Produced in mass and beloved by many, few over/under shotguns hold a candle to the Browning Citori and its impact.
What Sets The Citori Apart From Other Over/Unders:
- Meant as an affordable alturnative to the Browning Superposed.
- Manufatured for Browning by the Miroku gun factory in Kochi, Japan.
- Citori included selective automatic ejectors and selective single trigger.
- Barrels pivot on a full-lenght hinge pin and lock close by an underlug and bolt.
- There have been close to 100 different Citoris.
Browning’s Citori has been called the best-selling over/under shotgun in the world. It’s difficult to track down sales figures from every manufacturer, but the claim is certainly believable.
When Browning introduced it in 1973, the Citori wasn’t meant to replace the legendary Superposed; rather, it was intended to be a more affordable alternative. The Superposed was made by Fabrique Nationale in Belgium, where rising production costs were quickly putting the price out of the reach of the average shotgunner. Browning management wanted to develop a lower-priced version that would increase the company’s share of the over/under market yet maintain its high-quality reputation.
When the Citori was introduced, that goal was achieved. A standard model Superposed in the early 1970s sold for about $750. The introductory price for a Citori was $325—less than half the price of the Superposed.
The Miroku Connection
When Browning began looking for a supplier for the new shotgun, it looked to the East. Company President John Val Browning had first visited the Miroku gun factory in Kochi, Japan, in 1965 and was impressed with the facility and the workers, especially the work being done on the Charles Daly brand of shotguns.1
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One of these was an over/under based on the design of the Browning Superposed. Over the next few years, a relationship developed between the two companies, and an agreement was made for Miroku to manufacture firearms to be marketed under the Browning name. The first of these was the BL-22 lever-action rifle in 1970, followed the next year by the Semi-Auto .22 rifle, the B-SS side-by-side shotgun and the B-78 Single Shot rifle.2
Browning firearms made and imported from overseas was not a new idea. None other than John M. Browning himself had signed an agreement in 1897 for Fabrique Nationale to manufacture several of his pistol designs in Belgium.3 The Auto-5 shotgun was introduced in 1903. More than three million were made by FN before production of the legendary semi-auto was moved to Miroku in 1976.
Citori Features and Models
The Citori has all the features one would expect to find on a quality over/under shotgun, including selective automatic ejectors and selective single triggers. The trigger selector is built into the safety lever located on top of the tang. Barrels came with fixed chokes in the earliest models, with choke tubes becoming standard in 1988.
Fit and finish are in keeping with Browning’s reputation for excellent workmanship. Like the Superposed, the Citori has a box-lock action, and many features are the same as, or similar to, those of the Superposed. The barrels on both designs pivot on a full-length hinge pin and are locked closed by an underlug and bolt. One obvious difference is the forend design: When the Superposed is taken down, the forend remains attached to the barrels; it is removed on the Citori.
There are many Citori models and variants currently in production and dozens more over its 46-year run. It has been chambered in 12, 20 and 28 gauge and .410 bore, including occasional listings for 16 gauge. Current models shown on the Browning website are chambered only in 20 or 12 gauge, except for a four-gauge combo with extra barrels in 12, 20, 28 and .410. I’m quite sure there has never been a 10-gauge Citori.
As would be expected over its long run, there have been some changes in the evolution of the Citori. The most recent has been with the 725 series, introduced in 2012. It has a lower profile receiver that is designed to place the shooter’s eye closer to the axis of the barrels. Another change is to a mechanical trigger, which doesn’t require the recoil of the first shot to set the second.
Current models come in every hunting and clay target variation. Browning currently lists more than 50 different Citori models, including the 725 series and some variants listed as “limited availability.”
Looking back over the history of the name, there have been close to 100 different Citoris—further proof that it can claim to be the world’s most popular over/under shotgun.
The article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.