January 03, 2022
By Steve Gash
The development of the over-under (O-U) shotgun we know and love today has a tumultuous history. Up until the 1950s, double guns were predominantly side-by-sides, and the O-U was considered a newfangled and unproven invention. Famous shotgun writers of the time, such as Major Sir Gerald Burrard (author of "The Modern Shotgun"), thought that O-Us were a sales gimmick by companies in search of something new. (Does this sound familiar?) Others thought O-Us were more expensive to make and had poor handling qualities.
By the 1960s, however, the stack-barrel was starting to catch on, both on skeet ranges and in game fields. In the excellent "Shotgunning Trends in Transition," noted writer Don Zutz described O-Us as “Diamonds in the Rough.”
Numerous companies offered O-Us of varying quality and designs, but I think the gun that put the O-U “on the map” was the Browning Superposed. This was John M. Browning’s second shotgun design (the first was the semiautomatic Auto 5), and it was his last invention; he worked on it through the 1920s. Browning thought the O-U had superior handling qualities. The original Superposed was made from 1927 to 1976.
The discontinuation of the Superposed left a void in the product line that had to be filled, and in 1973, the Citori O-U was launched. It was a huge success and is in production in myriad models to this day.
The Citori’s Genesis
The Citori was described as “a comparatively inexpensive replacement” for the Superposed, but that does not do justice to the gun. It is a well-designed and solid performer in its own right. The very high quality and manufacturing standards, its reasonable price, and the many versions offered have made the Citori immensely popular.
Today, the Citori is not made by FN in Belgium, as was the Superposed; it’s built by the respected Miroku Firearms Manufacturing Company in Kochi, Japan. Miroku is well known in the United States and has made numerous gun types and models for many companies, including Browning. It also makes O-Us under its own brand (for sale outside the United States), as well as for other companies, plus rimfire and centerfire rifles and pistols for Browning.
“Made in Japan” at first dismayed prospective buyers, but the Citori’s quality, features, varied models and performance soon won over consumers. The Citori has never been inexpensive, but it offers good value for the money.
Let’s take a look at the basic features that have made the Citori such a success.
First, it resembled the Superposed in form and function. This no doubt influenced many prospective buyers. I know it influenced me, as my second shotgun was a Superposed Lightning Skeet model. (My first shotgun, ironically, was a Remington Model 11, Big Green’s version of Browning’s Auto 5.)
All Citoris are over-under, break-action shotguns that are loaded with mechanical niceties. They have a gold-plated single-selective trigger, and the manual tang safety contains the barrel selector. The safety is manual, so if the first barrel does not fire, the gun can be reset to fire the second barrel by moving the safety back to the “On” position, then pushing it forward to “Off.”
Citoris are made in all the most popular bore sizes—12, 16, 20, and 28 gauges and .410 Bore—but not all models were available in all gauges. Standard versions had fixed chokes until 1988 when Invector choke tubes became standard, and in 1995, Invector Plus tubes became standard in the 12 and 20 gauges. This added versatility to the Citori over the original fixed-choke models, for which steel shot is not recommended.
Many models have versions with special features and/or fancier finishes and engraved scenes, and they are categorized into “Grades,” with Roman numerals from I to VII, depending on the features and embellishments.
A ventilated rib of various heights, depending on the model, is soldered full length atop the upper barrel, except for the Uni-Single trap gun, which has just the “bottom” barrel and a super-high rib.
Special multi-barrel sets are also offered, i.e., hunting models with 12 and 28 gauges on a 12-gauge frame or 20- and 28-gauge barrels and 28/.410 barrels on a 20-gauge frame. For skeet shooters, there are the three-barrel sets (20, 28, and .410) on a 20-gauge frame and also a four-gauge skeet set with all four bore sizes on a 12-gauge frame fitted to a single forearm. Stocks are crafted from high-quality walnut and are nicely checkered and finished.
Barrel lengths vary from 24 to 32 inches, depending on the model, and bores are chrome plated. Some models even have back-boring to improve patterns and reduce recoil, and the barrels of some versions are ported.
Citoris have an improved ignition system in which the firing pins are set in a straight-line path to the primers, and one hammer swings down from the top of the frame. This is an improvement over the original Superposed. Coil springs provide long life.
The Citori has been, and is still, made in a bewildering array of models, with many variations. I have prepared an alphabetical list of all of the 112 models and sub-models within a given category that I could identify, which is included at the end of this article. However, as there are so many, I am confident I have overlooked some versions. Also, the model names are rather byzantine. For example, there is the Lightning Feather and the Feather Lightning and the Sporting and the Sporter…you get the idea. Sometimes a number precedes the model name (e.g., 725 Sporting) or is within the name (Sporting Clays 325 Grade II). This shows the tremendous effort Browning expends to make sure that anybody who wants a Citori can find exactly the one they want. Versions are carefully tweaked to tantalize the selective tastes of all types of shotgunners.
Here’s a synopsis of representative categories of Citori models, from the earliest “Hunter” models in a somewhat chronological order. Doubtless, I will have missed some specialized iterations, and the clever folks at Browning may have whipped up some new, super-duper Citoris by the time this sees pixels, but this will give you an idea of the scope of the gun’s considerable impact on the shooting sports.
The compendium that follows is somewhat chronological, but the overlapping of various models and their overlapping dates of production will necessarily introduce some “interesting” confusion, as sources vary a lot on dates of production. No matter. There is, or surely will be, a Citori for everyone’s taste.
The first Citoris were called the Hunting Models and were offered in all gauges and the .410 Bore. There are six basic Hunting versions. The 12 and 20 gauges and the .410 Bore had 3-inch chambers, while the 16 and 28 gauges had 2¾-inch chambers. Hunters came in Grades I, II, III, V, and VI (apparently, there were no “Grade IV” Hunters). The Hunting Magnum, Sporting Hunter, and the Satin Hunter were chambered for the ponderous 12-gauge 3½-inch Magnum shell.
A Superlight Citori was made in all gauges with 2¾-inch chambers and in .410 with a 3-inch chamber. Models were available with or without Invector chokes, depending on the gauge. Grades were I, III, V, and VI. A 20-gauge model was made with false sideplates.
All bore sizes were represented here (except for the 16), and chambers were lengthened to 3 inches (except for the 28 gauge). Stocks had straight grips and Schnabel forearms. Grades offered were I, II, and V.
In addition to being a bit lighter, this model looked for all the world like the previous Superposed of the 1960s. This no doubt aided sales. These classic form O-Us were made in all bore sizes and have slim forearms (without a Schnabel), and round Prince of Wales-style grips. Stocks have a gloss finish and ample checkering, and the receivers have modest engraving. They have hammer-blow ejectors for a positive expulsion of spent cases.
The Lightnings were destined to be “working guns” for “everyman” and were available in all bore sizes. Only the very early versions lacked the Invector choke tubes, but most Lightnings have them. The Invector Plus chokes became standard in 12 and 20 gauges in 1995.
This category has special meaning to me because I own a Lightning Grade I in 16 gauge. The dates of manufacture of this 16-gauge version vary, depending on the resource. They were either made from 1986 to 1989 or from 1987 to 1990. One source says Browning made 5,213 16-gauge Citoris. Be that as it may, I bought mine on August 31, 1988. Here’s an interesting side note: I can find no listing of a 16-gauge Lightning with Invector chokes, but mine came with standard Invector choke tubes. It is a superb field gun and has brought many a bird to bag.
In 2002 Browning unveiled the 525 in Field, Field Grade III, and Feather versions. The 525s had a silver-nitride receiver, with varying amounts of engraving, depending on the version and 26- or 28-inch unported barrels with flush-fitting Invector Plus choke tubes. The Field and Feather were available in all gauges, while the Field Grade III was bored only for the 12 gauge. All except the 28 gauge had 3-inch chambers. The ventilated ribs had forward-angled posts. The buttstocks were oil finished, with a European comb and a large pistol grip, and the forearm had a Schnabel beak. The Grade III had Grade III/IV wood with considerable engraving. Citori Feathers were ornate and lightweight, weighing about 6.25 pounds.
Guns for Clays
Browning did not neglect the clay target shooter with the Citori. Special models for skeet, trap, and sporting clays were produced. Individual guns for skeet were the Special Skeet in Grades I, II, III, V, and VI; the XS Skeet; and the 725 Skeet. The Special was the meat-and-potatoes gun for the game. It had 26- or 28-inch barrels, and Invector chokes were added in 12 and 20 gauges in 1990. The 12s and 20s were discontinued in 2000, and the 28s and .410s were dropped in 1999. As with numerous models, the very early guns did not have choke tubes.
Here’s a neat twist: The Grade V was available in 16 gauge. It had deluxe wood, gold inlays, a high-post target rib, and Invector Plus choke tubes. Barrels were ported after 1994. The version was discontinued one year later. (I have never seen a 16-gauge Citori Skeet, but if I do, I’m sure it will follow me home.)
But skeet is a four-gauge game, so Citoris were available to scratch that itch, too. A three-barrel set with 20-, 28-, and .410 barrels on a single 20-gauge frame was available, and a four-barrel set with 12, 20, 28, and .410 barrels on a 12-gauge frame was offered. As noted, these guns have a single fitted forearm. I have shot some of these set guns, and they are clay-crushing machines. They are weight-matched so well that with your eyes closed, you can’t tell which gauge you’re shooting.
I could never warm up to trap, but those who do have a wealth of fine O-Us to choose from for their game. There are at least 15 different iterations of Citori trap guns, plus there are sets with an extra single barrel or barrel set. The trap models are specialized, and picky trap shooters can choose the one that fits their needs. Many have fancy engraving, nice wood, and, as it has been rumored, target-seeking radar. There is even a version with special paint featuring Browning logos and trademark.
Sporting clays is super popular, and Browning has a Citori for just about everyone. However, sporting clays not only is a competition in itself, but also is terrific practice for hunting, so there are many crossover guns that serve dual roles. The Grade I Special Sporting is a prime example. This gun is available in 12 gauge only with 28-, 30-, and 32-inch barrels. Porting was added in 1990 and became standard in 1992. Two ventilated ribs are available, a high-post tapered rib or a low “standard” rib. This Special has Invector Plus chokes, a pistol grip with palmswell, and an adjustable comb became available in 1994. I have one of the low-rib versions, and it is a fine shooter, both on the range and in the field.
New for 2021
Browning is not a company to twiddle its thumbs while shotgunners pass by. Thus, new models are constantly being developed and introduced with the special needs of the scattergunner in mind.
As an example, the Field Sporting Grade I Citori is available for bird blasting and clay busting, and the specs of the White Lightning, CX, and CX Micro (with an adjustable length of pull) are designed to fit a wide array of shooters. The CTX Crossover is also new, and the decadent Field Sporting Grade III is sure to trip many a trigger.
Browning has always listened to its customers, and thus its history is one of innovation and production of quality products that have lasting value. These qualities are evident in the 48-year history of the classic Citori over/under shotgun.
Browning Citori Model Variations
- 3-gauge Skeet Set, Grades I, III, VI
- 425 sporting Clays
- 425 Sporting Clays, Grade I
- 425 WSSF
- 4-gauge Skeet Set, Grades I, III, and VI
- 525 Field
- 525 Golden Clays
- 525 Sporting
- 525 Sporting, Grade I
- 625 Feather
- 625 Field
- 625 4-barrel set, 12, 20, 28, & .410
- 625 Gran Lightning Maple
- 625 Sporting
- 625 Sporting Golden Clays
- 625 3-barrel set, 20. 28, & .410
- 625 2-barrel Set, 20/28, 28/.410
- 725 Feather, Grades III, V, and Grade VII
- 725 Field
- 725 High Grade Trap
- 725 High Rib Sporting, R.H. & L.H.
- 725 Pro Sporting, Adj. Comb
- 725 S3 Sporting
- 725 Skeet
- 725 Small Gauge
- 725 Sporting
- 725 Sporting Golden Clays
- 725 Sporting Grades V and VII
- 725 Sporting Left Hand
- 725 Sporting long length of pull
- 725 Sporting Maple
- 725 Sporting non-ported & adj. comb
- 725 Trap Left Hand & adj. comb
- 725 Trap Maple
- 725 Trap Max
- 725 Trap Pro, adjustable comb
- 725 Trap, Grades I, V, and VII
- 802 Extended Swing Sporting
- American Sporter, Left Hand
- Classic Lightning
- Classic Lightning Feather
- CTX Mico, adj. comb and length of pull
- CX (Crossover)
- CX White 20/28 ga. combo
- CX White adj. comb
- CXS Micro
- Esprit, 12 gauge, removable sideplates
- Feather Lightning
- Feather Lightning 20 ga.
- Feather Superlight 16 ga.
- Feather XS Sporting
- Golden Clays 325
- Grade I Plus Trap
- Grade I Special Sporting
- Grade I Special Trap
- Grade III
- Grade VI
- Grade VII, grayed receiver
- Gran Lightning
- Gran Lightning 16 gauge
- Grand Prix Sporter
- GTI Golden Clays
- GTI Sporting Grade I
- GTS Grade I
- GTS High Grade
- High Grade, sideplate, 4-gauge combo
- Hunting, 3½-inch Magnum
- Hunting, Grades I, II, III, V, VI
- Lightning Feather
- Lightning Special Limited Version
- Lightning Sporting Grade I
- Lightning Sporting Pigeon Grade I
- Lightning, Grades I and III
- Micro Lightning, Grades I, II, and VI
- Plus Trap Combo, Grade I
- Satin Hunter
- Satin Micro Midas
- Skeet Golden Clays
- Skeet Special, Grades I, II, III, V, and VI
- Special Sporting Golden Clays
- Special Sporting Pigeon Grade
- Sporter, Grades II and V
- Sporting Clays 325, Grade II
- Sporting Hunter
- Sporting Hunting
- Super Lightning
- Superlight Feather, Grades III, V, and VI
- Trap and Special Trap, Grade I
- Trap Combination Set
- Trap Golden Clays
- Trap Golden Clays Combo
- Trap Grade I
- Trap Pigeon Grade
- Trap Signature Painted
- Ultra Sporter
- Ultra XS Prestige
- Uni Single w/ extra set of barrels, adj. comb
- Upland Special
- White Lightning
- White Lightning 16 gauge
- White Lightning Feather
- White Upland Special
- XS Golden Clays
- XS Pro-comp
- XS Skeet
- XS Special (Target)
- XS Sporting Ultra
- XT Trap Gold
- XT Trap Grade I
- XT Trap, Grades I, III, V, and VI
- Browning.com, Shotguns, Citori. The Browning website is chock-full of details and photos of dozens of Citori models and variations.
- "The History of Browning Firearms" by David Miller; Lyons Press, Guilford, Connecticut, 2006. pp. 128–107.
- “Understanding The 'New' Shotshell Terminologies” by Don Zutz; "The ABC’s of Reloading," C. Rodney James, Ed.; DBI Books 1997. pp. 180-184.
- "Shotgunning Trends in Transition" by Don Zutz; Wolfe Publishing Company, Prescott, Arizona, 1989. pp. 29–46.
- "Blue Book of Gun Values, 38th Edition" by S. P. Fjestad; Blue Book Publications, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota 2017. pp. 326–341.
- "John M. Browning, American Gunmaker" by John Browning and Curt Gentry; Browning Arms. Co., Ogden, Utah. 1987. pp. 263–264.
- "FN…Browning Armorer To The World" by Gene Gangarosa, Jr.; Stoeger Publishing Co., Wayne, New Jersey, 1999. pp. 227–234.
- "The Modern Shotgun" by Major Sir Gerald Burrard; A.S. Barnes and Co., New York, 1961. 2 Vol.