Browning's BPS Turns 40
December 06, 2017
Though he was long gone by the time his namesake company released its first modern slide-action shotgun, John Moses Browning had a hand in the development of the modern Browning BPS. In 1915 Browning was working on a hammerless pump shotgun that utilized a bottom feeding and ejection design, a gun that would, in later years and with a few improvements, become the Remington Model 17. The Model 17 became the basis for the Remington 31 and the Ithaca Model 37, both of which were popular slide-action scatterguns throughout the mid- and late-20th century.
In 1975, when the team at Browning was developing a shotgun to compete with the Ithaca Model 37, the Remington Model 870, and the Mossberg Model 500, they looked back to the original John Browning design. True to the original, the then-new gun would feature bottom feeding and ejection but with modern enhancements and design improvements that instantly made it stand out in the crowded pump shotgun market. When that gun finally launched in 1977, it was known as the Browning Pump Shotgun (BPS).
One of the young Browning employees who helped test the prototype BPS guns in 1975 and 1976 was Scott Grange, now the company's Public Relations and Shooting Promotions Marketing manager. And 40 years after the gun broke cover, there are few people who are bigger proponents of the BPS than Grange.
As he recently told me, "The thing I like most is that there is no carrier in the way, which makes for a speedy, simple unloading procedure out the bottom, not possible with other repeating shotguns."
Because of its bottom feeding design, the BPS can be quickly and easily unloaded into the hand by depressing a button located within the receiver rather than having to cycle each shell through the action as is the case with other modern pumps. Additionally, the BPS design allows for a magazine cutoff on some models. A rotating ring on the rear of the magazine tube can be rotated between the "R" (repeating) position and "S" (single) to suspend the operation of the twin carrier arms so that you can switch loads or empty the chamber when crossing fences or creeks.
Fans of solidly constructed firearms love the BPS, with its beefy forged steel receiver and dual steel machined action bars. In terms of cycling dependability and operating smoothness, few shotguns can compete with the BPS, allowing for fast follow-ups at moving birds or targets. The steel bolt locks into a cutout in the barrel extension, and the dual carrier arms drop down to pick up a fresh shell after the empty hull is extracted and thrown downward from the gun.
"Some say it's difficult to reassemble," Grange said. "Well, I can do it blindfolded. It's just a matter of becoming familiar with the system."
The BPS differs from other bottom ejecting pump shotguns in that it utilizes a sliding tang safety. That feature combined with the feeding/ejection point make the BPS a great gun for left-handed shooters. My wife is a southpaw, and the BPS works equally well for both of us. The action release is located at the right rear of the trigger guard, a suitable position for right- and left-handed shooters.
Unlike the original John Browning-designed bottom feeding shotguns, the BPS features a traditional magazine cap. Invector-Plus choke tubes allow for rapid changes in constriction, and the bottom feeding design throws empties at your feet where you can easily grab them in the field. That feature is even more important at the trap range, not so much to the BPS owner but to the shooter at the station to the right of the shooter. Pumps and semiautos that toss empties from the side, often send them pinging off the head or the gun of the shooter on the starboard side. There is a long-held belief that you can't single-load shells into the chamber of the BPS, but as someone who has shot one extensively on the trap range, I can tell you that simply isn't true. When you eject one shell you simply have to slide the forearm just a bit forward so that the carrier arms move out of the way. It's a relatively easy system and becomes second nature after about two rounds of trap. Field and competition BPS guns feature a floating rib that blends into a machined extension on the receiver, extending the sight plane.
When it debuted in 1977, there were three BPS variations: Field and Trap models with vent ribs and a Buck Special smooth barrel for slug hunting that came with iron sights. Today, there is a long list of BPS offerings in .410 Bore and 28, 20, 16, and 12 gauges as well as a number of 10-gauge offerings for dedicated waterfowl and turkey hunters. The BPS Hunter features satin-finished walnut stocks and rich bluing and is available in .410 Bore and 28, 20, 16, and 12 gauges. There are also Trap and Micro Trap versions with HIVIZ ProComp fiber-optic front beads and mid beads, raised combs, and beautifully engraved and polished receivers. Additionally, a Micro Midas version of the Hunter with stock spacers and an all-black Stalker version in 12 and 10 gauges are available. If you're a turkey or waterfowl hunter, there are special models with Mossy Oak camo patterns. And those of us who hunt deer with a shotgun have the option of a Rifled Deer version with a slug barrel and cantilever scope mount in either blued steel and walnut stock or Mossy Oak Break-Up Country camo. There's even an Upland Special in 12, 16, and 20 gauges that features a straight-grip stock and shorter barrels.
More than 40 years after he tested the first BPS prototypes, Grange is still a huge fan of the BPS. I am, too. I shot my first 25 straight on the trap range with a BPS, and I also used it on my first wild pheasant hunt. As someone who grew up hunting with pump shotguns, I've always appreciated the BPS's exceptional detailing, solid-as-a-rock design, and impressive handling features. More importantly, the BPS functions extremely well. There's little doubt that John Moses Browning would be happy to see his name stamped on this shotgun.