Fausti DEA British Express SL Combo
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- Last updated: 22/01/2018
As life rolls by, it is always nice to take time to enjoy the finer things in life, such as good food/ drink, holidays, a lie in!
And of cause fine guns! I am a ‘live in the woods’ sort of chap, but I do appreciate a fine or custom-made rifle or shotgun for that matter, as they become not only a statement of the manufacturer’s quality but also your own identity.
Anything bespoke, custom or individualistic has a certain appeal to many shooters, as does the idea of owning one gun for rifle and shotgun duties, i.e. a combo set up. I used a Tikka rifle/shotgun combo in 30-06 with great success, so know the handy nature of just owning one gun for fur or feather. They also make a great travelling companion and remember that the old adage: “beware the shooter with one gun, they probably know how to use it”, still rings true.
Antony Laughton from Stag Country Sports & Fausti UK contacted me to review one such combination gun, as he now distributes the entire Fausti range. Fausti are a family run business from Italy and it shows through the design and passion of the guns they’ve made since 1948. Originally started by Cavalier Stefano Fausti, it is now run by his three daughters Elena, Giovanna and Barbara.
This model on test is from the Boutique collection and called the DEA British Express SL rifle that retails for £19,000 and £22,000 with a set of matching 20-gauge barrels; I had better smarten myself up for this test!
The DEA British Express SL not only has a classy name but the whole package is beautifully put together in a lovely leather and velvet lined travelling case, model VL400. As soon as the case is opened, you have that lovely waft of an oil finished stock and gun oil, a good start.
The DEA is set around a hand finished box lock action design, made on state-of-theart CNC machinery but then all finished by hand for that individualistic ‘old world’ quality.
The action is your typical box lock design which is both strong and proven to provide a secure and precise lock up needed for both rifle and shotgun barrels. You have two large locking lugs on the barrels, the forward pivots on the action pin when opening and the rear-most is slotted to locate with the cross pin when closed. The action is almost semi-rounded to the base, with side lock panels that make the most of the superb overall flowing design. You can have a coin finished, hand engraved option but this test model wore the sumptuous colour case hardened finish, which I love. It is classic and not over-bearing and has nice accents of scroll and ribbed engraving border the edges, with gold inlaid Fausti name and model to the side and base. You also have a superb Fausti family crest engraved on the action base, with further ornate engraving.
The colour case continues up over the top and barrel abutments and has a superb, even and very striking colour.
By contrast, the top lever and pistol grip stretcher is blued and tastefully engraved to add interest and definition to the action. I love the pistol grip metal, as it not only looks good but also strengthens a possible weak area.
The rifle barrels are 23.75-inches long and superbly blued, with a deep, well-polished finish that are secured together by a central plain rib. You also have a raised quarter rib that houses the drilled and tapped top section for a quick detachable scope mounting system and at the front is dovetailed for the rear sight. This is a single height but drift/wind adjustment type, with two ears that are inset with green Day-Glo elements. These line up with the foresight’s red dot element set into the ramped foresight that is elevation adjustable.
I had the 9.3x74R barrels that are perfect for driven game and despite their large size, by English standards, are easy to shoot well, as the recoil is a shove, rather than a snap.
Other calibres include- 8x57 JRS, 9.3X74R, 30R Blaser, 30.06, 270W, 308W, 243W or 7x57R, nice!
The trigger and safety are straight forward, being a non-automatic safety (that I prefer) but there is no barrel selector on this single trigger model. First pull shoots the right barrel and then the second, no problem on the rifle barrels but non-selective for choke on the shotgun barrels.
The stock is gorgeous. Very classic in design but that Is not only skin deep, as its ergonomics allow not only a good natural hold as a rifle for open sight or scope use, it is also perfect with the set of shotgun barrels fitted and recoil is in line with reduced lift, so gentle on the cheek bones.
The superb high-grade walnut stock has a lovely overall colour with striking and distinct dark figuring, with the classic inset oval for owner’s initials and pistol grip blued steel cap. You can have a Bavarian or Classic cheekpiece design and this Classic that I prefer, as do I the fine chequering and nonpalm swell, full pistol grip.
