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Browning Gold 10 Stalker
Length Overall Barrel Length Weight Caliber Action Type Magazine Capacity
48" 26" 9.5 pounds 10 Ga 3.5" Gas semi 4+1

        The modern shotgun, as imposing a weapon as it may be (especially in the movies), is a pretty lightly stressed firearm. In basic performance, it has changed little, in the last century or so. Most shotgun ammunition operates at pressures of around 10,000 - 12,000 PSI, when compared to the 50,000 generated by magnum handgun cartridges, and the even higher pressures found in some rifles. These guns still operate at black powder pressures. You can see this pretty clearly in the construction of modern shotgun shells. They are made of plastic, or paper, compared to the brass construction of rifle and pistol shells. Even so, progress did not stand completely still.
        For most of the history of shotguns, the 10 gauge reigned pretty much supreme. Somewhere around the turn of the last century, this changed, and the 12 gauge began to dominate. This happened for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the introduction of new powders, new proofed barrels, and improvements in metallurgy. Suddenly, the 12 gauge could do everything that the 10 gauge had once done, and the 10 gauge became just too big, heavy, and hard to shoot. The 10 gauge dropped to a percent or two of the shotgun market. This was how things stood, back in the seventies/eighties, when I first became a gun enthusiast.
        Obsolete or not, for some reason, I wanted a 10 gauge, probably just because it is the biggest. Still, it was hard to justify the expense of some huge, heavy side by side (which is what most 10 gauge shotguns were back then) monstrosity, selling for several hundred dollars more than a really good Remington 870 in 12 gauge might sell. For a 10 gauge repeater, there was the huge, bolt action, marlin Super Goose, with its two round box magazine; but this really didn't appeal to me either. So I let it go for a while.
        Around 1973 Ithaca introduced its Mag-10. This was a semi auto 10 gauge magnum, that could hold two rounds in the magazine, and one in the chamber. I was in love; but as we all learn, it takes money to make the object of our affection our own, and I just didn't have enough. In addition, like most of the lovelorn, I was blissfully ignorant, of the faults of my beloved. The Mag-10 weighted 11 pounds, only held two rounds in its magazine, and could be very finicky about ammunition. So it was overweight, fussy, shallow, and high maintenance. Love truly is blind; when the gun was discontinued in 1986, I mourned.
       In 1989, Remington introduced their SP-10. This is a semi auto based upon the old and discontinued Mag-10. This is not a knock off; but is the genuine article. Remington bought the patents, plans, tooling, and everything else from Ithaca, after the company filed for Chapter 11. They then spent a couple of years ironing out the bugs, making improvements, and increasing reliability. In particular, they reconfigured the bolt to make it a bit less susceptible to fowling (yes I know, this is a pun in a gun designed for shooting ducks and geese), and made some parts more robust. In the end, they produced a much better gun. So I went out to find one, and finally get myself a 10 gauge.
        Interesting thing about the 10 gauge, is that it is not a real easy task to find a gun that will shoot it. The 10 gauge still has only a percent or two of the market. It can also be a bit hard to find ammunition. Still, guns and ammunition are available, at a cost, and I eventually came across a selection of SP-10, and Mag-10 guns, at a local gander Mountain. This was a pretty good opportunity to compare the two. The resemblance is marked. Though the Remington is greatly product improved, it does share one great shortcoming with the original Mag-10 - it only has a two round magazine. We are talking a 10 gauge magnum here, so I suppose that rapid fire will rarely occur; but still - an 11 pound gun that only holds two rounds? Though I may have missed something, the Mag-10, SP-10, and Browning Gold are the only semi auto shotguns, of which I am aware, made in 10 gauge.
        What I eventually ended up getting was a Browning Gold, for a couple of reasons. The Gold is just plain better. It is better designed and better executed.  It also has a four round magazine, double that of the Mag-10/SP-10. In addition to this, the Gold does not have a piston at the front of the magazine tube. What this means is, that I could theoretically put an extended magazine tube on the gun, giving me perhaps six or seven rounds. I have measured the mag tube, and it has a 1" ID, with a 1.05" OD. So why would I ever need six or seven rounds of 10 gauge magnum? I hope I never find out.
        According to the serial number, this gun was made in 2003 - production began in 1993. The 10 gauge model was introduced first, followed by the 12 and 20 gauges in 1994. The smaller gauge Brownings are made in Belgium, while the Gold-10 is manufactured in Japan. The serial number is on the right side of the receiver, next to the bolt release. A series of numbers gives the actual gun serial number, this is followed by a two letter code which designates the year of manufacture. If you have a 10 gauge Browning Gold, you can date your gun by checking the two letter code against the following: Z=1, Y=2, X=3, W=4, V=5, T=6, R=7, P=8, N=9, M=0. Thus my gun has a two letter designation of MX. Following the letter designation, is a numerical designation of the model. In my own case, the MX is followed by the code 112, which indicates that it is a stalker model.
        The stalker is designed for field use, and features a black synthetic stock, and a black matte finish on all exposed metal. The stock material, and metal finish, make for a gun which will bear the marks of field use far more easily than might a fancier gun. There are also standard grades offered, as well as special turkey and cammo versions. I am unaware of any trap version being offered in 10 gauge, which is not surprising. You don't see too many 10 gauge trap guns, for obvious reasons. taking this down to the club, to shoot some trap, earned me more than a few stares and comments.
        These shotguns are made by Miroko in Japan. This company has been making guns since 1893, and has been producing Browning firearms since 1966. As much as 60% of Browning's total firearms sales, are Miroko produced firearms. Miroko rose as a part of the so called Japanese Miracle after WWII, and was allowed to produce firearms again in 1951. The smaller Browning Gold models are made in Belgium, often from parts made in Japan. I own A Browning Hi Power pistol, which is marked "Assembled in Portugal from parts made in Belgium". Up until 1976, Miroko made shotguns for Charles Daly.
        My particular example sports a 26" barrel, giving it an overall length of four feet. At nearly ten pounds, and 48" long, this is a large, heavy gun. In the case of the 10 gauge magnum, though, this is a good thing. This shell, at around 63 fp, can generate up to four times the recoil of a 12 gauge shell, and would be brutal in a lighter gun. Much is made of this, and rightfully so; but it can be overstated. I took this gun down to the trap range, and shot a couple of rounds - not recommended, but not as bad as I feared. Fellow members could not decide whether I was a fool, or am innovator. Most decided I was a fool. You just don't shoot trap with a 10 gauge. Fifty rounds through this gun, made me tired; but not particularly sore. I have fired 12 gauge magnum rounds through my Remington 870, which were not too far from the recoil of the big Browning. Part of this may be due to the gas operation, not to mention the weight, which is reputed to somewhat moderate the recoil. I did pretty well at trap with this gun, which should not be surprising, with so much lead flying through the air.
        I love this gun,. It is smooth, gives me no trouble, is accurate, and points pretty well. This feeling is not universal. Research on the web, shows numerous serious complaints. Most owners like the handling qualities; but some lament the fact that their guns jam, misfire, and go out of service pretty regularly. Others praise the absolute reliability of the piece, even under the most extreme conditions. So why the divergence of opinion? Ordinarily, when you hear such conflicting reports, you immediately suspect poor quality control, as was the case with the early Spanish made guns; but this is Browning, known for years as a premier maker of quality (and expensive) firearms. What might be going on here?
