Modern? No. Service Weapon? Yes (Browning A-5 Shotgun)

Modern? No. Service Weapon? It was.

During Rhodesia’s bush war against communist terrorists, their government contracted with Browning for several hundred shotguns. Specifically, a variant of their A-5 model a semi-auto 12 gauge. These shotguns had a full-length magazine tube fully enclosed inside a wood forearm. Its magazine capacity is eight rounds plus one in the chamber. Additionally, there is a magazine cut-off lever in the receiver.

The magazine cut-off lever – if you want to save the rounds in the magazine and load one shell at a time.


At the end of the bush war, the shotguns were reportedly turned in and warehoused outside of Salisbury, Rhodesia, er, I mean Harare, Zimbabwe. A couple decades later, the shotguns ended up in the U.S. and were sold to the public. The first one I saw, appropriately, belonged to Louis Awerbuck – who knows a thing or two about the shotgun.

It took a couple years, but I tracked one down back in 2002. Once or twice a year, I take it to the range and run a handful of shells through it. All things considered, a neat piece of history and one worth hanging on to.


This entry was posted in Long Guns and tagged , by Erick Gelhaus. Bookmark the permalink.

About Erick Gelhaus

Erick has been a Deputy Sheriff with a large northern California Sheriff’s office since 1990. Currently assigned to patrol, he is also a Senior Firearms Instructor and armorer. His prior assignments include gang violence suppression and narcotics investigations. Erick served in Iraq as an Infantry squad leader. He also teaches at Gunsite and has worked for Aimpoint.

16 thoughts on “Modern? No. Service Weapon? Yes (Browning A-5 Shotgun)

  1. Jailhouse, you are a toad. I didn’t even KNOW about these until you posted this article. Thanks for ruining my day.



    • Thanks Beel. I figured you’d have been aware of them. I’ll try to remember and bring it the next time I’m down your way;

  2. I remember reading that the Brits used cut-down Auto-5 shotguns during the Malayan Emergency( and/or the Konfrontasi( – I once had to field-strip and clean an exceptionally dirty Auto-5 for a customer, for which task I actually had to grind down screwdriver bits to fit the ridiculously thin slots in the receiver screws, as well as the even-thinner slots of the lock-screws. I absolutely cannot imagine how those troops managed to keep those Brownings cleaned and lubed under field conditions without losing those tiny screws left and right…

  3. Neat!

    Cross eye dominant — left side handgun, right side long gun?

    I wonder if the magazine disconnect ever got anyone hurt with a click instead of bang?

    • This gun I’ll shoot right-handed because of the butt cuff. Anything else with a stock on it is primarily used left-handed. Never heard anything back on the magazine cut-off, it does allow for single shell loading via the ejection port.

  4. That is pretty awesome. My father recently gave me some old shotguns of his fathers. One was a Browning A5 and another was a Remington model 11. Basically the same guns. I need to do some work to them before I shoot them again, but I’m looking forward to that.

  5. Note to the would be A5 mechanics… Brownell’s sells a MagnaTip bit set ground specifically for the A5. The AGI armorers video has proven to be a wise investment as well.

  6. Reading Col. Askins’ sanguine tales as a youth learned he and other BP guys had custom extended mag tubes made for Brownings and Remington 11s and wrapped white handkerchiefs around near muzzle for early night sights.

    Always wanted one like that, but now Really Want to buy or recreate a Rhodesian brush cutter.

      • Dan – Yes on the cylinder bore. I thought it was a 22″ barrel, but measuring from the bolt face it’s 23 1/2″.

  7. Okay, my evil twin brother…….I am calling very public first dibs on that thing if you ever want to part with it. Put a sticky with “Notify DB in case of my tragic demise” on it. I want it………….bad.

    That thing is flat wicked, yet has the touch of class that my old SKB tactical had (I was “ordered” by part of the training staff when I was in the police academy to sell it to him….which is probably illegal now).

    Thanks for posting this. It is important to remember that they were all “Modern” service weapons at some point, and many of these “antiquated” weapons have put tons of dirt bags in the ground over the last 150 years.

  8. Well, that’s just peachy.
    Where am I supposed to start looking for one of THESE, now that you have added it to my “suddenly feels like he has to have” list?
    Move over Broomhandle. Move over 1906 Winchester…
    Sorry, but you guys just got bumped down the list…

  9. Some friend you are? I had no idea you possessed such a beast, or that one even existed. I present you with the order of the Blue Falcon!

  10. I see one of these bad boys listed for sale on Gunsamerica. Wish I had the$

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