I am an unabashed fan of the 16 gauge shotgun. I grew up toting a Wingmaster® 870 16 gauge and then a Browning® Auto-5 “Sweet Sixteen” over the prairies and mountains of west central Montana. Huns, sage grouse, mountain grouse, pheasant, ducks, geese, and my favorite game bird, sharptail grouse all fell to my 16 gauge guns.
I never had a need for more firepower than a 1 1/8 ounce load of number 6 shot. During the first half of the 20th Century, 16 gauge guns were very popular, especially in the quail fields of the Southeast. With the advent of 3 inch 20 gauge loads and the proliferation of 12 gauge loads ranging from 7/8 to 2 ounces, the “16” fell out of favor with America’s shotgunners. Fewer manufacturers produced the guns. The price of ammunition went up and its availability went south.
In recent years, a few manufacturers have produced 16 gauge shotguns in limited numbers. Browning® has been at the forefront of this production and this year they have two new guns that are showing great promise for those of us that love the “16.”
First, a Citori White Lightning Over/under double gun. The Citori is a clone of the original Superposed. It has been produced in Japan for decades and is a very affordable and high quality shotgun. I have one that I have used for years in various clay target competitions and I have fired approximately 100,000 rounds through it; it’s a great gun that I probably shoot better than any other I own. The new 16 gauge Citori is a field gun with either 26 or 28 inch barrels. I has 2 ¾ inch chambers, a very attractive silver nitride deeply engraved steel receiver, select triggers, tang safety, and Invector® chokes. The famous Lightning “round knob” pistol grip stock in Grade II/III walnut with a matching forearm sports a subdued oil finish. The 28 inch gun weighs 7 pounds 3 ounces, about 1 pound less than the 12 gauge model. MSRP is $ 2069.99 for either barrel length.
The second gun is a modern rendition of the venerable “Sweet Sixteen” Auto-5. As I stated earlier, I used a Belgian “Sweet Sixteen” for about 40 years. I have no idea how many birds I harvested with that gun, but it and my old dog Spot accounted for lots of roosters over the years. The new “Sweet Sixteen” has sleeker styling than my old gun, but like my gun, it is recoil operated. The new Auto-5 has what Browning® calls its Kinematic Drive™, for all practical purposes it is a clone of the fine Benelli® system.
Like the Lightning 16, the new A5 comes with either 26 or 28 inch barrels, the new Invector® DS choke system, polished black aluminum receiver and steel barrel, and a 4 round magazine. The stock is gloss finished walnut with an Inflex 2 recoil pad. What makes this gun special is its weight, 5 pounds 13 ounces for the 28 inch barreled gun. This gives the hunter near 12 gauge power in a gun that weighs less than most 28 gauge offerings. MSRP is $ 1699.99 for both barrel lengths.
A few years ago when Browning® introduced the new A5 I had the opportunity to try a 12 gauge gun with a composite (read plastic) stock. I was sorely disappointed in that gun; it was heavy, had lousy balance making it seem even heavier, and it kicked like a mule. At the time I described shooting it as somewhat akin to firing a fence post. A friend has a new “Sweet Sixteen” on order and I’m looking forward to trying what appears to be a svelte and balanced smoothbore. I can only hope that it performs like my old 16 gauge A5. Who knows, I might even get my sweet tooth back.
Be safe and good shooting.