The Browning Auto-5 is a long-recoil operated semi-automatic shotgun. Shells are stored in a tubular magazine under the barrel. When a chambered shell is fired, the barrel and bolt recoil together (for a distance greater than the shell length) and re-cock the hammer. As the barrel returns forward to its initial position the bolt remains behind and thus the spent shell is ejected through a port on the top of the receiver. Then the bolt returns forward and feeds another shell from the magazine into the action. This type of long recoil action was the first of its kind and patented in 1900 by John Browning.
To load the gun, shells are fed into the bottom of the action, where they are pushed into the tubular magazine. Most A-5s have removable plugs in the magazine which prevent more than three shells from being loaded (two in the magazine, plus one in the chamber) to comply with US federal migratory waterfowl laws, as well as some state hunting regulations. With the plug removed, the total capacity is five rounds. If the chamber is open (the operating handle is drawn back) the first shell loaded into the magazine tube will go directly into the chamber (there is a manual bolt closing button under the ejection port), the bolt then closes, and all further shells fed into the gun go into the magazine.
The A-5 has a system of friction piece or pieces and bevel rings which retard the barrel’s rearward travel. Setting these rings correctly is vital to good shotgun performance and to ensure a long life to the weapon, by controlling excessive recoil. The friction rings are set based on the type of load to be fired through the gun. Different settings are found in the owner’s manual.