FABARM L4S REVIEW
The tested firearm is the Fabarm L4S Initial Hunter with a 26 inch barrel that has a MSRP of $1250, is available right now, and sells for approximately $1100 street price. It is a far lighter shotgun than the Fabarm XLR5 competition clays guns, weighing in at 6.75 lbs. with the “Modified” (5/10) equivalent of the three Inner HP choke tubes supplied. The trigger breaks at 4.5 lbs., better than most field autoloading triggers out there.
The basic gas action is the same, successful Pulse Piston system used in the XLR5 shotguns that was introduced in 2003, with the improved action bar that was introduced in 2005. The Initial Hunter is similar in trim level to the L4S Black Hunter introduced in Europe. The 6.75 lbs. weight of the L4S is a full two pounds lighter than the tested Fabarm XLR5 Velocity LR 30 inch. The L4S is a very fast-handling, fun to carry field gun, not at all a dedicated clays firearm.
The Tribore barrel is proofed to 1630 BAR, the highest level of proof of any commercial shotgun. The L4S comes complete with three flush choke tubes, stock adjustment shims, and a written 5 year warranty from Fabarm USA. XLR5 aficionados will be delighted to know that all the XLR5 extended chokes, the optional kinetic balancer recoil reducer, and other accessories like the T & S hull catcher work with the L4S line.
Above: the L4S Grey Hunter model, taken down.
The forearm is nicely slimmed up over the clays models. At 6-3/4 lbs., the L4S is lighter than most 3 inch chambered 12 gauge autoloaders out there: lighter than the Benelli Vinci, lighter than the Browning Maxus / Silver models, lighter than the forthcoming Remington V3, lighter than the Franchi Affinity, lighter than the Beretta A300 Outlander, and so it goes. Although the 26 inch Franchi Affinity is cataloged at 6.4 lbs., my example weighed 7 lbs. The 26 inch Browning “Silver Hunter Black Lightning” tested last year came in at a porky 7-3/4 lbs., with a trigger that broke right at 7 lbs.
About three years ago I did an “improbable comparison” of the Benelli Vinci, Beretta A400, and Browning Maxus.
Maxus Stalker 3-1/2 in., 28 inch barrel: 6 lbs. 15 oz. ($1379 MSRP, $1509 MODB Camo))
Vinci, MAX-4 Camo, 26 inch: 7 lbs., 1 oz. ($1479 MSRP, $1379 black synthetic)
A400, non-KO, 28 inch: 6 lbs. 13 oz. ($1625 MSRP, $1725 w/ KO)
TRIGGER PULL, AS MEASURED
Maxus: 6 lbs.
Vinci: 5 lbs.
A400: 4-3/4 lbs.
Maxus: No written warranty
Vinci: Five years
A400: One year
The Fabarm L4S is lighter than all of them with a better factory trigger than all of them, sells for less than all of them, and is also far, far, far better-looking than all of them.
In the 2015 marketplace, the Browning Maxus Hunter 26 inch 3 inch 12 gauge is one of the few shotguns with real walnut, not a picture of decent walnut over crate-wood, and it currently has an MSRP of $1549.99. The Maxus Hunter I tested came in at 7 lbs. with the traditionally excessively heavy 6 lb. Browning trigger and poor factory choke tubes. Compared to the Maxus Hunter, the better-looking, better-handling L4S is completely good to go right out of the box, with a better warranty and lower cost of acquisition as well.
Years ago, Jack O'Connor wrote that he wouldn't hunt any upland game with a shotgun that weighed over 7 lbs. You can, of course, but it isn't nearly as much fun and as usual, Jack O'Connor was more right than he was wrong. As a result, I've used 20 gauges primarily when hunting, only resorting to 12 gauge when steel shot is required. The L4S is that rare exception of a great-looking, supremely well-built and well-finished autoloader that is wonderfully soft-shooting despite being a true sub-7 lb. field gun.
Shooting in ninety-three degree weather wearing only a t-shirt, we felt that the recoil with 1-1/8 oz. loads was somewhat harsher than expected. Recoil was unremarkable with 1 oz. loads. One of the culprits is likely the relatively thin (12mm) high-durometer "pad" the shotgun is finished off with. However, as noted above, the XLR5 Velocity LR weighs about 30% more and tends to spoil you with its lack of recoil.
Fabarm offers 22mm and 27mm recoil pads as an option. For many hunting applications, this is unlikely to be an issue but we suspect several shooters will opt for a more generous pad than the standard factory offering. Also, if you wish, you can quickly install the optional Fabarm kinetic balancer (that weighs 5.36 ounces) inside the buttstock that brings the total weight of the gun to 7 lbs., 1 oz. I've already replaced the factory 12mm rubber buttplate with the 22mm pad and it makes a world of difference.
The Fabarm L4S is one beautifully made field shotgun, with build quality and value that is second to none. My only niggle is that it needs a more generous recoil pad, as opposed to thin rubber butt-plate that is supplied. Get the 22mm pad and you're ready for clays and hunting.
This tested model, the Initial Hunter, is also an outstandingly good value, coming in at substantially less dollars than the Vinci, the Browning A5, the A400, the Maxus, and so forth. The L4S deserves a very enthusiastic “buy” rating and it gets it.
Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.