October 18, 2021
Browning introduced the original Maxus shotgun in 2009 as the company's new flagship autoloading 12-gauge. Unlike Browning's Gold and Silver shotguns, which rely on the company's Active Valve gas-operating system, the Maxus featured a whole new gas system known as Power Drive that promised superb reliability and significantly reduced recoil.
The Maxus shotgun and the Power Drive operating system have held up well, remaining popular for over a decade with very few upgrades and changes during that time. By 2021, however, Browning's semiauto was ready for a refresh.
Enter the Maxus II. Most of this new gun's upgrades are cosmetic, and the Power Drive system remains unchanged. But perhaps the most significant revision is the gun's magazine cap. Maxus shotguns originally featured Browning's Speed Lock Forearm, which lacked a traditional magazine cap and could be removed by pushing a button, lifting a lever, and pulling forward on the forearm. I owned one of the first-generation Maxus shotguns with the Speed Lock Forearm and I liked its smooth lines and not having to worry about losing a magazine cap when I cleaned the gun. The hunting and shooting community didn't seem to share my affection for the design, though, so the Maxus II comes with a traditional screw cap.
Over the last several years, semi-auto shotgun manufacturers have started adding oversized, competition-style controls to their firearms. The Maxus II receives that same treatment. The enlarged bold handle is now cylindrical, and the bolt release button is larger, easier to access and rectangular in shape. Bigger controls do make the new Maxus easier to operate than earlier versions of this gun, especially when your fingers are functioning unreliably due to extreme cold temperatures.
The Maxus II also has a redesigned stock, the most obvious revision being the addition of a SoftFlex cheek pad that reduces recoil impact to the cheek. Anticipating the collision of a shotgun's comb with the cheekbone is one of the primary reasons shooters tense up before the shot, and the SoftFlex feature will help reduce pain and flinching.
SoftFlex is noticeably softer on the face than the comb of the original Maxus or, for that matter, just about any shotgun with a traditional wood or hard plastic stock. I carried the Maxus II All-Purpose Hunter while turkey hunting this spring and found it to be one of the most gentle-shooting semiauto 12 gauges on the market. That recoil reduction is due in part to a more comfortable stock, a new 1 1/2-inch Inflex Technology recoil pad and the Power Drive system's ability to dump excess gas quickly and efficiently.
The redesigned stock of the Maxus II also features rubber overmolding on the pistol grip and forearm for improved handling. The stock is shim-adjustable for cast, drop and length of pull, and can be trimmed up to three-quarters of an inch for perfect fit and balance. The Lightning trigger remains from the original gun, and the new ramped trigger guard makes it easier to load shells into the magazine.
Durability is a hallmark of Browning firearms, and the Maxus II comes with nickel-Teflon coating on the bolt, carrier, controls and other key components as well as a chrome-lined chamber and bore. The model that I tested came with three Invector-Plus screw-in choke tubes (improved cylinder, modified and full) as well as an X-Ful Turkey choke and front and mid beads on the 26-inch barrel. Maxus II shotguns are available in 12-gauge with a 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrel and either a 3- or 3 1/2-inch chamber. There are three camo models, an all-black Stalker version and a carbon-fiber sporting model. Interestingly, there are no new Maxus shotguns with walnut stocks. MSRP for the Browning Maxus II ranges from $1,589.99 to $1,979.99.
Maxus II Specifications
Model: Browning Maxus II All-Purpose Hunter - Mossy Oak Break-Up Country
Action: Gas-operated semiauto
Barrel Length: 26 inches
Overall Length: 47 ¼ inches
Weight: 7.1 Pounds
Chokes: 3 Invector-Plus (IC, M, F), X-Full Turkey
At the Range
My test Maxus II arrived in an ABS hard case with four chokes and a shim kit. The overall fit and finish of the gun was very good, in keeping with Browning's high standards.
At 7.1 pounds, the All-Purpose Hunter model I tested is slightly heavier than some competing inertia-operated semiautos (Benelli's Super Black Eagle III with BE.S.T., which carries an MSRP of $2,199, weighs 6.9 pounds), but not by much. The Browning's combination of weight, advanced gas operating system and a redesigned stock with a new recoil pad and comb insert that can be fit to the shooter's exact dimensions makes the Maxus II one of the softest-shooting 12-gauge guns on the market.
What's more, it cycled light 1 1/8-ounce loads without any problems. That makes the Maxus II a natural choice for both high-volume shooting (think clays or collared doves) and waterfowl hunts where you'll be feeding your shotgun a steady diet of hard-hitting magnum loads.
Features that I particularly like about the Maxus II, in addition to the fit and finish and recoil reduction, include the convenient magazine cut-off switch on the left side of the receiver and the Lightning trigger. The Maxus II's new oversized controls are easy to operate and, I suppose, so is the traditional screw-on magazine cap. The Maxus II isn't particularly finicky about loads and it's easy to disassemble and clean. With minimal maintenance, this gun will run for a long time.
The original Maxus was good, but I'd argue this latest version is slightly better. Browning's soft-shooting and versatile new semiauto should be on your shortlist if you’re in the market for an all-purpose 12-gauge autoloader.