This good-looking FIAS .308 stalking rifle, with its sporter barrel and smooth action, is a real bargain, says Bruce Potts
The history of Fabbrica Italiana Armi Sabatti (FIAS) starts in Italy with Lodovico Sabatti (1674-1745), who was based in Gardone Val Trompia and made flintlock pistols. He was also a competent barrel-maker and known for using high-quality Damascus steel. FIAS is known in this country for its shotguns and rifles, but the rifles are now marketed as Sabatti, of which the new Mercury is a fine shooting, good-value model.
The old firm of Kassnar, renowned for some excellent scopes in the 1980s, used to import FIAS rifles, which it marketed as the Churchill Highlander. The rifle under review is not marked “Highlander” but it has all the traits of that model.
There is nothing unusual about the action on the FIAS .308 stalking rifle, but it is well executed with an even, deep rich bluing to the surface. It is pretty much a modified Mauser-type bolt with twin opposing forward-locking lugs. The extractor, sited in the right-hand lug, grips the cartridge base with a firm support. A sprung plunger ejector in the bolt-face pings out empty cases and the action is nice and smooth. It is all made from metal with a steel bolt shroud to protect the eyes. Some models have a jewelled bolt finish, but this model is highly polished steel.
I particularly like the European bolt handle, which has a butterspoon profile. It looks great and feels nice in the palm of the hand as you cycle the bolt.
The FIAS .308 stalking rifle trigger is a single unit with a slim trigger-blade. It has 3lb to 4lb pull weight with just a tiny bit of creep on take-up.
The action in .308 Win has a capacity of three rounds and the cartridges are housed using a standard hinged floorplate design. Loaded from the top of the action, these can be released if not shot by opening the floorplate by a plunger sited in the front of the trigger-guard.
The barrel is finished in the same good bluing as the action and has a typical sporter profile with a good set of open sights, though the action is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. It is 22in in length in .308 Win cartridge, so it’s a good all-round calibre. You could reduce the length to 18in and thread for a sound moderator to create a cheap, very short and handy stalking rifle.
The best part of this FIAS .308 stalking rifle — and any FIAS/Sabatti rifle — is the stock. I have seen many over the years and they have all sported nice walnut — this rifle was no different. The overall design is a well-shaped Monte Carlo-style stock with a raised cheekpiece that is angled forward for comfort and features a generous platform for the cheek to rest on.
The fore-end is rounded and well chequered and the pistol grip has the same good chequering and nicely angled hold. It has an oiled finish and large ventilated rubber recoil pad. Again, I have seen rosewood tip caps and high-grade walnut, silvered actions and Schnabel fore-end designs.
Because these FIAS .308 stalking rifles are not as well known in the UK as, say, Tikka, Sako or Browning, you can pick them up cheaply in gunshops. This one was marketed at F. A. Anderson for only £295, in .308 Win — that’s a bargain stalking rifle that would bring home venison if you do your part.
FIAS .308 stalking rifle specification
Barrel: Check for the usual bad threading jobs and muzzle crown damage, or eroded rifling in the chamber area due to over-use or poor maintenance.
Action: A nice action, smooth, better with age as it runs in, but check trigger operates correctly and has not been messed with.
Features: A bargain stalking rifle for the novice with a nice stock design.
Importer: Only available second-hand.
Price: From £250.