With the Beta Classis, Fabarm has managed to marry modern technology with traditional styling to create a comfortable blend of the two, something that is not easy to achieve.
In another clever twist, there are several variants of the same basic model available, including choices of pistol grip or straight-hand stock, barrel lengths from 26in to 30in and fixed or interchangeable chokes.
The model on test is fitted with the pistol grip stock, 28in barrels and supplied with five choke tubes as standard. It is well-presented in a fabric-covered moulded case, a little reminiscent of the canvas-on-wood type, and marketed as the Intergrale.
Soft material sleeves are provided for the barrels and fore-end, also stock and action, while the spare choke tubes and key are carried at one end of the case. An instruction book covering safety, basic maintenance and a detailed parts list is included, providing a comprehensive package.
Lighter than expected
First impressions were of a well-finished gun that was much lighter than its size suggested. In an impromptu guess-the-weight at a local pre-game season practice clay shoot, most participants judged it to be less than 6lb, though it is actually a little heavier at 6lb14oz. This is partly to do with the balance and, surprisingly, in spite of the heavy appearance of the pistol grip stock, there is some positive bias towards the barrels, not enough to make the gun feel barrel-heavy by any means, but enough to give it that definite pointable feel. It would be interesting to compare it with what Fabarm markets as the English stock, in lighter straight-hand style, and with fixed chokes to lighten the muzzle end of the barrels.
The heart of the matter
To me the barrels are the heart of any shotgun and these were no disappointment. Rather slim, surprisingly so, at the breeches and chambered for 3in magnum, they were very finely finished, both inside and out, with a well-laid matt-black concave top-rib that provided a subtle contrast to the immaculate glossy black of the barrels.
Built on the monoblock principle, where the tubes are spigoted into the breech, and with the usual decoration at the joint line, the effect was somewhat spoiled by the Fabarm name, chamber length and choke details, prominently stamped on the outer side of the left-hand barrel in front of the breech. While this is important, it could have been done in a neater way.
The barrels have the usual flair towards the muzzles to accommodate the screw-in chokes, and the bores are hard-chromed. Selecting the choke desired is easy as the standard marks are cut at the muzzle end, and there is a full explanation in the manual of what each code means, including which are not suitable for steel shot. As well as this, each one is clearly marked on the side.
The barrels are bored on what Fabarm describes as the tri-bore system, which means an overbored section in front of the long forcing cone, followed by a conical form 8in in length, leading up to a short cylindrical part of the bore just prior to the choke. These are a combination of features generally accepted as beneficial in producing good shot patterns and velocity. The muzzles are often a neglected area, but the attention to detail on this gun includes the muzzle ends, which are well executed.
Unusual locking design
The locking of the barrels is part of the action of any break-open shotgun and this gun has four lumps (or lugs) so there are dual hooks, while the twin bites, into which the bolt locks, are both at the rear. The idea behind this type of design, which is unusual but not new, is to give good lateral strength.
Convention, however, reasserts itself with the locking bolt, which is operated by a spindle and top-lever in the manner that has held sway for more than 140 years.
The action body is nicely rounded and complements the slim form of the barrels, while the laser-cut decoration is fairly restrained, as befits a classic styled gun, and quite different to that found on some of the more futuristically styled Fabarms.
Neat boxlock action
While its appearance shouts ‘boxlock’, this is, in fact, a modified form of trigger-plate action, except that where the sears hang from the top strap, and particularly when the trigger-plate is part of the action body, or frame, as many continental makers would term it, the generally-accepted description in the gun trade is boxlock.
The term trigger-plate action is reserved for those designs wherein all the lockwork is mounted on the trigger-plate, especially where the plate is detachable.
For anyone familiar with the workings of a modern boxlock over-and-under, then, this Beta Classis holds no surprises. The parts are tidily laid out, neatly finished and operate on the inertia block system, meaning recoil operates selection of the second shot. The helical mainsprings were of a lighter gauge than I expected, but with springs it is quality not size that matters. The downside for me was the non-automatic safety, which is listed as an option, and on the plus side the Tenifer (titanium) coating of the action body, which is highly resistant to corrosion.
Good finish to stock
The stock on this example was a straight-grained, reasonably figured, attractive piece of walnut, with a factory oil finish and a length of pull of 14in, which is a good starting length for the average physique and can always be reduced for the shorter-armed shooter, if necessary.
The fore-end, which fits on with the well-tried Anson push-rod system, is a good match with the stock for colour and quality, as is the wood butt-plate. The laser-applied chequering is crisp, with excellent coverage on the fore-end, an attractive cross-over pattern on the grip and matching chequering on the butt-plate. Wood-to-metal fit is fine and the internal machining of both stock and fore-end wood to a high standard.
Drop on the stock is 1in at the front of the comb and 2in at the heel, with very little cast but a good degree of toe-out for the right-handed shooter.
A confidence booster
As expected, this Fabarm Classis was pointable and a good confidence booster to the shooter picking it up for the first time. Though admittedly using the more open-bored chokes, it was easy to get into the swing. Patterns as tested indicated good clay-busting results and, if the shooter did his or her bit, this was the reward. Even fairly long shots at going-away clays using the cylinder-bored choke gave a score, but switching to the other barrel with quarter-choke, so easily done with the selector safety, gave more consistent kills.
On a high overhead driven bird layout, with my large hands I felt that the tight curve of the pistol grip rather cramped the swing and I would have preferred a half-grip or the optional straight-hand stock.
Ejection was flawless, but being a new, tight gun, the constantly sprung ejectors bearing against the breech face provided added resistance when closing it, so much so that for the first few shots it was easier to close the gun on an empty breech to re-cock the ejectors, and then to reopen to load. With a little bit of use and lubrication this will soon be overcome, however.
This is undeniably a game gun: relatively light, handy and easy to carry for that long walked-up day. It was at its best with standard game loadings in 2in cartridges; even trying some of the ‘hotter’ clay-busting cartridges made the recoil a little obvious. Put it this way: I think there would be few volunteers to use it with 3in magnums. Besides, it would spoil the pleasure.