The Browning Auto-5 entered production in 1900, and was put to rest shortly thereafter. No, that’s not true at all; several different companies, notably Fabrique Nationale D’Herstal and Remington (Model 11), manufactured the Auto-5 (or A-5) until 1998, and it was made in 12-, 16-, and 20-gauge. It was successful but still a product of its time; they just couldn’t sell any more. People wanted different designs, less complicated shotguns.
The old Auto-5 used a long-recoil operation. Shooting it resulted in the barrel and bolt together recoiling backwards. The barrel would spring forward, the bolt would continue back, eject the spent shell, grab a new one and return to battery. The recoil rates, to ensure that the barrel would cycle more quickly than the bolt, was controlled by friction rings, rings that had to be cleaned and tuned to make sure the gun worked right.
The new A5 is a totally different shotgun. The only thing they share is the number “5” and the squared receiver. It’s a 5+1 12-gauge automatic shotgun that takes 2½-3″ shells. It’ll be available in three modern Browning finishes, blue with black synthetic, blue with wood, and Mossy Oak on Mossy Oak synthetic furniture.
The recoil system is called the Kinematic Drive System, which is code for the Benelli Inertia system (Benelli’s patent lapsed a short while ago). This system uses a much simpler, easier to manufacture and maintain action. Here’s a rundown courtesy of Randy Wakeman with Chuck Hawkes:
“In the well-known Browning A-5, rearward thrust from the shell being fired moves the barrel and the breechblock together, as a unit, to the rear. With the A-5, movement starts immediately, which is why it is one of the fastest cycling actions there is and faster than the Benelli. A properly set-up A-5 is also fairly soft shooting, as the shock absorber array dampens the moving mass considerably. A fair appraisal of the Browning system shows why it is not viable to manufacture: it requires a lot of machining, lots of parts and cannot dynamically compensate for different loads…
“With the Benelli, the rotating bolt head is locked into the barrel. What is allowed to move is the bolt body itself that resides between springs. When the shotgun fires, all of the abrupt reverse thrust brings the entire shotgun straight back… The floating bolt, however, tends to stay where it was, as it is not locked to the rest of the gun. The gun flies back and the inertia of the bolt body causes it to stay where it was, smashing against and compressing the bolt head spring, billed as the ‘inertia’ spring. Now that the primary recoil pulse is over with, the spring decompresses, sending the bolt body to the rear of the action dragging the bolt head along behind it. The rear recoil spring returns the bolt into battery with the barrel, just as it does on an A-5 or a gas-operated auto.”
So the A5 isn’t a gas-operated auto. It uses recoil and a short-stroke action to cycle shells. But it’s still a Browning, and that means all the other goodies that make their shotguns special, not including the humpback, which is just begging for a brand-new red dot sight.
The A5 uses the Inflex buttstock, a key-locked magazine to speed up disassembly, (not to lock the action) a hardened steel barrel to be used with steel shot, a lengthened forcing cone, and Invector DS chokes (full, modified, improved choke) with brass rings around them to prevent fouling. The A5 also uses the speed loader system which loads the chamber first, then the magazine.
The new A5s weigh in between 7-7½lbs, will be available with 26-, 28-, and 30-inch barrels, and have brass and ivory bead or fiber optic sights. They’re gonna run about a grand when they hit shelves next spring. If you don’t want to spend a grand on a shotgun, you can get an original Auto-5 in excellent condition for about $500 on account of they made them by the millions. It’s a little harder to use, and has fewer features, but hey, it’s a classic.