Browning’s premium grade Maxus with speed-loading system is a quick, clever gun that offers soft shooting and a whole host of special features that make it a good buy, says Mike

This month we look at a deluxe model of the popular Browning Maxus – the Premium Grade III. It has an RRP of £1,363 and comes in an ABS case with six Invector Plus chokes, a spacer kit to add stock length, and shims to alter cast and drop, too. First impressions are reasonable. This well presented semi-automatic gun is distinguished by a silver-finished, scroll-engraved and gold-inlaid receiver. The wood – American walnut – is upgraded and well figured. As a frequent semi-auto user, and someone who has been very impressed by the Maxus in plainer forms, I am not especially turned on by the idea of extra bling (scroll I like, but gold birds – even well formed ones like these – are not my thing on a repeater). I don’t want to appear to be a puritan; there will be people for whom this will be just the ticket. I am just not one of them. In fairness, I should also note that semi-autos are more commonly used for game shooting on the Continent and in the US than here. This model is clearly directed at that market more than ours.

The upgraded Maxus, my aesthetic prejudice apart, is a cleverly designed and innovative gun. Like its less decorated siblings, it comes up to face and shoulder smoothly with good shapes and a reasonable all-up weight just under 7lbs. The fore-end is not too bulbous (though it might have benefited from a bit more chequering to the flat sides which are left bare). The stock has a fairly tight, full pistol grip, a comb shape which does the job, and a particularly well conceived Inflex recoil pad. The latter is notable not only for its ability to compress more than average, but because it is designed to direct recoil energy down and away from the face. My only significant gripe concerning the stock is that it is a bit short out of the box (just over 14”). But, it comes with a 6mm spacer to improve upon that (and up to three may be added).

The Maxus has a number of special features. It is unique in the way the fore-end is attached, with a quick release lever. Dix points. The gas mechanism – and this is a gas operated gun (if you want inertia, the firm offer the new A5) – has been redesigned with a larger piston. It now remains attached to the operating sleeve and cocking bar on disassembly and does not need to be taken apart for cleaning (you need only wipe over it and lightly lubricate). The gas piston has larger exhaust ports than previously and releases gases faster, making it compatible with heavier payloads. Recoil is reduced. The stroke travel has been increased considerably (20%) too, increasing reliability with light payloads. According to the makers, the Maxus delivers 18% less felt recoil, 44% less muzzle jump, and 19% faster bolt speed with a 24% faster lock-time (thanks to a redesigned trigger).

The 3” chambered (plastic composite stocked guns are available in 3½” too), CIP steel shot proofed barrel is over-bored (18.8mm) and made from solid bar. The well presented barrel is equipped with a ventilated sighting rib and a high visibility front sight (although I prefer a plain metal one for durability, these bright ones can be a boon in a duck blind in half light). The action offers Browning’s speed-loading feature. If you load straight into the mag tube, the gun will automatically feed the round into the chamber. It takes a little getting used to but, once familiar, speeds the loading process considerably. Alternatively, you can drop a round in chamber and just push the button underneath the ejection port in the conventional way.

The Maxus also offers a mag cut off to isolate the chamber. Want to go over fence? The idea according to Browning is that you can flick the lever, take the round out and lock the bolt back. The bolt stays back until you flick the lever back (although I personally prefer a complete unload under such circumstances – chamber and mag). When you return the lever to the normal active position, the round from the magazine tube will be automatically loaded. Here’s another scenario (one where I would use the feature) you’re in a pigeon hide and you see geese coming over. Again, you can flick the lever, isolate the chamber, and load a more suitable round for the quarry.

Where does the Maxus fit in the Browning-Winchester line-up? The camo models have RRPs around £1,180, plain black actioned guns now start around £1,000 with the Maxus 1 with wood stock being available soon (supplied in a cardboard box with two chokes), and a synthetic stock version also appearing soon. There is also a black Composite at £1,155. As far as other models are concerned, the inertia operated Browning A5 is slightly more expensive than the test gun, the excellent Winchester SX3 is significantly cheaper. The main difference between the Maxus and SX3 is that the latter has a conventional fore-end, and you don’t get speed load. The cycling on the SX3 is actually a fraction quicker. The RRP starts from a bargain basement £786 for a composite stocked version or the Black Shadow with a wood stock and black action receiver.

Tech spec:

Make: Browning

Model: Maxus Premium Grade III

Bore: 12

Barrels: 28" (30" option)

Choke: Invector Plus (6 supplied)

Rib: 6mm

Weight: just under 7lbs

RRP: £1,363