Auto-5/VSG: Browning Humpback plus Ashton Enchantment

I love the old Browning Humpback. It was on these old autoloaders that I learned how to shoot, how to hunt, and how to respect a firearm. I spent a lot of time in the woods with my grandfather and each of us had one in our hands. He is gone now, and I have his old Browning Auto-5s and Remington Model 11s. I still take them out into the field from time to time and of course enjoy a fine cigar after and reflect on the day’s hunt and memories of hunts past. So let’s look a little at the history of this classic John Browning design and work through why we’ll choose an Ashton VSG to go with it.

Browing Auto-5 and Ashton VSG cigar pairing guide
Browing Auto-5 (Browning Humpback) and Ashton VSG cigar pairing guide

Browning Humpback Auto 5

FN made the Auto 5 from 1902 until 1998-9. They were made in Belgium until 1975 when production moved to Japan. Yet the Auto 5 design wasn’t just made by FN. The classic Remington Model 11 is a licensed copy and was the first semi-auto shotgun to be made in the United States. Remington made around 850,000 of them between 1905 and 1948. Savage also made the models 720 and 745 from 1930 until 1949. All told, the Auto 5 design is the second most manufactured auto-loading shotgun of all time. Only the Remington 1100 edges it out.

There are a couple of good stories about John Moses Browning and the work it took for him to get the Auto 5 made.

John Moses Browning with Auto 5 Browning Humpback repeating shotgun
John Moses Browning with his Auto-5 repeating shotgun. (Image source: Wikimedia)

As with most of his long-gun designs of that era, Browning first took it to Winchester. They had a long working relationship at the time, one that had resulted in multiple lever and pump action rifles and the model 93 and 97 pump action shotguns. The story goes that Winchester thought the new autoloading shotgun design was ugly.

The Browning Humpback Auto5 shotgun.
Browning Auto-5’s AKA “Old Humpbacks”. Image by @mud_and_feathers

I agree that the Browning Humpback is nowhere near the sleek and sexy Browning-designed Winchester 94, but still. What were they thinking when they passed on buying his patents on this one?

Browning next went to Remington to see if it would be interested in making the ugly gun. The story told here is that while John Moses was waiting for a meeting with Marcellus Hartley, the president of Remington, Hartley had a heart attack and died. I guess that’s what happens when you leave the greatest firearms designer of at least the past 200 years waiting. No doubt frustrated, Browning next went to his new friends in Belgium. FN Herstal ran with it and ended up making the Auto 5 for almost 100 years.

F. N. Browning Auto 5 16ga
F. N. Browning Auto 5 16ga, original pre-WWII production semi-auto shotgun. (Image source: iCollector)

Ashton VSG

The Ashton VSG Enchantment is the cigar I have picked for our Browning-Auto-5 paring.

Ashton VSG Enchantment cigar
Ashton VSG Enchantment cigars. (Image source @ashtoncigar)

The VSG is made by the Fuentes in the Dominican Republic for Ashton. This cigar has a Sungrown Sumatra wrapper with binder and filler from the Dominican Republic. This is a bold, yet very refined cigar. The Enchantment vitola is a true figurado shape. The figurado shape was very popular in the US back in the middle of the last century, when the Auto-5 was king.

Shooting Notes

The Browning Auto 5 is a true classic. The humpback lines up perfect with the shooter’s eye for quick shooting. There is a distinctive feel too as the long recoil action returns to battery after a shot.

Tasting Notes

The Ashton VSG is balanced, smooth, sweet, and spicy. This is an exceptional cigar to be savored after a day in the field upland bird hunting.

 
A Little More Browning Old Humpback History

 

an old Browning Humpback Auto-5 shotgun
An old Browning Humpback Auto-5 shotgun (via Wikipedia).

 

Browning Auto-5 in Rhodesia
“[The Browning Auto-5 shotguns] were issued to both BSAP [British South Africa Police] and Army armouries for when use seemed suitable. they were often used for night ambushes and for counter-ambush when escorting trucks in the operational area. They were also used occasionally when the guys were operating in particularly thick bush. I used a Franchi 500 auto on horseback regularly as a teenager and have had a thing for shotguns ever since…though I still have my doubts about their effectiveness for killing rather than just handing out a whole bunch of hurt.” via @andys_gasworks. Note: some A5 variants with an extended magazine tube and forend were often referred to as “Rhodesian A5s”, and they were in use during the Bush War but were not uniquely Rhodie. 
Browning Old Humpback
The “Rhodesian variant” of the Browning Auto-5 was “…not unique to Rhodesia or indeed specially made for the Rhodesian military. This variant is in fact the FN Browning (Belgian-made) Police Model 8-shot Auto-5. Not sold to the civilian market, which explains its rarity and the misconception that it was a Rhodesian variant.” Via @andys_gasworks. 
Arthur Fuerte is a professional tobacconist with a penchant for mid-century militaria. He knows his way around the cigar parings, single-malts, and classic American firearms.

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