Fabarm Axis 20 bore
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
Like a lot of modern shooters, I seem to be using more small-bore guns than in the past. There has been a real renaissance of interest in the 20 bore over the last couple of decades – to the extent that I would say 20 bores are just about as popular as 12 bores on many game shoots. 20 bore are also being used for clay shooting (though, the 12 still reigns supreme on the layouts). I like 20 and 28 bores (I used a 28 for all my game shooting last season). My opinion is that they can be an advantage in the field (providing one is not wildfowling or tackling very high birds) but that they are a slight handicap for clays – shall we say 5-10%? This does not prevent me enjoying the use of them frequently, I enjoy a challenge.
20 bores also have an application – when suitably specified – as lady’s and boy’s guns. What is required then is a fairly light gun with a sensibly modified stock (shorter and higher) firing a low payload shell. The modern 20 is, it may be noted, a very different gun to the ultra-light 20 bore side by sides of the 1920s and 30s. Today the over and under reigns supreme. A light gun today would be one around 6lbs and many modern 20 bore OUs go to nearly 7 lbs. The trend today is towards longer barrels and heavier payload cartridges (many people push an ounce through their 20s).
An Elegant Design
This brings us to our test gun, the Fabarm Axis. It is an attractive, modern, over and under that falls between to the two extremes. First impressions of it are very good. The gun is elegant. It has a sleek, titanium-coated, coated grey action finish, Fabarm’s new Tribore barrel technology and spectacularly figured Triwood (a process that enhances natural grain by means of ink). The gun is modernistic in many superficial respects (underneath its skin, it is pretty conventional at least as far as the basic mechanics are concerned). With regard to handling, first impressions are that the gun has good stock shapes and is a bit muzzle-heavy. Bringing it to the shoulder elicits no unpleasant surprises. Everything feels comfy and falls to hand as it should. One friend noted: “that feels really nice.”
The 28” barrels (there is a 30” option) are built on the monobloc system, where, of course, two tubes are inserted into a monobloc. They are well made and chambered for both 2 ¾ (70mm) and 3” (76mm) cartridges, and would, quite happily, digest traditional 2 ½” (65 or 67mm) loads as well. The barrels are both marked at 16.1mm and weigh 1,270 grams. The sighting rib is a neat, narrow, design with taper (8-5mm). There is a small red plastic front sight. Joining ribs, like the sighting rib, are ventilated and extend to within about 3/8” of the monobloc.
The big deal with Axis barrels according to the company hype at least is their Tribore technology. This combines an extended forcing cone, with a long section of back-boring. This does not extend to the muzzles, however. The last 8” or so before the chokes is a taper. The chokes are traditional (save for their titanium coating) combining a conical forcing cone with a parallel section at the muzzles. I have no issues with any of this. Indeed, it all meets with approval.
The action of the Axis is quite eye catching. From an engineering point of view it is typically Italian. It has a split hinge pin combined with a full width flat bolt coming out of the bottom of the action face and meeting a slot bite beneath the bottom chamber mouth. Coil springs power the tumblers. The system is used by a dozen or more makers. It is not quite as low in profile as some, but it works very well in a 20 bore. No one would suggest that this gun looked deep in the action – quite the contrary.
The action has some interesting shapes in it. The fences, walls and rear of the action have all been sculptured to good effect. The top lever has quite a small thumb piece but works well, the sliding safety and barrel selector is really excellent, and the trigger guard is squared to its front – complimenting the angular design concept of the Axis. There is an adjustable, gold-plated, trigger. The trigger is recoil activated and there is a little creep in the pulls. The most interesting feature of the action, design apart, is the titanium finish. I thought this looked good and it is also very practical.
The stock of the Axis, like the action, has some interesting shapes. The butt has a little swell it, like many Victorian guns of high quality (and Purdey’s to this day). The comb is quite thick but with a good taper. The grip is especially good – even in depth, not too small, and providing excellent purchase with its laser cut chequering. The forend is an ergonomic version of the schnabel and like grip and comb is very comfortable. Dimensions are standard with regard to length (14 ¾” including a replaceable ½” recoil pad – so the stock could be made longer quite easily). Drop measurements were intriguing – 1 ½” at comb and 2 1/8” at heel. This is a little lower at the front than most Italian over and unders (matching the classic British side by side dimension) and the better for it. The gun does not come up low, because of the full comb design.
The Triwood process results in a very pretty stock that would fool most people (but don’t try planing or sanding it!). Quality of finish is generally very good. The acrylic varnish looks pretty tough and it is not too glossy. My only niggle concerns the wood to metal fit around the top tang. There is quite a gap to either side. One sees this on many factory made guns (sometimes it occurs as the stock bolt is tightened) but it could let in more moisture than is desirable.
The gun was a steady performer in the field. Everything worked as it should, but it did not sing to me. I would have preferred to shoot a longer barrelled version. With this one, I had to consciously extend my lead pictures to get good results. Nevertheless, this is a well-made, most attractive little gun. I would definitely hire the designer!
My thanks to Lyalvale/Express for supplying the cartridges used in this test.