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Thread: Browning Auto-5 "rescue"

  1. #1

    Browning Auto-5 "rescue"

    Since the light mount thread caught on I thought I'd share the "rescue" I did.

    I've wanted a cut down "not quite whippet" Auto-5 for a home defense gun for a long time. I looked for a beater 12ga Auto-5 for over 5 years before I ran across one. All I found were always in nice shape and I can't bring myself to go cutting on a Belgian crafted shotgun. I could cut one of those abhorrent looking poly chokes off of one, but that's about it. And was this one ever beat! The forearm was split in two for about 3/4 of its length, rust and dings everywhere and utterly filthy inside. Looked like it spent some time in a barn, but probably just someone's closet neglected and bumped into for 30 years or more. It dates to 1955-1956 according to Browning's S/N lookup. The pawn shop guy told me the forearm was duck taped together when it came in.

    After detail stripping it appeared to have not been shot, cleaned or lubed in years. Old oil turned to varnish and dust caked into every nook and cranny inside and light rust (no real pitting) was basically everywhere. Amazingly the bore was pristine. When I was blasting it out with brake cleaner it looked like mud coming out of the receiver. It had been shot a fair bit, but was in good shape mechanically. Someone had already cut the stock and put on a Pachmayr recoil pad long ago, it was hard as a brick.

    IIRC, it was marked at $359. I watched it sit on the rack for a couple of months. Went back one day and low and behold it was still there. I couldn't hold out any longer so I offered $300 out the door for it. He said he had to call the owner. Owner said $300 + sales tax. I said deal!

    I bought the Browning specific screwdriver set from Brownells and watched youtube videos on how to work on them and started ripping it apart saving the screws and corresponding matched lock screws in their own ziplock bag. These things aren't really hard to work on thanks to youtube.

    I cut another 1" off the stock and put on another Pachmayr pad. Those are a real pain if you don't have a commercial type belt or disk sander. I didn't get it as close as I wanted but just got tired of sanding on it with a file wrapped with sandpaper. Got it close enough for the role of this gun. L.O.P is 12.25". Not so good for clay games but much nicer for pieing corners in the house.

    I cut the barrel with a hacksaw to 18.25" and then draw filed and squared it with a machinist's square. It's still just north of 18 3/16" to the closed bolt face.

    I glued the forearm back together with Brownells Acraglas. Then I cut a crude zig-zag pattern and relief cut the actual crack on the inside and reinforced it by laying in a single layer of fiberglass weave cloth and flooding the whole thing with Acraglass. I doubt it breaks again. I also cut some walnut dowel rod and used Acraglass to glue it into each side of the forearm to mount a pic rail section for sling attachment points. I still have to mount the rail pieces and configure a sling. I wanted to try to keep the original wood. I can always go get a synthetic set but this appears to be a dark walnut like American instead of the more blonde'ish looking European walnut we usually see in these. The wood was once really nice, it's a shame it was so abused. I finished the wood with pure tung oil so it'll have some water protection and not have the built up plastic looking finish.

    Mag spring
    Friction spring
    Friction ring
    Recoil spring
    Both extractor springs
    Locking block latch spring
    Action spring

    I added a Nordic +2 mag extension, the Hi-Viz front sight and TLR-1.

    All in all, the major wear items are all fresh, clean, lubed and should be good to go for another few thousand rounds.

    With the friction rings set for heavy loads it runs all 1 1/8oz (or heavier) loads as long as they aren't low recoil versions, they won't cycle. With the friction ring set for light loads it runs Winchester Ranger 1oz low recoil slugs, Fed low recoil FC buck and Winchester AA 1 1/8oz 1145 FPS bird loads. I just tested these today and as I remember, it recoiled noticeably harder setup for the the light stuff than it did setup and running the normal full power buck I tested before. I'm definitely going back to the range with all ammo types next time to compare. I may have been hallucinating, but it was just stupid fast and light recoiling before and I was grinning ear to ear because of that perception. Not so much today, but it did run flawlessly. I was wanting to dedicate this for the low recoil Federal FC buck, but if it's lighter recoiling by a noticable difference with the friction ring setup for heavier stuff I may just run my stash of regular #1 buck in it. The amount of and type of lube on the mag tube definitely has an effect on the cycling, so more experimentation is in order.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Where The Grove aint Pleasant
    I was in the same boat as you. I finally found one on the clearance rack in a pawn shop, and got it for what I was willing to pay. It's a 1956 BB A5.

    The barrel was bulged, so cutting it didn't feel evil. The forend was firewood, so I tossed it. I took the stock off as well. I had one of those F'it moments and ordered the Champion synthetic stock sets. It looks all kinds of wrong on there, but damned if it doesn't *feel* nice. Optics Planet had the set for -$50. All springs have been swapped, Brownells has them on clearance. I bought the same screw driver kit. I added a Nordic +2 as well. I haven't decided on sights yet, but I may just go with an XS plain orange bead.

    I'm into this gun for about $350 total, and while I like it quite a bit, I don't know what I am going to do with it now. I have a 1301T now. I am gonna play with the two of them side-by-side.

    I'm about all shotgunned out...

  3. #3
    Mr. Shovel Lover Hambo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Behind the Photonic Curtain
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian T View Post
    I'm about all shotgunned out...
    That is impossible for me. Still looking for a beater A5...
    If he hears his name, he will literally come over here and rip our faces off.

  4. #4
    I had a beater Remington Model 11 (basically the same gun) many years ago. The barrel had been cut to 18" and had an adjustable choke installed (Polychoke IIRC). It recoiled worse than any 12ga I've ever shot. There was no "low recoil" buck back then.

    Its mainspring (a leaf spring) broke eventually. I found a replacement and repaired the gun myself. Taking it apart was quite an adventure. This was back before Al Gore invented the internet, so I was on my own.

    Nice job on salvaging a cool old shotgun.


  5. #5
    #LowLife4Life Bigghoss's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Anna Kendrick's fantasies
    It's a low priority but I am keeping my eyes out for a model 11 or one of the Savage models to shorten and tinker with.
    Does anyone like pineapple on their pizza guns?

  6. #6
    Marginally Relevant NH Shooter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    New Hampshire, U.S.A.
    Outstanding, nice work!!

  7. #7
    That is sweet! Nicely done. Now please excuse me. I must repent for coveting thy neighbors goods.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Cincinnati Ohio
    [QUOTE=Spartan1980;961678] The amount of and type of lube on the mag tube definitely has an effect on the cycling, so more experimentation is in order.

    Nice rescue. Good to see an old A5 back in action.
    A neighbor of mine brought me his father's A5 (MFG 1946) that hadn't been used in years. He had taken it to a range and tried to shoot it but couldn't get it to cycle with light loads. It was set up for heavy loads.
    I did the usual cleanup on it and set it for light loads since that was all he would be shooting in it. I tried several different oils on the mag tube (the manual calls for Browning oil) but could not get it to cycle reliably.
    Doing some research I discovered that it was rumored that John Browning recommended 30wt motor oil applied lightly to the mag tube.
    After cleaning off the oil that I had already applied and reapplying 30wt motor oil it ran flawlessly with any light load I tried.
    What a nice, soft shooting gun.
    He won't sell me the gun but I can shoot it anytime I'd like. Good neighbor.
    You are correct that the type and amount of lube most definitely affects the cycling. The heavier the load the less lube is used. Magnum loads require almost no lube to so that the friction ring can tame the recoil.
    Might try the motor oil.
    Hope it helps. At least it did on this one.
    Last edited by baddean; 12-02-2019 at 10:56 PM.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Greater PDX, OR
    That is one of the coolest projects I've seen in a long time.

    Well done.

  10. #10
    Site Supporter LtDave's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Central AZ

    Auto 5 project

    Before Vang:
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    After Vang magic:
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    Federal #1 Flite Control shoots into 9" at 20 yards. Hornady 8 pellet Critical Defense does 6" at 20 yards.
    Vang shortened barrel to 18", did their barrel mods, installed new recoil pad and fixed cracked forend. I have a mag extension sitting around, but haven't installed it.
    Last edited by LtDave; 12-11-2019 at 10:35 AM.
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