Superposed catalogue offerings: 1950-1959

Superposed catalogue offerings: 1950-1959

AL BROWNING was committed to making the Superposed one of the most popular and highly regarded over-unders in North America for the money. Because of the devastation the war caused to FN’s production facilities, Browning was forced to proceed with a conservative sales plan that would reintroduce the Superposed to the American shooter slowly and with a minimum of choices. From a single gauge offering in one style in 1948, the Utah-based company expanded its Superposed product line by the end of the decade to include a wide array of Superposed guns in four gauges and numerous styles and barrel lengths.

1950: A full Superposed line was offered in both 12-ga. and the newly-introduced 20-ga. Engraved models returned in Grades I-V. In 1950, the buyer had a choice of raised matte or ventilated rib. Matte ribs were offered in the company’s catalogues only in Grade I with a single-selective trigger. The 12ga. was available in 26 1/2″ and 30″ barrels with light scroll engraving in Standard Weight only. Ventilated rib 12- and 20-ga. guns were available in Grades I through V with single-selective triggers and barrel lengths of 26 1/2″ to 30″ in 12-ga. and 26 1/2″ and 28″ in 20-ga. Most were Standard Weight with Hunting stocks. Browning also offered its 12-ga. with 30″ ventilated rib barrels. This configuration was offered with a Trap dimension buttstock only and a Hunting style fore-end. Superposed 12ga. guns with 30″ raised matte rib barrels were offered with Hunting-dimension buttstocks and fore-ends.

1951:: Offerings identical to 1950.

1952: Browning continued to offer the usual 12- and 20-ga. Hunting guns of 195051. New for 1952 was the 12-ga. Trap model. Featured as a Standard Weight, the Trap was available in Grades I-V with 30″ barrels, single-selective trigger, ventilated rib, and semibeavertail fore-end. Regular chokes for the Trap were full and full, modified and full, and improved modified and full. The Trap had a Trap dimension stock with a higher comb.

1953: Offerings identical to 1952.

1954: Offerings identical to 1953.

1955: Another new model added to the

Superposed line, the 12-ga. 3″ Mag., in either a raised matted rib in Grade I only or a ventilated rib in Grades I-V. The 12-ga. Magnum was offered with 30″ barrels choked full and full, or modified and full. Stock dimensions were the same as for Hunting models except forthe addition of a factory-installed recoil pad. Weight was approximately 8 1/4 Ibs. Retail was $236 with raised matte rib for Grade I, the same as the Hunting. The balance of catalog offerings remained the same as in 1954.

1956: There was a significant increase in the Superposed catalogue offerings. For the rubbed varnish was applied. The stock’s grip was of the half-pistol style with a plain, but finely checkered pattern. The fore-end was well proportioned with a smooth blunt nose and nicely checkered side panels. Browning stated that the pattern on its Grade I Superposed was checkered 22 lines to the inch. On higher grades checkering became progressively more fine and may have reached 30 lines per inch on Grades V and VI. The buttplate was stamped “BROWNING” horizontally on the plate surrounded by a perimeter border. The 12-ga. 3″ magnum was fitted with a Pachmayr Jumbo Trap recoil pad at the factory. The standard stock dimensions for the Hunting model were 15/8″ drop at the heel, 2 V2″ drop at the comb, with a 14V4″ length of pull.

What set the Superposed apart from other mass-produced shotguns was the attention to fit and finish. Browning spent enormous amounts of time and energy struggling to achieve this quality in a production double gun. The company’s efforts paid off. The hairline fitting and attention to detail established the Superposed with an excellent reputation for durability and quality.

After World War II, Browning settled on offering only one trigger option, the single selective trigger designed by Val Browning. All post-war Superposeds were fitted with this single inertia trigger operated by the recoil of the gun after firing. It was a dependable trigger that worked well. FN continued to offer the double trigger as an option on guns sold elsewhere. After the war, Superposed triggers were gold plated. The early blued triggers were steel, which took the bluing process well. When gold plated triggers were introduced, the plating process did not do as well on steel, so FN changed to an alloy metal to get better, longer lasting results. The selector was located on the top tang as part of the safety and operated from side to side in selecting the over or under barrel to fire first. The manual safety functioned up and down from safe to fire.

