I bought my Browning Citori XS Special after having decided to go all-in and become a competitive skeet shooter. A new gun was in my future because while my Stoeger Condor is a great field gun, it just wasn’t set-up to be a competition clay buster.
This review is done the same way I do most of mine – after thousands of rounds – not just putting a few boxes through a gun and calling it quits. My Citori XS Special has had more than 10,000 rounds through it and been through the grinder that is the NSSA Mini-World and World Skeet competition in San Antonio.
Fair warning – for shotguns, I am a Browning bigot. I looked at the entire Citori and Cynergy lines for the gun I was going to purchase. I had my heart set on the Cynergy Sporting with an adjustable comb, but was unable to get what I wanted for the price I was willing to pay.
The Citori line has long-standing reputation as a reliable clay buster on the skeet fields. It also won’t run you what a Caesar Guerinni or Kreighoff will. I had started to look at Browning’s Citori XS Skeet as a possibility, but as I was looking through listings on numerous gun auction sites, I started to notice the Citori XS Special. I was left wondering what’s the difference between the XS Skeet and the XS Special? First, let’s go over the XS Special
Browning Citori XS Special with adjustable comb and 30″ barrels:
The furniture is grade I/II satin finished walnut with a right-hand palm swell which helps the gun’s semi-pistol grip fill the shooter’s hand for better trigger-finger feel. The forend is a semi-beavertail design with topside grooves to help hold on the gun.
The receiver is silver nitride finished steel with gold accented, high-relief engraving. The top and mid rib are both ventilated (risers are spaced apart). The top rib’s width on the XS Special is tapered and parallel to the barrel.
The barrels are 30″ long and ported (image left) to supposedly reduce recoil, but I haven’t found to be that noticeable – other than being louder for anyone standing next to the shooter. Since I shoot with sub-gauge tubes in the barrels, the porting doesn’t come into play anyhow (yes, I shot this picture with the sub-gauge tubes in the gun).
The gun comes with five Invector-Plus extended choke tubes in improved modified, modified, improved cylinder, cylinder, and skeet constrictions (listed from tightest to most open constriction). I added a second skeet OEM choke.
The trigger features Browning’s triple trigger system (image right) which allows for fine adjustment of length-of-pull and different feels to the trigger itself. All three triggers are included with the gun at purchase.
MSRP is always significantly higher than purchase price (if you shop around). The Citori XS Special 30″ barrels and adjustable comb in this review was purchased new and still in the box for $2500.00.
|Barrel Length||30″ or 32″|
|overall length||47″ or 49″|
|Length of Pull||14 3/8″|
|Drop at Comb||1 7/8″|
|Drop at Heel||1 7/8″|
|weight||8lb 10oz or 8lb 12oz (30″/32″ barrels)|
Setting up the Gun:
At the patterning board, I setup the gun with skeet chokes in both barrels. When I pulled the gun up I noticed that my jaw was pushing the stock to the right. It made getting the mid-bead and front-site aligned a bit awkward so the first adjustment was cast. I pushed the comb to the right about 1/2″ and the sites lined up in a perfect figure 8 (mid bead touching and just below the front site). That is the expected alignment for a flat-shooting gun (50% of shot above the aim point and 50% below).
The flat point of impact wasn’t what I wanted. While great for sporting clays and hunting, not so great for skeet. I lifted the comb about 3/4″ and checked alignment. Now the front site was about 1/8″ (apparent) above the mid-bead.
When I opened the Citori, I found it to be a little stiff to open as one might expect with a brand new gun.
I put 3 shells through the top barrel for point-of-impact. It was dead on 60-40 (60% of shot above point of impact and 40% below) which is what I prefer for skeet. This allows for better visibility of the target as the barrel never has to cover up the bird to hit it. We only have about 1.5 seconds to kill the thing as is – who needs added challenges?
Next, I changed out the fiber-optic front site from green to red. In shotgunning, you never really look for or at the sight, but your brain will see it in night shoot-offs – if it can – so we try to help it. At night, that black barrel is invisible, so you have to give your brain something to work with in absence of a well defined barrel. In low light, that green isn’t as easy to see- red it is. Since the gun comes with multiple sizes and colors of front sights, play with the different ones until find what you see best.
Now, on to the skeet field.
First field trial
The gun was noticeably heavier than my 7 1/2 lb Stoeger condor. I knew I wanted a heavier gun to help smooth out my gun swing, and it was time to find out if the weight was going to be a help or hindrance.
