Browning A5 12 ga. Shotgun Serial Number Tables with Photos

30 August 2012   |   by Colin Smith   |   Library

A5 or Auto-5

The Browning Auto-5

The Browning Auto-5, commonly known as the A5, is a legendary semi-automatic shotgun with a storied history that spans over a century. This article will explore the development, features, sales numbers, and enduring popularity of the Browning A5.


The Browning Auto-5 was the first successful semi-automatic shotgun design and has played a significant role in the evolution of firearms. John Moses Browning, one of the most prolific firearms designers, created this iconic shotgun. First produced in 1902, the Auto-5 remained in production for almost a century, with over 2.7 million units made.

Decoding the Browning A5 Serial Number

The Browning A5 has the destinction of being the first mass produced semiautomatic shotgun. John Browning himself called it his greatest achievement at the time, of course that was before the 1911 .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun.

If you own one of these guns and it has a letter in the serial number, your gun would have been made after 1953 and the letter is a code that represents;

  • G = Lightweight,
  • M = Standard Weight,
  • V = 12 Gauge Magnum,
  • S = Sweet Sixteen and
  • X = 20 Gauge.

Because the A5 is the second largest selling automatic shotgun in history (Remington 1100 is #1), there's not much I can say that hasn't already been written.

Development and Features

John Browning designed the Auto-5 in the late 1890s, and after facing rejections from American manufacturers, he patented it in 1900. The shotgun was initially produced by the Belgian firm Fabrique Nationale (FN) and later under license by Remington and Savage in the United States. Its distinctive features include the long-recoil action, a humpback-shaped receiver and a five capacity magazine.

The Auto-5 was available in various gauges, with the 12-gauge and 20-gauge being the most popular. It was offered in different barrel lengths and finishes, catering to a wide range of users from hunters to sports shooters. The shotgun's reliability and durability made it a favorite among enthusiasts.

Sales Numbers and Popularity

The Auto-5's production and sales numbers are a testament to its popularity. Over its nearly 100-year production run, more than 2.7 million units were manufactured. This high number is particularly impressive considering the time period and the competition it faced from other firearms. The shotgun's popularity soared in the United States, where it was widely used for hunting and sport shooting. Its adoption by law enforcement agencies and its use in World War I and World War II further cemented its reputation. The A5’s popularity wasn’t limited to the U.S.; it was also widely used in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world, solidifying its status as a global icon in the world of shotguns.

FN Auto-5 Pre-WWII Guns
Serial Number Table
1924 3000 18000
1925 18001 33000
1926 33001 48000
1927 48001 63000
1928 63001 78000
1929 78001 93000
1930 93001 108000
1931 108001 123000
1932 123001 138000
1933 138001 153000
1934 153001 168000
1935 168001 183000
1936 183001 198000
1937 198001 213000
1938 213001 228000
1939 228001 229000
The A5 in Hunting and Sport Shooting

The Auto-5's reliability and semi-automatic action made it a favorite among hunters and sport shooters. Its capability to fire five shots in quick succession was revolutionary for its time. The shotgun was particularly popular for bird hunting, including waterfowl and upland game birds. In sport shooting, the Auto-5 was used in trap and skeet shooting, where its rapid-fire capability and accuracy were highly valued.

Browning Auto-5 Shotguns, The Belgian FN Production - Revised, Second Edition Hardcover
Browning Auto-5 Shotguns
Variants and Collectibility

Throughout its production, various models and variants of the Auto-5 were introduced. These included the Light Twelve, Sweet Sixteen, and Magnum Twenty, each catering to specific needs and preferences of shooters. The "Sweet Sixteen" model, a 16-gauge version of the A5, became especially popular for its lighter weight and balanced handling. The Auto-5’s long production run and numerous variants have made it a popular item among collectors. Early models and special editions are particularly sought after. The value of a Browning A5 in the collector's market varies significantly based on its condition, age, rarity, and specific model.

Impact and Legacy

The Browning Auto-5's impact on the world of firearms cannot be overstated. It revolutionized shotgun design with its semi-automatic action and influenced numerous subsequent shotgun designs. The A5 set a standard for reliability and performance that few other shotguns have matched. The legacy of the Browning Auto-5 continues today. Though production of the original A5 ceased in 1998, its influence is evident in modern semi-automatic shotguns. In 2012, Browning introduced a new model named the "A5," paying homage to John Browning's original design while incorporating modern technology and features.


The Browning Auto-5 stands as a monumental achievement in firearms design. Its introduction marked the beginning of a new era in shotgun technology, and its impact is still felt today. The A5's combination of innovation, reliability, and versatility made it a mainstay in the fields and shooting ranges for decades. With over 2.7 million units produced, its popularity and significance in the history of firearms are unquestionable. The Browning A5 is not just a shotgun; it is a symbol of ingenuity, enduring quality, and the legacy of one of the greatest firearms designers in history.

John Moses Browning's Auto-5 stands as a monumental achievement in firearms design.
signature Colin Smith GUNCC Guest Writer
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