"A" Prefix Serial Numbered 16's

Discussion in 'Browning Auto A-5' started by Rudolph31, Oct 16, 2017.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 .30-06

    This is one of the most asked Auto-5 questions, so I thought it deserved its own thread. It’s long and convoluted, so you might just want to skip to the summary, a few posts down.

    JMB's 1902 deal with FN called for the sequential numbering of the guns. When the 16 appeared in 1909 it followed the same scheme, except the first gun was numbered "0". As far as FN was concerned, this continued until shortly after WWII.

    The German occupation of Belgium in 1940 left Browning with no supplier, so they turned to Remington. Remington's Model 11 was a licensed version of the prototype, and for Browning they added some details like the magazine cutoff, browningesque engraving and markings. This gun became known as the "American Browning".

    There are many differences between an American and a Belgian Browning, but the easiest way to tell is the location of the serial number. The American Browning's serial number is on the left side of the receiver instead of on the bottom, and it has a prefix. A for 16 gauge, B for 12, and C for 20. Interestingly, FN didn't produce a 20 until 1958. I believe the entire run of American Brownings was between 1940-42. (Remington put date codes on their barrels, so if you’ve got one you can check.)

    Owners of these guns should know that they essentially have a Model 11, and they should use Remington parts to maintain it. Browning Recoil and Action Springs will work, as well as Browning Friction pieces.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2021
    SHOOTER13 likes this.
  2. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 .30-06

    After WWII, the 2 3/4" (70mm) length 16 gauge shell was becoming the standard in the United States, while Europe remained with the 2 9/16" (65mm) shell. All FN made prewar 16 gauge Auto-5's are chambered for the 65mm shell. In 1947, FN began shipping 16's chambered in 70mm to the US. These guns had an X prefix. Serial numbers ran from X-1001 in 1947 to X-99999 in 1953.

    In 1953 the X was changed to an A, for a run of only 958 guns. Also in 1953, FN began giving the Sweet Sixteen an S prefix, and the standard weight an R, so for the first time a Sweet could be identified by its serial number. S/N's ran from S-01 to S-99908 and R-01 to R-99999 by the end of 1957.

    So far, so good, but in the first four months of 1958 FN ran a total of 10,900 sequentially numbered guns with either an A (Allege, French for lightweight) or a T (standard weight) prefix.

    In the Spring of 1958, the S and R prefixes returned, along with a single digit year code. This changed to 2 digits in 1968 and was used until 1976.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
    SHOOTER13 likes this.
  3. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 .30-06


    So, if you've got an Auto-5 with an A prefix to its serial number, you know you've got a 16 chambered for 2 3/4" shells.

    If the number appears on the side of the receiver, it's a Remington made, "American Browning" circa 1940.

    If the gun is made by FN and the number is higher than A-958, it's a Sweet Sixteen. If it's A-958 or below, it might be a Sweet Sixteen and it was made in either 1953 or 1958. Identifying a Sweet Sixteen is easy, the year of manufacture less so.

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
    win7stw and (deleted member) like this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page