The Fabarm Classis is a much better gun than many traditional 20-bore doubles and could not easily be beaten, especially at this price. Handling qualities were good, with weight in the middle and a reassuring "just look at the bird and let the gun do the rest" quality.
The Fabarm Classis 20-bore, 30in-barrelled boxlock ejector side-by-side is not a particularly ritzy gun but, at £2,175, nor does it bear a ritzy price tag. First impressions are favourable. This is a machine-made sporting gun and the rounded action and stock wood are relatively plain. There is an option of upgrading the stock timber at relatively modest cost.
The general form of the Fabarm Classis 20-bore, which has a silver-finished, lightly scroll-engraved and scalloped action, is perfectly acceptable, however. It has clean lines without being too modernistic. It comes up well when mounted, immediately inspiring confidence. It feels solid in spite of its relatively light weight of just under 61⁄4lb.
The Fabarm Classis, also available in 12-bore and with 28in and 30in barrels in both bores, is fairly typical of the Fabarm marque. The firm has a reputation for making solid guns with a little more styling than the norm. The over-and-unders tend to have fairly conventional mechanical design, save for their unusual barrel geometry, which combines back-boring with a taper towards the muzzles and unusually long, interchangeable chokes.
The Fabarm side-by-sides, however, combine this “Tribore” with a unique four-lump barrel/action design that strays from the Purdey double-lump/Anson & Deeley pattern used by 99% of manufacturers.
Fabarm has a huge hi-tech facility in Brescia (one of the biggest in Lombardy) with the capacity to make more than 30,000 guns a year. When I visited I was impressed by the sheer scale of it. Its CNC machines run 24 hours per day and the firm makes for other marques as well as its own.
Apart from the home market, the Russians are among the biggest customers these days. Although Fabarm guns have been imported in small quantities for many years, they are not that well known yet in the UK.
Putting the test gun under the microscope, one notes monobloc barrels chambered with fleur-de-lis, steel-shot-friendly marks for 3in (76mm) cartridges. The rounded action bar looks good (better than some of its chunkier predecessors). The shape of the single trigger blade is pleasant, too. I prefer a rounded, narrow trigger blade to a straighter, broader one. I also like the tapered and quite narrow game rib (it goes from 7mm at the breech to 4mm at the muzzles).
The straight-hand stock is not bad, though short at 143⁄8in, with a wooden butt plate (allowing access to a stock bolt like most over-and-unders). With regard to other dimensions, the comb is quite low with 21⁄2in of drop at heel. I would like to see standard measurements around 147⁄8in or 15in for the length and 11⁄2in and 2in for drop. A recoil pad and a stock bend would easily rectify this. I easily adapted to the less-than-ideal measurements of this lightweight gun, however, partly because all the other essentials were right.
This Fabarm Classis 20-bore is unusual. The barrels have four lumps rather than two. It is neatly done on the reduced-scale, 20-bore action. It dares to be a bit different, and I harbour a suspicion that stiffly locked action bars may improve shooting qualities by reducing action table flexure on firing.
The barrels are deep drilled from seasoned bar stock and bored on a most unusual plan. Immediately in front of the long chamber, there is a long forcing cone leading to a back-bored section of the barrel. This leads to a tapered section of about 20cm past the halfway point. At the muzzles there are exceptionally long, flush-fitting, extended HP chokes with an unusual, curved internal profile (“Hyperbolic”)that allows, uniquely, for the use of steel shot with tight constrictions. Fabarm claims low felt recoil and improved pattern without the reduction in penetration that is sometimes associated with back-boring.
I was surprised by how well this lightweight, steel-actioned, short-stocked gun shot. The Fabarm Classis 20-bore just seemed to work. Putting it through its paces on a skeet range nothing got away.
I did not try it on long birds – beyond moving back 10yd on the middle stations – because I did not see that as the strength or application of this little double.
For driven partridges, handiness in a hide or walking-up the Fabarm Classis 20-bore could not easily be beaten (and certainly not at the price). It would have been better with a longer, higher stock but it worked exceptionally well as it was. Felt recoil was low; trigger pulls not bad. Handling qualities were good, with weight in the middle and a reassuring “just look at the bird and let the gun do the rest” quality. It is a much better gun than many traditional 20-bore doubles. It made me smile.
Price £2,175 incl VAT
From Anglo Italian Arms Solihull, West Midlands
tel 0121 704 4098