TFB Review: The Modernized Browning A5 With An XS Sights Vent Rib

Luke C.
by Luke C.
TFB Review: The Modernized Browning A5 With An XS Sights Vent Rib

Designed in 1898 by John Moses Browning and later modernized and revived in 2014, the Browning A5 shotgun doesn’t just have a solid reputation for being a great waterfowl and upload game hunting gun, but also a rich history as a sport shooting and combat weapon during its early days. I recently had the chance to review a new-production Browning A5 shotgun that had been fitted with XS Sights’ aftermarket photoluminescent vent rib sights. In stark opposition to XS Sights’ tritium-powered night sights, their photoluminescent sights provide end-users with a more cost-effective low-light option that still provides a boost to sight visibility, without the unnecessary ultra low-light capabilities (I don’t think anyone is waterfowl hunting in the dark). Today we’ll talk a bit about the Browning A5 shotgun, how it’s evolved over the years, and also see what the XS Sights Universal Standard Dot Shotgun Vent Rib does to improve the legendary Browning A5 semi-automatic shotgun.

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TFB Review: The Modernized Browning A5 With An XS Sights Vent Rib

As we mentioned in the intro, John Browning started designing the A5 shotgun in 1898 but would only go on to patent the design in 1900. At the time, the novel recoil-operated semi-automatic shotgun had been the first of several attempts by gunmakers to produce a reliable and successful design that would see widespread adoption.

The design introduced the very iconic humpback-shaped receiver that is much more squared off compared to other shotguns. In modern times, Browning has gone on to play up the humpback design nodding to its aid in helping the shooter along the shotgun calling it the “Humpback Acquisition Advantage.” Essentially the shape of the receiver gives you about 8 extra inches of sight plane on a normal 26″ barrel length. The Original A5 didn’t originally have a vent rib like the modern examples do, but the humpback still gave the shooter a short rudimentary set of iron sights via the receiver and front bead effectively giving the shooter a 34″ sight radius – quite a lot for a shotgun.

The A5 was produced in virtually every shotgun gauge available and was produced for around 100 years in total before its official discontinuation in 1998. In that time the Shotgun saw service as a combat shotgun through WWI, WWII, and virtually every American conflict between the end of WWII through the end of the Vietnam War. The A5 also saw some limited overseas use during the Rhodesian Bush War according to the book Fireforce: One Man’s War in the Rhodesian Light Infantry. The shotgun also saw widespread adoption and use as a patrol shotgun for police officers.

In 2014, the A5 was introduced by Browning Arms as an identically similar but mechanically different recoil-operated shotgun. This new shotgun operates off of what Browning calls a “ Kinematic Drive,” includes a vent rib as a standard feature, and has an aluminum instead of steel receiver. The “Kinematic Drive” system is just another way of saying that the modern A5 uses a modernized inertia recoil system. Inertia-driven shotguns stay cleaner for longer and are insanely tolerant to a wide variety of shotgun loads ranging from ultra-light target loads up to the heaviest of slugs.

The XS Sights VEnt Rib – Easier to See

About a year ago I had the honor of taking some professional shotgun gun schooling from Optometrist and Shotgun Coach Dr. Richard Colo. During that short bit of instruction, I distinctly remember him telling me how you’re really not supposed to look at the front sight bead – its sort of just supposed to float around in your peripheral vision while your eyes are waiting to seek out the target, and then pick a spot on that target to shoot. While the stock brass bead and mid-rib white bead do exist on the modern A5s, the XS sights Vent Rib upgrades that dull brass bead with a much easier-to-pickup photoluminescent bead in either amber or green.

The XS Sights shotgun Vent Rib is actually really easy to install and doesn’t require any specialty tools making it one of the easiest DIY mods you can perform from XS Sights. Like the A5, the XS sights are designed to be more durable and should last the 100,000 rounds that Browning claims the A5 can shoot before needing a good cleaning. XS also says that these particular sights, featuring a combination of a white mid-rib bead and the photoluminescent front, are meant for waterfowl, turkey, and clay shooters rather than combat applications.

XS has always offered sights for field shotguns, but we have primarily focused on the tactical market. In the past, we offered custom sights that required a gunsmith to cut a dovetail into the vent rib. This is a very easy thing to do for a qualified machinist or gunsmith, but it is difficult to find a person, there is a significant added cost to the installation, and the wait times can be long. This is why subpar, easy attach options have taken off and are available at every box store. Hunters are DIYers and want easy to see and easy to install sights on their long guns…

We got serious about vent rib shotguns because hunters and clay shooters deserve better. Shooting shotguns is not a cheap sport. The hardware on the gun should represent the value paid for the shotgun.

We make sights that are easy to see, day or night, and will survive the toughest conditions in the field.

At the range, all of the claims are quite true. The extra bright green dot is much easier to pick out even in bright conditions compared to the standard brass bead. For me, this can most easily be observed when trying to pick up the sight picture again after a shot. Inertia-driven shotguns have a very noticeable increase in recoil compared to their gas-driven counterparts and this is why a brighter front bead is important, especially for the A5.

They’ll last As long As your Gun

Both the OEM vent rib and the XS Sights vent rib are made from high-quality materials, certainly much higher than a lot of the other “glue on” or magnetized sight upgrades for vent ribs which often require either permanent modification or fragile mounting methods that will eventually need replacement. The XS Sights Vent Rib for the A5, or for any other hard-use trap shooting or hunting shotgun is a smart $60 upgrade you can do at home that will ensure that your shotgun and its sights will not only be more useful but will last a lifetime or longer.

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Luke C.
Luke C.

Reloader SCSA Competitor Certified Pilot Currently able to pass himself off as the second cousin twice removed of Joe Flanigan. Instagram:

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  • Hoyden Hoyden on May 29, 2024

    If you use these in clay sports, be ready to miss behind quite often. As soon as you shift your central focus to the barrel/bead, your swing will slow and the target will “Linda Ronstadt” on you (Blue/Blew by Yooouuuu).

    If a bright green sight helps you check your eye to rib alignment before the shot, good on ‘ya. After the target launches, not so much.

  • Mystick Mystick on May 29, 2024

    No mention of FN in that history... because no one else domestically wanted to make it until it became popular.

    • See 1 previous
    • DW DW on May 30, 2024

      @Mystick ??? Browning wanted a bigger cut than what Winchester would pay. Or Browning got fed up with Winchester and quoted them a unrealistic sum. Either way He was done with Winchester at the time.