        The main reason seems to be one of break in, and proper cleaning. When new, the big Browning is packed in some rust inhibiting grease, and coated with oil. Failure to properly remove this grease, which requires a fairly thorough disassembly of the gun, will gum up the works, and make the operation unreliable. It is not only the bolt, but the piston, and even the recoil tube in the stock, that need attention. I was lucky in this; I bought the gun used, and the previous owner had apparently done what needed to be done. Either that, or perhaps the dealer, taking the gun in used, gave it a good going over. Instructions are given for doing this in the manual; but who ever reads the manual? Another oft heard complaint is that the trigger is a bit stiff and heavy. Actually, this is pretty normal these days. In part it is break in of newly finished operating components, and in part is is due to the litigious mood which seems to pervade all of America today. A trigger that is too heavy will not get you sued, by an injured owner who practices unsafe gun handling. My trigger was fine, but again, this was a used gun, and the previous owner may have had some work done, or perhaps he just shot it often, and broke it in. Most of the complaints were directed towards the 12 gauge version of the gun, which have been tweaked to function with magnum cartridges. Shooters using lighter loads, may find the gun not cycling reliably.
        This gun is finished completely in black. There is black synthetic furniture, and a matte black finish on the metal. It is a decent looking gun, and the all black finish gives it something of a military look, particularly with the synthetic furniture. I do not see this finish being offered in this gauge, in current listings. Current offerings are in blue with wood furniture, and mossy cammo. The 26" vent rib barrel actually looks kind of small on the big receiver. An 18" tube, would probably be just about even with the end of the magazine tube.
        The big Browning is also available in 12 and 20 gauge. These are smaller and lighter guns than the big Gold 10, so the only real reason to go with this particular model, is to be able to use the mighty 10 gauge magnum shells. The 10 gauge has a bore of .775. as opposed to the .725 bore of the 12 gauge. This may not sound like a big difference; but it is significant. it is the difference between the 357 and 41 magnums, and is larger than the difference between the 41 and 44 magnums. it permits the 10 gauge to fire a 1.75 ounce slug, as opposed to the 1.25 ounce slug of the 12 gauge. The 10 gauge magnum can fire a shot string 0f 2.25 ounces. It can also hold 54 pellets of buckshot, as opposed to the 41 pellets of the 12 gauge. These are significant differences. In order to address some of these, and to attempt to retain the 12 gauges capabilities with the new steel shot, many manufactures have gone to the 3.5" 12 gauge magnum. While this certainly does make the 12 gauge a more capable performer, it still does not turn a 12 gauge into a 10 gauge, any more than high velocities, and expanding bullets turn a 9mm into a 45.
        Ammunition can be problematic for the 10 gauge shooter. Being such a small segment of the market reduces choice, and increases costs. Compared to the hundreds of 12 gauge loadings out there, the 10 gauge has, at best, a few dozen loads, offered by  a handful of companies. The dedicated 10 gauge shooter will probably find himself motivated to load his own shells. You will probably not find 10 gauge shells at your local Wal-Mart; but may find them as a sporting goods store. Probably, though, you will need to go to an actual gun shop, particularly if you are looking for a shell which will wring the maximum performance from your gun.
        Controls are simple. The gun has the typical trigger guard mounted safety. the bolt holds open after the last shot, which is kind of handy for trap shooting, and allows a hunter to quickly chamber a round, without having to load it into the magazine tube first. The bolt can be released by either pulling it back, once the magazine has been filled, or by depressing the bolt release, located just under the ejection port. Four rounds can be loaded into the magazine, and one more loaded into the chamber, giving this the largest shell capacity of any 10 gauge. The gun comes from, the factory with the magazine plugged for two rounds. I never understood the reasons for these kinds of restrictions. Generally, the first thing I do after getting a shotgun, is to remove the magazine plug. The carrier is slotted, for easy clearage in case of a jam. Unlike most shotguns, with which I am familiar, the big Browning requires the carrier/bolt release button, on the right side of the receiver, to be depressed, before it can be loaded. The four rounds can then be pushed into the magazine tube. Loading the last round takes considerable force, and seems to invite the smashing of fingers.

        So this is my first 10 gauge. it has been a long time lasting, and for now it is my only 10 gauge. These large shells are pretty much only used by hunters of large birds, like geese, who fly at high altitudes. This is pretty limited, so this may remain as my one and only 10 gauge. Still, there is a  BPS in 10, down at the shop, which seems to call to me every time I go there.