The semi auto market is a crowded one at present but there is still room for talented performers to shine. Don Brunt takes a look at the Fabarm XLR5 (oiled) auto.
If you are in the market for a semi-auto shotgun then the choice is bewildering. Fabarm has been around for a long time and the 80’s and 90’s saw the brand offering workmanlike guns that did little to make them stand out from the crowd. But since then much work has been done at the Brescia factory to produce guns of higher quality and aesthetic appeal while maintaining their reputation for no nonsense reliability. A point in case the XLR5 (oiled)
Taking it out from its Integrale hard case it’s easy to see its Italian in origin! The brief doubtless - make it different and stylish, but don’t go too crazy and scare away the traditionalists. If that was their aim then they have succeeded on all three counts. The curves of the heavily sculpted receiver blend well with the forend shape while the engraving although ornate is not overdone; it’s more Alfa Romeo than Maserati. When you look at all the various styling cues, the raked forward rib posts, trigger guard and receiver it does look very modern but not in a way that will date. It has the look of something that’s been thoroughly thought out but its not as big a jump as say the Browning Cynergy was when it came out which proved to be too big a leap in design for many consumers.
Another nice touch is that although it looks stylish and contemporary it is fitted with real wood and there isn’t a piece of synthetic stock to be seen. It’s not just any old piece of timber either, semi auto’s rarely get good wood and you couldn’t describe this as exhibition grade furniture but it is a cut above the norm, well finished with a matt oiled look. This strikes a good compromise, the traditional finish balances out the future-proof styling and adds a certain class, as opposed to the polyurethane finishes of yesteryear which in my opinion looked and felt cheap and nasty.
The stock in standard form is as with all auto’s feels a little on the short side at 14 ½” with drops of 38 and 57 mm but like many of its peers it is supplied with spacers and shims to allow a little tweaking. Being made of wood it can even be sent to the gunsmith for altering if required. Chequering is stylish, perhaps too much and this is perhaps my only gripe! Those swirls and swoops around the pistol grip may look very nice but perhaps they don’t offer quite so much grip in the worst of conditions compared to more conventional patterns.
Finger on the pulse
At the heart of the XLR5 is Fabarm’s new Pulse Piston system, which is different to the standard piston and valve type mechanism that most of its rivals share. It uses a polymer insert that has plenty of elasticity and can therefore cope with a wide variety of loads while still cycling effectively and there is no valve required to bleed away excess gases. The end result is that it can cope with pretty much any cartridge while recoil seems to be more of a slow push especially when compared to the previous generation Fabarms. This is also helped by the dampening plug set into the rear of the receiver behind the block which ensures a soft landing every time the action cycles, no metal to metal contact translates into a softer shooting experience.
As far as operation is concerned its all pretty much textbook semi-auto stuff, the safety is a cross-bolt at the rear of the trigger guard while loading and unloading is done in the normal manner with the bolt release on the left side of the receiver unlike the right handed design of Berettas. Trigger is what you’d expect; not as crisp as from a double but they are certainly good enough that in casual use few will notice much of a difference.
One and only
At the moment if you are looking for a gun with can handle steel loads through full choke then it’s only Fabarm. Their Tribore barrel system has a tapered tube, all the way from the chamber to the choke and is proofed to a massive 1630 Bar, a clear advantage over the rest of the field. In part this stems from the fact that unlike others they still bore barrels from a solid bar rather than being hammer forged.
The barrel is finished off with a set of five Hyperbolic chokes and topped with a sporty looking top rib with a hi-viz bead. Though in a move that again sets it apart from the norm the XLR5 is also equipped with a back sight in the form of a green fluorescent plastic insert at the top of the receiver.
This is aimed primarily at continentals, who are not adverse to a little boar hunting with solid slug. There are also scope mounts on the receiver should you wish to fit a red dot sight or similar. Barrels are available in 28 or 30”, the test gun being equipped with the latter which is possibly the better bet for those switching from a double to an auto. Handling is quite different, especially when compared with an O/U! Those who have shot heavy sporters will find that much more effort needs to be used to control an auto than a double, simply because of its far faster handling with so little weight up front. The extra inches on the 30 making it a more stable platform!
I anticipated that the gun would need quite a lot of driving as I tried it around the Wylyle Valley course but it took surprisingly little time to adjust to it. Focus on the swing needs to be maintained, especially on long targets but overall it feels pleasant enough and recoil is not an issue thanks to that Pulse system. The quality of breaks though was certainly noteworthy, the Tribore barrels combined with the HP chokes turning clays to dust at ranges when they shouldn’t have! Even with the lightest constriction fitted it was still happily dispatching targets in excess of 50-yards and ¼ would probably be more than enough for most Sporting and Fitasc type targets while the action seemed quite happy cycling everything from 24-grams and upwards.
Being light at around 6 ¾ lbs the XLR5 would prove to be an easy carry on walked-up rough shooting trips and with its good looks and neat styling would not disgrace its owner either on the clay ground or while pursuing the real thing. All in all it has to deserve a thumbs up.
|Calibre||12g 3” chamber|
|Chokes||Multi (5 chokes supplied)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates