The Superposed Shotgun

A Superposed engraved by Ron Reimer. The pattern is inspired from the D5G pattern which first appeared in 1965.
A Superposed engraved by Ron Reimer. The pattern is inspired from the D5G pattern which first appeared in 1965.

Even unlikely critics, like CNN Money.com lists the “Super” as one of the world’s finest shotguns.

John Moses Browning, arguably America’s premier firearm designer, first visualized the Superposed as an affordable over and under shotgun for American hunters and target shooters, in contrast to the much more expensive European models. Browning also reasoned the Superposed would be one of the last firearms regulated out of existence (but instead of modern day gun grabbers, Browning was more concerned by conservationists of the day who referred to Browning’s other design, the widely popular Auto-5 as “game exterminators”) as mentioned in Ned Schwing’s book, The Browning Superposed, the definitive word on the history of the Superposed from inception to the final days of production.

This D5G inspired pattern engraved by Ron Reimer offers full coverage engraving. You must look closely to see the barrel and cocking lever when the action is closed.
This D5G inspired pattern engraved by Ron Reimer offers full coverage engraving. You must look closely to see the barrel and cocking lever when the action is closed.

The Superposed endured many problematic issues even before its introduction, the most far reaching –finding a manufacturer to produce it. Browning approached Fabrique Nationale (FN), who was already producing not only Browning’s Auto 5, but was weighted down with military contracts. The two parties met several times to no avail, price being the major obstacle.

Speculation surfaced that Browning went elsewhere to get FN to agree to previously rejected terms. Ultimately, FN agreed with Browning’s terms and contracted to build the Superposed, the first order for 10,000 firearms at a cost of $30 each.

In the fall of 1926, John Moses traveled to Belgium to help speed production of the new shotgun. Two months later, he passed away, doing what he loved – working on guns.

From the first prototype of the Super in 1923, until his death and beyond, John Browning’s touch was indelible on the Superposed, but the work was not yet complete. Browning’s son, Val, following closely in his father’s footsteps, put many years in perfecting the trigger and the selector/ejector assembly, two of the elements that perplexed and haunted the elder Browning.

Even after production began on the Superposed, things weren’t as smooth as one might expect. The attention to detail and the amount of handwork required for each shotgun took time and manpower, slowing production to a crawl.

The Superposed was introduced commercially, in 1931, to the United States sporting market in four grades; Standard (Grade I), Pigeon Grade, Diana Grade, and Midas Grade. The Grade I retailed for $107.50 with the initial offering introduced in 12-gauge. The Superposed was offered standard with double triggers. Three other options were available; the single selective trigger which could be manipulated to fire either the top or bottom barrel first at the shooter’s discretion, the Twin-Single, which prevented the shotgun from doubling and a single, non-selective trigger, a raised matted solid rib or Browning’s “Non-Crossfire” ventilated rib for an additional $20, and one of three stock configurations; Field, Trap and Monte Carlo crafted in European walnut.

The Midas Grade retailed for $374. The response for the new shotgun, fueled by the outdoor writers of the day, was favorable.

In 1934, in the midst of the Great Depression, Browning dropped the price of the Grade I to $99.50, the next year the price was reduced further to $69.75. Other models were reduced accordingly. These reductions were to attract new customers and to steer customers from other established American manufacturers. The ploy worked. Sales nearly doubled from its first year and its popularity soared.

This article appeared in the November 8, 2010 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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