The responses – mostly negative – to the aesthetics of the Benelli Vinci and a recent reader question about using Modifed choke for turkeys brought back a happy memory: twenty-two years ago next week – April 11, 1987 – I carried a Modified choked Browning Double Automatic into the woods and with it shot my first turkey.
It was the first bird I ever called to and it obligingly hopped off the branch and ran to me, stopping only when I shot it at 35 yards with a short magnum load of 5s. A couple of years passed before I shot another turkey, and by then the Double Auto was gone, replaced briefly by a Model 12, then a Model 97, an A-5, a Browning Pump, two Knight muzzleloaders, and a string of other guns.
I miss that Double Auto sometimes. Besides taking it turkey hunting, I shot a lot of pheasants with it. Also, I have a fondness for odd guns, and it was definitely one of the Browning family’s odder inventions. Designed by John Browning’s son Val, it was introduced in 1955 and, as its name suggested, it was a two-shot semiautomatic
The short-recoil action Double Auto came in three versions, all 12 gauge – the standard model, with a steel receiver: the alloy-framed Twelvette, which I had, weighing 6 and 3/4 pounds or so, and the stripped down Twentyweight, a 6 pound wand.
It also came in different receiver colors: black (mine), gray, brown and green.
Browning advertised it as “Tomorrow’s Gun Today” and it looked like no other shotgun. It had a safety on the back of the trigger guard convenient to left and right handed shooters alike, and a pivoting forearm that latched to the bottom front of the receiver. If you unlatched the forearm and swung it down, you could slide the barrel off, leaving the gun instantly taken down into two pieces.
A lot of people look at the Double Automatic and see a solution in search of a problem. My more charitable view is, the Double Auto was an attempt to put a truly light and spirited bird gun in the hands of hunters for much less than the cost of a double and with a little less recoil.
In a way, the Double Automatic, with its radical-for-the-time styling and unusual features, was sort of the Benelli Vinci of the 50s The Double Automatic lasted from 1955 to 1972. Will the Vinci last longer? Should Browning bring the Double Automatic back? Are both of them furturistic junk we should spurn while we all shoot a). Parkers or b). Mossberg 500s? Discuss.