Browning Side-by-Side


Gearhead Jim
July 8, 2003, 05:38 PM
I have a Browning BSS made about 1983, that's the made in Japan version(VERY tiny letters) with the selective trigger. Browning says it is safe to shoot with steel shot smaller than BB. It's in mint condition.

The plan is to have Briley install their choke tubes and a decent looking recoil pad, then use it as a field gun. Of course, I know that O/U's or repeaters are more efficient.....

Is there any inherrant fault with these guns, or any reason why I shouldn't go into this project? It seems like all the currently available S/S guns are either rather low quality, or reasonable quality but very high priced. Your thoughts? Thanks.

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July 8, 2003, 05:41 PM
I don't know that particular shotgun, but I'm willing to bet that if it's a Browning, it's probably going to be of rather better quality of manufacture than many of the lower-cost doubles available today. Why not ask Briley for their opinion of it as a base for a field gun? They give objective, honest advice, in my experience.

Gearhead Jim
July 8, 2003, 06:01 PM
The fellow I spoke to at Briley seemed to think it was a reasonable idea, but I didn't have any comments about their objectivity/expertise. Thanks for your info.

The other possibility is the Weatherby Orion, but I have heard a few disparaging remarks about the price/quality relationship of that gun. Any thoughts?

July 8, 2003, 06:19 PM
Weatherby Orion = overpriced by about 100%, IMHO! IIRC, it's a Spanish shotgun, and no better in mechanicals, etc. than other Spanish guns that can be bought for well under $1,000. It may have a fancier finish, but that's not what floats my boat. I'd stay with the Browning if Briley think it's an adequate base gun for their work.

July 8, 2003, 06:28 PM
The Browning BSS was made in Japan by Miroku and is in the same class as the Winchester 23 and maybe a notch ahead of the SKB sxs.

If by the Weatherby Orion you mean the sxs then I agree with Preacherman. It's made by Hermanos Zabala in Spain which is not one of the more highly regarded Spanish gun makers. The Orion o/u however is made in Japan by SKB.

Your plans for the BSS sound pretty solid. Enjoy the gun.

July 8, 2003, 06:30 PM
Thanks for the input on the Orion O/U, PJR. News to me... I've only shot the SxS, and that didn't impress me very much - even my old Stevens wasn't bad by comparison!

July 8, 2003, 09:14 PM
The BSS is a very good side by side IMO.
Side by sides are classy.

Browning would do well to bring it back in this current marketplace.

Briley does great work. I'm guessing you will spend around $400 to do both bbls so I would just make sure you really need the different chokes for your hunting needs.

Good luck

Gearhead Jim
July 8, 2003, 09:30 PM
Briley choke tubes for both barrels, suitable for steel shot, are about $470, lead shot are a little less. So your estimate was pretty close. And yes, I have thought about whether I really need choke tubes. What is tipping me toward the tubes is that this gun is rather heavy (7.8 lbs on a calibrated scale) and I might get the barrels cut down from 28" to 26". The beavertail forend feels like it weighs well over a pound all by itself, there is a lot of metal in there plus the wood. Since I like the beavertail, I don't think it is practical to save any weight there. The buttstock already has a full-length hole for the attach bolt, might be able to save another ounce by drilling another hole but who could tell?

During the winter I got to handle a prototype of the new Ruger SxS- beautifully light, but I'll probably be too old to hunt by the time they get it into production. I phoned them today and the latest word is "September." Yeah, right.

July 8, 2003, 09:44 PM

Talk to Briley before you cut the barrels and ask them what they can do to shave some ounces off that gun. With some backboring, some holes in the stock and other work, they might be able to get some weight off that gun. Shortening barrels can have unpleasant side affects on a sxs or o/u such as changing the point of impact. Cut barrels are also harder to sell should you decide to put the gun on the market.


I agree on the Zabalas. Every one that I've seen wasn't worth the asking price and they weren't asking very much.


July 8, 2003, 11:44 PM
I've got 2 of the BSS shotguns. 1 ea in 12g and 20g- both 26" tubes.
My 12g has been shot alot, killed birds in 5 or 6 states since about 1981. A tad heavy but stout and reliable. Kills what I point it at and (almost) never misses. Sometimes I use the 20 on the skeet range when I feel like a change.
I wouldn't cut those barrels down for the reasons already stated above.
What fixed chokes have you got now? Mine are both IC/M and I don't see a need for anything different. Have you patterned for POI barrel regulation? (Mine are both excellent at 25yrds.) Does Briley guarantee POI regulation with thier tubes?
The miroku BSS is a great double but beware there are some Korean Browning BSS shotguns out there. Fit and finish don't even come close and you can tell the difference from across the room.
One other note- I seem to recall Browning telling me that steel shot was NOT recomended in the BSS.

Gearhead Jim
July 9, 2003, 09:49 AM
You guys are a goldmine of information. Again, thanks.

Kingcreek- my chokes are marked mod & full, but there is not a whole lot of difference in the patterns. The right barrel gives true modified (#6 shot) or slightly weaker (#8) patterns, the left barrel gives improved modified with both #6 and #8. POI is slightly high, but that's usually OK. If needed, I'll have my head surgically repositioned.

During two different phone calls about 7 years apart, Browning was interested in the serial number of my gun and whether it was made in Japan or made in Belgium. Apparently, the early BSS guns are not OK for steel, the later ones are OK for anything smaller than steel BB. I got the impression that the change came when production moved to Japan, but I can't verify that. Is that also when the barrel selector appeared? Double triggers would be REALLY neat on this gun!

I had not heard of a Korean BSS- are they legitimate, or fakes?

July 9, 2003, 10:25 AM
If needed, I'll have my head surgically repositioned.
I hadn't realized how advanced Briley was in their modification menu...

:what: :neener: :D

July 9, 2003, 11:10 PM
My 12g is older with the silver non-select trigger. the 20 is gold trigger with selector. standard and delux? Both are Miroku of japan and identical as far as finish and engraving.
I don't think there were many Koreans. I saw one at a gunshow couple years ago. and like I said- fit and finish were not up to Browning standards but I don't think it was a knock off.
I really like the miroku BSS. I would shoot it like it is, if I were you.

July 10, 2003, 10:40 PM
gearhead jim wrote;

[Browning was interested in the serial number of my gun and whether it was made in Japan or made in Belgium. Apparently, the early BSS guns are not OK for steel, the later ones are OK for anything smaller than steel BB. I got the impression that the change came when production moved to Japan]

I have a real early 12 ga BSS with non selective trigger and a 71 date and it's made in japan, They all were. the latter Korean's are assembled with the old Mirouko parts.

If weight is an issue why not sell it and buy a 20ga. I would do the choke tubes but not cut the barrels or shave the wood.

You could always go cheaper than Briley, I think everybody does choke tubes now, There's a gunsmith named Mike Orlen at that the double gun guys swear by, he's about half of what your talking about spending.

Gearhead Jim
July 11, 2003, 04:16 PM
Again, thanks for the comments.

Huntsman- the 20 ga would be a great idea except that I´m trying to simplify my life by staying with just 12 ga. Nice to hear the production story.

Perhaps I`ll just do the recoil pad and shoot it for a season before going to the trouble and expense of the tubes.

July 12, 2003, 12:47 AM
Jim, I understand the need to simplify, I did the same a few years ago. I got rid of my 16ga doubles and got a 12ga BSS:D

Mike Irwin
July 12, 2003, 11:04 PM
Some years ago the guy who is now editor of American Rifleman bought one of those at a gun show he and I went to.

After a little futzing around with it, he was happy enough with it to make it one of his regulars for pheasant and quail.

As far as I know, it still is.

The BSS' are very nice guns but unfortunately aren't seen all that often.

July 13, 2003, 08:38 AM
I'm in the same boat as Kingcreek.Have got both the 20 and 12.(In the fitted factory hard cases to boot)I like starting the day bird hunting w/the 12 and change around lunch time for instant new arms!
I've been looking for a set of barrels for about three years for such a choke tube project and even have someone in Japan looking for me,still they elude me.(I don't want to modify the matched numbered barrels)I'm pretty happy with how they shoot,not sure now really why I started the quest,and not sure if I'll like the place any better than where I am now.....

I'd put the SKB's on even par with the BSS's.(I sold a 200e when off work hurt w/no money coming in,rather sorry now...)Have also a nice light 20 O/U,great bird buster.

My advice would be sit and ponder this query over a bottle on single malt scotch,or some nice cool gin and tonics.

Mike Irwin
July 13, 2003, 12:50 PM
There's a couple of BSS' for sale on Gun Broker right now.

Bringing fairly hefty prices, too.

Gearhead Jim
July 21, 2003, 04:55 PM
For better or for worse, the BSS is on its way to Briley. They will call me to talk about the practicality of choke tubes and overboring on that individual gun.

Over the weekend I got to look at a new SKB 385 in the local shop. It has the advantages of feeling a little lighter, looking prettier (silver receiver), and completely ready to go with choke tubes. On the other hand, the detail work (polishing, barrel lettering, and general fitting of parts) seemed a little below the Browning. And I don't like inertia-reset triggers.

Stay tuned for further reports.....

Gearhead Jim
August 18, 2003, 11:04 PM
The BSS came back from Briley today. The work looks nice:

Choke tubes installed with steel shot tubes (6 tubes total)
Barrels overbored
Forcing cones lengthened
Recoil pad installed, stock length shortened by 1/4"

Weight reduction was about 1/4 lb, mostly in the barrels from overboring.
Balance seems improved.

Total with shipping, insurance, etc came to about a thou.
Lots of money, but still I probably have a better gun than could be purchased for what I have in it.

The Briley choke wrench is very convenient to use but not so easy to carry. Does anyone make a more compact version?

August 19, 2003, 02:08 AM
sounds great give us a report after you run some rounds through it.

Gearhead Jim
August 25, 2003, 04:03 PM
Took the BSS out to the gun club, fired 50+ rds at clay birds from a portable trap by my feet. Broke about 80% of them, which is pretty good for me.:D

There were occasional failures to eject a fired shell, usually (always?) the right barrel. The other shell would eject properly, but this one would just be extracted for hand removal. Any idea on how to cure that?

I tried AA target loads both heavy (3 dram) and light (2 3/4 dram), half of the time I can't tell the difference. Am I the only one like that?

Will try to get on the patterning board next week.

Dave McCracken
August 25, 2003, 08:07 PM
That balky ejector sounds like grunge buildup or even a bit of rust inside. Try a little CLP or SLIP trickled down and handwork it a few times. Also, check the chamber for roughness.

As for feeling the difference between light and heavy, unless I'm over 1 1/8 oz I really do not feel much difference when shooting clays or birds.

In truth, sounds like you've sunk some money into what may turn out to be one GREAT wingshooter. It'd be worthwhile to me.

Gearhead Jim
August 26, 2003, 01:50 AM
Thanks for the kind words. Already I am dreaming of Fall days gone by, and to come, with pheasants bursting out of the corn ahead of a good pointing dog.

This evening I took off the foreend and barrels, which I had not done since putting the gun into storage 7 years ago after test firing my "new" purchase. No grunge, no rust (luckily); but the ejector mechanisms seemed totally dry. After little Break Free CLP, it ejects dummies perfectly.

The opening and closing of the barrels is rather stiff, but I expect that from a virtually new gun.

What is more annoying is that almost half of the time, the unlocking lever is VERY difficult to get moving, like it is stuck in place. Once it has moved just a fraction, then the rest of the movement is normal. This does not happen with the barrels removed, so it must be related to the interface of the locking bolt and the barrels. Casual inspection does not reveal any burrs.

By the way, is it OK to dry fire this gun? Virtually all center-fire rifles and pistols can be dry fired extensively without problem, but I've heard different things about double shotguns.

Dave McCracken
August 26, 2003, 06:16 AM
A good smith I know said the following about dry firing shotguns.

" Modern firearms, except rimfires, hardly ever suffer from dry firing. However, snap caps are not expensive or scarce, so why not add a little insurance?"....

As for the lever, run 4 or 5 cases of ammo through the thing and see what happens. My guess is it needs some breaking in....

Gearhead Jim
August 26, 2003, 11:17 AM
That's a good plan. Of course, those now-functioning ejectors will have my snap caps flying around the room.....

