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Browning 725 Review

Browning’s 3-4-5-6-725

This isn’t just a new “do”, it’s a full makeover!

Review By Dave Holmes

While marketing folks tout features that frankly may not mean much as stand-alone points of interest, they can often miss the main point. The main point with the 725 is that it moves like no other Browning you've ever had your hands on.

Gun model upgrades are nothing new. One wonders if there weren’t ads touting the advantages of the latest wheel locks back in the time: “Stronger springs, faster revolutions per hourglass turn and greater sparking power for faster and more certain ignition! Get yours today and leave that old, smoldering match lock in the rubbish!” Innovation could take a hundred years to come along, but variations were endless in the minds of inventors and “marketeers”. What would they have done with camo dips? One can only wonder.

And even today, one cannot envy those charged with making new models out of old designs year after year in an attempt to drive sales. A gold bird here and there, case coloring instead of chrome or nickel receivers. Light pipes, ribs that lead the eye to the target quicker (as if a chuck of steel can change the speed of light and totally ignoring the fact that if one is looking at the rib, one is in deep do-do). Porting, extended choke tubes, a pseudo oil finish instead of something glossy, a new checkering pattern, and on and on…can’t blame the gun companies. If they don’t sell more guns, they don’t stay open, so more power to them. What the normal mostly-cosmetic-change process does is accentuate the real overhauls, especially when the changes lead to increased “shootability”.

The new 725 does that in spades. While meaningful changes have trickled into the platform over the years, the “icing”, the resculpting of the frame and reduced weight of both the frame and the barrels of the 725 and the great triggers, in conjunction with its extremely attractive price point, deserve a blue ribbon. The change in dynamics “rebakes” my Citori cake. This is my “Shotgun of the Year”.

The basic Citori design has been around for 39 years now and appeared in more flavors than Baskin & Robbins. The 325 was the first of the modern sporters. There was no denying their robustness, but “svelte” probably wouldn’t have been the second adjective applied to them. Barrel weight was significant, as was the case with many models shifting from the trap field to the sporting field. Lest we forget, early Perazzi’s felt little like the sporting guns of today. Krieghoffs were in no danger of blowing over in a light breeze, either. I remember well the first one I shouldered after their sporting barrel “Slim Fast” profile was introduced. It was the first K gun I thought I would like to own.

Barrel weight was such that Browning dropped 32” barrels from the line for a while because they weren’t selling. Meanwhile, other makers were doing a brisk business in 32’s. Browning recognized the reality of the market and re-profiled their barrels with the hope of making their 32” more appealing. The 525, with its re-contoured 32” barrels was introduced in 2003. Browning immediately started selling 32” barreled guns.  

The 625 received a significant cosmetic overhaul, a stock redesign with a checkering pattern you either loved or not, and Browning’s Vector Pro forcing cones, the first Browning factory-cut long forcing cones. Also touted were lighter trigger pulls. It was a launch that sounded not too much different than the 725’s.

Except, in my addled mind, the 725 is the point at which at the evolutionary changes came together. The 625 Sporter was advertised at 8 lbs. 2 oz., a perfectly acceptable weight for a sporter. I handled it at the Shot Show in 2008 and mentally noted that progress toward a livelier sporting gun had indeed been made. I liked it, but didn’t lust for it.

I got to handle the 725 at the 2010 NSCA Nationals. It was a 30”gun that moved like a prima ballerina. Overall weight only tells part of the story of a gun’s handling qualities. Weight distribution tells the rest. My first impression with the 725 is that it was “right”. The butt felt perfectly in synch with the barrels. The middle of the gun felt like a pivot point, not an anchor point. It had the “feel”. When I heard the price ($3140 retail) and the trigger pull weight (3-3.5 pounds), I got the heebie jeebies. I had sworn off over-unders due to recoil issues and arthritis, but man, this 725 felt good!

And I liked the looks. The 725 Sporter is a relatively plain gun, but with Grade lll-lV wood, which sets it off just a touch. The lines are simply classic, with a slight scnabel on the forend. While high-ribbed guns, with their attendant amply endowed stocks, are the current rage, I suspect that many of us are still quite content to see classic lines on a nicely styled gun. The re-contoured frame melted away the blockiness associated with previous Citori iterations on a scale that outweighs the actual measurements.

When my 32” 725 arrived, it came out of the box at 7 pounds, 15 ounces, 5 ounces more than advertised. I didn’t consider that a bad thing for a target gun, as recoil and weight are a “forever relationship”. The balance point was 3/8” to 1/2” on the wood of the forearm, making it a deliberate swinger for a sub-8 pound gun. The barrels weighed in at 1597 grams with the Imod and full chokes, 1587 with skeet and IC, new territory for a factory Citori. (A set of 32”625 barrels weighed in at 1636 grams.)

The barrels are flared for choke tube installation, but it is so subtle that you don’t really notice. You can see the flare if you really look, but you don’t feel it when the gun is on the shoulder. The barrels are ported in the traditional Browning fashion. Those dedicated to eradicating porting in their lifetime may weep, wail and gnash teeth over it, but the holes will still be there. (You also might want to let most of the top level shooters know how bad porting is while you’re at it, so they can get their ported barrels replaced before they suffer irreparable damage!) As you might gather, I consider the porting debate a not-too-serious matter.

The barrels carry on the Browning Vector Pro forcing cone tradition along with the long standard “back-bored” barrels. I wasn’t able to measure the forcing cones accurately enough in my book to report a length, but the figure on the Browning International website gives the metric equivalent of 1.25 inches. That’s compatible with what I measured and observed.

Bore diameters on the Citori line tend to vary a bit. While the standard is often given at .742, I’ve never measured one that made it there. The bores on the 725 came in at .737 with a Baker bore gauge. I consider the bore variation of no performance based consequence, but it does affect the actual constriction of the choke tubes. If a tube manufacturer produces them for a .742 bore and the actual bore is .737, a whole degree of choke is lost.

The new DS choke tubes are long, 4”, but with a light, thin wall profile. The skeet tube weighs 36 grams, the full 45 grams.  The “DS” stands for “Double Seal”, a designation given as the tubes maintain the traditional seal offered by the threads at the muzzle, and a second seal, a brass band with flex cuts, at the skirt of the tube. The band forms a gas tight seal that keeps the choke tube skirt from loading up with residue while creating sufficient tension to largely eliminate choke tubes working loose while shooting. (Mine didn’t budge a bit during shooting.) While this may seem more marketing hype than necessity, I’ll bet those who have had a tube rust in the gun will appreciate the sealing function offered. In my experience, it works exactly as advertised.

The 725's chokes had to be redesigned to fit the thinner barrel profile. The seal at the skirt does an admirable job of keeping firing residue out of the choke seat area, greatly reducing the chance of a tube becoming stuck. The tubes initially require the use of a wrench, but after being installed and removed from the gun several times, can be hand turned.

Some may bemoan the inability to install their old Browning chokes in the barrels—can’t say that I blame them--but new tubes were required to change the barrel profile.

Actual choke tube constrictions were interesting. The gun arrived with the mod and Imod tubes installed and initial shooting was done with those tubes. Most of my practice shooting is done at a friend’s place where we aren’t constrained by a need to keep customers happy. We tend to shoot a lot of longer targets because we find them more entertaining. The performance of the tubes left little to be desired. 40-50 yard targets broke with the expected regularity.

Of course, I had to measure the tubes, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, than dimensions that seemed much more open than would have been expected, with one exception: Skeet .739 (-.002), IC .736 (.001), Mod. .729 (.008), Imod .724 (.013) and Full .700 (.037). Now I’m thinking about atypical constrictions, the performance I had seen on targets and how to get the equation to balance. I called Scott Grange and Browning and presented my quandary. Scott responded that the choke designations were based off pattern performance, rather than constrictions. (He also told me the tubes with the gun were made in Europe, not the U.S.)

One could run out and shoot a bunch of patterns, but it is winter time in Michigan. I hate shooting patterns and counting holes in the summertime, so that ain’t happening in the snow. I did shoot a few and saw no magic pattern density. What I did see was a trend toward evenly spread patterns, but that’s all the credence I would give the results is a trend.

A trip to the Browning International website revealed the philosophy to Browning’s approach to choke constrictions. The tubes are geared for 80% patterns, with even pellet distribution, at the following distances: Cylinder – 15 yards, Quarter – 20, Half – 25, Three-quarter – 30, Full – 35. Now, if we substitute the US labeling of the choke tubes, we see the method to the choke madness. Those who bemoan the lack of a light modified tube can see that, according to the Browning choke philosophy, there isn’t really a slot for it.

I’m reminded of an article by Larry Nailon that appeared in ClayShooting USA several years ago. He talked about the unexpected level of performance from good target loads in a properly prepared barrel. The components of the properly prepared barrel were: over boring, long forcing cones and a properly designed choke tube. I don’t recall the bore diameter Larry cited, but the 725 is “over bore” at .737. It has a “long” forcing cone. Choke tube design?

As I said, they are 4” long. In the Imod tube, the shot will have traveled @ 1 ½” inches in the .755 tube skirt before it is “squeezed” back to bore diameter at about 2 ¼”. The taper continues to a short parallel, about ½” at the muzzle. (All measurements are derived with the bore gauge and are  presented as “scientifically” close.) Does the shot charge react to the 1 ½” “over bore” section in a way that increases the effect of the muzzle constriction? A 2” taper is certainly gradual enough to not hammer pellet shape. Is a half-inch parallel long enough to get the job done?

Or are the guys who say IC is enough choke for everything right? All I know for sure is that the targets keep breaking when they should. Briley is gearing up to make the DS pattern chokes, so a full gamut (twice as many as we need) of constrictions will be available relatively soon.

I’ve seen concerns expressed over the longevity of the brass seals. I don’t share it. The brass seals have diagonal slots cut in pairs on the quadrants to allow for some compression. It isn’t much compression and nothing moves. I think I’ll worry about other things.

The top rib is .330 at the standing breech, flares to .440 just in ahead of the forearm wood touching the barrels, then tapers to .310 at the muzzle. It carries a dainty little white mid-bead and a Hi Viz front sight. Seven interchangeable light pipes are included to achieve whatever color/size combo best turns your crank.

While rib surfaces are hardly a key point in gun selection, the 725 sports horizontal cuts on the sides and longitudinal grooves down the middle. I now use a low contact point on my face with my eye quite high above the rib. If I can tell what color the light pipe is, I know I have my head too low on the stock. I have, on occasion, noticed in my peripheral vision, the center grooves drawing a nice, dark reference line to the target. The layout doesn’t hurt a bit and can provide a bit of reassurance on occasion, so what’s not to like?

The top and side ribs are vented.

The frame height has been reduced from about 2.675 on a 625 I measured to 2.540 on my 725. The fences have been re-contoured. The overall effect renders a noticeably trimmer and more “aerodynamic” look to the receiver. The frame with its attached parts weighs in a 1 lb. 14.6 oz. I couldn’t find a 625 that I could strip down for a comparable weight.

The 725 frame isn't flashy and the gun has a sedate, but stylish look to it, as would be expected by its quite reasonable price point. My crystal ball says there will be a cosmetically upgraded version of the gun in its future.

Adornment is minimal. The sides of the frame have a really small oval pattern rolled on that is slightly darker than the silver nitride finish. The lower rear of the side has “725” in the same darker color of the ovals. A gold Buckmark logo is on the top of the fore end iron. The bottom has a plain background with “Browning 725 Sporting” in the same darker gray already mentioned. The bow of the trigger guard has a gold filled Buckmark logo. That’s it. As I gaze in my crystal ball, I see some higher grades in the 725’s future!

