Fabarm STL Competition high rib sporter
Don Brunt takes a look at the latest offering from a rejuvenated Italian stable, the Fabarm STL Competition high rib sporter.
Best known for making semi auto’s the Fabarm brand has had a so-so reputation in the past , but the last ten years has seen the marque working hard to change that rather staid image. The Axis over and under was a radical piece of design, as it turns out probably a little too much for the conservative tastes of the British gun buying public. However many of the technical advances made in the Axis have filtered down into the rest of the range and following the acquisition of part of the marque by Guerini they are relaunching in the UK with a revamped and more targeted offering. The flagship of the competition range is the STL, a purposeful, sideplated, high rib gun that is keenly priced when compared with some of the more conventional sporters.
Same but different
The STL action is not dissimilar to most Italian boxlocks in that it locks up via a full width cross bolt but in another respect it does stand out. In the event that the gun needs tightening after several years’ hard work it can be done quickly and easily at home simply by moving a tensioning block located in the forend. Other than that everything is as you might expect! The single, selective recoil-operated trigger with non auto-safe feels crisp enough, breaking at around 3 3/4lbs and for those who like a custom fit its also adjustable for reach.
The barrels are at the heart of what makes the gun stand out, as well as being topped by a 17mm high rib they are also made using the marque’s TriBore technology. The chrome molybdenum tubes are certainly well made, being proofed to an enormous 1630 Bar, far surpassing what most standard guns are built to cope with but that’s not what makes them so special.
Rather it is the combination of extra long forcing cones and a barrel that tapers from 18.7 down to 18.4mm that makes the real difference. Effectively reducing the effects of recoil while improving patterns to the tune of nearly 10% more pellets into the target area at 30 metres; according to Fabarm. Just in case you were expecting more, then the Exis HP chokes fitted have the unique ability to fire steel shot through restrictions tighter than half without any risk of barrel damage! Quite an impressive achievement considering that the rest of the industry has been trying to find a way past that particular problem for quite some time.
All of this though is invisible to the naked eye, unlike the high rib, which certainly makes it presence felt wherever you take it; people stopping to ask if they can have a look and maybe a shot too. The anodised fixed rib is certainly sturdy enough and is manufactured from Ergal alloy, it offers a comparatively wide view measuring 13mm which tapers down to 11mm at the business end and is topped off with a white bead. Another nice touch that reinforces its competition pedigree is that the finish is anodised to reduce any risk of glare from the sun.
Now for the science bit……
Ok, many will be thinking what is the point of a high rib? Most agree that a high rib gun that shoots high can be an advantage for some trap targets but what is the point for sporting? For starters the STL does not shoot any higher than a standard gun, so it throws its pattern about 60% high which in layman’s terms means it shoots pretty much flat. The reasoning behind the rib is twofold, firstly and in conjunction with the high-combed Monte Carlo stock allows for a very head up shooting position which should lead to reduced fatigue, more consistent gun mounts and an improved absorption of recoil energy.
The second benefit is that the high rib makes it easier to see the gun in your peripheral vision, a useful asset when tackling targets that require instinctive shooting. It might not look traditional and some may even say it’s ugly, but let’s remember that it exists purely to help the shooter hit more targets in competition and I have yet to see birds awarded for artistic impression or aesthetic beauty. Several who tried the gun complained the rib was very intrusive to the vision! But when they were told to stop looking at it and just look down it like a normal gun their opinions changed almost instantly; the rib and head up stance taking much of the effort out of shooting.
As we’ve already touched on, it’s not designed to be a work of art, but as they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The grey-finished, scroll-engraved sideplates are certainly pleasing to the eye, they are perhaps not the finest bit of engraving you will ever see but remember that this is on a gun selling at just £2,500 with and it seems to be about right for the price. The STL logo on the underside of the action is a nice touch while the woodwork feels very good in the hands. The machine chequering feels grippy without the coarseness found on some mass produced stocks and forends. Grain and colour are what you might expect to find on a cheaper gun like this though it is by no means unattractive. The matt oiled finish complementing the ethos of the STL while a comfortable and sensibly sized palm swell makes sure that your hand knows exactly where it should be.
Down on the range at Wylye Valley it really does seem very easy to shoot, it’s no lightweight but it still swings quickly when needed and feels very responsive. The test gun was fitted with 30” barrels and a version sporting an extra two inches is also available though for me the balance of the 30 was absolutely spot on. Odd, considering my usual gun is a 32”. Everything seemed to work as advertised; the TriBore barrels producing some very good breaks even at long range when using open chokes and recoil even when using punchier clay loads was very well managed. Those that tried it were universal in their praise, with most finding the experience of shooting it to be quite a revelation compared with how they imagined a high rib gun would feel. As for me, I would switch to one tomorrow…….
|Name||Fabarm STL Competition|
|Action||Boxlock break – barrel sideplated|
|Stock||Oil finished Walnut 14 5/8”|
|Chokes||Multi (5 supplied)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates