Gun Review: Browning Maxus

Shotguns are just getting better and better. Some are leaders in innovative designs that make them more reliable, faster, lighter, and pleasant to shoot — and the Browning Maxus is one of these shotguns.

While I have a long history with Browning shotguns, all were over-and-unders; a couple of which were marvelous Belgian-made works of art. I hate to admit it but I just couldn’t bring myself to hunt with either very often for fear of damaging them. They, in every respect, were terrific shoguns for hunting upland birds.

However, when it came time to purchase an autoloader for waterfowl, I just could not get over the aesthetic hurdle of purchasing a Browning Auto-5 with its humpback style receiver. That is not to say they weren’t quality shotgun sbecause, for the day, they were on the leading edge of technology. John M. Browning was a remarkable gun maker and the fact that many of the designs that went into the Auto-5 are still around today is proof of that. It, for many hunters over the better part of a century, was the performance standard by which shotguns were compared. Unquestionably the longevity of the Auto-5 speaks for itself. However, in an attempt to keep pace with the demand for heavier magnum loads, the Auto-5 was eventually replaced in 1993 by the Gold in a three-inch version and again in 1998 as a 3-1/2- inch magnum. But companies such as Browning are never quite satisfied as in 2003 they determined that a new shotgun was needed to raise the bar in establishing a standard that might rival the longevity of the Auto-5 and move its design into the 21st century. Thus, the Maxus began its history of development until its introduction in 2008.

The Maxus Up Close

Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to have a real close look at this shotgun the first year it hit the market place. Somehow it just slipped past my otherwise ever watchful eye, but thankfully that old adage “better late than never” applied in this case. After having looked at so many guns over the years, I often rely on my first impression to at least spark my initial interest in determining whether a particular gun is worth a closer look. The Maxus hit me with two indelible impressions. First, in my hands it was so light and fast on point that for a potential waterfowl gun it caught me by surprise. When I think back to my first waterfowl autoloader; a behemoth 10-gauge that was so heavy it should have been mounted on a turret rather than carried out to a goose blind. Unquestionably, at a weight of only six pounds, 15 ounces, with a 28-inch barrel, the Maxus will be a breeze to carry to or handle in a blind. Second, was its low profile and its field ready appeal. It looked like a winner, but would it meet my initial expectations? Let’s have a look.

I will start with what for me has to be an essential component in any lightweight shotgun that is designed to handle goose loads that could drop a prehistoric flying reptile from the sky and that is recoil. We are talking here about a gun that weighs no more than many a lightweight upland gun so if it is not designed to significantly reduce recoil, it would certainly punish the shooter. Additionally, and tied directly to recoil, is muzzle jump. A heavy recoiling gun will always create muzzle jump making follow up shots significantly more difficult. So for me, as a front-runner, this gun just had to deal with both effectively. Browning did and here is a snippet of how they did it. They actually combined a number of design features to combat both.

I will begin with the guts of the gun, its Power Drive Gas System. Browning claims it is the best in the world. Through extensive research and testing, they developed a new piston design that is more reliable regardless of conditions or the loads being used. This new gas piston also boasts of a larger exhaust port to dump gasses faster with heavy loads and a 20 per cent longer stroke for even more reliability with lighter loads. It also allows the system to be all but self-cleaning, as it shears off carbon build up and expels it with excess-vented gasses. And we all know that a cleaner gun in the field will just function that much more reliably from shot to shot.

Then, they added what they refer to as Inflex Technology, which to cut to the chase, is a very soft new recoil pad that is engineered to directionally deflect the comb down and away from the shooter’s face, making for less felt recoil and quicker follow up shots.

Last, is what Browning refers to as Vector Pro, which is essentially a lengthening of the forcing cone. The Maxus forcing cone, which is two inches longer than other systems, has a long and gradual taper that minimizes shot deformation and maximizes shot pattern uniformity. A real plus for keeping shot within its intended pattern resulting in cleaner kills. It also reduces friction with the shot cup as it moves down the barrel thereby increasing velocity and conversely reducing felt recoil. As a package they are said to transfer 18 per cent less recoil force to the shooter than any other autoloader on the market. All of which transfers directly into less muzzle jump, which Browning states is 44 per cent better than their competition. I will discuss both again in the Field Test Section.