When the first Superposeds were shipped from Belgium after the war, their barrels were usually stamped on the leftside of the upper barrel with the following address: “BROWNING ARMS COMPANY-ST. LOUIS MISSOURI SPECIAL STEEL 12 GA. SHELLS 2 3/4″.” This left side address was used on all Browning Superposeds imported into the U.S. until 1958 when Browning and FN established the separate Canadian operation. During the last thirteen months of the decade, a new left-side barrel address was used:

“BROWNING ARMS COMPANY ST. LOUIS MO & MONTREAL P.Q. SPECIAL STEEL 12 GA. SHELLS 2 3/4″.”

The more common right-side inscription will read: “PATENTS NO. 22033782233861 MADE IN BELGIUM.”

A word of caution on interpretation of barrel markings. There were a number of different formats that FN used in marking the Superposed barrels. In some cases “SPECIAL STEEL” may appear as part of the right-side inscription and on others it will be seen on the left side. The same situation applies to the gauge and chamber length, as well as “MADE IN BELGIUM.” The most important aspect of barrel marking is the actual corporate address, which will show the era in which that particular barrel was built.

Trap Model

The Superposed Trap model-discontinued due to World War II-was reintroduced into the line in 1951. Designed for the competition trapshooter, it featured 30″ barrels. The ventilated rib fitted to these Standard Trap guns was the same width and height as those fitted to the Hunting models. The Trap model was available choked full and full; improved modified and full; and modified and full, but any combination of chokes was offered on special order. The Superposed Trap was offered in Standard Weight and weighed 8 lb., 2 oz. with 30″ barrels fitted with an ivory bead front sight. A Lightning Trap model, introduced in 1955, was also offered with 30″ barrels and weighed 7 lb. 12 ozs.

What really set the Trap model apart from the Hunting model was its stock configuration. The buttstock had a drop of 1 1/2″ at the comb, a drop of 1 7/8″ at the heel and a length of pull of 14 3/8″. Unlike later Trap models, these 1950s guns had a semi-pistol grip with rounded knob. It was a much higher and straighter buttstock than the Hunting model. The Trap fore-end was a semi-beavertail with a full grip contour offering more weight forward. Those built between 1952 and 1959 were sold without a factory recoil pad as standard.

Skeet Model

When Browning introduced its Skeet model into the Superposed line in 1956, it was with the express purpose of breaking into the competitive skeet shooting market as it had so successfully done on the trap fields. But between 1956 and 1959 the Skeet model was a special model in name only. Offered in 12- and 20-ga. with a choice of 26 1/2″ or 28″ barrels with raised matte or ventilated ribs, these Skeet guns could be ordered in Standard or Lightning versions just like the Hunting models. In fact, the only unique feature was with its chokes: skeet and skeet. The buttstock and fore-end had the same dimensions and the same appearance. A recoil pad was an extra-cost option.

One supplementary feature of the Browning Superposeds should be covered. Superposeds with extra sets of barrels are highly coveted by collectors and shooters alike. Guns purchased in the 1950s with one set of barrels could be sent back to St. Louis to have extra sets of barrels fitted. The service facility in St. Louis then sent the complete gun back to FN for the barrel fitting. When the extra barrels were fitted, the gun was sent back to St. Louis and then returned to the customer.

In the 1950s Browning offered as a standard option any combination of barrel weight or choke of the same gauge in either Hunting or Trap configuration. Before 1960, multiple-barrel sets containing different gauges were not offered. All-Gauge Skeet sets were not offered until later. The 1950s represented Browning’s attempt to build its multi-barrel offerings in a simple, direct method in order to maximize its potential success.

About The Author

Ned Schwing of Fredericksburg, Texas, is the author of the recentlypublished book, The Browning Superposed: John Browning’s Last Legacy, from which the accompanying article is adapted. Previous books by Schwing have included Winchester’s Finest, The Model 21, The Winchester Model 42, Winchester Slide-Action Rifles, Vol. 1, The Model 90 and 1906 and Winchester SlideAction Rifles, Vol. II, Model 61 & 62.

The Browning Superposed relies heavily on Browning Arms Co. documents, is illustrated with more than 650 photos in its 493 pages and tells the story of the Superposed well from John Browning’s first prototype built in 1923 through the gun’s custom order status in the 1990s. The hardbound book is available from

the publisher, Krause Publications, Dept. AR, 700 East State St., Iola, WI 54990, telephone (800) 258-0929, for $49.95 plus

$3.50 shipping. Schwing’s other above-mentioned books are available from Krause, as well.

Copyright National Rifle Association of America Oct 1997

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