This is a review of Browning’s newly introduced Citori 725 Sporting. It’s built for sporting clays and continues a long line of Citoris so intended. The Citori, in one version or another, is the most popular sporting clays over/under in the US, so anything new is notable. The Citori is also very popular as a field gun, but I will save that discussion for another time.
It all started in 1931 with the sainted classic Browning Superposed, the last gun designed by John Browning. It was one of the best over/unders ever made, and it remains in production on a custom-shop basis today, 81 years later. After World War II the Japanese economy began to grow by means of copying existing products and selling them cheaper. The firm of B.C. Miroku, in Kochi, Japan, copied the Superposed and did a very nice job of it. These Mirokus were imported into the US by Charles Daly starting in about 1963.
In the early ’70s the cost of production of the original Superposed in Herstal, Belgium, had risen to the point that Browning began to look elsewhere for a lower-cost gun. Naturally, Miroku’s Superposed copies came to mind. Browning made a deal with Charles Daly and assumed sole US importation rights to the Miroku guns. “Citori,” a made-up name without meaning, was chosen, and importation of the Miroku-made Browning Citoris began in 1973.
The first Citori model I used at sporting clays was the GTI, introduced in 1989. After that a new Citori sporter seemed to come out every year. Names changed more quickly than a politician’s smile. Trendy gizmos have been added, but the basic gun remains the same. And that’s a good thing, because Miroku did a heck of a job copying the original Super. After almost 40 years’ experience, Browning has gotten pretty good at fine-tuning it too. By 2008 the company had sold more than a million Citoris. The original Belgian Superposed sold only about 400,000.
The subject of this review, the new Browning 725 Citori Sporting with a standard stock, carries an MSRP of $3,139. Compare this to the MSRP of $3,549 for the most recent fixed-stock 625 Citori Sporting. That’s a healthy price reduction, and the 725 is a better gun. At press time the 725 Sporting comes only in 12 gauge with 28", 30" or 32" barrels. The 12-gauge field version has 26" or 28" tubes.
Browning advertising trumpets the following improvements: a “significantly” lower-profile receiver; Fire Lite Mechanical Triggers with improved take-up, over-travel and crispness; an Inflex II Technology recoil pad for better recoil absorption; and the new Invector DS (Double Seal) choke system. But what isn’t mentioned is probably more important than what is: Handling has been improved.
The big, strong Citori action has stood the test of time. It has a full-width hinge pin instead of the Boss-style hinge stubs used in most Italian O/Us today. Lockup starts with a full-width tongue set in the bottom of the receiver. The Browning locking tongue is a tapered wedge that seats in a tapered notch at the bottom of the barrel’s monoblock. As Browning says, “It wears in, not out.”
In addition to the wide locking tongue, the Citori adds four monoblock lugs that seat fully through the floor of the receiver. This results in complicated machining and additional access for dirt, unlike Beretta’s clean receiver interior. But the lugs make the gun immensely strong, just like the Belgian Browning.
The knock against this action has always been that it is overly deep, making for a clumsy-looking receiver when compared to the svelte Beretta. It’s really not that big a deal. The difference in receiver height between a typical Beretta 12-gauge O/U and an older Citori is about 1/4".
But this still was something to fuss about, so the new 725 is advertised as having the “modern performance advantage of a low-profile receiver.” It is 5/32" lower than the previous models. The difference in receiver weight is a touch more than 1 oz. Yes, it’s a real difference, but if you can spot it, you are more sensitive than Aesop’s princess feeling the pea under those 20 mattresses.
But there is a real difference in the 725’s receiver, and it does matter. The new gun has a mechanical trigger—and it’s a good one. Browning calls it the Fire Lite Mechanical Trigger. It is said to have reduced take-up and over-travel and have a crisp breaking point around 3 to 3-1/2 pounds in the Sporter, and that’s exactly what I found when I tested it. Previous Citori triggers were inertia operated and required the recoil of the first shell to set the second sear. This isn’t a new thing for Browning. Some of the Belgian Superposeds and European FNs had good mechanical triggers, but most were inertia.
As in the past, the trigger blades are part of the Triple Trigger System. You get three changeable blades: wide and checkered; narrow and smooth; and smooth, wide and canted for a righty. The blade can be moved on a track with three positions 5/32" apart. This is said to adjust length of pull, which technically it does. But, more importantly, it adjusts the finger extension for hand comfort.
The automatic ejectors are unchanged from previous models. The manual shows how the ejectors can be instantly converted to extractors if that is preferred.
Other than the receiver height and trigger, nothing material appears to have changed. The receiver is a one-piece machined forging, with the top and bottom straps and vertical rear separator all of one piece. It is very sturdy. Hammers still pivot from the bottom; sears are hung from the top strap. The manual safety remains in the familiar “U” pattern.
As I often say, the barrels make the gun because they define the balance and handling. I was able to compare the 725 directly to a 1990 Citori GTI and a 525 sporter from 2002. All three guns had 32" extended-choke barrels, yet they felt completely different.
Older Citori 12-gauge guns were afflicted with overly heavy barrels due to the wall thicknesses and jugging necessary for thick screw chokes. As models matured, this improved somewhat. The 725 is a great improvement. The vented side ribs and 5/16"-to-7/16" tapered top rib are the same as that on the 525, but the barrels weigh 1 oz less and feel much more lively.
Barrel interiors have changed with the models. Citoris were early adopters of overbore barrels. Citori bores have been about .740" for a while, whereas the Belgian guns have been around .725". But Browning didn’t go to long forcing cones until the 625 Vector Pro version. The 725 is now up to date with both the overbore and the extended forcing cones.
The 725 Sporting barrels come ported, as have all Citori sporters since 1992, whether you like it or not. No options. No hope. The Brits are smarter, and in the UK you can get Miroku sporters without porting. Other gunmakers today seem to be getting away from porting, and the fad is fading.
Up front the 725 sports a Hi-Viz glow-worm sight in case you want to really aim hard. The Hi-Viz comes with interchangeable colored tubes of red or green and opaque white, plus a little tool to change them back and forth. Of course, there’s also a mid-bead because . . . well, just because.
The big barrel news on the 725 is the new Invector-DS (Double Seal) choking system. Browning claims that it provides “better patterning, lighter weight and a sleeker barrel profile.” I didn’t pattern the chokes, but the lighter weight and sleeker profile are certainly true. I measured an inch back from the muzzles, and the 725’s barrels are indeed a little thinner—and thus lighter—than those on previous models.
Like the previous chokes, the 725 Sporting chokes extend 3/4" from the muzzle, but their total length is now 4" as opposed to 3". More length allows for a more gradual taper which, in theory, distorts less shot. The DS chokes are also thinner and about .2 oz per choke lighter in spite of the increased length.
The Double Seal part is a brass seal at the rear of the choke. Its purpose is to keep powder gasses away from the choke threads. The new chokes are threaded at the muzzle, not at the rear the way the old ones were.
Five chokes are included with the 725 Sporting. With their constrictions, they are: Skeet, -.003"; Improved Cylinder, .002"; Modified, .006"; Improved Modified, .014" and Full, .039". With the exception of the Full, these are extremely open constrictions for their designations.
The 725 comes with a decent choke wrench, and you’ll need it. The brass seal at the rear of the choke is a snug fit, and you will want the wrench to snug up the last few turns. However, the DS chokes won’t unscrew while you shoot. That’s a big plus.
A final choke comment is that they are OK for steel. In addition to the lead designations, the chokes are marked with how they will perform with steel shot. It’s usually one choke constriction tighter.
The wood on the 725 Sporting is pretty nice. Browning calls it Grade III/IV. I’d rate our sample AA walnut. In a nice touch the grain of the forend matched that of the stock. Finishing is Citori’s usual gloss oil. It’s well applied, and the grain is fully sealed. Checkering is a simple double-border machine-cut pattern. It’s not so fine and fancy that it’s not functional. In all, a perfectly decent job.
Stock dimensions are 19/16" x 2-1/2" x 14-3/4" with no cast. If you have a short neck and a full face, you’ll love it. If not, spend the extra money and get the 725 Sporting with the adjustable comb.
Browning continues its sporting stock’s tight vertical pistol grip and right-handed palm swell. If you like a more open grip and the higher right elbow it allows, you’re out of luck. I may be winning my war against the wretched Schnabel forend. Browning has toned it down on the 725. Also, due to the shallower receiver, the forend of the 725 is a bit closer to the barrels. That’s always a plus for handling.
The recoil pad reflects Browning’s new Inflex II Technology. It’s said that under recoil the interior angled pockets collapse in such a way as to move the comb down and away from the face. The pad’s surface is smooth, the top especially so, for easy gun mounting for those who shoot low gun at sporting. More important, the Inflex II pad weighs a full 2 oz less than a similar-size Kick-Off pad.
Cosmetics on the 725 are more restrained than they were on the more expensive 625. Barrels remain nicely glossy, hot blued and ripple free. The receiver has a restrained, durable, dull silver-nitride coating. Etching on the receiver sides is a mechanically applied series of tiny ovals, giving the receiver a matte appearance. On the bottom it’s just the facts, ma’am: “Browning 725 Sporting.” In all, it’s plain, restrained and tasteful, especially when contrasted to some of the previous efforts at adornment.
The Citori 725 Sporting comes in a cardboard box that contains the gun, the five new DS chokes, an adequate choke wrench, five extra Hi-Viz glow- tube sights and an installation tool, two extra trigger blades, an Allen key to install them and a detailed manual. The manual does not contain or reference a warranty. There is none. Browning, like Winchester, simply says that it will stand behind its products.
In spite of all the trademarked names and advertising, it all comes down to shooting. I’ve never really gotten along with Citori Sporters due to what I felt was excessive barrel weight in the long versions. The 725 has changed this. The catalog weight is 7 pounds 10 ounces—8 ounces less than the 625. Our sample was heavier at 7 pounds 15 ounces, but for a 32" sporter it was very well balanced. Of course, it had weight up front, but not too much and the weight wasn’t all at the front. Browning claims that this gun has “Ergo Balance.” Whatever that is, the result is nice. The lighter chokes and thinner muzzles paid off. The gun was steady without being cumbersome, and I was surprised and pleased.
At sporting I tend to shoot a mixture of swing-through (like most bird hunters), plus sustained and upward intercept. Overly heavy guns encourage the latter two techniques and discourage the former. The 725 seemed at home with all three. The long barrels aided in precision when that was called for yet were fast enough to be speedy when needed. In general the gun functioned correctly. One shooter who was used to the triggers of his Krieghoff kept trapping the 725’s trigger by not fully releasing it between shots. But he was the only one. Everyone else felt that the 725’s trigger was marvelous. Some shooters occasionally didn’t close the gun crisply enough to bring the toplever fully over, and the gun wouldn’t fire. This is just a question of a little break-in, nothing more. The 725’s action is too well proven to question.
In all I was impressed by the Citori 725 Sporting. It was much more than I expected. I assumed the durability that Citoris are famous for, but the new handling and balance were most welcome. Browning really got this one right.
Author’s Note: For more information, contact Browning, 800-333-3288; www.browning.com.
Bruce Buck’s new book, Shotguns on Review, is available for $30 (plus shipping) from 800-685-7962; www.shooting sportsman.com.
- By: Bruce Buck