I will now move on to a number of less notable features but ones that I still consider important. One of the first is the Maxus trigger. I have always chafed at the lack of quality in shotgun triggers. While not as critical to performance as a rifle trigger, they are often far too heavy and not as clean as they could be, especially if one intends to use the gun for deer hunting with slugs. Thankfully, Browning addressed this with the introduction of the Lightning Trigger System. It is the finest ever offered in an auto-loading shotgun. It was designed to be smoother, crisper with minimal travel and with a locktime of .0052 seconds. This is one incredibly fast trigger for a shotgun and one that is claimed by Browning to 24 per cent faster than the nearest competing autoloader. Now we are talking!

When I first had the opportunity to handle the Maxus, something about it just seemed different than other autoloaders but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I finally realized that it no longer had the typical knurled magazine cap that needed to be screwed on and off when removing or replacing the forearm. A Speed Lock that only requires the shooter to push a release button while lifting the lever to free the forearm replaced it. It gives the fore-end a very modern and clean line.

Interchangeable chokes have been around for quite some time and they have been, from my perspective, one of the best innovations for us scattergun hunters to come along in the recent past. The Browning Invector Plus is just that and a bit more. With their longer choke taper, they work hand in hand with the Vector Pro and back-boring to produce the absolute maximum efficiency possible out of every shot pattern no matter what choke tube or shot is being used including steel.

While there are a number of other innovative features such as Speed Load Plus, Magazine Cut Off and the Turn Key Magazine Plug that complement this gun, for reasons of space I stuck to those that I felt were paramount in the gun’s design and function.

Field Test

As I envisioned this gun as a first rate waterfowl gun, I chose to go with the camo version rather than the Stalker. Other than the recoil pad, the gun is covered from one end to the other in Mossy Oak Duck Blind camouflage that will be right at home in any goose or duck blind. The composite stock is additionally coated with Dura Touch Armor Coating and textured gripping surfaces right where you need them on a cold or wet day. There will never be a need to leave this gun behind because of foul weather.

Being as picky as I usually am and with regard to due diligence, I had a hard time finding anything that I did not like about this shotgun. I even liked the location of the safety right behind the trigger where it belongs. I put it through some pretty extensive range work happily busting clay bird after clay bird from about any angle and distance that I could dream up. I also cycled various loads from mild target loads to heavy 3-inch magnum loads through it interchangeably without a single glitch. Unfortunately, I did not have any of the real heavy weights in 3-1/2 inch magnums on hand to add that dimension but I doubt the results would have been any different. While I certainly could note the difference between a mild target load and the three-inch magnum loads, recoil and muzzle jump were very manageable even with the magnum loads. It patterned exceeding well right out to the edge of viable shooting range and follow up on a missed target was all but instantaneous.

Which brings me to some concluding comments on a perfect match in waterfowl hunting ammo for this gun; my two choices would have to be Federal Black Cloud and Winchester Blind Side. Federal Black Cloud has been around for a couple of years and is a proven winner, but Winchester Ammunition’s Blind Side is so new that it was first unveiled during the 2011 Shot Show. Winchester has labeled it the most innovative shotshell load in the brand’s 144-year history. The major elemental change revolves around their newly designed HEX Shot. It is six-sided multi-edged steel shot that increases trauma by 250 per cent and wound channels for significantly quicker kills. This, from my perspective, now moves the use of steel into a whole new category, particularly as I have always pined for the quick kills with steel that I used to get with lead. Additionally, because of the shape of this new shot, they can pack it more densely in the shot cup giving the hunter 15 per cent more pellets per shot. Then, when you add the Diamond Cut Wad that is designed to maximize pattern performance with Hex Shot for a  25 per cent increase in the kill zone, you now have a couple of winning combinations that will surely put more ducks or geese in your bag this fall.

Maxus Specs

  • Gauge: 12 gauge
  • Barrel Length: 28 inches
  • Chamber: 3 ½ inches
  • Weight:  6 pounds 15 ounces
  • Overall Length: 49 ½ inches
  • Length of Pull: 14 ¼ inches
  • Drop At Comb: 1-¾ inches
  • Drop At Heel: 2 inches

Note: The Stock on the Maxus is adjustable for length of pull, cast and drop with all inclusive shim kit.

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