Browning A5 Sweet 16 Revival
Browning brings high business hopes to 2016 with the launch of a revamped iconic 'sweet' shooting shotgun model
After only a few shots to get the feel of the gun, the author was consistently dusting clay pigeons with Browning's revamped A5 Sweet 16 gauge shotgun. (Jeff Phillips photo)
With the dawn of another SHOT Show on the Nevada desert floor, one of the show's most anticipated events took place with the holding of the 11th annual SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range.
As the big tour buses began to arrive at the Boulder Rifle & Pistol Club, about an hour away from the SHOT Show exhibit floors on the famed Las Vegas Strip, it didn't take long for the steady noise of rounds being fired from shotguns, rifles and handguns to begin to cause visitors to reach for their ear plugs.
When the hordes of media members, hunting personalities and industry buyers began to disperse and see what new offerings were available from the more than 170 manufacturers in attendance – and fire the first of more than 500,000 rounds to be spent on the day – the first order of business for many was to locate the Browning booth.
Why? Because one of the most talked about new guns leading up to the 2016 SHOT Show, the freshly minted Browning A5 Sweet 16, was on the company's firing line with numerous cases of shotgun shells waiting to thoroughly test the gun out.
When our OutdoorChannel.com crew was finally able to visit with Browning PR-man Scott Grange – he was a very popular man on Monday morning – the well documented popularity of the original Browning Auto-5 Sweet 16 was fresh on my mind.
With a weight closer to that of a 20 gauge shotgun and with a shot pellet payload closer to that of a 12 gauge, the gun was hailed for years – by a number of people, at least – as the perfect combination of the two, a so-called "Gentleman's Gun."
But that Auto-5 gun was a highly regarded member of my dad and my granddad's generation and has all but disappeared from the shotgunning landscape in recent years for a variety of different reasons.
In short, it was a once-upon-a-time classic, something almost assigned to museum status in recent years.
If you doubt that, go to your favorite outdoors store and see how many boxes of 16 gauge ammunition you can find on the shelves.
But that was then and this was now at the 2016 SHOT Show with a brand new Browning A5 Sweet 16 staring back at me, a gun with the manufacturer's familiar humpback receiver, a gloss walnut stock, a brass bead front sight, a recoil operated kinematic drive system and Browning's Invector-DS choke tubes to boot.
Such thoughts prompted me to ask Grange a question about why the 16 gauge revival and why now?
"We brought out the 12 a little over a year ago in the new A5 (model)," said Grange. "The next question was ‘When are you going to do the Sweet 16?' Some folks thought we'd jump right to a 20 gauge, but we thought for 2016, we'd redo the Sweet 16 and we think that we've hit a homerun with it."
Why is that?
"It's lightweight, yet still shoots a good payload for the good heavy-duty roosters out there and the chukars and what not."
How lightweight is the Sweet 16? Grange said that the A5 gun checks in at about 5.7 pounds, one number that helps signify – to me at least – that the gun is not just a 16 gauge slapped onto a watered down 12 gauge frame.
"It is on its own frame," said Grange. "It would not have worked on a 12 gauge frame. The people would have thrown it right back in our face (if it was). We knew that, so we brought it out like we should and that's with its own 16 gauge frame."
As a result, the Sweet 16 was a brand new gun from Browning already drawing some good reviews in the shooting press and a nice buzz among shotgun enthusiasts who were visiting Industry Day.
"It's just a fun little gun," said Grange. "We've got people out there who are 16 gauge people who are all excited about it."
That much seemed evident from the sizable lines forming for Industry Day attendees wanting to shoot the shotgun.
"Everybody here (today) wants to shoot the 16," said Grange. "We've got other guns on the (shooting) line, but everybody wants to shoot the 16."
When I finally got my chance to shoot the gun, I found a gun that was indeed lightweight, one that easily came to my cheek positioned well and swung easily on bright orange clay targets fluttering in the gusty wind.
After taking a few shots to settle in, I began to knock some clay pigeons down with regularity, especially those that simulated ducks coming into a decoy spread.
Which prompted another question for Grange: With all of the A5 Sweet 16 signage and marketing materials showing a big gaudy ring-necked pheasant rooster erupting from cover, would the gun be useful for duck hunters?
"The jury is out on the waterfowl side of things," smiled Grange. "It all depends on if somebody wants to belly up to the bar and start making waterfowl loads for the 16 gauge.
"Now that Browning is in the ammunition business, ok, you may see it there," he added. "Those discussions are still going on right now.
"I can't help but think you will see a 16 gauge waterfowl load but I can't give you a definitive answer on that at this time."
What Grange can give a definitive answer on is that the A5 Sweet 16 is going to be death on pheasants in the Midwest, doves in Texas and upland birds out west.
Not to mention on shooting ranges later this year as the gun becomes available to the public.
"Everybody is asking us when it's going to hit the shelves," said Grange. "That's a good indicator right there (of the gun's building popularity). We'll probably find it (on the shelves) in the second quarter of this year."
The Browning shooting bay the SHOT Show Industry Day was a popular place for media reporters and retail buyers. (Jessyca Sortillon photo)
When it does hit the shelves, Grange recommends that interested buyers not wait long if they want to purchase one.
"Just based on what we're seeing in the shooting line here and the excitement (that is) there, there's no question in my mind that we will sell every gun that we can make this year."
Speaking of this year, with 2016 being an election year, I had to ask Grange what he and his Browning cohorts expect in terms of gun sales, if there would be any evidence of buyer pullback?
"Absolutely not," Grange said with a smile. "We have found that when people go into a buying frenzy to buy black guns and handguns and everything, we find that a lot of those folks that were not gun people to begin with, they are all of a sudden gun people.
"(And) they want to do more (shooting, so) they start getting into the trapshooting, skeet shooting, sporting clays, hunting, (etc.)," he added.
"Hey, Winchester and Browning are alive and well (and) we anticipate as good a year in 2016 as we had in the last couple (of years)."
Which lead me to pose one final question: With business booming and the expectation of more of the same – especially with the launch of the Browning A5 Sweet 16 – just how important is something like the annual SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range to that process?
"Every year, it becomes more critical that we hold this day, because a lot of the folks here now have their own blogs, they have Facebook, (etc.)," said Grange. "The social media is instant. They go home at night – in their hotels – and they write about what they experienced here (today).
"Instantly, the consumer sees that and gets excited about it," he added. "It doesn't come out three months from now in a magazine, ok. It's instant (now) and getting the press here and experiencing these products is absolutely critical to our industry."
With that, Grange and I smiled, shook hands and turned around to go about the business of the day.
Including the rebirth of your granddaddy's iconic shotgun from an era gone by, the Browning Sweet 16 in the new A5 version.