In 1917, the U.S. Army commissioned John Browning to design an automatic rifle for use in the war effort. Amazingly, he built the gun in just three months, a feat still admired today. From that point forward, the famed BAR has served with distinction for our servicemen and women up to the present time.
Out of this service has come a civilian counterpart, the Browning Automatic Rifle, for hunting and sporting use. Over the years, this popular gun has gone through many models and variations, including high grades and numerous calibers to suit just about all in the hunting sports. I have used the gun in the field and found it soft spoken in recoil and more than accurate, with handloaded ammunition shooting an inch or less at 100 yards.
To celebrate its centennial, Browning introduced a BAR Safari Anniversary model all dressed up for the occasion. I was privileged to examine a sample, and believe me it is a knockout and a genuine collector’s gun for the discriminating investor. The run was limited to only 100 rifles, and it comes with special packaging. It lists for less than $2,700.
All of the metal is polished bright then richly blued. The sporter-weight barrel measures 22 inches long and is clean, with no sights. It is chambered in the legendary .30-06 Springfield. The Grade V Turkish walnut is the best grade for this type of gun in both color and figure, and although the Browning specifications state the stock is oil finished (good), the sample I have sports glossy finished (better) woodwork with a grain pattern flowing from the comb downward.
The pistol grip and fore-end feature 18 lpi checkering in a point pattern and completed with a classic border. A recoil pad with a black spacer and sling swivel studs finish off the buttstock.
While the wood is great looking, it’s the receiver that makes this gun. Browning has always used this space for decoration, and over the years we have seen many variations, but this one is a real standout. The top of the receiver is highly polished, blued, drilled and tapped for scope mounting. The cross bolt, detachable box magazine and trigger group are satin finished with the trigger guard having the Browning Buck Mark logo and trigger in gold.
Both sides have three circled groups in gold that tell a story. The right side shows the BAR in war with a patent date of 1917. You have a “doughboy” leading the charge though a barbed wire barricade followed by a solider holding the famous BAR. (In tracing the history of the gun, I found this exact engraved image from a 1921 publicity photo of Lt. Val Browning in the studio holding the rifle.) In the last group, you see a more modern group of three soldiers. All this is surrounded by a handsome field of scroll engraving.
On the left side, Browning pays tribute to the hunting fraternity with a hunter and his BAR, followed by a gorgeous buck trotting along a field. The last circle has the Browning Buck Mark within a circle with banners denoting the Browning BAR and its 100th anniversary milestone. The left side is also finished off within a field of scroll engraving.
(Ed. note: We spoke to a Browning rep who told us these guns may still be on dealer shelves but that the company’s inventory is exhausted.)