Review: Browning Maxus Semi-Auto Shotgun

It was time. I finally needed to replace the old Auto-5 as my trusty field semi-auto shotgun and Browning’s most-recent addition, the Browning Maxus, fit the bill. This review was written after the Maxus had gone through 175 shots at a clays range, 50 on the skeet field and another 25 or so bird hunting so this isn’t about long-term reliability yet. I’ll do another update once the gun has a few thousand rounds through it.

The Maxus is a gas-operated, lightweight, light-recoil semi-automatic shotgun. Browning talks about short lock-time, fastest cycle rate and many other somewhat interesting sales terms, but what matters to me is recoil, reliability, versatiliy, fit, weight and muzzle-jump when I’m considering a field gun.

First, the basics: The Browning Maxus has many of the legacy features of the Auto-5 (no, I don’t mean the humpbacked receiver). It has the magazine lock which allows the shooter to cycle out the shell in the receiver without another loading from the magazine (image right). This is very useful when the sudden need for a goose load occurs and the gun is full of duck rounds. The speed-load feature which allows you to load even the first shell by pushing it in from the bottom is back and works exactly like the A-5. There is also the speed-unload feature which is truly nice. You can unload the entire magazine in seconds from the load bay at the bottom. No need to cycle the action 3-5 times to unload the gun.

The Maxus is light at just 6.9 pounds. I was certainly concerned that shooting high-brass and 3″ shells through this gun were going to remind me of just how light it was. I was wrong. The “inflex” recoil pad and innovative gas system take a ton of the felt recoil out of the shotgun. This recoil system also reduces muzzle-jump or rise during shooting. During our recent upland bird hunt I was pleasantly surprised at how fast a follow-up shot I was able to take as the gun never seemed to come off the bird between shots (see for yourself in this video). This is apparently due to Browning’s “Inflex” recoil system that uses the gun’s own recoil to pull the gun down and away from your cheek just as the recoil is trying to push the gun up and into your face. The two counter each other for a gun that seems to almost sit still during quick shots.

The Maxus uses the invector plus choke system. The interchangeability with my Citori is appreciated as I do not have to go buy yet another full set of chokes for a new gun.

An innovative and amazingly great touch is also one of the guns simplest improvements. Unlike all other semi’s, you don’t unscrew a forend cap to take the gun apart. You just pop a lever – very similar to over-and-unders (image left). One click and your sling drops off (if you have one) and the forend is ready to slide off. Pull the barrel off, put the forend back on and flip the lever and the gun is broken down for transport. How easy is that?

Another simple, yet welcome, improvement is the magazine plug install/removal system. Use your car or truck key, turn the plug release and your done.

First Trial – 100 targets – Sporting Clays:

I unboxed the Maxus, cleaned it according to the manual and lightly oiled the required parts. At the clays field the first 85 or so shots went off without a hitch. We fired everything through it. Heavy loads – check! Light loads (how about a 3/4oz 1100 FPS 12 ga. load to push an auto?) YUP cycled those without an issue. It ate everything we threw at it until the last half a box or so. Then, suddenly, the hammer wasn’t getting reset. It was acting as if it was not fully cycling. A new round had been loaded into the chamber, but the trigger didn’t want to do much of anything. Upon disassembling the firearm, the cause was apparent – gummy build-up on the magazine tube. It would appear that my after-shipping cleaning job had missed some of the shipping grease on the inside of the friction-ring assembly.

Other than the gummed-up magazine tube, the gun performed flawlessly. The low recoil and imperceptible muzzle-rise was welcome with the heavier loads that we use for clays. The gun pointed well, came to the shoulder well and blew up clays as long as I did my part.

Second Trial – 50 targets – Skeet

I don’t shoot autos for skeet for three reasons (and you auto-lovers can send all hate mail to [email protected]).  First, too many things can go wrong in competition when one bird in 100 will likely make the difference. Second, I don’t like hearing/feeling the bolt  moving back and forth when I’m shooting pairs that quickly. I can feel it, I can hear it and it bothers me. Third, I reload and I hate picking up hulls – a lot. But, I wanted to evaluate the gun as many ways as possible for our readers so we took it to the skeet field and gave it a run.

The gun pointed and shot very well. It took the lighter skeet loads and cycled them without issue. The trigger was crisp, the recoil light and the gun handled well. I found it a bit light for skeet, but then again, my competition gun weighs in at 8.5 lbs.

Third Trial – Upland Bird Hunt

I took the Maxus on our North Carolina upland bird hunt in January. I brought the Citori too – just in case the new gun had any issues.

I fed it a mix of standard 7 1/2 game loads and #6 Remmington Nitro Pheasant high-brass loads and it didn’t care. I spent about 20 of the high brass loads on the hunt and my shoulder and cheek were no more battered than they would have been on the skeet field.

As with any auto-loader, thick gloves made loading slightly more cumbersome than I’d like, but nothing serious. I used the Maxus on the first two fields we hunted and could not have been happier. On the third field, I switched to the Browning XS Special over-and-under so that it could have at least one chance in its life to kill a bird that could be eaten (it serves as my primary skeet competition gun). I immediately noticed one of the Maxus’ biggest benefits – it’s light. Carrying that Citori XS special around was a chore compared to the sub-7 pound auto. I learned my lesson and the Maxus came back out for the fourth and final field.

Fourth Trial – Sporting Clays -75 targets

This round of sporting clays did make one small issue noticeable. After about 25 shots, the magazine lock kept engaging which prevented me from loading the gun. I first assumed that my thick winter gloves were snagging on the lock, but after a few more curse-inducing repetitions I realized that the magazine lock was very loose and gravity alone was engaging it.

The fix was simple. The magazine lock lever is held in tension by a small plate on the outside of the receiver. The screw holding that plate against the receiver had worked loose and needed to be tightened. One full turn with a screwdriver and the problem was gone.

The so-what of it all

The Browning Maxus is exactly as advertised. It is reliable, it is versatile and it is a pleasure to carry and shoot. The ultimate question in any review should be – if someone stole your Maxus, and insurance gave you the money to buy another gun, would it be the Maxus. I can say unequivocally and without reservation that I would indeed buy another one of these amazing auto-loaders.

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