December 20, 2013
Gunfight Friday: Browning Auto 5 vs. Baikal MP 153
By Phil Bourjaily
Today's Gun Fight pits the Browning Auto 5 against the Baikal MP 153. One is a classic, the other a tool. Along with all its other good qualities, the Auto 5 is hand-fit and finished and is as nicely put together as any semiautomatic shotgun that has ever been offered on the U.S. market. It has a gold trigger, tasteful engraving, and a steel trigger guard. It also functions very reliably. I shot a Light 12 as my first pheasant gun, and while it was anything but light compared to a modern Maxus or Benelli, it was an excellent gun and I wish I still had it.
The 3 ½-inch Baikal MP 153 represents the opposite school of shotgun design and finish, as befits its Russian pedigree. It is crudely finished and technologically out of date, although more advanced than the 110 year old Auto 5. Most important, it's cheap and it works.
Here's what the gun's owners have to say:
Ontario Honker's Auto 5
I bought this Browning Light Twelve 2¾-inch 12-gauge auto at the Seoul, Korea, US Army PX in 1973. Eventually I traded it to my dad for his .357 S&W and then got it back when he passed in 1999. This has turned out to be a wonderful upland gun. It is lightweight, and the auto action is faultless (if properly cleaned and adjusted). It has a fixed modified choke, which is ideal for hunting behind flushing dogs in cover. I fitted it with a detachable sling a few years ago and I'll add a slip-on recoil pad when shooting it with lighter clothing in fair weather (more for adjusting the stock length than recoil reduction). Being used to shooting a heavy 3-inch 870 Remington goose gun, I initially had difficulty adjusting to the lighter, quicker pointing Browning. I seem to have finally made the adjustment. This fall I have been incredibly accurate. The three birds in the photo were taken this afternoon with just three shots. Most days I'm batting at least .500. It was a long courtship but I finally learned to love this gun.
VA Sportsman's Baikal MP 153
Named for the largest lake in Russia and built in the same complex as the AK-47, my Baikal MP 153 is the definition of a workhorse. It is a no-nonsense, no-frills, no-BS hunting tool. The fit and finish aren't great, the tolerances are loose, the parts are not high quality, but it gets the job done day in and day out and has become my go-to in the duck blind. It is a great shooter, and fits me well out of the box. I have taken many ducks and geese with it already in just a season's worth of use. So far it readily out-shoots my hunting buddy's Stoeger 3500, which cost $200 more. It came new out of the box with 4 extended chokes, IC, M, F, and XF, and the complimentary Russian coat of cosmoline. It has a hammer forged chrome lined barrel, matte black finish, synthetic stock, 26 inch barrel, and the gas system is adjustable with the provided wrench so it can cycle anything from trap loads to 3.5-inch magnum goose loads flawlessly. Unlike a lot of other semi-autos, there is no rubber o-ring, and the recoil spring resides on the outside of the magazine tube where it is easily accessible for cleaning. It weighs just under 8 pounds, and has a fair trigger pull and cross bolt safety. It's a perfect gun for me and how I hunt, and the price is unbeatable.
There's your choice: the enduring Auto 5, a beloved classic, versus the indestructible MP 153, a gun that doesn't get much love except from the people who own it. Vote, comment, send gun pictures and a short paragraph about your gun to email@example.com.