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- Last updated: 26/01/2017
Fabarm, as we noted last month, manufacture a surprisingly large number of guns each year - just under 30,000. That’s an awful lot of shotguns when you consider London’s finest don’t make more than 500 between them (of course, I am not comparing like with like, but you get my point). The Fabarm concern is impressive on a variety of counts beyond its annual output. It uses some very high-tech manufacturing techniques but also makes use of traditional skills where required (notable, for example, in their barrel making department). Fabarm have innovated with barrel and choke design, moreover, and they continue to produce guns with a particular house style. It shows flair - even more than the Italian norm - and tends to be quite modernistic.
The test gun is an Axis model that I had the chance to shoot on my recent factory visit with UK importers Viking Arms (I also shot the more heavily decorated Axis Elite and the impressive XLR5 semi-automatic). The gun’s styling is certainly very distinctive. It will appeal to some for its especially racy looks, but may put a few off for the same reason. It appears well made, however. Indeed, the quality of finish is above average, and the Axis feels reassuringly solid when first mounted.
The action, distinguished by its side panels, is titanium coated (as is the trigger guard, top lever, and forend iron). The barrels are monobloc. The joints are reasonably neat - save for a very slight gap on the rib section - and disguised with the usual line or two of engraving. The chambers of the Axis are cut for 3” (76mm) shells and the test gun bears Italian proof marks for these heavy loads at an impressive 1630 bar. It is steel shot compatible - and, most unusually, one may even shoot steel through the full choke tube.
The barrels have a vented sighting rib and vented joining ribs. The rib presents a reasonable picture to the eye. The top surface is well machined and true, but I was not quite sure about the large, bright, red fore-sight - a bit big for my taste (one might get distracted and bring focus back to the gun). Internal and external finish of the barrels was good, though. I might note that I was especially impressed by the barrel making department in the factory, as may already have been implied.
The barrel tubes - made by deep drilling rather than hammer forging - are straight too. The steel used is seasoned for a year before manufacture, and the bores are formed on the Tri-bore scheme that Fabarm have developed. This is a form of back-boring which combines extended forcing cones, with an 18.8mm bore forward contracting to 18.4mm behind the chokes. The chokes themselves are of long ‘hyperbolic’ profile (they are smoothed so the choke cone blends with a forward parallel section without a sharp edge). Blacking of the barrels was competent with a deeper than average lustre and evidence of good preparation.
Although the styling is radical, the action of the test gun is quite conventional. It has replaceable studs near the knuckle upon which the barrels pivot. Coil springs power the hammers. The single trigger mechanism is of the usual inertia type. A barrel selector is placed on top of the conventional thumb operated top strap safety. Both safety and selector are well conceived. They were positive in action – indeed, far less fiddly than some. The shape of the adjustable trigger blade was reasonable too. The trigger pulls themselves were adequate if a little heavy.
The bolting on the Axis imitates a Browning over and under with a full width bolt coming out of the bottom of the action face and engaging bites beneath the bottom chamber mouth. It is a very well proven, and Fabarm have made their own house refinements. The only disadvantage, as has been noted previously in these pages, is that by placing the bolt and bites beneath the bottom chamber mouth the gun must be made a little deeper in profile than might otherwise be the case.
The stock on the Axis is adjustable and, broadly speaking, conventional, save for the chequering to the tightly radiused, but comfortable, grip. The chequering, also seen on the ergonomically shaped forend, combines stippling in some panels with flat top, laser-cut, ‘buttons’. Together with the action styling, this gives the Axis a somewhat futuristic appearance. The comb is nicely shaped with some taper. The unusual looking forend was also comfortable - but it confined hand position more than I would have liked.
I did not have my measuring gear with me in Italy - but I would have guessed the drop at heel was about 2 3/8” - about ideal for an adjustable comb gun. There was slight cast, and the length of pull was near the standard 14 ¾” with the trigger in its middle position. The schnabel forend may have been a bit radical, but it offered good purchase as well as lots of bumps and squiggles. The forend has a sliding latch fastener (not my favourite) and an adjustable tensioning feature. The latter was an interesting feature. It allows one to tighten the gun either for personal preference or because of wear by means of two screws. The stock was oil finished (by hand), and the work was, once again, competent.
I shot the gun on a compact sporting layout in Italy. It felt solid when first handled, and it was a solid, predictable gun to shoot as well. If it had a vice, it was a little barrel heavy, but most guns out of the factory are these days. I have shot a few of these Axis guns now (starting with the svelte 20 bore). I was not quite sure about the styling initially - I have conservative tastes when it comes to gun design - but I have to compliment Fabarm for producing products which are not only genuinely stylish but a little different. They are built with integrity and have some character. If you want something a little different, this just might be your gun. It comes in a smart case too. And there is a left-handed option.
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