The Browning Conundrum

We all know that I’m a huge fan of the Browning P-35 High Power pistol (despite its piddly Europellet chambering) because to me, it is the absolute zenith of John Moses Browning’s engineering handgun design (albeit with a huge assist from Dieudonné Saive).   It is one of my favorite guns to shoot, and is much easier to disassemble (and reassemble) when it comes to after-action cleaning.

I also love my Browning 1885 High Wall rifle in .45-70 Govt:

That “bank-vault-closing” feel as you pull the lever back up and close the action after reloading:  not much feels and sounds much better in the firearms world.  And the satisfaction one feels when pulling the trigger to send a giant 405-gr bullet downrange… ah, my friends, if you haven’t experienced it, it would be like trying to explain the beauty of a desert sunset to a blind person.

And everyone knows of my love for Browning Auto-5 shotguns like the Sweet 16 or the Light 20:

And yet those are the only three Browning guns I’ve ever owned.

That’s not by design, by the way.  I’ve fired many Browning rifles and shotguns — all belonging to other people, either at the range or while hunting — but for some inexplicable reason, I’ve never felt compelled to own a Browning long gun or pistol in the way that I am drawn to, say, a Mauser 98 or WinMar lever rifle.

It’s inexplicable, really;  there is no reason for me to turn my nose up at, say a Browning lever rifle (BLR), especially when chambered for a manly cartridge like the .308 Win:

…especially when the BLR’s stacked mag allows for spitzer-tipped bullets while the WinMar’s tube mags do not.  Would I feel in any way disadvantaged with the BLR out in the field?  Hell, no;  and yet for some reason, I’m drawn more to the Henry/Winchester/Marlin offerings than to the BLR.

That also goes for Browning’s bolt-action rifles.

Combat Controller uses one of these, an X-Bolt chambered in -300 Win Mag, for his Scotland hunts with Mr. Free Market, has never had a problem with it, and his deer tally over the years would certainly give one no reason not to use one (especially in those difficult conditions).  Yet I’ve never owned one, nor come close to getting one;  and the same is true for the excellent semi-auto BAR / Safari models:

(For some reason, I’m not a fan of hunting with semi-auto rifles, but that has nothing to do with Browning.)

Needless to say, I would never turn down a Browning double-barreled shotgun, except that they make mostly over/under models — but once again, my preference for side-by-side shotguns has nothing to do with Browning.  Their reputation and success in shotguns is very well earned, and thousands of people use them as religiously as I use Mauser rifles or John Moses Browning’s 1911 Government pistol.

This, by the way, is one of my “lottery” shotguns at Steve Barnett’s:  a rare older “BSS” model in 20ga:

…which has absolutely everything I desire in a SxS:  splinter forearm, double triggers and straight “English” stock.  The only thing that has stopped me from getting it is not the fact that it’s old and second-hand:  it’s the price:  $5,750.  Which, for an old secondhand gun, pushes me away a little.

And here, finally, may lie the the answer as to why I’ve never owned many Browning guns:  cost.

Loyal Readers know that I always go for quality in my guns — and nobody seems to have any arguments against Browning guns in that regard — but at the same time, Brownings always seem to cost just a little bit too much when compared with guns which are functionally their equivalent and whose quality is as good or in some cases better.  Once again, I have no problem with quality costing more than average;  where possible, I always go for quality (in all things) even though I know that it does carry a higher cost.  But Browning always seems to be just a tad over that tolerance, and I walk away.

How say you, O My Readers?  Is this your experience too, or am I missing something here?

22 comments

  1. Thinking it over, I have nine of his designs, and may be prompted to pick up one or two more. He had a remarkable mechanical mind, and I doubt he will be surpassed.

  2. Ya know, it’s rare for me to agree with every point in a blog post, but in this case I find myself doing so. I LOVE Brownings, and in Lottery Fantasy Land I’d have a bunch, but I’ve always had to compromise about the money.

    BTW, my roofer in Duluth GA has a collection of BARs which includes every major version (also _cabinets_ full of Case knives). Tell me trade schools aren’t a good idea…

  3. You’re not missing a thing, Kim, spot on on all counts.

    I’ve got several Browning designs, but perhaps my favorite, or at least, the most often used, is the BLR Takedown; L.L. Bean used to make a double case, intended for O/U or S/S shotguns, into which the BLR TD fits perfectly, and closely resembles common fishing gear, over which absolutely no one seems to get excited. I’d really like for someone to start making 6-round mags for it, and for Browning to reduce the cost of the 3-rounders, but as mine is in .308, I can live with several spares in a pocket; under most circumstances, one, or at most, two, 168 grain .30 caliber projectiles will easily resolve the problem, All The Way Out There.

    The only complaint I have is mounting an EER scope requires removal of the factory fixed rear sight, which I am loath to do, or adding a Browning-made Picatinny rail to the receiver and adding the optic of choice with QD rings; small beans in any case.

  4. I have to say good things about my 1911/22. Its the most fun you can have with your pants on. The pistol is light and compact and as a 7/8 scale clone of a .45 1911 it uses the same muscle memory and takedown procedures as its big brother. My 4’10” wife just can’t quite handle a full size 1911 – even my Officer’s Model- but she’ll shoot the .22 all day long. If things went really bad a guy would have lots of trouble explaining to Saint Peter where those 10 holes in a circle the size of a half dollar came from.

  5. Their beauty is undeniable. For years I coveted a Hi-Power because of it. Then one day, feeling a little flush with cash, I stopped into Collectors and fondled several. I particularly wanted one like the one pictured above … loop hammer, wood grips, deep blue. They all rattled, like pebbles in a tin can; some worse than others. I could hardly believe it. Then I realized that my LW Commander had always rattled a little bit in the same way. It could be that my Sig fetish began that day. Thank you, sir, for the beautiful pics.

  6. John Moses Browning’s skill and genius is shown clearly in so many of his designs that are still in use today over 100 years and more after he sent them out into the world. Pistols, shotguns, rifles all still in daily service. And one that now is right on 100 years is the M2 machine gun. Ma deuce, 50 caliber medicine for long range and heavy duty. To my knowledge, it is the longest serving military firearm of the modern age. The cartridge he designed for it is still in use with the M2 and in numerous other rifles punching holes in targets and hajjis thousands of yard away. God Bless ya John!

  7. When I started bird hunting too many years ago to think about I borrowed shotguns from friends for test runs. I found I liked bottom ejecting pumps.

    The Browning BPS was the winning candidate and I’ve been perfectly happy with it for over 40 years for trap and skeet, upland game and water fowl.

    Why do I like bottom ejecters? Because I like to pick up my trash and it’s at my feet, not sprayed out over 20 feet of brush.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJot4LauBQM

  8. Kim, there’s Browning and then there’s “Browning.” The former being the MAN and HIS designs and the latter being firearms that bear the Browning name but which were designed after the death of JM Browning (PBUH.)

    You seem to be drawn to those designs that specifically were designed by Browning the MAN, not Browning the COMPANY. (And BTW, didn’t JMB design the original Winchester Model 94 lever gun? Again, hence your attraction to said firearm 😉 )

    As a side note, for those out there who lust after a P35/Hi Power but don’t have the scratch to buy the Browning model, I can recommend the FEG-35, AKA the “Hungarian Hi Power” made under license in Hungary I believe in the 1970’s and 80’s. You can often find good examples for about half what you’d pay for a Browning and the pistols are virtually identical (parts are interchangeable.) I owned one for several years and it always functioned flawlessly.

  9. Just noticed over at Clayton Cramer’s place he’s been asked to review the draft of a new biography of JMB:

    “It mentions that JMB had unusual spatial thinking. He almost never drew what he wasd going to make. The one time he sent Winchester drawings instead of a model gun, it did not work.”

    I’ve known a couple people like that, one whom after a brief discussion could walk over to the Bridgeport, dig out a few cutters and some metal and an hour later hand you exactly what you had been visualizing. Very rare ability.

  10. Several of you folks know that Loves Me Some Browning Hi-Powers. But I have nothing to disagree with Kim on this one.

    Back when I had an actual budget and prices weren’t stratospheric I picked up a few of the design (all lost in a tragic canoe accident).

    Now days on a fixed disability income I just drool at the gun case when they are on display.

  11. At the NRA AM in 2016 I picked up a High Power at the Browning booth and liked it. It went onto the “to buy” list when funding lined up with opportunity. Not long after that Browning discontinued it and used prices began to climb. At the time I had a Beretta 92 so another DA/SA 9mm wasn’t really needed. It’s a shame that pistol was discontinued. Someday I’ll buy a used one.

    I could never get used to a detachable box magazine on a lever action rifle. It’s almost unnatural, like sun glasses on Venus de Milo.

    I have had a Browning Citori 525 I Think is the model. I never had a problem with it. It’s made in Japan though. It shouldn’t detract from it though because the Japanese tend to make things very well.

    Never tried a buckmark. Ruger Mk IIs tend to be far more common around here.

    I agree with you Kim about buying quality whenever possible. At some point though price plays an important factor. Usually when I buy something I look at comparative models and determine is the extra money worth it to get an added or better feature. So far such an analysis has precluded me from buying anything from HK, Korth, Freedom Arms, Sig, Colt and numerous other brands. The same analysis has also precluded me from buying products for Lorcin, Jennings, SCCY, Taurus, Rossi, Charter Arms and other prodocuts from manufacturers of lower priced goods.

    Too each their own

    Enjoy!!

  12. There was a time when I lusted after the Hi-Power detective as a potential backup carry gun. Alas, like many designs of that era, they are actively hostile to the sinister pawed, and my research into having the safety altered was not promising at all. 🙁

      1. Like my youngest brother, who also likes my Browning BPS because of the downward ejection port and the location of the safety, which let a lefty easily borrow, use and return the gun, and being both a lefty and a little brother, uncleaned.

  13. Had a Iraqi Police Hi-Power that I -loved- as a Contractor in Baghdad. Sad day when I had to leave it behind. Gifted it to a Brother who was in 10th Group… he was thrilled to say the least. It was worn but a magnificent piece. I still have a “Baby Browning” .25 that I wrote about and poasted about it on MY blog here: https://bigcountryexpatoriginal.blogspot.com/2020/04/saturday-night-and-im-beat.html
    A cute lil poodle shooter but the design is awesome…

  14. Here I was thinking that I no longer had any Browning guns in my safe when I remembered the Colt M1903 that I inherited when my father passed away in March. A classic Browning “pocket pistol” (i.e. hammerless) in .380/9mm short caliber.

    Even better, this gun has history: It was purchased by my paternal grandfather (whom I never knew as he died when I was an infant) some time in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s and carried by him for protection of his family during the early stages of the great depression.

    According to my dad, this gun was used to foil at least one robbery attempt, somewhere on a highway in Pennsylvania or Maryland. It was some time before 1935 and my grandfather had stopped for gas, with my grandmother and uncle (who would have been about 4) in the car (my dad hadn’t been born yet.) A couple of thugs approached them with a tire iron. My grandfather produced the Browning and the thugs made a hasty change of plans.

  15. I love the Browning HP, although like the 1911, it benefits greatly from a tune-up.

    The shotguns? Well, there’s a saying that either the Browning OR the Beretta will fit you…in my case, the Beretta fits and the Browning feels like a log.

  16. I have a Browning 12g BSS that I never use, I believe term is “safe queen”, (I was given it), I’ve used it a coupla times and it’s vastly inferior to my AYA Hammer Gun, (I’ve forgotten the model number, I’ve had it so long), I am a fairly crap shot with a pistol, and used 2b a dead eye dick with a rifle, but age, medication and ill health took it’s toll, however, what I aim at with that AYA, stays got. The only thing that beats, it in my hands, is an Anschutz Single Barrel .410 bolt action that my brother bought in 1964 for £1. 10s, (he gave it to me), you don’t need a 2nd barrel or a bigger bore, whatever you shoot, stays shat! It’s often not what you would expect. When I first took up the fiddle, (age 40), there was a little Oriental girl, (age 12), who made her violin sound like it cost £20,000, (NB she played violin, I played fiddle).

  17. Have many 1911’s – some Colt, some not.
    “Serpico” made me want a HP, but CA laws intervened when I could afford one, and I got a step-child instead: EAA/Tanfoglio Poly Witness in .45acp – 10+1 (the selling point was the frame mounted safety, my thumbs just don’t like reaching up to the slide).
    I think this might be an opportune time to give a modern 1886 in 45-70 (made for Winchester in the 90’s in Japan) a ride – a straight stock, with a full length mag under an octagon bbl.

  18. I have two of your three favorites, the Hi-Power and the .45-70 high wall. I have the High Power, cause John Moses Browning and the .45-70 cause I love .458 cal. Also don’t like the Ruger No. 1. Life’s too short to shoot ugly guns.

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