Where I grew up hunting only slug guns were legal and deer drives ruled. Everyone shot an unrifled barrel, often with only a bead sight. Hunters prized autoloading shotguns for their ability to put rounds in the air quickly-"shelling out" was the local term. Over the last 20 years, sabot slugs and rifled barrels have changed the way we hunt in slug country. There are still plenty of gang hunts, but to an increasing number of hunters, a well-placed shot trumps rate of fire. Browning's new Silver Rifled Deer fits into either hunting style; it's accurate with sabot slugs, it provides very fast follow-up shots and the gas system reduces recoil effectively.
With its slightly hump-backed receiver, Browning's Silver autoloader deliberately evokes the company's classic Auto-5. The receiver profile, however, is the end of the similarities between the two guns. The venerable A-5 uses a reliable but hard-kicking long-recoil action, while the thoroughly modern, soft-shooting Silver is gas-operated. Basically, the Silver is the Browning Gold, without the magazine cut-off or speed loading features. The Silver's design lends itself easily to any application, from sporting clays to shooting slugs-which brings us to the new Silver Rifled Deer Stalker.
The new slug version of the Silver comes in three styles: a walnut and matte metal version; an all black synthetic gun; and a synthetic gun finished in Mossy Oak New Break-Up. All three are 3-inch 12 gauges with 22-inch rifled barrels. As I already had a 28-inch vent ribbed, wood-stocked Silver in the house, I asked Browning to send me a rifled barrel for it. With that barrel in place, my gun was identical to the wood-stocked slug gun with the exception of sling swivels.
Before I received the slug barrel, I shot pheasants and clay targets with the Silver and a 28-inch vent rib barrel. I put 1500 rounds through the gun with exactly three malfunctions, one of which occurred before the gun was broken in. The majority of shells through it have been my own slow 7/8 and 3/4 ounce reloads; that's outstanding reliability.
The Silver's gas system is a model of simplicity, consisting of just three parts: the "active valve"/piston, a composite buffer and action rod, and a return spring. The active valve meters the gas from the barrel ports, venting away any excess not needed to drive the action. The Silver gas system is among the softest recoiling designs I've tried (not all gas guns reduce recoil equally) and it's very easy to take apart and put back together.
My extra slug barrel came with another forearm contoured to fit the rifled barrel, which has thicker, heavier walls than the vent rib barrel. With the rifled barrel installed, the gun weighed 7.75 pounds. I added a Leupold 1x-4x variable scope on low Weaver rings to the cantilever mount. As the barrel's 1-in-28 inch twist rate makes it best suited for sabots, I gathered up a selection of sabot slugs and took it the range. Firing three-shot groups from a rest, I got excellent results with Lightfield Lights and Remington Copper Solids, both of which averaged under 3 inches at 100 yards. Hornady SSTs recorded some very good groups and also some mystery fliers that ruined others. Remington Buckhammers averaged under 4 inches. I had one failure to feed in all.
I shot from a rest with a sandbag between the butt and my shoulder, but I also filled the magazine and emptied the gun off-hand a few times at a target set 80 yards away. Recoil was manageable and I could easily keep my shots in an area the size of a whitetail's vitals. The Silver cycles much faster than I can aim and pull its trigger. Exhibition shooter Patrick Flanagan uses a Winchester Super X3-internally, the same gun as the Silver-and has recorded an astounding 12 shots in 1.442 seconds.
As with any gun, I can come up with a list of miscellaneous likes and dislikes for the Silver: On the plus side, I like the way the Browning cantilever sits very close to the receiver. I've always liked the triangular safety of the Browning Gold/Silver. It's very large and easy to operate, and you can switch it to left-handed in a couple of minutes.
As for dislikes: The Silver Rifled Deer uses the same stock as the Silver field guns. I'd like to see a dedicated slug stock that's slightly shorter and straighter, although this one was fine with a 20mm scope with generous eye relief mounted on low rings. The trigger broke at 6.5 pounds-not as bad as some shotguns go, but not great either.
In all, the Silver platform is one of the very best, softest-shooting, most reliable autoloaders on the market. Now you can add "accurate" to that list of superlatives. It's a gun I recommend often to people who want one gun for clays, turkeys, waterfowl and birds. Now with a slug version, it's a gun for all seasons.