As shotgun pedigrees go, the new Browning Maxus Hunter is a true blueblood. After all, its granddad was John Browning's own Auto-5, the model by which all other semi-autos were judged. A-5s are still a staple in the hunting field and some die-hards believe there will never again be a shotgun produced with such character and mechanical reliability.
Since the introduction of the A-5 over 100 years ago there have been several advancements in semi-auto technology. Chief among these was the development of a reliable gas-operated action that would cycle a wide range of loads while reducing felt recoil. The Maxus has taken gas guns to a new level and proven the old American system is incredibly reliable while significantly softening the blow of hard-kicking shells.
The Maxus Hunter is a perfect companion for the upland hunter or clay shooter who still values the feel of a well-built, classically-styled field gun. It was designed for hard work and has the same heavy-duty guts as any of the other Maxus variants.
For starters, the Power Drive Gas System has larger ports that allow increased flow from high-powered loads. But the Hunter model is aimed more toward wingshooters and clay-bird enthusiasts who are more likely to be shooting very light loads. The larger gas ports and a 20 percent longer stroke mean that the Maxus will cycle anything you feed it.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between the Maxus and other gas-operated shotguns is the missing magazine cap. Instead, the Maxus has a unique system called a Speed Lock Forearm that appears to belong on an over-under instead of a semi-auto. Simply press the button, lift the latch and slide the forearm off. This feature makes removal of the forearm faster and easier.
The forearm is slim and decorated with 22 line-per-inch checkering you would see on a top-shelf field gun, which the Maxus is. With the forearm removed, all that is required to remove the magazine plug is a car key thanks to Browning's innovative Turnkey Magazine Plug. The Maxus also has a magazine cutoff switch on the left side of the receiver so that the chamber can be unloaded without emptying the magazine.
Browning has kept weight to a minimum thanks to an aluminum alloy receiver with a good-looking satin nickel finish complete with a laser-engraved pheasant on the right side of the receiver and a duck on the left.
Many shotguns designed for the field are light but punish the shooter with heavy recoil. Not so with the Maxus. The Power Drive system combined with the company's Inflex Technology recoil pad, which prevents the recoil from driving the stock up into the shooter's face, makes the Maxus a real pussycat.
The Maxus has plenty of innovative features and technology, but the real test of any upland gun occurs in the field. I had a chance to put the Maxus through the paces at Russell and Michelle Edward's 4,000 acres of quail fields at WingHaven Lodge in Providence, Ky. A blend of rolling Ohio River Valley hills and flat agricultural fields that have been converted to quail habitat, WingHaven offers upland hunters plenty of elbow room and lots of birds, a perfect venue to see what Browning new gas gun had to offer.
It didn't take long to get on the birds as one of Russell's English pointers was locked up, its head low and tail arched up over its back. As I slipped up behind the dog the birds broke, a group of three that flushed dead ahead of me. I swung through the first, pushing the white bead of the Maxus past the quail as I pressed the trigger. At the shot, the bird dropped and I swung to the next. I caught and passed the second bird, dropping it almost where the first bird fell.
We spent the rest of the morning shooting birds over Russell's pointers. George Gans III, who was carrying a beautiful Purdey side-by-side, and I worked through heavy cover at the far end of the field and found several coveys backed against a wooded fencerow, which made shooting difficult. After a long day of shooting I wasn't fatigued by recoil thanks to the Browning's efficient gas system and Inflex recoil pad, which offered faster following shots and made it much easier to take multiple birds with each covey rise.
The Maxus handles very well, partly because it is slightly nose-heavy, making the gun point naturally and swing smoothly on passing shots. The forearm is relatively narrow for a gas gun, and I much prefer the Maxus' rather flat-sided forearm to bulkier, fatter competitors. After our day in the field, Russell took me to the wobble trap and together we shot several boxes of light target shells through the Maxus without a single cycling failure.
Browning has a long history of making dependable upland guns and the Maxus' family history shows through in its build, quality and function.
- Manufacturer: Browning
- Action: Semi-automatic
- Gauge: 12
- Chamber: 3- or 3½-inch
- Magazine Capacity: 4+1
- Barrel Length: 26-, 28- and 30-inch
- Weight: 7 pounds
- Overall length: 49¼ inches
- Finish: Satin nickel with laser engraving on receiver, blued barrel
- Stock: Gloss finish walnut with 22 lpi checkering
- MSRP: $1,500