Fabarm USA's First SxS: The Autumn 20 Gauge
Fabarm, originated by the Galesi family, has been around for about one hundred and twenty years. According to the Fabarm Italy website, “During the first decades of the twentieth century, production is mainly side-by-side shotguns and pistols.” I don't have 120 years of experience with SxS shotguns: it just feels like it.
My great-grandfather's favorite shotgun was a rusty old Damascus-barreled Ithaca. The technical term for that gun today is “pipe bomb.” Actually, I shot my first rooster with a crude Crescent SxS .410, outside my great-grandfather's orchard. Although it was an extremely rough gun, it had a cut-down stock and double triggers and I could hit with it. Over the years, I've tried to love SxS shotguns, but that hasn't been an easy venture. I've owned several clunky Savage models, a Winchester Model 24 16 gauge that was at best a single shot, a couple of clunky Browning BSS models, and a new Winchester Model 23 Pigeon Grade that, although a beautiful shotgun, was stocked so far off from what works for me that I was really glad to see it go.
I personally can hit just about nothing with English style straight stocks, whether SxS or O/U. Some prefer them though, like a friend I'll call Dave (primarily because his name is Dave) who has a straight-stocked O/U that has long been his favorite bird gun. There hasn't been much to get excited about in the American SxS marketplace for quality SxS models for a good long while. It was about five years ago when Perazzi announced their DC12 SxS, with a starter price of $24,000 and custom versions hitting nearly $60,000.
There is something to be said for the romance of the SxS: the history and the aesthetic. I suppose you would be more welcome on the hill with tea and cucumber sandwiches in the U.K. than with any pump gun or autoloader. At one time, one of the reasons for double triggers was that single triggers were not considered reliable enough. Those days are long gone. Currently, the Purdey-Beesley Side-by-Side runs £94,080which translates to a bit over $125,000 US. The $1000 Winchester Model 21 of 1963 is over $8500 in 2020 dollars . . . and apparently, Winchester lost money on every one they made. Due to the space constraints of SxS actions, they are difficult to make well.
The Fabarm USA Autumn's foundation is the Fabarm Classis. One reader, Dave (apparently from Alberta) commented, “I've run one Classis 30" 12ga since 2014 on 3" 1425fps Kent's, #3 & BB 1-1/4oz, no issues, about a 1-1/2 to 2 cases a season on ducks and geese. I also have a 2015 28" 12ga Classis IV, great to carry in the field, it has 2 boxes of clay loads thru it, rest have been the 3", maybe 4-5 cases now, it's been out hunting geese and ducks too. Shot them in rain, sleet and snow, no issues. I shot the 30" with the wood butt til 2 yrs ago, no issues with that, it was nicer to shoot than an SBE or an A300 for sure. I put a pad on it to lengthen it a tad and make it the same as the 28", but, even with the wood butt, I had a good number of days with 100+ shots with the 3", and no issues on the shoulder.”
The beefy four-lug action was designed to be tough enough to handle heavy loads and competition shooting for the long haul. As a matter of fact, Tanya Faulds decided to enter a British SxS competition with a Fabarm SxS she received just a few days prior... and she promptly won the event.
While I have no significant experience with any Classis models, they are clearly far advanced in terms of metallurgy and build quality from the Fabarm product of a century ago. They are also significantly improved from the earlier “Beta” (a.k.a. Classic Lion) models, with lighter and more responsive Tri-Bore barrel sets. Many of the earlier screw-choked SxS models from several brands used the short, stubby Winchoke tubes, also known as the standard Invector, that gave them an unsightly, bulged muzzle look. Current Fabarm “Inner HP” choke tubes are far longer, eliminate the bulged look, and are rated for steel and tungsten loads in all constrictions.
Side-by-Side shotguns, in general, have long had a durability problem compared to O/U shotguns, as most are two lug designs that have comparatively weak, fragile lock-ups. Fabarm's four lug action answers that, locking up vault tight with far more steel to steel engagement than traditional double-gun actions.
The triggers on my 28 inch barreled Autumn are superb, breaking crisply at 3-1/4 – 3-1/2 pounds as measured by calibrated digital gauge. The gun itself is a pistol grip / semi-beavertail model, and weighs 6-3/4 pounds. I would expect the English Stock versions to be noticeably lighter. This shotgun has gorgeous hand-oiled high grade walnut, as is the case with all Fabarm USA Autumn models.
One fellow already picked up a 28 inch English-stocked Autumn, the gun shown above. He reports the weight as being 6 lbs., 3 oz.
It sounds like Fabarm USA underestimated the demand for the Autumn, as the initial shipment (90% English stocked shotguns) was quickly spoken for by Fabarm dealers, and they have doubled or tripled up on follow-up orders. Future shipments sound like 50/ 50 pistol grip and English stock versions. Double trigger versions are in the works, left-handed stock versions of the 20 gauge are looking like summer 2021 availability.
This example is superbly well-balanced, easy to swing, and easy to hit with as far as I'm concerned. The ejection is strong, and my only niggle is that is tang safety is on the stiff side. Personally, I would be inclined to replace the checkered wood butt-plate with a thin elastomer leather-faced recoil pad, but that is a matter of personal preference.
When investing in a fine hunting firearm today, it makes sense to only consider shotguns that are designed to handle steel and tungsten shot. It also makes sense to look for a company that has its own factory-trained gunsmiths and excels at customer service. Fabarm USA checks those boxes like few others. Fabarm shotguns are 100% made in Italy, are proofed to a higher standard than any other shotguns, and are the only shotguns made that you can shoot essentially any factory load through, regardless of choke constriction, up to and including the Fabarm 9/10 Xtreme (extra-full) choke in all gauges.
For a tough, high-grade firearm that is superbly finished, the $3995 MSRP is quite reasonable for a double that is a true “Keeper” by any standards. Fabarm USA is going to do very, very well with the Autumn, for they are letting double-gun aficionados scratch the special itch that they have not been able to scratch in many years, and look good doing it.
Copyright 2020 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.