The trigger, now mechanical rather than inertial, boasts the traditional three trigger shoes that have been supplied for quite some time. While the mechanical triggers may have some appeal to those who will put in small gauge tubes, I suspect for most users, it will go unnoticed. Yes, if the first barrel doesn’t fire, you can pull the trigger and the gun will shoot the second barrel. But…if you aren’t used to the capability, you won’t pull the trigger again anyway and in a tournament situation, one is likely better off to take the ammo malfunction and start over on the pair.

However, a second feature of the triggers is one that anyone should notice. Browning has lightened the trigger pulls right into the “delightful” category. Mine break at just a shade over 3.5 pounds, with just a hint of creep on the bottom barrel and quite crisp on the top. I’ve shot guns that cost three-four times as much with expensive trigger jobs that didn’t offer any improvement over the 725’s out of the box.

The 1973 designed Citori action has been slimmed and trimmed and mechanical triggers have been added to the package, while retaining the adjustable trigger and safety operation of the older versions.

The trigger retains the sliding blade secured by an Allen screw feature. Trigger position can be changed about a half-inch to accommodate different hand sizes. Combined with the “Close Radius” grip, the trigger positions can be adjusted for a 3 ¼, 3 ½ or 3 ¾” distance from the center of the trigger to the toe of the grip. The short end of the scale, 3 ¼” will have a lot of appeal to shooters with small hands, whether men, women or kids. It is one feature of the 725 that grabbed my small-hands attention in a hurry.

The “Close Radius” grip pulls the bottom of the hand forward, which takes the kink out of the top of the wrist at the same time. That’s a good thing as too much tension in the wrist can get in the way of a good mount and also tends to make the back hand grip the gun too tightly. There is a right hand palm swell. Checkered side panels adorn the grip.

The butt carries the same listed dimensions as the 625: 1 9/16” X 2 1/2”, with a 14 3/4” LOP. Mine was 1 5/8” by 2 7/16”, a variation not uncommon in wood stocks. Offset, was minimal, a skinny 1/8” at the heel. The distance from the standing breech to the comb nose was 7 3/4", a good compromise for that dimension. Too many stocks have been shorter in this spec over the years, which can promote an uncomfortable hand position and places the base of the thumb alongside the comb where it can push on the nose of the comb, creating barrel cant. Those with really large hands might need a bit more room, but that is easily accomplished with a few minutes and a rasp and file.

The butt is topped off with an Inflex recoil pad. The Inflex pad follows the function of the original Cynergy pads, with the deep stock cut and obvious baffles, only does it in a more aesthetically pleasing, tradition shape. Deflection baffles molded into the pad move the gun down and away from the face during recoil. The edges are all properly rounded. The heel has a slick finish so it slides into the shoulder. I couldn’t get the pad to hang up when I tried to. It seems we are finally moving away from the less than stellar era of sharp-edged, factory recoil pads to those that are really effective and do the job without modification.

The grade 3/4 stocks of the 725 have "pleasant" grain, if not quite stunning. The recoil pads are universally and uniformly oversize. European media shows the gun available with pre-fit spacers. Perhaps the lip on the pad has something to do with the fit with spacers installed?

The forearm is a slender fellow, with just a hint of a Schnabel. I must confess I’m not a Schnabel fan while at the same time admitting I don’t find this one unattractive. There are full side panels of fine checkering, perhaps too fine, as it is capable of nibbling the flesh off fingers. I’m not a fan of shooting gloves, but I wear them with the 725 to avoid the abrasive discomfort. The forearm and iron weigh a miserly 11.7 ounces.

Stock dimensions are always a bit of a crap shoot. The 725’s are as good a combination as any, and, in fact, similar to many other factory stocks. Some degree of personalization may be necessary to get just what you need--nothing new there.

I wanted to bring the balance point back a bit. My short arms don’t put the front hand up very far on the forearm and I found the barrels moved a bit slower than I wanted them to. It’s a simple matter to add a bit of weight in the back end to accomplish that task. I also needed to shorten the LOP up a bit as I would occasionally hang up a bit on the mount and I shoot a lot of low gun. The last issue for me is that I’m a recoil wimp with rheumatoid arthritis and I knew I would have to cut down on recoil to shoot the gun long term—and I liked it well enough that I wanted to shoot it long term.

