Fabarm XLR5 12-bore semi-auto shotgun review.
?Useless pieces of ironmongery that have no place on the shooting field? was the view of one prominent politician in 1988 when referring to semi-automatic or self-loading shotguns.
Though that was an expression of blatant prejudice, it cannot be denied that there were some guns around at that time with designs that encompassed everything from the bizarre to the downright cheap and ?chackley? (chackley being gun trade dialect to describe the loose metallic clattering sound of a worn or poor quality semi-auto or pump-action shotgun in use).
Fortunately, the Italians are fond of their semi-autos and insulated from the views of British politicians. In the intervening 21 years, things have not stood still and though designs tend to follow well-established principles of operation, there have been many improvements in styling, materials and technical aspects.
The Fabarm range of self-loaders falls into this category. There are nine models in the range, including luxury walnut and black or camouflage synthetic stocks in both right- and left-handed versions. All are built on the same high-tech gas-operated action and whatever styling takes your fancy, you finish up with a multi-purpose gun, suitable for vermin, pigeon control and clay shooting.
DIMENSIONS AND HANDLING
The model on test was the standard XLR5 with a walnut stock. It was a true left-hander, with not only the cocking lever and ejection port on the left, but also some cast on the stock achieved with an angled stock spacer, and there were extra spacers to alter the drop.
Without the spare stock spacers the fitted drop is 1.1/2in to the tip of the comb and 2.1/4in at the heel. With a 14.1/2in length of pull, these are reasonably good starting dimensions.
It has surprisingly good balance and handling for what is actually quite a large gun. With the 30in barrel, the point of balance is just at the front of the receiver or action body, depending on what cartridges are in the three-shot magazine.
This means it balances almost exactly between the hands and, weighing about 6.1/4b, it is not heavy. The result is a shotgun that, in spite of its length, is fast handling and quick to get on target.
The styling is the well-established Fabarm Futuristic. Sweeping lines and a startling combination of squares and curves adorn the silver-bronze finished receiver, which is complemented by the swooping carved lines around the grip panels on the fore-end and pistol grip.
The wood is fine-grained walnut with a pleasing oil finish and the butt is fitted with a rather neat and tasteful rubber pad. Even the rib is given the Fabarm treatment, with angled slots to provide the ventilated form and a red caterpillar foresight.
On the rear of the receiver there is a green fibre-optic insert and the top of the receiver is cut with dovetails to allow the fitting of Weaver scope mounts. This may seem a little odd, but on the Continent, semi-autos loaded with a rifled slug and fitted with sights are used for driven boar shooting.
It would be easy on first acquaintance to think that the XLR5 is a case of style over substance, but this is far from the reality, as Fabarm excels in the technical department. The barrel boring follows its tri-bore system with an extra long forcing cone in front of the chamber.
The over-bored main barrel is 18.8mm (0.740in) and there is an 8in cone running up to the flow formed hyperbolic choke. Add to that what Fabarm describes as its ?pulse piston?, which has a soft polymer insert to cycle all types of ammunition, and one begins to realise there is a lot going on inside.
The proof load is set at 1,630 bar and steel shot can be used in all the choke tubes provided. Fabarm sets a different standard with its chokes labelled as fractions, including 2/10, 5/10, 7/10 and 9/10. An explanation is given in the handbook, each choke is clearly identified and as well as the fraction carries the familiar notch marking from four to one.
The Fabarm XLR5 uses cutting-edge technology in the action. Its pulse piston has a soft polymer insert to cycle all types of ammunition without jamming.
The action features a large cocking arm and left-hand trigger lock safety.
The action is part stripped to show the high quality of the components.
AN OLD-WORLD PRINCIPLE
Curiously, in spite of all this hyper-technology, Fabarm still clings to at least one old-world principle. That is, rather than adopting the current trend for hammer forging, its barrels are deep-hole bored from a solid forged bar and allowed time to normalise before the final finishing.
Why still use a comparatively slow and outdated process? Because Fabarm believes it is still the best way of making good barrels.
Somewhat overdosed on technicalities, I found solace on the test ground where the performance shows the true value of any gun. First to put to the test was the claim that the shotgun could cycle all types of ammunition.
This was a chance to use some old stuff from the mixed bag. I can report that the XLR5 digested everything without a mis-feed or jammed case. I loaded both plastic and paper-cased cartridges of differing lengths and loads, scruffy old cartridges that had rolled around in a pocket until the name and details had been worn illegible, and even a few rifled slug cartridges.
The only problem was caused by a slightly swollen 70mm case, which stuck against the feed arm and would not load into the magazine, but this could not be blamed on the gun. The action was fast. Fabarm claims a cycle time of 0.31 seconds, and the only noise apart from the blast is a slight mechanical clicking.
The ejection was in front of my face as I was a right-handed shooter using a left-handed gun, but even so, with my eyes on the target I hardly noticed the fired cases as they were thrown clear at speed. On the pattern plate I did find that the gun had a tendency to shoot a bit to the right, but this was due to the gun being set up for a left-hooker.
Otherwise it was easy to place the shot evenly along the horizontal centre line with the bead just below the midpoint. What I found most awkward was a left-handed trigger lock safety. Though it was as good as any other of this type, it is a pity Fabarm?s thirst for technical achievement did not extend to a top safety at the rear of the receiver.
This gas-operated high-tech Fabarm is exceptionally well made for a semi-auto
This gun is light, nicely balanced and quick to handle.
It has good lines, an excellent finish and comes with a case
The XLR5 has left- and right handed versions and can be adjusted to suit most users
The gun is not cheap, but still represents value for money
So, is all the novelty worth it? I have to say an unhesitating ?yes?. Its handling is quick, the operation is fast, it patterns well and when it?s taken apart the good build quality and attention to detail becomes even more apparent.
It may be regarded as a bit fl ashy, in the same way that a snazzy Italian suit is different to Harris tweed, but for this style of gun it does everything very well.
Contact: Viking Arms, 01423 780810