Browning BPS All Weather 20″ Stainless Barrel

 

Working remote in Northern British Columbia, Alberta, and the Territories I have a keen interest in defensive guns. I have a particular affinity for shotguns in this role due to the versatility of a 12 Gauge, with the ability to gather small game better than any other firearm, shoot flares, Bear bangers, slug, or buckshot. Few guns will allow you to take a Moose, stop a Bear, take a Grouse for the pot, or signal for help with equal ability. A 12 Gauge will, and to be truthful I’ve been searching for what I view as the ideal 12 Gauge for bush use for years. I still haven’t found that ideal 12 Gauge for my purposes, though one shotgun comes closer, the Browning BPS All Weather.

One of my principle gripes with shotguns as bush guns is they have yet to follow industry progression and add stainless models. Nickel plated, or otherwise coated shotguns are commonly available, notably in the guises of the Remington 870 “Marine” and Mossberg “Mariner” 500 & 590. Likely plenty suitable, but still just not the real deal stainless I’ve been hoping to see hit the market. Winchester has offered stainless barrels on their aluminum receiver Model 1200 and 1300 pump actions, the magazine tube and other components remaining carbon steel, though those models just never rang true to me. It’s not the aluminum receivers, as I like the Mossberg 590 quite a bit for instance, it was more the wobbly operation and the rotating bolt with which I experienced very questionable lockup. Firing a 3” shell from a 1300, I experienced the action unlocking and the forend slamming rearward violently, ejecting the fired hull as if a semi. It only happened once that badly, however the action would always unlock and come back halfway with 3” in that particular brand new 1300. The partial unlocking is a design feature of the 1300, and worked very smoothly with 2 ¾”, however I found the 3” erratic and potentially unsound.

Fortunately, another quality brand has recently fielded stainless barrels in an action I enjoy much more. Browning’s new BPS All Weather weighs in at 3.35kgs, or 7lbs 6oz if you prefer, a very solid chunk of steel. Perhaps too solid, but more on that later. The nickel plated receiver is machined from a solid steel forging, and is large and nicely contoured. Everything on this shotgun seems beefy, right down to the extra wide trigger. Controls are fully ambidextrous, and frankly, slightly favour a left-handed shooter only due to the placement of the bolt release. The bolt release is easily operated by a right handed shooter’s middle finger or thumb, however its left side placement behind the trigger guard will be a lefty’s dream. Strength and refinement would be the sentiments that come to mind holding and cycling the BPS. The Ithaca 37 reminiscent action, and it’s more than just a resemblance, is silky smooth and very fast to cycle, without the slop or wobblyness one can encounter in Mossbergs and modern Winchester pumps. One feature it shares with the Mossberg is the excellent tang safety, one of the stoutest appearing such safeties I’ve encountered being visibly solid steel and mechanically crisp in operation, using a simple red dot for “Fire” position indication.

The magazine tube of this particular model holds five 2 ¾” shells or four 3” (assumed with regards to 3”, will test later), and is thankfully of end cap cleanout design unlike the Mossberg 500. Loading of the magazine is the easiest I have experienced, as a trough in the bottom of the carrier acts as a chute you can drop a shell onto with the gun upside down and light thumb pressure sends it home into the magazine. It loads easily upright and reaching under the action to top up as well. The action is cycled by way of dual action bars from the forend, and the forend is very solid and slop free, as well as close to the shooter. It fits most shooters better than the long reach to the Ithaca 37 forend for example, I have long arms but nonetheless prefer a close grip on the forend to keep my supporting arm elbow closer to the body and the BPS feels good. Length of pull on the synthetic stock is 14” to a soft and comfortable recoil pad, it feels a tad short to this shooter but should serve very well for most. Sighting is provided by way of a curious machined aluminum front sight that holds a green fiber optic insert. I was skeptical when I unboxed the BPS All Weather, as I didn’t even realize until later in the evening that the front sight fixture was machined aluminum, not plastic. It is large, and wide, initially leaving the shooter accustomed to beads, rifle sights, and ghost rings a little unsure where to aim. Then you remember to point, not aim, and it is actually very instinctive. I practiced quick fire drills from 5, 10, and 25 yards and found the sighting arrangement fast and intuitive. I have used much better for slugs, however it still serves as you’ll read further on.

