Fabarm STL Sporter
Michael Yardley tests the Fabarm STL, a smart over and under 12 bore competition gun imported into the UK by Viking Arms
I recently had the chance to shoot the STL at a ground near Brescia in Italy, when I was making a visit to the Fabarm factory – a serious concern making nearly 30,000 sporting shotguns a year – far more than I had imagined.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many guns are being made in Brescia today. Where do they all go? Beretta alone turn out more than 150,000 shotguns, while Rizzini, FAIR, Sabatti, and Fabarm make very considerable numbers as well. Then you have smaller, but still significant concerns, like Fausti, and Caesar Guerini who are still making very large numbers by British standards. I doubt if all the British makers put together produce more than 500 guns these days. It’s tragic really when we used to be the sporting shotgun capital of the world (though we do still make some of the world's best guns).
Returning to the test gun, the STL caught my eye when Fabarm were making a presentation to my party of journalists and UK based dealers at the factory. I have shot an STL before and been impressed with its looks and performance. The gun is conventional, but exceptionally well presented with nice action decoration and good finish (not to mention coming complete with an aluminium flight case). I am not giving too much of the game away if I note that it is a solid, well specified, piece of kit. The design is in all respects competent. The gun gives the impression of quality.
The silver polished, scroll engraved, action is decorated with tasteful gold inlays and blue enamel inlays. The action fences are nicely carved (by machine of course). It all looks very smart. The (real) wood of the stock is also well figured and particularly well chequered (by laser). The stock itself is classically shaped with a good comb and a large, quite tightly radiused, pistol grip. The forend is of schnabel style.
Tri-bore and hyperbolic
The barrels of the gun are 30" long as already noted (there are 28” and 32” options). Chambers are designed for 3” (76mm) cartridges (which, of course, will happily accept 2 ½” and 2 ¾” shells too) and they are proofed at 1370 BAR in Italy. One interesting aspect of the gun is that it benefits from Fabarm’s Tri-bore barrel system which means that it is back-bored in steps tapering down in diameter towards the muzzles. This feature is combined with Fabarm’s hyperbolic chokes which are not only longer than average but smoothed internally to ease the passage of shot down the barrels. I am a fan of both back-boring and long chokes, so you will get no complaints from me.
The barrel shop in the Fabarm factory is particularly impressive and one of the few departments that does not rely on high-tech machinery. The monobloc barrels on the STL were well constructed and fitted with a 10 mm vented sighting rib and vented joining ribs. The long chambers were well machined, and lead to elongated forcing cones. Jointing to the monobloc was good save for a tiny gap in the rib section. Jointing of barrels to action was excellent. Blacking was very good too. My only quibble concerned the large, bright red, translucent front bead. Some people love these, but they do not float my boat at all. I think that they can distract attention from the target and bring vision back to the gun.
The action, underneath the eye catching decoration, is familiar. Inspired by Woodward and Beretta, the STL has no full width hinge pin, instead stud pins are mounted in the action walls near the knuckle. A Browning style bolt beneath the bottom chamber mouth is used for locking the gun - it’s the favourite system in Italy if you don’t work for Beretta or Perazzi (well, I'm exaggerating; there are few other custom makers who do not use the arrangement either).
All machining was clean - Fabarm have made a large investment in CNC like so many Italian makers - and the engineering is fundamentally sound. Indeed, the gun gives the impression of being over-engineered in most departments rather like an old silver actioned Beretta 682. The only other thing that really caught my attention was the top lever which is modernistic in styling. It is quite short, but functions well. The safety on the top strap has a Beretta style barrel selector – all the better for not being too small.
Trigger pulls were reasonable too. The single trigger mechanism itself is recoil activated. The works of the action, as is the norm, are powered by coil springs. These are reliable, but do not give quite the performance of leaf springs. I am not going to damn the STL with feint praise, however, on the contrary, I liked this gun a lot. It isn't novel mechanically speaking, but it is soundly made and likely to take the bashing that regular competition shooting gives a gun.
I have already noted my generally positive attitude towards the Fabarm’s woodwork. The shapes of the butt were good. The comb was nicely proportioned – well matched to the gun. It was not too thick, but there was plenty of facial support - a true sporting design. The grip was more radiused than I normally like, but very comfortable, and Fabarm get extra points for blending in the flutes beneath the comb nose with the rest of the butt. The schnabel forend looked quite smart, though regular readers will know my preference for more rounded designs. I am not a particular fan of sliding forend release catches either, but this one was not bad.
This was a steady gun to shoot with neutral, fairly forgiving, characteristics. It will suit those who do not like a gun to be too lively. It would work as well at skeet or DTL as sporting (there is an adjustable comb version which might make the gun even more suitable for double duty at sporting and trap). Pointability was reasonable. There was plenty of mass to keep the swing going. Recoil with 24 gram loads was fine.
The bottom line is that the STL is well made and very well styled. It offers reasonable value for money and will suit those who want a smart gun that is a little bit different from the pack.
|Action type||Bifurcated lump, over and under|
|Barrels||taper back-bored 30” (28 and 32” options)|
|Chokes||Fabarm Hyperbolic multi (5 supplied)|
|Price||£2,150 (non-adjustable stock model as tested) or £2,398 with adjustable comb.|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates