Mention Browning shotguns, and thoughts often drift to the celebrated Citori over-under or the iconic Auto-5 semi-automatic. But from 1971 until 1987, Browning imported one of the best valued, most solidly built side-by-sides available in America—the B-SS (“Browning Side-by-Side”).
Unfortunately, at the time, hunters were turning away from classic side-by-sides in favor of pump-actions and semi-automatics. Moreover, in 1987, the government announced that lead shot was going to be banned for waterfowl hunting, beginning in 1991, thus forecasting the demise—for all practical purposes—of existing doubles for anything but upland hunting.
That’s not to say the B-SS was passé. Far from it. Expertly made in Japan by Miroku (guns made after 1977 were assembled in Korea using Japanese parts), and with its highly polished and hand-fitted action, it was sometimes viewed as “the working man’s Model 21.” Indeed, originally priced at $257.50 (which jumped to $354.50 five years later), the B-SS was a relative bargain—rock solid in appearance, construction and performance. Initially offered as a 12-ga. Grade I, a 20 gauge priced at $275 came out a year later. Barrel lengths were 26", 28" or 30", with a choice of full/full, modified/full or improved cylinder/modified combinations of fixed choke. Attractive 20-line-per-inch checkering graced a black walnut, pistol grip stock and beavertail fore-end that were paired with richly blued polished steel, featuring hand-engraved embellishments. Automatic ejectors, an automatic safety and a silver, single, non-selective trigger were standard.
In 1977, a single, selective trigger was introduced, the trigger color was changed to gold and a straight-stocked Sporter, priced at $369.50, was introduced. Also new was a Grade II variant with a more profusely engraved French Gray receiver. By that time, the price of the standard B-SS had risen to $359.50. An even more expensive sidelock version, with splinter fore-end and double triggers, was brought out in 1983.
Today, the B-SS is acknowledged not only as the value it always represented, but also as a potential collectable. There is already a slight premium for 20-ga. guns, and sidelocks in excellent condition can bring $4,000 and up. Six years ago, this early, near-mint, 12-ga. Grade I boxlock B-SS, even with a tiny chip in its buttplate, sold for $825 at Lock, Stock & Barrel online auctions (lsbauctions.com). Today it is easily valued at $1,150 to $1,450.
Gun: Browning Grade I B-SS Shotgun Manufacturer: Miroku, Japan Gauge: 12; 26" barrels (IC/M) Serial Number: XX52A72 Manufactured: 1972 Condition: 98 percent — NRA Excellent (Modern Gun Standards) Value: $1,150 to $1,450