Now, to my favourite feature of the shotgun; the bottom loading and ejecting action. There is only one port on the BPS, the bottom one, like the Ithaca 37, so it looks the same viewed from either side. Shells are loaded conventionally through the bottom into the magazine tube, and the shell lifter is up and out of the way thankfully unlike the Remington 870 where shells must be pushed past the lifter into the magazine. The neat part is what happens after you’ve fired a shell, and cycle the action for the first time; the spent hull is shucked out with authority straight down out the bottom port. Not only does it keep hulls from bouncing around everywhere, it makes them easy to clean up, and removes one port for the entry of rain and dirt as compared to conventional side ejection port designs. I consider it an Ithaca 37 improved, on account of the much improved safety location for one, though it doesn’t have the crisp clean trigger pull of a 37. The trigger pull on my example by way of a beefy, thick trigger was a reasonable 5 ¾ pounds with industry typical creep, overall decent for a defensive pump. The trigger guard appears to be aluminum, and very solid. The barrel on the BPS can be removed by removing the magazine cap like a Remington 870, very handy for cleaning and takedown for transport.

Shooting the BPS proved satisfying, on account of several factors. The weight, at just over 7 ¼ pounds for a 20” defensive pump is skookum and provides for very mild recoil as far as small 12 gauges go. Sighting with the large, and curious front sight was better than anticipated, I noticed this when reflecting on how I was no longer considering the odd aluminum and fiber optic front sight and was simply shooting, and hitting my targets where I wanted to. Slugs from the BPS proved accurate, 2 ¾” 1 oz rifled Federals, with no difficulty putting three into a grapefruit at 50 yards rested. The weight and recoil pad made them a non-event from the shooter’s perspective, very mild. Function with slugs, buckshot, and birdshot of a several brands including cheap Winchester was of course perfect, zero issues or malfunctions shucking one hull after another out that lovely bottom port action. Orion 2″ 12 Gauge flares were tested and the action both cycled and fired them perfectly. Another reason I appreciate the stainless barrel is with flares as they begin to ignite in the barrel and produce rather acrid smoke and residue. The recoil pad is plush and comfortable, and likely doesn’t get the notice it deserves given how the weight soaks up the recoil. It is not a shotgun you’re afraid to shoot fast, and I found my rapid fire to be better with this BPS than most other defensive pump actions and I believe the weight is why. That silky action of course is a large part too, it is incredibly smooth to operate. On clays the BPS proved capable, scoring decently and I found it natural on the moving targets, though not as lively as lighter competition when aimed aloft. The slick action you forget you’re operating made up for any homeliness in skyward pointed handling.

In summary, I found this new 20” All Weather BPS to be surprisingly well made and sturdy, much heavier than I anticipated in most respects and with regards to apparent strength. All components with perhaps the exception of the synthetic buttstock exude quality, not to say the buttstock is poor it seems very sturdy, it’s just not quite as crisp and high quality in presentation as the rest of the gun on account of washed out checkering and details. I would prefer ghost ring sights or rifle sights, but the fiber optic arrangement outperforms a bead. Frankly I didn’t expect this level of quality from a shotgun that retails in the $650 range, and I’m impressed. It is actually quite pretty, and that clashes slightly with my ideas for it; a knockabout, all weather vehicle, camp, and bush gun. But at $650, I guess I can’t feel too sorry for it, and I have no doubt it will serve well. It is certainly a shotgun that one would appreciate from a vehicle a bit more than on the shoulder all day in the mountains, not that seven and a quarter pounds is a boat anchor by any means, however it has competition a full pound lighter. If you’re looking to shoot the gun as much as carry it as an insurance policy, then the BPS All Weather pays dividends in its Cadillac shooting temperament. The quest for the ultimate defensive wilderness shotgun continues and isn’t sated yet, but we’re getting closer. Keltec KSG test anyone?