Copyright 2014 Buffington Associates

The Gun Owner


By Dave Buffington

Buying and selling guns is a great way to learn more about guns. Of course, you find out what they’re worth, but you can also learn about how they work, how they shoot, what their strengths and weaknesses might be.

Well, you CAN learn about all of that, but only if you’re not an idiot.

Like me.

My saga of stupidity began with the purchase of a handsome little 20 gauge Browning Auto 5 at an auction. I got a good buy on a good gun, but I have other A5s. So my plan was to play with it for a little while and then flip it on Gunbroker.

The problem became the awful winter we were having here in the northeast U.S. It was cold, brutally cold. So I didn’t get out to the range for awhile, and I said to myself, “Self, just put the Twenty up on Gunbroker and get your money back.”

And while it was up there, someone asked, “Does it cycle properly?”

With A5s that’s a good question. The recoil-powered system John Moses Browning created for the A5 -- the world’s first successful autoloading shotgun -- has its own idiosyncrasies. I’ve found that they always work when set up properly, but people have learned to have doubts.

So, when the temp finally climbed up to a balmy 19 degrees, I got up early, reached in the safe and went to the range.

I load the first shell in. Pull the trigger. Bang. No cycle.

I load the second shell in the chamber and then decide to put a second in the magazine. Pull. Bang. No cycle. And weirdly, the second shell is now caught behind the shell carrier.

So I go through the standard A5 drill. Take the barrel off. Check the friction rings. They’re tight, but OK. Add a bit of lube to the magazine tube.

Put another shell in the chamber. Pull. Bang. No cycle.

Go home. Try a different lube (Mobil 1) on the tube. Go back to the range.

Load. Pull. Bang. No cycle.

Through all of this, I notice something else odd. About half the spent hulls have splits in them. some maybe a millimeter or two. Some as long as an inch. I had been mixing types of loads, and so, it was hard to blame the hulls.

By this time, I’m frustrated, and that evening, my friend Frank and I happened to be driving past my favorite gunsmith, Jake at Resser’s Gunsmithing.

Jake absolutely loves old Brownings. He’s resurrected several old Superposeds for me, and he immediately dove into the A5.

Finding nothing obviously faulty, Jake leads me outside to his little range. He hands me some brand new 20 gauge AAs and asks me to fire them while he watches the action.

Load. Pull. Bang. No cycle.

He asks me to load two this time.

Load two. Pull. Bang. Second shell caught behind the carrier.

Jake takes the gun back inside and starts taking it apart. He looks at me and walks away.

He comes back with three purple shells and says, “Try these.”

I look in complete horror at the purple shells. I know exactly what they are.

They’re 16 gauge shells.

The gun is a 16 gauge.

I had grabbed the wrong gun out of my safe.

With 16 gauge shells, the 16 gauge A5 works brilliantly. And with 20 gauge shells, the 20 gauge A5 works brilliantly.

Me? Well, I’m not so brilliant.

I’m an idiot.