I need some help learning info and potential value about a vintage Browning Shotgun. I estimate overall condition at very good with finish estimated around 90%. Based on photos attached, what do you think condition/finish percent is?
Browning Arms Company St. Louis MO. / A-5 16GA / Made in Belgium
Gun has the lightened features of a Sweet 16 model however there is no “Sweet 16” identification.
Barrel ring has 3 drilled holes
Inside of receiver sides are milled half moon cutouts
Trigger and safety has golden/bronze appearance
Trigger has dark bronze appearance
Safety is located in front of trigger
Left side: Browning Arms Company St. Louis Mo.
Barrel 16GA 28” overall, 25.5” end to chamber), 2 3/4” * (* = Cylinder Bore right?)
Plain Barrel, bead front sight, matched ss#: X11690
Barrel ring has 3 drilled holes
Magazine plug: Black plastic with imprinted “Made in Japan”
The magazine capacity with the plug in holds only 2 rounds (3 shot gun?)
Left side barrel: * SPECIAL STEEL -16 GAUGE SHELLS 2 3/4
O (or maybe reversed “D”, Kg 757, sideways “3” and A-/F, lion symbol w/ P.V, Crown symbol over ellipse w/ ELG and star inside, ellipse w/ “16-70”
Right side barrel: Made in Belgium
Stock and foregrip:
Overall condition very good, no cracks or major dings. Butt stock has some darkening near receiver on right side from handing and oils. Butt plate is original.
Full detailed photo documentation available.
Thanks very much for your help.
Thanks for all the info and pics up front.
Your Sweet Sixteen was indeed made in 1947. FN didn't start engraving the receiver Sweet Sixteen until 1948. As you've stated, the Sweet Sixteens had 3 holes drilled in the barrel ring and extra wood milled out of the buttstock to lighten the gun. The trigger and safeties were also gold plated on the Sweet Sixteen and 12ga. Lightweight models.
You are correct on the choke code - your gun is cylinder choked.
The Auto 5 holds 4 shells in the magazine and one in the chamber. Starting around 1932 FN made available a wooden adapter plug that reduced the capacity of the magazine to 2 shells. Effective in 1935 federal laws dictated that the max capacity of a shotgun for bird hunting was 3 shells, so Browning imports had the wooden plug. Yours being plastic and made in Japan, it obviously isn't original to the gun.
As I understand it, the Browning 3 shot was a factory modified Auto 5 whereby the magazine tube and forestock were shortened. The forestocks were stamped Browning 3 shot.
Based on your pics, I think 90% is a fair rating for the condition. The gun doesn't appear to be modified. There are 7 parts of the gun that should be serialized to the receiver: the buttstock, forestock, barrel ring (these 3 have the full sn), barrel extension, both large receiver screws and breech block (partial sn). You can check these to confirm all the parts are original to the gun.
You still have the factory butt plate and the finish is in good shape on both the metal and wood. I don't see any pics of the left side of the forestock, hopefully you don't have a big crack on it. The standard factory finish was a light shine lacquer, which yours appears to have.
So, all in all, I'd say you have an original '47 Sweet Sixteen in 90% with a plain barrel that is worth around $750.
A couple variables to condsider:
-the marketability of a Sweet Sixteen not so marked on the receiver may be less than that of a later version that is marked Sweet Sixteen on the receiver;
-I have no idea if the cylinder choke on your gun may increase or decrease the value - I would think it would be rarer than most other chokes and may therefore be more desireable to collectors, but that is pure speculation on my part.
Nice shotgun - thanks for sharing!
Thanks very much for your detailed response and assessment.
I cant say Ive ever seen a cylinder choked example of one of these so thats cool - I bet this is a great quail gun. Too bad the wooden plug is gone (wonder if I could find one somewhere). I figured a factory 3 shot gun was a shortened front-end - not just a different plug.
The forearm stock is good - pics attached.
I would love to bring out the original beauty of the wood grain. Would it hurt the value by doing some careful restoring of the wood finish? Im thinking just cleaning the dirt and oils from checkering and finish overall, maybe pulling the minor dents out and hand rubbing the oil finish to bring back the original luster. I would appreciate any guidance or how to links on the proper factory processes and materials to do this. ----- or is it best to just leave well enough alone?
Regarding the action - the bolt is a little sticky at half way open and close. If I release the bolt by hand it sticks half way - it closes fine by releasing the bolt properly without touching. Does this indicate a) binding in the action, dirt buildup etc. or b) weak action spring - or both?
Test firing the gun - the recoil is sharp/heavy so I think new recoil spring and seals are in order. I plan to replace the recoil spring, bronze friction seal and related parts. Is it a good idea given the age to install a complete spring kit or just the minimum necessary? This is a shooter so I would like to put it into proper firing condition.
Thanks again for your time and helpful knowledge.
As far as the wood goes, here's what I would do.
First, the bottom line is you want to clean the wood without removing any of the original finish or putting some kind of new finish on top.
Start by just cleaning it. Use a mild soap with water on a cloth and see what comes off. Make sure to dry it thoroughly. If you see gunk or oil that doesn't come off, you can use denatured alcohol to wipe it down. Use it sparingly - it will remove finish if you're aggressive with it, but used lightly it helps clean up old wood pretty well. After that, maybe rub in some boiled linseed oil, although I doubt the wood will accept it into the grain.
I've never had any luck pulling dents with the "iron and wet cloth" method unless the stock had been stripped of the old finish.
As far as the breech block binding, chances are the gun has never been taken apart and cleaned. There are lots of nooks and crannies inside the receiver and moving parts that can collect gunk.
Taking an Auto 5 apart to it's major components isn't too difficult. You can find detailed instructions online, and maybe a video instruction on youtube. You'll probably have to order a fine, hollow ground screwdriver set from Brownells to get the large receiver screws out. Don't bugger them!
You also need to look at the friction rings and make sure they're set up correctly. I noticed rust on your magazine tube, so I'd take the rings and spring off and clean that up. You need to oil the tube so the spring can move freely.
Here's info on the friction ring set up:
If a good cleaning doesn't address the problem, you can look at new parts. I seriously doubt anything needs replaced - A5's are very tough.
Based on new info, I agree, on only careful cleaning and reapplication of linseed oil. I only want to clean and lube this - no restoration work. Here's an update. I contacted Browning on identification. At first request, the initial serial number look-up identified it as a Standard A5 16GA. Speaking with the Browning historian, he looked it up and said the same thing. I persisted in listing the lightweight features so he dug into archives and found that it is indeed a Sweet 16 w/ cylinder bore barrel - the oldest he has looked up, it was delivered July 18, 1947 and sold for $93.33. He could not answer why it was not marked properly as a Sweet 16 - but that it is a very unusual case. I applied for an official letter stating their records.
Thanks for your help and assistance.
It's not unusual at all. FN started making lightweight 16ga in 1937. I believe they called them Sweet Sixteen's from the beginning. They didn't start marking the receivers as such until just after yours was made in 1948. They are easily identifyable by the 3 rings milled into the barrel ring.
Post a copy of the letter when you get it - I'd love to see it.
My shotgun looks exactly like this on but it doesn't have the gold trigger. I believe it is a standard 16 gauge. The serial number is X11748. I have researched a lot but can't figure out how to ID the date of manufacture. I understand the X is to identify the chang in cartrige but I can't figure out the actual date looking at the browning date my gun site. Please tell me if you can the date my gun was made and please tell me where I can find the official info on dating my gun.
Whats the asking price for the special Steele Browning