Fabarm XLR 5
By: Mike Yardley
Mike Yardley tests a Grade II version of Fabarm’s XLR5, with its ‘pulse piston’ system
I love a good semiauto. As is well known, I have used one for years for most of my own competition shooting (and a great deal of live quarry shooting too). I am always interested in developments on the semi-automatic front. So, on with the show. The test gun is from Fabarm, a well known Italian fi rm. They have the capacity to produce some 30,000 guns a year, which is, of course, a very serious number. Fabarm are imported into the UK by Anglo Italian Arms who also bring in Guerini (this distributor offers a very wide range of product now).
I first bumped into the XLR5, meantime, on a visit to the modernistic Fabarm factory some years back in Italy. I had the opportunity to shoot the XLR5 (and a number of other Fabarms), and noted it had particular potential. I was sufficiently impressed, indeed, that I suggested a 32” model (as I often do when I like a semi). Initial impressions of the test gun, which has a 30” barrel, are certainly very good. It is attractively styled – like most Fabarms – and has a grey finished, neatly scroll engraved receiver. In simple aesthetic terms, it is as good looking as anything on the market at the money (which is £1,225 RRP).
This is not just another gas gun either. It is built on an especially interesting operating system. The intriguing thing about it is the gas mechanism itself. It incorporates a so called ‘pulse piston’ operating in a rather different fashion to many. Gas is bled off typically enough from two small holes in the barrel forward of the chamber and directed into a collar underneath the barrel – no surprises there; most gasoperated repeaters are essentially pump action guns with this cycling/energy redirection system added to them. But, Fabarm have developed a very unusual piston mechanism.
The Fabarm gas piston is made in two parts – one of stainless steel combined with a high-tech polymer section. Here’s the really clever bit though, as pressure increases and the piston goes back acting against the working parts, the polymer is squashed and expands out creating a braking effect in the piston housing/gas collar which, in effect, automatically adjusts it to the load being employed. This is an extremely elegant solution to the problem of using different loads. The heavier the load, the greater the expansion, and the more the mechanism is retarded. Nevertheless, the XLR5 still manages to be an extremely fast cycling semi-automatic.
With regard to looks, the receiver itself is nicely streamlined – appearing less industrial than some - and is engraved attractively by laser (which is becoming the norm). It all looks stylish and modern, conforming to the Fabarm brand. There are some other very interesting features in the XLR5 too. The barrel is made according to Fabarm’s Tri-bore system – a modern take on the taper bore - which constricts the bore in sections towards the muzzle. The makers claim improved pattern performance from this (and we might note that Beretta now have a taper bore in the new DT11 – also on test this month). The gun is also fi tted with extra long ‘hyperbolic’ chokes - 4 are supplied. It is not only steel shot proofed, but proofed at the very high figure of 1630 BAR. This is much higher than most guns. The unusual chokes also allow for the use of tighter chokes with steel shot if you want.
The XLR5 is available with barrel options from 28-30”; the new Velocity model which uses an XLR5 style action is also available with a 32” adjustable rib – and has adjustable just about everything else too, rather reminiscent of Beretta’s UGB25. The sighting rib is vented and 6mm in width. There is a red translucent rod foresight. It is not too big, and therefore not too dominant to the eye.
The stock, which is adjustable by a shim system, is real walnut and nicely oil fi nished (though there is a black composite and camoufl age option if preferred). The butt is equipped with a polymer pad available in different lengths (always a useful feature as length of pull may be altered, within the limits of the pads, without signifi cant gunsmithing). Stock length is about 14 ½”, which I did not fi nd too short. I am fi nding myself using slightly shorter stocks these days, as I have noted, especially when game shooting, that a stock that is even slightly too long may impede your swing.
Visually, and mechanically, this is one of the most attractive semi-automatics that I have seen for quite a while. That positive impression is not dispelled when one mounts the gun. It feels good. It is not too heavy. The balance seems about right and the ergonomics of grip, comb and (rather elegant) forend seem excellent. The comb is well proportioned, the forend slimmed and slightly tapered (and attached to the rest of the gun with an unsually slim fastening nut). It all looks good and feels comfortable. The grip is about the right size too. The only thing I was not quite sure about was the unusual chequering layout with lots of squirly bits. My preference is for the classic plain and simple. All the workmanship, however, was up to a good standard.
I shot the XLR5 with Olympian, Kevin Gill, at the Fennes Shooting Ground in Essex. It was a dreadful day for weather. Nevertheless, the gun shot well, and functioned perfectly on all 28 gram loads. The latest spec guns have a slightly modified piston to allow for 24 grams too (this is good news but I always use 28 grams in a semi so it would be academic for me). Not much more to be said, save that I would really love to try one of these with a 32” tube. We must work on bringing you a test of the Velocity version ASAP! This gun, meantime, is a well conceived, and stylishly presented (it arrives in a rather smart fabric covered plastic case).
It should enjoy more than a niche market too, it is an excellent semi-automatic at a fair price. My thanks to Lyalvale Express for supplying the cartridges used in this test. GM
|Model:||Fabarm XLR5 Grade II|
|Barrel:||30” (28” option and 32” available in adjustable 'Velocity' model)|
|Chokes:||Multi-choke – 4 Hyperbolic chokes supplied|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates