All I Want For Christmas–is a Browning Automatic 5!

DunnBy Robert Dunn
AGI and GunTech Video Producer,
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Charter Member

If there were a Firearms Genie in the bottle and I was given three wishes for shotguns, one of them would be the Browning Automatic 5. In the tale of my family’s Auto 5, my Mom was the Firearms Genie and my Dad got exactly what he wished for.

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Browning’s Automatic 5 shotgun

Let us go back to the early 1960s in Richmond, Virginia. Now let us picture a couple with their first child at Christmastime. I wasn’t even of this world for another few years, but my Mom has retold the stories of my Dad’s passion for hunting in those days. I knew my Dad as the occasional hunter that loved to shoot and fix guns. Anyway back to the Firearms Genie and her minion, the wife of my Dad’s hunting partner, who lived down the street. Christmas was coming up and my Mom wanted to buy my Dad a shotgun, as he enjoyed hunting ducks and other wildfowl. She wanted to surprise him but had no idea which gun to get for him. So the Firearms Genie sent the wife of my Dad’s hunting buddy to talk to my Dad. She was told to tell my Dad that she was looking for the best gun to buy for her husband for a Christmas present, but that she had no clue as to what to get or where to get it, etc. So she asked him, “If money was not an issue, what gun would you get for yourself?” The answer was reported back to the Firearms Genie and a brand new Browning Automatic 5 was purchased.

On Christmas day, my Dad had no clue that he was getting any firearms related gifts, as the shotgun comes broken down into a rectangular shaped box. It took a lot to overwhelm my Father, but this really surprised him. Apparently the A-5 didn’t leave his clutches that season and the weapon was shouldered every time a worthy target appeared on the television or all around the house for that matter. I loved it when my Mom recently told me that. I had to laugh because when I finally purchased my very own Remington 870 shotgun, when my wife got home from work, she found me asleep on the couch with the gun wrapped in my arms and nothing that moved on the T.V. was safe. I know that the Browning went hunting a lot and it has some signs of use in the field but we all have our scars and stories.

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The Automatic 5 shotgun, sometimes called the “Humpback” shotgun because of its uniquely shaped receiver, is yet another fine example of one of John M. Browning’s innovative patents. Fabrique Nationale, in Belgium, manufactured this Browning Auto-5 in 1960. An interesting fact about the Auto-5 is that it is the firearm that caused John Browning to split from Winchester and seek out Fabrique Nationale to manufacture the Auto-5. Winchester and John Browning were entrenched in a royalty dispute in regards to the Automatic 5. Its production started in 1902 and the last run of 1,000 Browning Auto-5s was made in 1999.

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Just look at the beautiful engraving and finish on this example!

This particular A-5 (capable of firing 5 shots) is a recoil operated, semi-automatic lightweight 12-gauge shotgun. This long gun uses a recoil spring, a friction ring and a bronze friction piece to control recoil for better follow up shots and accuracy. The frictioning system also sets the gun up for being able to shoot many different types of loads. A simple and useful feature is the magazine cut off, which stops another cartridge from being chambered when you unload the shotgun (or “make weapon safe”). This is handy when the description of your prey changes and you want to fire a custom cartridge or deliver a non-lethal blast (breeching, crowd/neighbor control).

The Automatic 5 is a fast shooting and reliable shotgun and that is the reason that it had such a long production run. It was even a trench clearer in WWII. Every time that I operate this shotgun, I marvel at the many brilliant designs of Browning. When I was a kid I used to wonder why my Dad always referred to the Auto-5 as his favorite gun, as I used to think that it was odd looking. These days I totally get it; I really do think that it is a beautiful shotgun and that the engineering is superior. What’s not to like about the Browning Auto-5?

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Simple, reliable–what more could you ask for!


8 Responses to All I Want For Christmas–is a Browning Automatic 5!

  1. Beautiful Gun! I grew up shooting my Dad’s identical A5 – Light Twelve. He used his Remington Mod. 11 with a 32″ barrel fixed full choke (ca. 1942). No roosters left in the sky! (The way I tell the stories anyway). 😀

    Best shotgun ever! I wish the new ones were built the same.

  2. A few years ago a guy came to my table with a “Sweet Sixteen” Browning for sale. $400.00 later is was, and still is, mine!

  3. I kind of miss my old light 20. Those things have such an interesting report due to the long recoil action. That’s a beautiful example still has the tag of the friction ring configuration schematic in the forearm. I love it.

  4. The example you have shown is a thing of beauty. Back in 1976 I was looking for an A5 w/full choke, ribbed 30″ barrel in nice condition. I missed picking one up by just minutes at a show. My quest continued for another 6-9 months before I decided to purchase a Browning B2000 with two barrels; a 28″ mod and 30″ full. This is an all steel gun, but to my disappointment it ran a little dirty and was a pain to clean the bronze piston after 75 rounds of skeet/trap. But, it had a soft recoil, pointed exceptionally well and has a beautiful blue fit and finish. Years later I replaced the bronze piston and gas cylinder plug with ones made from stainless steel. Wow, what a difference in cleaning effort. I recently learned that the B2000 is now finding itself with an impressive following. But, I’m still looking for the deal for a nice A5.

  5. It is an awesome gun. I have one that belonged to my Father before he died in 1967. It is a 16 gauge which is not as popular now as then. Not a fan of auto shotguns in past but with my age, my have to give up the two row and start using this old fellow.

  6. I now have several different long recoil shotguns since writing this article several years ago. I have restored two A5s, a few Remington Model 11s and a Savage. I almost have enough spare parts to build yet another A5. These guns remind me of how much my Dad and I had in common. Wish he was still around to see some of the guns I have built.

  7. Great article as always Robert. I like the genie analogy too.
    You guys are giving me a craving to own one. Never seen nor handled one before but she sounds like a beauty of a piece based on the article and the passionate comments about the A5!

    Hope you can get another A5 built soon from your spare goodies.
    Thanks for the article Robert.
    Cheers