A gun for both clay and game shooting, this all-rounder has piqued Roger Glover's interest and may even find its way into his gun cabinet.
The closer you get to the pinnacle of any sport, the more critical the choice of equipment becomes. It would seem unlikely, then, that compromises made to produce a gun that could cover two different disciplines would be any good at all; that what works for one will inhibit the other. But if you are dedicated to one sport only and have a high-grade gun for that, you are unlikely to want to use that gun for anything else. If, however, you are not able to afford two guns for different sports, I suggest you look at Fabarm’s Axis S&H.
This is Fabarm’s take on those very compromises, or combinations of aspects, to create a gun for both clays and game, Sporting and hunting (S&H). The paradox here is that it seems to work. For a Sporter it is quite light at 7lb 10oz, which also makes it a little heavy for a game gun, yet it doesn’t feel as heavy as its stated weight. The balance point is around 1¼in ahead of the hinge and should feel muzzle heavy, but this is not the case — the balance feels comfortable.
A capable action
The Axis action appears on a wide variety of Fabarm’s guns — Sporters, trap guns and game guns, all specialised in some form. It certainly is a capable action. Thoroughly developed yet simple enough to be reliable and robust, it fits in well with the thinking behind this gun. Not overly embellished with decoration, the action — along with the barrels — is finished in satin black with what can be best described as a geometric pattern rather than engraving: quite striking, modern and with the Axis S&H logo highlighted in orange and white.
One decision that had to be made on the S&H was whether to go with a game-related automatic safety or Sporter-derived manual safety catch. I think the correct choice was made in going with manual. Whether engaged or ready to fire, actuation of the catch and barrel selection is easy and light with plenty of purchase on the catch.
The trigger, sourced from the Sporter side of the stable yet with a narrow game-type blade, remains adjustable back and forth and has a lovely take-up travel before release at 3lb 8oz and only an ounce or two more for the second barrel. It is very nice to use and accommodating for both intended uses.
It is the technology in the barrels that draws the focus of attention, though. The tubes are machined from solid, rather than drawn as tends to be the industry norm, and there are some advantages with this method. The bores are oversized at 18.7mm but reduce to 18.4mm just before entering the chokes, and it is the chokes that really appeal to me.
A lot of cheaper guns use a basic 50mm choke, a screw-in constriction that is little developed. Higher-quality guns will often use 65mm chokes, offering more length for improved internal shapes and better shot patterns. One thing none of these can do is offer a choke beyond half for steel shot. Due to the restriction of their length, the internal taper angle would be too steep, with jamming and dangerous forces building up.
The Fabarm chokes are designed to go beyond where most others are thwarted and can handle steel shot at full. Aside from the advantage with steel shot, this long hyperbolic radius, as opposed to a simple taper, is much better at controlling the shot and easing it into choke restriction, rather than it just slamming into a taper and hoping that will produce a decent pattern (see above right).
I almost winced on firing the first high-performance steel load through it; at 36-gr, the Eley Lightning load offers a real punch and carries well at distance, so much so that I patterned out to 50 yards with it still holding a tight pattern, such is the effect of the Exis HP full choke. It is not just steel shot that benefits from this technology either; throughout the choke range, whether with the 82mm Inner XP or 92mm Exis HP chokes, the patterns are good and consistent, irrespective of cartridge choice.
The back-boring reduces recoil for repetitive clay shots, but it has the effect of increasing muzzle velocity too, so a win-win. What I hadn’t realised was how good this, coupled with the HP chokes, would be with heavier loads, especially with steel.
What is therefore left in the budget for the stock? On a gun of this price, with so much technology in the mechanics of the action and barrels, it is surprising to find a stock of such quality. The proportions are geared more towards the game gun side; slightly slender in the hand, without palm swell, a good ¼in of cast and suitable drop, it fits me a treat and will fit the majority too. It does benefit from having two alternative butt pads — 12mm and 22mm thick — giving some adjustment to stock length.
As with all Axis models, the cheeks of the stock follow the lines of the action, with raised areas flowing across the two. Both hand and fore-end have bordered chequering, crossing at the hand and creating a feature of the fore-end latch. The stock has a practical and simple satin oil finish, which is easily maintained.
Of course, there is a trick within the fore-end — an adjustable cam in the rear of the iron allows you to adjust the tension from fore-end to knuckle, hence the ease with which the barrels will droop open, or restrict their motion, a nice addition usually reserved for higher-class guns.
The handling of this gun could easily challenge other manufacturers and come out on top. Granted, it might make a slightly heavy game gun, but only by a few ounces. Likewise, it might be cause for recoil fatigue under high clay shot counts, but both of these are rather missing the point of what it is about: it is a true all-rounder.
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I used it on a private clay shoot where I could try multiple angles of fire on the same clay and was astonished by how well I shot with it — that was down to the gun, not me. I also tried a variety of cartridge loads and shot sizes to see if it worked better with some, but fell down on others. I didn’t catch it out on any front — all types worked very well indeed, so much so that I will be asking for it back in the game season as I’d like to try it on waterfowl. I have a distinct feeling it will better my current 3in-chambered gun. There may well be an order going in to my dealer.
For those who aren’t dedicated to one single branch of the sport, who don’t have the budget for two guns, or simply want everything in one, without the heavy compromises that usually befall that, then this gun is ideal. It is not what you would class as an expensive gun yet everything about it suggests first-class quality and indeed it is.
A very clever gun