How to add weight, reduce recoil and shorten the LOP in one fell swoop? I decided on a product I had become familiar with on the Remington 1100 Synthetic Competition, Ken Rucker’s Auto Buster recoil reducing system. It is lighter than his Bump Buster, with its hydraulic dampener. The Bump Buster also requires a 1 1/8” hole for mounting. The 725 stock is fairly slender and I kept having visions of a drill bit binding and splintering wood. In other words, I was chicken to drill it out for the Bump Buster. The Auto Buster’s spring system requires some inletting, but I was perfectly comfortable doing that work then grinding it to fit. One might claim the Bump Buster is more aesthetically pleasing without the obvious springs of the Auto Buster, but, let’s face it. Nobody should put a recoil reducer on thinking the gun will look better afterwards.

With the installation complete, I “worked through” the system and the gun to get exactly the feel I wanted. I changed pads, LOP’s, added weight and subtracted weight until I arrived at the current 8 lb. 3.5 oz. configuration, basically the added weight of the Auto Buster, minus the weight of the wood removed. While I’ve had a penchant over the years for swapping out recoil pads in a heartbeat, I chose to use the Browning Inflex pad on the Auto Buster. It now balances at the front of the fore end iron with just a hint of weight in the front of the gun.

Was the Auto Buster worth it? It certainly was for me. Before I installed it, I tried the 725 with 1200 fps. 1 1/8 oz. loads. I haven’t shot 1 1/8 ounce loads for years because of the recoil, but a shortage of reloading components drove me to shells available locally. I made it through a box and a half before I could feel the “spot” in my back that is the seat of my woes. With the Auto Buster, I could go through 6 boxes of the same Wally World shells with no morning after effect. I tried a flat in one afternoon and crossed the line. Nobody said I was smart. As soon as the shoulder calms down again, I’ll stick to the six boxes and perhaps be able to shoot an over under again. That was something I had written off until I ran into the 725’s grip, coupled with those sweet triggers and a gun with a weight distribution that really suits my decomposing body. The issue left to resolve is whether my hands will tolerate the opening and closing of the gun. I wish I was kidding about that, but the RA doesn’t tolerate repetitive movement well.

Is the 725 perfect? Nope. There are a few things I would change. The only build issue I’ve found is the trigger guard rattles a bit. From a preference point of view, I would make the checkering coarser, which would keep it from being so sharp. The grip is short. I often shoot with my little finger hanging off the bottom and I have small hands. In my perfect world, I would lengthen the grip and increase the heel to toe measurement of the butt from its current 5 inches to 5.25 or maybe a tad more, to produce a greater recoil distribution surface and balance the look of the extended grip.

Those who like a nine-pound gun should definitely look elsewhere. The 725 is more race horse than Clydesdale and it would make little sense to try and change the nature of the beast.

Don’t let this peek at my perfect world distract from the 725 qualities. Barrel weight has been trimmed to produce a gun that can easily be made to move like you want it to. The grip, in conjunction with the adjustable trigger blade, properly positions the hand on the side of the stock instead of the top, a really good thing. The barrels have all the tricks of the trade right out of the box—long forcing cones, back bored and ported. There’s no reason to ever think of spending another penny on them. The wood quality is pleasing to the eye and accentuated by the under stated styling of the receiver. The Sporter comes with five extended choke tubes, maybe not all you want, but probably all you need. One can’t forget those sweet, sweet trigger pulls.

The 725 is simply a very nicely put together bunch of features at a very attractive price. Every one of the new features can arguably contribute to better shooting. Shortly after I started shooting the 725, I emailed Scott Grange at Browning and told him I thought they were going to have a problem with the 725--they didn’t order enough of them. Over three-thousand rounds later, I haven’t changed my mind.

About the author: Dave Holmes is an accomplished writer and photographer and has been writing for publications in the shooting industry for 16 years.