A little while ago I posted a video of me getting kicked by 3 ½-inch magnum recoil. The gun in that video was Browning’s new 3 ½-inch A5. Despite the fact that it handed me my head when I ran three 1 ½ ounce, 1500 fps 3 ½-inch magnums through it, I bear the gun no ill will. In fact, if a light and versatile 3 ½-inch gun is what you want, the A5 is a good choice.
It works on the same inertia action as the 3-inch A5 that debuted a couple of years ago. It has the classic Browning speed-load carrier that lets you load it by thumbing a shell into the magazine. It also has the Turn-Key magazine plug that lets you pull out the magazine plug with a car key and without (and this is the important part) shooting a spring off into either a.) your eye or b.) someplace where you’ll never find it. It is overbored like all Browning guns and has a new choke system called the Invector DS which is designed to seal fouling out of the threads of the barrel.
Browning’s engineers were able to beef up the 3-inch A5 to make a gun with exactly the same receiver length as the 3-inch model. It’s no heavier than the 3-inch gun, either. My test gun weighed just 6 ¾ pounds, which is a mixed blessing in a 3 ½-inch gun. It carries nicely and handles well. It’s a good pointer and some people who grew up with the square backed receiver feel they shoot that design better than any other. On the other hand, like any lightweight non-gas semiauto, the A5 hits hard at both ends when you load it up. My gun cycled 2 ¾ dram, 1 1/8 ounce target loads up to the heavy stuff with no problem.
If you want to shoot 3 ½-inch shells every day, buy something heavy and gas-operated. Most hunters I know want 3 ½-inch chambers to keep their options open but rarely shoot them. If that’s you, then the A5 is worth a look. It sells for $1559 in black, more in wood or camo.