Browning BT-99 Shotgun Review: Stylish Break-Action Single
Browning has a reputation for making some fine shotguns for sporting and hunting alike, but the single-shot break-action BT-99 brings a level of Zen to busting clays that I can’t say I have felt before. The gun is somewhat hefty for a single-shot 12-gauge shotgun, but it has a charm that is all its own.
I plucked this good-looking single from the Guns.com Vault for some testing. Here’s what it was like to spend a few months trying it out.
Browning positions the BT-99 as a finer trap-specific gun, logically enough given that it offers just a single shot to bring down a clay. Speed loading isn’t really much of an option with the one I picked out. It lacks an ejector, offering a simple extractor that retains the shell for easy hand removal instead.
That being said, there’s actually a host of options for the BT-99, with everything from plain Jane variants with no extra bells and whistles to versions with ejectors and fully adjustable combs and butt pads. The guns are solid – even a bit weighty – and they offer tight-fitting tolerances with the feel and lines of a great clay buster. There is no external safety, clearly hinting that the design is meant to be fired at a single, bright-orange clay shortly after loading. Another hint is it is only chambered for 2.75-inch shells.
Still, while it is designed specifically as a sporting gun, the only thing really keeping you from toting it out into the field on a pheasant hunt is the weight and your confidence that one shot will be enough. That, and perhaps your personal concerns about dinging up what is a rather refined single-barrel shotgun.
The first thing that popped right out at me when I opened the case was the satin-finished Grade I black walnut stock. Pair that wood with beautifully blued metal and a still pristine gold trigger – this was a used gun after all – and the gun just presents a classy but somewhat humble appearance. There’s no ornate engraving or markings, just a single barrel ready to get to work.
There’s also a refined feel to the piece, balancing right at the center hinge, and the wooden forestock is actually wider than it is tall. It fills the palm of your support hand in a way that the more circular furniture on most hunting shotguns just doesn’t.
Add in the deep checkering on the forestock and semi-pistol grip, and you have an easy-to-swing shotgun that balances and pivots quickly right between your shooting and support hands.
Specs & Features
As a trap gun, the BT-99 came to me with an improved-modified choke, though it can just as easily take any of Browning’s flush Invector-Plus chokes to customize your patterns. The stock also hosts an adjustable comb with other versions offering more or less customizable options at various price points.
A long, ventilated rib runs all the way from the top of the barrel to the break at the breach. This gives your eye a nice 30-inch anti-glare rail to follow. That rail is handsomely topped with a small ivory mid-bead and an easy-to-see ivory front bead.
The action breaks open with a right swing of the locking lever. That lever was a bit stiff at first, as was the hinge for the action, but after a few clays, using it becomes fairly second nature. The trigger, true to the Browning brand, is bright gold and lustrous enough to set a prospector’s heart fluttering – until they realize it’s just plating anyway.
This model came with a fixed, honeycombed rubber butt pad, but there are plenty of adjustable options out there if you want some more customizability. The extractor on this version merely pulls the spent shell shell hull from the breach so you can manually remove it.
I’ve dropped some additional specs below:
Weight: 8.3 pounds Length: 49 inches Barrel Length: 30 inches Length of Pull: 14.375 inches Drop at Comb: 1.56 inches Chambering: 2.75 inches Trigger Pull: 4.9 pounds
It’s worth calling out the trigger on the BT-99. Unlike the many hunting guns that find their way into the trap world, the BT-99 offers a light, crisp trigger designed for the sport. There’s no grit and nearly no take-up or mush. You basically start at the wall, with the gun just a gentle trigger-finger pull away from firing.
I’m not accustomed to a trigger with this level of finesse on a shotgun, so I did find myself spoiling a few shots at first by firing a bit early. Once you get the hang of it, however, that trigger makes for quick, accurate shooting.
With late summer quickly turning into fall, I loaded up 125 rounds of target shells, a full box of clays, my pedal launcher, and the BT-99 for an early morning shoot at my local gun club. To my pleasant surprise, the trap range was completely empty – no doubt thanks to the opening of dove and early goose hunting where I live.
I spent a good hour and a half that morning just loading one clay at a time and launching it over the shooting field. I opted to swap between shouldering the shotgun after launching and pre-shouldering it before to see how fast I could bring it into action. Both methods were fast enough to catch clays and felt natural and fluid.
At first, I was a bit dismayed by my performance – letting three out of 10 clays sail off into the overgrown prairie grass at the edge of the range some 70 yards away. I put the gun back into my stand, took a breath, and just tried to slow it all down.
Once I got a feel for the trigger and the swing of the gun, breaking clays was a cinch. So, I started to let them drift further and further out over the field before breaking them. Having only one round in the gun forces you to become more deliberate. Even though I normally only take a single shot at a clay anyway, the single barrel almost psyches you out a little bit.
However, after the first twenty minutes, I fell into a nice little trance of loading, launching, shooting, and extracting. I sometimes find that I get to my clays range and start shooting like I have a time limit or something, but the BT-99 really slows the process down and forces you to focus on the fundamentals.
The gun swung beautifully, felt great in my hands, and kicked just enough to make it fun. All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning, and I went a good 20+ birds in a row without the shame of watching an intact blaze-orange clay sink into the field unmolested
Pros & Cons
Here are my overall pros and cons after several months with the BT-99. There’s a lot to like about it, but no gun is perfect. So, here’s what you can expect:
Solidly built with tight tolerances and beautiful furniture
Easy to operate and highly reliable
Accurate, fast, and extremely fun to shoot
Very controllable with a positive grip
You only get one shot, so make it count
Controls are a bit stiff at first
Refined also means more expensive
Slow shooting – a good and bad thing, really
Beware of rust
Beautiful things can come at a bit of a price. This isn’t your father’s bang-around truck shotgun. The BT-99 is refined, but it also demands a bit of maintenance. If you get your sweaty paws all over the metal – especially the anti-glare-cut ventilated rib – make sure to wipe it down after shooting or you can expect to farm some rust while it's sitting in the safe.
People are prone to leaving their shotguns uncleaned for extended periods of time – guilty. It's actually a running joke among my hunting buddies. We’ll clean our rifles after every outing, while the dirty 12-gauge shotgun just sits in the corner ignored. I haven’t really had an issue with this gun, but I did notice a hint of rust forming on the rear of the ventilated rib the day after my last clays outing. It cleaned right up, and I gave it a gentle oiling.
I see the BT-99 as an investment. If you are just getting into shotgunning, this probably isn’t where you should start out. The quality of the gun comes at a cost, but it’s also an investment that new shooters would be better off putting into more clays, shells, and range visits.
If, however, you’re looking to make busting clays a regular passion hobby, then the BT-99 gives you an option that is both classic in form and function but refined in quality. It’s fun, and it can make for a nice, relaxing day busting clays with friends one shot at a time.