“There is nothing more important on a gun than the barrel,” insisted Laurent Gaude, marketing director for the gun manufacturer Fabarm, as he addressed a group of British gun dealers in his Brescia office. “That is why we deep-drill all of our barrels, rather than forging them. If you look at the top-of-the-range guns made by Beretta and Browning, they too have deep-drilled barrels. They would not be doing it unless it made a difference.”

The tall, angular Frenchman worked at Browning in Belgium for a decade before taking over the reins at Fabarm, an Italian gunmaker, which has always been dwarfed by its giant compatriot Beretta. Laurent is more than his marketing director title. He is fully involved in the development of new models and technology at the modern factory, which has invested in the best machine tools. Fluent in several languages, especially that of ballistics, Laurent was sure-footed with most questions aimed his way by invitees on a guided tour of the factory.

Laurent was especially proud of the patented Tri-bore HB (Hyperbolic Profile) system with its over-bored barrels, which allows the use of extremely long flush-fitting choke tubes. This arrangement creates an elongated taper into the choke cone that both reduces recoil and produces better shot patterns. “I challenge anyone to beat our shot pattern at distances of 50-60 metres. It will be much tighter and more penetrative, especially with high-pressure ammunition such as steel shot,” he said. “We have adapted our locking system to make it stronger than anyone else in the market. We are confident that the recoil from a 32g cartridge with a Fabarm will be the same as a 28g load on a competitor’s shotgun.”

Fabarm took the unprecedented step of asking the national Italian proof house to see if its new Axis 12 model would pass an overpressure test of 1630 bar higher than the regular 1370 bar test which it duly did. “There is no safer shotgun on the market,” said Laurent. Would it not annoy his Italian colleagues that he has raised the bar higher than it needs to go? “I very much hope so!” he said. This response hinted at a paradox. Laurent was quick to state that Fabarm has reached its production capacity of 30,000 guns a year. “We know that we cannot compete with the likes of Beretta and Browning on size, nor do we want to,” he said. “We have no problem in selling the guns we make each year and there is no desire to grow.” Yet, he gives the impression that he is forever looking over his shoulder at what the big boys are doing, comparing every new adaptation on the Fabarm Axis 12 to the Beretta Silver Pigeon or the Browning Synergy.

“The truth is that we do not have the same marketing budget as them. It is a small team of us who do all the design, accounting, marketing and advertising so we have to ensure that our products do the talking for us. We do not have the same sexy trademark as Beretta or Browning, but heritage does not count for everything. Beretta has been making guns for 500 years, but they have been shooting lead, not steel.” Laurent has been determined to manoeuvre Fabarm into a position where it can take advantage of the emergence of steel over lead shot.

“You only need to see what is happening in places such as the Netherlands to guess what might occur in other countries,” he said. “Then there is the high cost of lead. I am not going to say that low-cost steel cartridges work well on duck and geese or high pheasants, but a high-performance steel cartridge will, especially if shot through the right barrels. You have to ask yourself whether you want to fire heavier loads of steel shot down an old or cheaply made gun. We must all get our house in order if there is a ban on lead. Let’s just say that it would not be the worst day for Fabarm if lead were banned, because our guns are strong enough to shoot steel effectively.”

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