When the barrels were off last night, I noticed that the receiver seems pretty well sealed up. It would be nice to clean and lube inside there but I don't want to remove any of those narrow-slot screws. It looks like removing the wood screw at the rear of the trigger guard, and the big nut/bolt inside the buttstock, would allow the wood to be removed. Correct? Would that allow any access into the receiver?

Dave McCracken
August 26, 2003, 04:59 PM
(Scratching my old grey head) Darnfino, no smith am I.Try down in the Smithy Forum, they should be able to help. Sorry....

Doubles of both kinds can be heck for the tyro to get into running blind. Some guidance here would be invaluable.

A couple doubles I had just needed a screw through the tang and topstrap undone to remove the stocks, but YMMV.

August 27, 2003, 02:48 PM
in 1970 my bride to be bought me a new skb 200e for a wedding gift. i looked at it and a browning sxs. as i recall browning wasn't offering a 20 ga. at that time. i wanted a 20 and that browning 12 should have been furnished with a set of wheels so that you could tow it up the hills in s.e. ohio. would have been fine in a duckblind or pheasant field but not my idea of a grouse gun. sorry that sxsman had to part with his skb. i wouldn't part with mine or the giver for anything. mine is bored for 3" shells but will never fire one in it. i feel that long chambers are part of the reason why you cant find a shotgun that weighs 6 lb. 1 oz. of shot is adequate for any upland game. i have an 870 12ga. that i used for ducks and deer. my first gun was a mod 12 16 ga. with a mod. 28" bbl. a gift also from my parents in 1952 on my 17th birthday. in 53 i had the bbl. cut to 24" which made it a true cyl. choke. deadly out to about 22 yds. huntsman how could you have sold those 16 ga. doubles? a dear friend of mine has a fox sterlingworth and an l.c. smith. both 16's great guns. if i could have got my skb in 16 ,i would have. enjoy your double gun. regardless of what anyone says, they're wonderful!

August 28, 2003, 12:31 AM
well mod12,
I hunted grouse & woodcock for 20 years with a $175. 16ga fulton 28" imp/mod a great gun .

I guess I started useing the 16ga starting in the mid 70's when I used a buddy's ithica m37 featherwieght for grouse.

My list is mostly cheap guns and most were not what a real 16ga should be and that is 6lb or so.
I also got tired of dealing with short stocks too much drop and short chambers (2-9/16" was 16 ga standard before ww2)and reloading components that were limited.

I had a 16ga lc featherweight that I never shot ,got it through the mail and it was in worse condition than addvertised - so I sent it back.
Add two other 16ga fultons and a nice little hunters special, a 16ga AA silver 2 o/u, winchester M37 16ga, and an Ithica NID 16 I had a while ,
oh and a cherry rem 870 1970's vintage with a mod and imp barrels.

I sold most, traded 2 for a 12ga BSS and never looked back Now I can get 1-1/8 oz RTS for a good price , I reload 1-1/4 oz heavy hunting loads and YES my BSS is heavy but only a 1/4lb heavier than most of the 16's I owned.;)

Gearhead Jim
August 29, 2003, 12:44 AM
After a couple of sweaty afternoons patterning, using AA 3- 1 1/8- 8 at 40 yds, here are some results:

1. The Briley chokes work as advertised, pattern percentages are good for Full, Modified, IC, Skeet. The Extra Full tube is a bit too much, it actually threw slightly looser patterns than Full and now resides in my junk drawer.

2. Right barrel shoots about 3" high, left barrel about 6" high. I can live with that.

3. The two barrels throw patterns that diverge- the right barrel shoots about 4" right, the left barrel shoots about 5" left, so the difference between the two barrels is about 9" at 40 yds. Not very good, by my standards. Or am I being too pickey? Any practical way to fix it?

Dave McCracken
August 29, 2003, 06:48 AM
No practical way to fix divergences, alas. That's not unusual, I'd live with it. You may improve this a bit(equal chances of worsening) by trying out other loads.

One guy I knew said that using oz loads reduced his divergence probs. YMMV, but give it a shot.

August 29, 2003, 07:04 AM
if if was getting well distributed 40" patterns at 40 yds. from full and mod. chokes, and the bbls were that close, i would hang a blue ribbon on the gun and never let go of it. i can't shoot that well anyway. i believe that the vast majority of us over estimate the distance at which we shoot at game. one year i started to actually walk off the distance from where i fired to where i picked up the grouse. unfortunately, like most of my good intentions,i slacked off midway thru the season. however, on about 12 to 15 birds the range was under 20yds. on quite a few it was under 15 yds. on longer shots, due to the cover i couldn't shoot anyway. those were only sound flushes. i used imp cyl/mod in my 20 and a true cyl. bore in my 16. many days i never fired the mod. bbl. screw in those skeet and imp/cyl chokes and after the first season the grouse will just walk out of the woods with their wings in the air! sounds like a great gun to me.

August 29, 2003, 07:26 AM
interesting comment.about 1975 k-mart {the good old days} put low brass federal 20 ga. shells on sale at the end of rabbit season, for 1.95 a box. i bought 10 boxes. about a week later i discovered that they were7/8 oz. loads. never the less, i used them. i had always used 1 oz. shells. those feds. were more than adequate for my purposes, and a delight to shoot. i'll bet they weren't doing more than 1100 ft/sec but when i put the muzzle on em they fell down. when i ran out i looked everywhere but could never find them again. maybe the lower pressures would have an effect on convergence. i just do not like high brass heavy loads. i'm a sissy, i don't even like 1 1/8 oz. loads in my 16.

August 29, 2003, 08:25 AM
As mentioned, I would try different loads first. That would be the cheapest fix. It's a "pain", but given the alternatives, I would make every effort to 'adjust through loads and choke tubes.
Pattern at 20 and 30 yards for divergence and POI. A couple of inches here or there isn't going to make a difference.
Shoot some skeet, trap and sporting and see how it really works.
If you are smoking targets at skeet and trap, don't ever pattern it again.

As far as shooting high, you can lower the stock a bit if you wish. A 3" difference in height between the two bbls is not significant.
In fact, for the second shot at a greater distance, it would be an advantage. Shot also "drops" like bullets at distances.

I believe Briley sells 'eccentric' chokes to correct bbl divergence. I would talk to them. To some degree with certain chokes anyway. I don't think this is a cheap option, but I'm not sure.

August 30, 2003, 01:54 PM
jim did you pattern you gun before it went to briley ?
if you didn't have this problem before then it should be briley who fixes it.
I can't believe they bored and threaded out of round, so maybe the tubes loosened up, a SXS is regulated to cross patterns but I can't remember at what range , you problem may be more than finding the right load.

Gearhead Jim
August 30, 2003, 06:01 PM
The gun had been patterned when I first bought it, but the combination of my sloppy technique, and the looseness of the original patterns (the "Full" choke threw slightly better than modified) makes a precise comparison difficult.
My guess is that Briley did not mis-align the chokes.

Some time soon I plan to retest the patterning with the Full tube from both barrels, using a dab of white paint on top of the receiver to act as a rear sight. I know that this is not a rifle, but minor differences in head position can make a big difference in where the pattern centers. Same thing with sunlight from the side on a rounded front bead. BTW, the Full tube throws 79% at 40 yds with the AA 3- 1 1/8- 8 loads.

I'm wondering how serious a 4"-5" divergance on either side is, and how common it is to have that amount. Mod12 posted above that he would be happy with that, personally I haven't patterned any double guns to see how they really are regulated.

August 30, 2003, 11:07 PM
if you suspect mounting problems, try it with both eyes closed in front of the mirror . Mount gun as you would on a flush open your eyes and try to observe your form ,eye should be directly above rib, neck straight with cheek along comb. One of my bad habits is I tend to bend the neck and roll the cheek on top the comb.

when you describe your pattern as being off 5" are you going from center of pattern ? and how are you patterning ?

August 31, 2003, 01:22 AM

Gearhead Jim
August 31, 2003, 12:22 PM
The text of your last post did not show up, can you please repost?

Forgot to mention, I checked the tubes and they were tight.
Your test for proper mounting technique is good, I'll try that. But to learn more precisely where the gun is patterning (divergance), I'm trying to shoot it like a rifle to get each shot the same. A better shotgunner would be consistant enough to do it with normal mounting, but that's not me.