On station, the first thing that stuck out is the crisp trigger. Spending so much time with my field gun, I had no idea what I had been missing until I found the Citori. With my Stoeger and even my older Browning A-5 there was a little play in the trigger. For hunting, this wasn’t as much a problem and in sporting clays, I always just tensed up the slack in the trigger before calling pull. With the Citori – not necessary.
Once the trigger was pulled I noticed another positive characteristic, the muzzle rise was minimal – even with a full 1 1/8oz 12 gauge target load the recoil was there, but it wasn’t a problem and almost all of the energy seemed to push the gun back into my shoulder instead of propelling the muzzle upwards. This meant easy second shots on doubles – the barrel was still on plane.
I opened the gun and the hulls ejected solidly into my hand (you can let them fly by your head and on to the ground if you like – but I reload).
The rest of the skeet round went very well. I would never have expected it, but my first round with a brand new gun – I went straight – 25 for 25 targets.
The long run
Putting 25 or 100 shells through a gun is one thing, but I believe doing a review that early only tells you if the gun performs as expected out-of-the-box. Hunters and competitive shooters need to know if a gun will perform like that 2,000, 5,000, 20,000 and 50,000 shots later.
This Citori XS Special has shot more than 10,000 rounds since last winter. It has shot 1300fps 12ga. field loads in sporting clays and 1150fps skeet loads on the skeet stations. It has been shot with and without Briley Ultralight tubes. It has not once, not ever, failed to fire – and I reload (did I mention that?)
The gun opens much easier now than it did when first purchased. Pushing the lever to the right with a sharp flick of the wrist and it’s fully open. Even after tens of thousands of rounds, the lever is still in the same right-of-center position as when it was purchased (image right). You’ll also notice the scroll-work on the opening lever and the top tang safety/barrel selector in that picture as well.
The ejectors and barrel opening have shown some discoloration as is to be expected, but no corrosion or pitting. The image to the left shows the barrels and ejectors, but with the Briley sub-gauge tubes in the barrels – mainly because I forgot to take them out before snapping the picture.
The engineering in the gun is solid as anyone knowing Browning’s work would expect. Everything is over-sized, overdone, over-thought, over-everything. It has the traditional full-width, transverse, tapered locking bolt, full width hinge pin and heftily-constructed ejectors. As is the Browning heritage, “these guns don’t wear out, they wear in”.
I have found the gun to handle every clay game I have thrown it at, every round I have fed into it and every skeet field I have put it on.
This gun is the gun that I took the rookie class 12ga gold medal and a firm showing in .410 bore at the NSSA World skeet mini event and 3 more medals in the NSSA World Skeet main event.
This gun is already a world champion and rightfully so. If I had gone to San Antonio with the Stoeger, no way I would have received those scores. For wing- shooters, those scores represent birds in the bag. If nothing else, I repeat – never a failure to fire.
I have since given the Browning to another TS reviewer to shoot with. At this time, he is looking for something a lot like it. Honestly, so am I. I am planning to buy the 2012 version of this gun – the new Citori 725 Sporting with 30″ barrels and an adjustable comb. This gun has been flawless, has won at a World Championship and is a dream to shoot.
What I Wish They’d Done Better
The wood is not as good looking as I’d like on a shotgun in this price range. It appears that Browning has learned its lesson as the 2012 Citori 725 sporting has wood 2-3 grades higher.
I also find the forend release level a but difficult to deal with when I have shooting gloves on. It’s not a major irritation to have to remove my gloves before disassembling the gun, but it is an irritation none the less.
What is the Difference between the Browning Citori XS Skeet and XS Special?:
The guns are almost identical. With an adjustable comb, both guns MSRP is $3600.00, they both have the same forend, trigger assembly, ejectors, barrels and porting.
The few differences of note are that the the skeet is only listed with 28″ or 30″ barrels while the special can be purchased with barrels up to 32″. The wood on the XS Skeet is one grade higher (III/IV) while the special is grade II/III. The skeet is offered only with two flush chokes (the XS Special comes with five extended chokes) and the XS skeet is about 8oz. lighter. The XS Skeet’s top rib is higher than the XS special’s full parallel rib which might be necessary for a shooter with a longer neck.
Would I Buy One Again
If I didn’t already own one, I would definitely buy another Browning Citori XS Special. This gun still shoots like new, has worn-in beautifully and hangs with the shooters fielding guns at 4-5 times the cost.
Taking the XS Special into another season – 2012 here we come…
Another six months and 6,000 rounds and I have nothing negative to add. The XS Special has held up under heavy shooting, heavy loads and frequent travel. I will be using this gun as my primary as I make my push for an All-American honor.