First up were the 20-gauge shotgun barrels. At 30-inches long, they have a great ability to swing fast and maintain lead and natural hold on a bird or clay. The ejectors are very well timed and offer excellent strong ejection, so even a damaged rim, hot temperature or debris will not impede the spent case’s ejection. You would think with cheekpiece and express rifle styling that the DEA in shotgun mode would be heavy but quite the contrary. The heavier butt stock added to the long 30-inch barrels maintain perfect balance just in front of the action hinge point, so the DEA literally flies up into the shoulder and points very naturally without fatigue.
I chose a selection of typical 20-gauge cartridges and set up some pattern boards at 30-yards, to determine the shot pattern from the ½ choke right-hand barrel – the left barrel is ¼ choke.
These are high performance 20-gauge cartridges that use a hardened XTRM shot for less deformation and thus better patterning. I had the 70mm case fibre wadded 32-gram load with No. 5 shot size pellets and despite their heavy loading, the Fausti exhibited minimal recoil. I had a total of 120 pellets on target with nice overall density and even spread, with 25 inner strikes to the 15-inch sector and 95 No. 5 pellets around the remaining 30 inches.
This is my son’s favourite 20-gauge loading. It has a 67mm case filled with 24-grams of No. 7.5 shot and a fibre wad. We had a total of 239 pellets in 30-inches, with 74 in the inner sectors and 165 in the outer region. Very well distributed and even pattern and also very light recoiling and superb patterns on the boards.
One of the new Copper-plated shotgun cartridges to come to the marketplace. These offer top performance, penetration and shot patterns at range. I had the plastic wadded 67mm case loaded with 25-grams of No. 6 CU pellets.
At 30-yards, we had a total of 126 CU pellet strikes, with 34 evenly spaced inner 15 inch hits and 92 outer hits again very evenly spread. A good fast Grouse load, as described.
These Italian shot shells seemed apt and have performed well in other gun tests.
In the Fausti, I shot a load of 28 gram of No. 7.5 shot in a 70mm case and fibre wad. It shot a total of 193 pellets within 30 inches, with 48 inner strikes and 145 outer strikes for a good dense pattern.
Now my favourite part, remove the smooth bores and attach the rifled ones!
Norma 285gr Soft Point Alaska, 2212fps, 2221fps, 2216fps, 2220fps, 2214fps, 2216fps. Very consistent. OAL 3.7185-inches, with accuracy of 2.5-inch average for 6 shots at 50-yards.
RWS 286gr Teilmantel soft point, 2298fps, 2266fps, 2270fps, 2291fps, 2268fps, 2292fps, 2278fps. OAL 3.6085-inches. With accuracy of 1.75- to 2.0-inch for 18 shots at 50-yards.
This was the better load, as higher velocity for same bullet weight, bullet seated deeper, so further away from rifling but shot more accurately. I had 18 shots with these and a true average would be under 2-inches at 50-yards.
I only had the 270gr Speer Soft points and 286gr Hornady Interbonds. I used S and B cases, which were tight on the neck i.e. inside diameter 0.362-inch and 9.3mm bullet is 0.366 with both having an outside o/d of 0.3885-inch. I would neck expand before loading or use once fired RWS brass.
I loaded RL 19 powder, as this proved a good powder in the Fabarm Asper and Tikka 9.3mmx74R.
You could go with a faster powder i.e. RL 17 but the max would be 64-grains, but I did not test this but it should yield about 2150fps.
These bullets were very tight to load and the Hornady were better in my view. In either case, if using these cases, I would expand the necks or unify with expander mandrel first, or use better quality RWS or Norma brass.
All loads provided best accuracy with the top two powder weights, as the barrels were regulated thus. You could see the group shrink as the velocity increased. Personally, I would buy the RWS 285gr Teilmantel and then reload if you fancy, but they shot as good as my reloads to be honest.
Cream always rises to the top and the Fausti DEA Express combo is one such gun. Yes, it is expensive but to obtain this level of workmanship you need to pay for it; don’t expect Ferrari performance from a Ford Escort budget! Both as rifle or shotgun, the Fausti DEA Express performed flawlessly and would make a great ‘do anything’ travelling gun or home spun deer and bird gun in the right cartridge.