as well but totally a non problem in a hunting gun but its not the gun to ever take skeet or trap shooting. Even with no maintenance the gun would last forever if only used for hunting. If used in skeet you had better grease the splines on the barrel and action or they wear out very quickly. Having said all this the ORIGINAL FORGED STEEL A-5 sweet 16 is my favorite shotgun bar none even with all its faults.

  8. I own an original (as well as its stable mates in 12ga and 20ga). It’s hard as hell to find shells for a 16ga and they’re costly when you do. Nobody ever suggested to me that it was worth a grand. Heck I tried to sell it at one point and couldn’t get 250 bucks for it because it was a 16ga and ammo was/is nearly unobtanium. Collectible status or no, if you can’t find ammo the value shoots downward. It’s a shame they pegged such a ridiculous price to it too. Maybe at 600 or 700 but a grand? Naw! I see a flop in Browning’s future. No surprise, they’ve clearly run out of ideas a long time ago and the best they can do now is resurrect a dead chambering and do a half-ass resurrection of an obsolete gun.

    • Factory loads are indeed difficult to find in stock. I load my own 16 ga shells on a MEC. Components are easily available mail order. Never short on ammo.
      Glad to see a new modern technology platform for the 16 ga.

    • Although 16 gauge shells were difficult to find they are now fairly readily available. Cabelas, Bass Pro and other shooting supply stores have them. They are not as cheap as 12 gauge but are not terrible either.

      • Believe me if its in mint condition its probably worth more than a grand. I paid $1,200 for mine 3 years ago and it was not even a Belgium Gun. It was one of the last 16ga A5’s made and it had factory screw in chokes. I never regretted spending the money because it turned out to be the most fabulous shotguns I have ever owned. It balances and swings every bit as good as some of my double barrel shotguns and my over-under shotguns and it holds more than two shots as well.

        There were many times in the past when I needed a 3rd shot and the double barrel just did not cut it because of the two shell limit. I watched the English shoot overhead driven pheasants and they have to have two double guns with a spare man constantly loading the other weapon who hands them the spare gun because they do not have time to load the first gun. All this could be eliminated just by using an A5 as it holds 5 shells in the magazine. I guess traditions die hard.

        Here is a hunting tradition out of Russia from the 1920’s in regards to hunting wolves.

        A Finish young man inherited a steel mill from the untimely death of his father. He was invited to go on a wolf hunt and accepted. He did not bring a gun but he hunted wolves with an Eagle. The Russians did too but also had dogs, guns and of all things a wolf net strung out in the path of the soon to be escaping wolves.

        The Finish Man asked his Russian host why in the world did they use wolf nets in conjunction with the guns and dogs and eagles. Was this not over kill and unnecessary. The Russian host conceded that it was indeed unnecessary but he said that “it was traditional to do so”. He said, you know its traditional like on Saturday night when we beat our wives.

    • Our local stores stock them and I have bought them on line by the case, even in the Remington Brand which I have always liked mostly because of tradition. I also hand load for them as well for practice at our skeet range. For upland game you will find no finer gauge bar none. I have even shot Canadian Geese with them and killed them deader than hell with 1 1/4 ounces of no. 4 shot. No I did not shoot them at 75 yards, If I had to do that all the time I guess I would do what the greatest duck hunter of all time did (Nash Buckingham) and buy a 10 Ga. He had a double 10 ga. custom built he called Bo-Wop and yes it did reach way out there.

    • hard to find ammo ? I hunt with nothing but the 16 ga and have never had a problem with ammo even bought some at wal mart this year I bevieve the 16 isthe best all round up land bird gauge there is I have 12s and 20s that iI simply dont use any more incidently my favorite gun is a 16 ga LC Smith feather weight double made ib 1929 that I dove hunt with every year and it isstill like new condition

  9. $1100 a song and a dance? Really? Especially for an obsolete caliber like 16 ga. I don’t know where some of these gun writers get their money from, but for a working dude thats pretty stiff. Yeah, I know, we’re speaking in relative terms, but still, with all the pump and imported turkish autos under $500, its no bargain.

  10. I’ve gotta believe there is a market-based reason why the 16-ga virtually disappeared. I’ve read that the effectiveness of modern top-shelf 20-ga ammo, and the availability of lower-recoil 12-ga ammo combined to make the 16 kind of superfluous. Valid or BS? I personally have seen more 28-ga ammo on the shelves hereabouts than 16-ga ammo.

    • The reason you see more 28 gauge vs 16 is because there is a 28gauge skeet class, and not for the 16. 20 gauge 3″ ammo does replicate and sometimes exceed 16, however the larger bore size of the 16 handles larger pellets (size 4 and down) better than a 20. And while light 12s can equal 16s in weight, bore size makes the potential slimness of a 16 the better choice in carry and handle. Pick up a Belgium sweet 16 and then pick up any modern lightweight 12 and you’ll see the difference immediately. Again, if you hand load, as was mentioned by myself and others, ammo availability and cost isn’t an issue. And effectiveness is at or above anything in the field currently. Hopefully this gun Spurs ammo development and we see more commercially available loads similiAr to what we can hand load. And if any manufacturer produced a 3″ 16, that would effectively be the finest shotgun to take in the field bar none. Already a 2.75 16 can do 99% of what’s needed.

      • you are correct in your statement, I have found that the 16 will pattern 4s and 5s much better than the three inch 20 gauge the three inch 20 shot string is too long , another interesting fact that I have that using the one ounce shot load in both the 12 and 16 at thirty yards the 16 pattern is more consistant than the 12 the 16 seems to be the perfect gauge for the one ounce shot load

  11. The listed MRP is $1600, expected street $1350-1400. And yopu don’t buy a 16 for clay, it’s an upland hunting gun.

  12. Given that they have kept the 16ga BPS in the catalog since they introduced that gun 8-9 years ago (which I have one) my guess is you wouldn’t invest in the tooling needed to not keep this one going as well. I think this will be a VERY popular gun. Many people who bought the wonder light 12s in recent years for upland guns will be attracted to this one at 5.75 lbs.

  13. I currently have a Belgium made Sweet 16 my grandfather gave me when I was young. Its my favorite of all my firearms and I have carried it on many hunts with him.

  14. Thank goodness that someone is bringing back the sixteen. It is the perfect guage. I have shot one for over 40 years. And the perfect gun, the Browning A5. . . 16 guage shells used to be readily available, and for the same price as 20 and 12s. Maybe this attempt at the rejuvenation of the sixteen will make them more available at a decent price. I hope that this is a very happy, welcome homecoming for the Sweet Sixteen.

  15. I understand the current 12 guage A5 is made in Japan and heard the new Sweet 16 is made in Belgium and assembled in Portugal. Anyone know for sure?

  16. 16 gauge is a great upland load with the ideal payload of 1 oz. of shot around 1200 fps. Depending on shot size, one can take anything from dove/quail to pheasant on the wing very nicely. It’s the 1st gauge I used when starting hunting and it was highly effective. Today I use 20 and 12 as well and would love a light 16 ga carry gun such as this A5 which I believe weighs under 6 pounds yet shoots softly as the reviewer states due to the auto feeding system. My son shoots Browning Gold 20 and 12 gauge autoloaders and loves his. Am also looking into a 16 ga o/u carry gun from Rizzini. If you are looking for one gun for all NA upland birds, this is a really good all around gauge and gun. If you do get into clays, this will work for SC, skeet, 5-stand and trap too. It’s just not a sanctioned gauge and if you do get that heavily into clays, you’ll likely be investing in many guns for specific purposes.

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