To determine the center of the pattern, I use a template with a 30" circle. Place it over what looks like the center of the pattern and count how many pellets in each quarter. If the counts are not similar for each quarter, move the circle and count again. Distance is 40 yards.

Still looking for other folk's experience on how much divergance is common at 40 yards on a double gun.....

August 31, 2003, 08:29 PM
i've never tested my skb as you describe. would just take it to skeet range and shoot 4 or 5 rounds of skeet prior to opening of grouse season and occasionally a round or two during season. i don't know what you hunt, if you're pass shooting ducks or geese you might be affected by the divergence of your center of pattern, but again when you consider that the error is 1 1/4 ins. at 10 yds., 2 1/2 at 20 yds. 3 3/4 at 30 and 5 at 40 from the left bbl-1,2,3,4 ins. at corresponding yardage from the right, this is miniscule compared to any error you may make in mounting or lead estimation when firing at game. if you are that concerned, i would fire from a rest to ensure the positioning was constant while testing. the amount of clothing you wear will have a significant effect on point of impact. here in ohio we have a 5 mo. season, oct. 10 to feb. 28. in mid dec. when i started wearing a heavier jacket i could notice a change. whether it was due to being a tad slower or mounting the gun differently i can't really say. i've always maintained that range estimation is the bugaboo in shotgunning. i,ve had my boys stand on the 40,50, 60, and 100 yd. lines after practice. you'd be amazed how far away they are. i don't know how any one can shoot a rifle and hit any thing at 300 or 400 yds. if you shoot that well you should be at vandalia shooting in the grand national. i'd take that gun to the trap and skeet range and see how i shot. if the birds don't break up to your abilities then i'd worry about the gun. heck, you'll have a lot more fun than shooting at an old piece of paper! sometimes we get caught up in trivia!

Gearhead Jim
August 31, 2003, 08:48 PM
Thanks for the re-post. I'm getting back into pheasant hunting after a lapse of several years, so I don't really have a baseline for how many clays I should expect to break. Your other points are good, the only thing that makes the divergance an issue is that this gun patterns so well (with the AA load). The Full choke barrel really could be used to bring down a cripple at 40 yards if the #6 loads do as well.

September 1, 2003, 08:35 AM
around 1955, at the tag end of the halcyon years of pheasant hunting in s.w. ohio, a friend and i went hunting down around washington ct. house ohio. i had my dads' mod. 24 winchester with 28" bbls. bored mod. and full. 12 ga 1 1/4oz. rem. express #6. neither of us had a bird tho we each had shots. they were flushing wild way out. late in the afternoon some hunters in an adjoining field kicked one out and really gave him a sendoff. never ruffled a feather. it flew directly over me. waaaaaaay up there. i just threw up my gun and yanked the rear trigger. that bird collapsed!i was the most surprised hunter in the county. another time i was duck hunting with an experienced duck hunter at delaware dam no. of columbus where i grew up. a line of bluebills came by out past the furthest deke which bill had set at an estimated 40 yds. the ducks were beyond that. i tried a sustained lead on the first one in the skein. a duck two from the back end fell out. i burned about box of shells {no. 5 shot} chasing him in the boat and taking a poke at him every time he popped up. bill had a mod. 12, 12ga. choked full and he could put them in the water! he laughed till he cried. i'm more of a point shooter and try to "paint" the target with a swing thru. poa is important on close flushing game, but i believe that pattern is the most critical thing. of course a pattern wildly off is no good but even if you fringe a grouse it will come down. those rascals can run like a pheasant tho.

Gearhead Jim
October 17, 2003, 12:34 AM
More careful patterning at 40 yards shows that the right barrel shoots 4" right and 6" high, the left barrel shots 3" left and 3" high. Closer than I can hold in real life.

This is done with the front bead just "balanced" on top of the receiver, if I bring my head down any lower the bead starts to disappear.

Trap shoot at the club this weekend, looking forward to eating clay birds for dinner....

Dave McCracken
October 17, 2003, 05:49 AM
Thanks for the update, Jim. I'd just live with it, if the shotgun works for you.

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