After a few more minutes of talk, I greased up and assembled the brand new 12-gauge Browning Citori CXS over/under replete with factory decals before walking down to the compact sporting clays course. Well, three local lads (a father, son and their friend) decided it would be good fun to bust my chops for bringing a brand spanking new gun out. Following a few minutes of the good natured ribbing, I noticed that Jack (one of the hecklers) was shooting a Browning 325 Sporting Grade 1.
So rather than taking the inaugural shots myself, Jack was given the honor to put the Browning CXS through its paces on the 24 pigeon compact sporting course. Jack claimed to be able to shoot any Browning that happened to fall into his hands. Regardless of his boasting, the Citori CXS was just such a Browning.
Jack took a few practice mounts and then called for the first bird, a quartering away target that started to his left and was smashed just as the Browning Citori CXS barrels pulled past the leading edge of the clay. The next six pigeons fell in the same fashion as the first, then Jack dropped a few before continuing on with a long string of hits. After Jack finished, I was up next with the Browning Citori CXS. Just as with Jack, I took just a few practice mounts before calling the first clay. A little surprised, but certainly not astonished, the first clay broke and then the next, and the next, and so on. I was up to clay 14 before I registered my first miss…and only a few more escaped before I finished my round. I confess to being only an average shooter, but with the Browning Citori CXS in my hands and my confidence booming I could have kept breaking clays all day long.
The Browning Citori CXS is considered to be an entry-level competition gun that can also be used in the field. The shotgun is available in both 12 and 20 gauge, and both are available with 28, 30, or 32 inch barrels. The barrels are non-ported with vented mid-rib and the top rib is flat to the barrels. The top rib configuration fits a head down shooting style with its 50/50 point of impact. The Browning Citori CXS comes standard with three Midas grade Invector-plus chokes: improved cylinder, modified and full. The barrels have Pro-Vector forcing cones to improve patterning along with recoil reduction.
The Browning Citori CXS action draws on the historical success of the 325 and 425. This is a distinct contrast to the most recent Browning 725 which sports a lower profile. During my time as Safari Club International’s head lobbyist I had the chance to shoot many fine, well-engraved competition guns. But for me, the simple black action of the Browning Citori CXS has a distinct elegance that is hard to beat. Just look at Perazzi, their HighTech, MX8 and MX12’s are at their most beautiful (at least to me) when they are either flat nickel or matte blacked. The Browning Citori CXS takes a page out of the Perazzi playbook and devotes their resources to engineering quality performance rather than unneeded engraving. The wide blade adjustable gold washed trigger sets off nicely against the all black action and trigger guard. The blade shape will work for nearly everyone, and the trigger pulls will be more than adequate for all but the most discerning of competitive shooters.
The stock is really what sets the Browning Citori CXS above most of its peers. With more European derived dimensions, I believe Browning has a stock design that we will see on many competition and field guns in the coming years. The length of pull is 14 ¾ inches and the adjustable trigger will accommodate those needing that little extra length. The drop at heel is 2¼ inches and the drop at comb is 1½ inches, which are fairly typical of most field/competitive guns. But let me restate: these dimensions are set on a 14 ¾ inch rather than a 14 ¼ stock stock. This makes a big difference and it’s all positive in my honest opinion. The grip has good openness to allow for quick movements and is paired with a delightful right hand palm swell for added control. These are design features usually included on shotguns a few hundred if not a few thousand dollars higher than the Browning Citori CXS.
There are a few items I would change with the Browning Citori CXS. The stock is a little too plain and the finish is a little too glossy for my taste. It would be nice if the checkering was tightened up a little as the 18 lines per inch can be a little rough on the hands. The perfectly functioning safety was a little rough around the edges as was the trigger guard. But I have to say, there isn’t much more that needs to be modified.
As a regular clays shooter and obsessed upland hunter, the Browning Citori CXS was nothing short of fantastic for me. It came easily to shoulder, it handled recoil well, it pointed where I aimed, and it hit where I was aiming. The 12 gauge with 30-inch barrels is ideal for any competition clays discipline.
Additionally, at around $2,000 suggested price, and with dealers able to get the price a few hundred dollars lower, I doubt there is another competition gun this good at this very competitive price point. I would really, really like to take the 20 gauge through its paces for an entire hunting season. The 20 gauge checks in around 6 pounds whereas the 12 is up around 8 pounds. With the build quality of the CXS, the 20 gauge could be the all-round dream-gun for the field.
Fit and Finish: 8/10
Build Quality: 10/10
Nelson Freeman grew up hunting, fishing, and shooting in Virginia with his father, grandfather, and uncles. He spent eight years as a lobbyist and spokesperson for Safari Club International in Washington, D.C. Nelson is a Professional Member of the Boone & Crockett Club, a past board member of TreadLightly, and was recently appointed to the North Carolina Sportsmen's Caucus Advisory Council. He now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife and son.