Another Italian exotic makes its way to British shores. Alex Flint finds out how it stacks up against its more mass-produced competition.
In terms of exotic exports of luxury goods, it would be fair to say Italy has something of a stranglehold on the global consciousness. From the ultimate in sports cars from the likes of Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini to the fashion houses of Milan, Italian products have an unshakable air of desirability. This is no different in the world of shooting, with wonderful sporting shotguns bearing such names as Perugini & Visini, Perazzi, Rizzini, Benelli, Zoli and of course Beretta dominating much of the shelving space dedicated to over-under shotguns.
A perhaps slightly less familiar name in the UK is that of Fausti, which has seen great success the world over, but failed to grab a solid foothold on our islands. Established in 1948 by Cavalier Stefano Fausti, the manufacturer is perhaps now best known thanks to his three daughters Elena, Giovanna and Barbara who run the company today.
All three are passionate sportswomen who direct an organisation famed for producing hand-finished shotguns of a very high quality.
All components of Fausti shotguns are made at their own factory using modern CNC machinery before being assembled, stocked and finished by hand. Our test gun is the latest variant of the Italyco line of over-under shotguns built on a round action body, which can be had as a boxlock or with sideplates featuring a coin or colour case hardened finish.
A quality gun
First impressions are certainly good, with the gun arriving in a lovely, weighty leather-bound case. This view only improves when one opens the case to discover the gun nestled in attractive branded sleeves. However it is only when the Fausti has been assembled that the full quality hits home.
Aesthetically, the effect of the round action body is striking, giving the instant feel of a very fine gun – especially when coupled with sideplates that allow for some impressive engraving work. The Turkish walnut has also clearly been very carefully selected: the stock on our test gun was beautiful thanks to exceptional figuring and a wonderful finish.
Chequering is outstandingly fine and has been executed to as high a standard as you could wish for. It is cut into unusual shapes but still allows plenty of the beautiful figuring of the wood to come through.
Further visual touches contribute to the overall impression of this being a luxury item. First there are the engraved metal caps at the heel and toe of the wooden butt plate; then there is the extended trigger guard tang with Prince of Wales-style pistol grip cap. Both are particular highlights.
The engraving has been carried out by hand and is signed by the craftsman on the bottom of the gun near the trigger guard. It is generally very successful and much of the gun features bold foliate patterns sweeping across large swathes of metal, which are striking though perhaps lacking in a little detail. However, the game scene vignettes on each sideplate have been beautifully applied. The flushed grouse and fighting cock pheasants feature some very fine detail indeed and the moorland scene of the lefthand plate offers delightful subtlety.
However, the grass that acts as a bottom border for each game scene, and the foliate work more generally are a little bold in comparison, although by no means unattractive. On the bottom of the gun the engraving is perhaps at its most successful, the small vignette of the Fausti crest sitting pleasantly between two scrolls featuring the model of the gun and the company name picked out in gold, along with some fine foliate designs. Overall the engraving works well.
The round action of the gun is pleasingly shallow, allowing for some carving to the fences and showing off a little of the bottom barrel at the breech end.
The shape of the round action is carried through into the fore-end, which is also a pleasing touch. On the whole this Fausti is very handsome indeed, and shooting pheasants with it would undoubtedly be something of a privilege.
View from the gun shop
Fausti guns have been around for a long time but have never found a consistent place in the minds of British shooters. This has manifested itself in the regular changing of importers, meaning the brand has struggled to make a mark. This is a real shame as Fausti makes some lovely guns.
Due to the firm’s longevity there should be no concern over reliability and, given Fausti’s continuing success in the USA, one must imagine customer service is pretty good.
Though the importers have changed a lot in the UK, currently Fausti is being handled by Tony Laughton of STAG Country Sports. He really knows his stuff, so you should be well looked after.
The wood on display on this gun really is exceptional, and the chequering is about as good as I think I have ever seen.
Wood-to-metal fit is excellent and small touches of quality abound, such as the line of the bottom barrel being carved out of a stretch of the fore-end, and the art deco-style fan design engraved into the fore-end release lever.
One might argue that having to physically return the fore-end arm is perhaps something you might not expect to see on a gun of this price. Similarly, the safety catch is more of a trigger release than a locking system, which is a little different from the norm. These might seem small niggles but then this gun is competing with the likes of a Blaser or a high-end Perazzi, so it will be judged on the fine details.
While this Fausti is certainly up against some stiff competition, one mustn’t look past the fact it is essentially a made-to-measure, hand-engraved, hand-finished shotgun for well under £15,000.
If you are unsure of the gun on price grounds, then you should consider that having a bespoke stock made in the UK would probably cost you something in the region of £3,500 to £5,000, and even then the gun as a whole probably wouldn’t look as good as this.
The Italyco SLX should be interesting to anyone looking to get hold of something a little bit different with a bit of a wow factor, as such guns are rarely seen on the British sporting field. This will be a very tempting proposition indeed. Bill Elderkin
In the field
Weighing in at just a shade under 7lb 14oz, I was somewhat concerned this Fausti would be rather unwieldy. However, instructor Bruce Marks and I were pleased to find this was far from the case. Although perhaps just a touch short for me (though given this is a bespoke gun, this clearly would not be a concern for any new buyer), the Fausti came up to the shoulder very well and swung in a supremely satisfying manner.
The balance was excellent and it was very easy to keep on line. I also found the gun was simple to adjust mid-swing; I had to make a few quick adjustments thanks to some challenging targets laid on by Bruce and found any changes to be clean and precise, without any wild movement at the muzzle-end.
Recoil was similarly well handled and it is interesting to note that the barrels remained at a good temperature throughout some fairly intense shooting, much of the heat seemingly being pulled into the solid top rib.
The chequering was as exceptional in the hand as it was to look at, feeling entirely secure and comfortable when used without gloves.
In operation the gun was also quite satisfying, with it opening to a consistently good gape and the top lever, barrel selector and safety catch all having a very positive and solid movement.
Despite the unusual safety system (which means the trigger has a lot of play in it even when the safety catch is disengaged) during actual shooting we had no concerns at all. Indeed, the trigger pulls were nice and crisp and one always knew where the point of resistance was. The gun shot relatively flat – perhaps slightly fl atter than a Beretta but certainly comparable – and was generally very pleasurable to use indeed. I would place this Fausti among the best Italian guns I have shot.
Engineering: 8/10 A straightforward Italian-style action – but clearly a well-polished design.
Handling: 9/10 Very good. An ideal partner in the field.
Looks & finishing: 8/10 Superb woodwork and an attractive round action but the mostly superb engraving design lacks a little coherence.
Reliability & customer service: 8/10 Fausti has been on the go for a long time and its guns are very popular in America, so there ought to be no trouble here.
Value: 8/10 For a new bespoke shotgun it certainly looks good value, though it is up against some challenging competition at this price point.
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Very handsome indeed