The Browning Auto-5 semiautomatic shotgun began production in 1902, and they were made until 1999 when the "Final Tribute" was produced. The Browning Auto-5 Sweet 16 lightweight, 16-gauge shotgun, began production in 1937 and it ran through 1992. Pinpointing the exact manufacturing year of early Sweet 16s is a bit difficult. This is because Browning guns made from 1903 through 1939 were simply numbered in numeric order rather than given a serial number to denote the year in which they were made. For guns made after World War II, serial numbers or a combination of letters and numbers will aim you to the manufacturing year.
Look closely at your gun to make sure it is a Sweet 16, 16-gauge shotgun and not a standard 16-gauge shotgun. All Sweet 16 shotguns made in 1949 and on will have "Sweet Sixteen" engraved on the left side of the receiver. If your gun was made earlier than 1949, look at the trigger -- only Sweet 16 shotguns will have a gold trigger. Now that you've verified that you have a Sweet 16, rather than a standard 16-gauge shotgun, follow the rest of the steps to find when it was manufactured.
Look at the bottom of the shotgun receiver. Engraved on the bottom of the receiver will be the serial number. If the gun is very old and engravings hard to read, locate your owner's manual to find your Browning serial number. If you do not have the original owner's manual, you can find the owner's manual online at the Browning website.
Identify pre-WWII Sweet 16s: As stated in the introduction, pre-WWII Sweet 16's did not have engraved serial numbers. Instead, they were simply numbered. Guns engraved with the "Serial Number" of 1 to 228,000 were made from 1903 through 1939. Since the Sweet 16 was introduced to the public in 1937, you'll only be able to guess that your gun was manufactured in 1937, 1938 or 1939.
Look at the serial number on the receiver of your shotgun. Sweet 16 guns manufactured in 1940 through 1946 will have the letter "A," the year of manufacture, plus a number between 229,000 and 237,000.
Identify your Sweet 16 from the late 1940s: Guns made in 1947 will have a serial number between 237,001 and 249,000. Guns made in 1948 will have a serial number between 249,001 and 270,000. And Sweet 16s made in 1949 will have a serial number between 270,001 and 285,000.
Identify Sweet 16 shotguns that were manufactured in the early 1950s: Sweet 16s made in 1950 will have serial number between 285,001 and 315,000. Guns made in 1951 will have a serial number from 315,001 to 346,000. Guns made in 1952 will have a serial number between 346,001 and 387,000. And Sweet 16s manufactured in 1953 will have a serial number from 387,001 to 438,000.
Identify your Sweet 16 shotgun if it was manufactured in the mid to late 1950s: Guns made in 1954 and 1955 will have the letter "L" and a number between 1 and 83,000. Guns manufactured in 1956 will have the letter "G," followed by a number between 1 and 23,000. And Sweet 16 guns made in 1957 will have the letter "G," followed by a number from 23,0001 to 85,000.
Identify the year your Sweet 16 shotgun was made from 1958 through 1967. The serial numbers on these guns will also have the letter "G," followed by a number between 85,001 and 99,000. To find the date, look at the number just before the letter G. The number represents the last digit in the year (only from 1958 through 1967) it was manufactured. For example, a Sweet 16 with a serial number of 2G87,908 would mean it was manufactured in 1962.
Look at the serial number of your Sweet 16 to identify the year it was manufactured from 1969 through 1976. The guns made during this time period were again stamped with a "G," a serial number starting at 1,000, and also bearing the last two digits of the year it was made. If your Sweet 16 has the serial number 74G1,987, this would mean your gun was manufactured in 1974.
Identify the year your Sweet 16 was manufactured if made from 1976 through 1992 (when production of the Sweet 16 ended). The serial number will begin with 01001, followed by two letters, and end in 221. If your gun does not end in 221, it is not a Sweet 16 shotgun. The date of manufacture codes are: Z = 1, Y = 2, X = 3, W = 4, V = 5, T = 6, R = 7, P = 8, N = 9 and M = 0. A Sweet 16 shotgun made in 1976 will have the code 01001RT221, with RT representing the year 1976.
- Browning: Auto-5 Semi-Automatic Shotgun