by Jeff Johnston - Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Many—even most—modern shotguns feel like Purdeys on a skeet field where you can pre-mount them then leisurely order a target of a pre-determined flight path. But a skeet field isn't bird country. When a covey of quail erupts from underfoot like a whirring buzzsaw, thought is reduced to instinct. Focus must be on the bird. A gun’s flaws are quickly exposed.
A gun that’s a hair too long will snag your coat and get hung up like a treble hook in brush. A shotgun that doesn’t point and pattern naturally to the shooter’s line of vision will leave him feeling less like The Natural and more like The Inept. And if a new gun is going to misfire, it will do it as soon as the dog points a single in the middle of an open field. So to test Fabarm’s new Elos over/under shotgun I skipped skeet and took it straight to a Georgia quail hunt. But before I describe the gun or Georgia, here’s some background.
Fabarm is an acronym for the Fabbrica Bresciana Armi S.p.A company of Brescia, Italy. Brescia is the breadbasket of European gun making, where the company’ has been hammering out solid guns for nearly 113 years. Immediately after Word War II, Fabarm began producing classically styled side-by-sides and over/unders. In the past Heckler and Koch’s U.S. office imported Fabarm products; you might remember the Lion series of double-barrels and semi-auto shotguns. Much like Benelli, which also used HK as an importer for a time, Fabarm figured it could make more money by importing its guns itself, and so in 2012 the company established Fabarm USA.
Its stateside staff is better suited to distribute the company’s guns and adjust to market trends here. Fabarm USA changed some of its product lines and added some, but the guns remain very well made, and are now easier to actually purchase. (Fabarm’s XLR5 Velocity series semi-automatic shotguns have gained a following among American competitive clay shooters for their light recoil, target ribs and adjustable stocks that conform to individual shooters.) But where Fabarm USA is perhaps most underrated in a U.S. market dominated by Beretta, Browning and Ruger is in its fairly priced, stylish and well-balanced new game guns, one of which is the Elos.
The rounded boxlock Elos is available in two lines totaling four models, all offered in 20- and 28-gauge. There’s the Elos De Luxe and De Luxe AL, in steel or aluminum frames, respectively. Both feature embellished engraving and titanium colored finishes. The Elos B (covered here) features a color-casehardened steel receiver while the B AL is built on an aluminum receiver that, just as in the De Luxe model, reduces the gun’s weight from 7 pounds to just under 6. I chose the Elos B 20-gauge because I like the looks of the casehardening.
Upon uncasing, I first noticed its rounded action. To me it’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also feels lithe in the hand when carried by its action, a technique I often employ. Of course it’s a false round action in the sense that it’s actually a boxlock whose external, usually square angles have been rounded by design and executed by CNC machine. In function it’s a monobloc-formed boxlock, much like most current double-barrel shotguns that cost less than 10 grand.
Next I noticed the shotgun’s matte-finished, European walnut buttstock that owns ample drop at heel, a trait I find desirable compared to the ultra-straight stocks en vogue today. Those stocks are touted to reduce recoil by forcing it straight back into the shoulder and not into the cheek, but the end result usually places my line of sight over the rib looking down on it, not running along parallel with it. And I don’t care how soft a gun shoots if I can’t hit with it. This is a personal factor that depends on body dimensions, but it’s my first “feel test” when handling a new gun I plan to take afield without completely embarrassing myself. The buttstock features a pistol grip that has a subtle radius. I’d have liked the Elos better if it had a straight, or English-style, stock option, but it does not, and that was no doubt calculated by Fabarm USA, because most American shooters prefer a pistol grip. The buttstock is capped with a no-nonsense, thin rubber recoil pad that’s not too mushy. Its heel is tapered to minimize snagging when coats come out of hiding.
This shotgun’s fore-end most resembles a beavertail in shape, although it’s better described as a hybrid beavertail married with slight flaring at the end that begins to resemble a schnable style. An Anson and Deely-style lockup secures the fore-end to the barrel lug, and, being a boxlock, also provides the knuckles by which the gun is cocked and its automatic ejectors operated.
The gun fires on a single, selective, inertia-activated trigger, which is to say the second trigger is set by recoil forces from the first shot. If something goes wrong, however, the shooter can manually engage the other sear by flipping the barrel selector switch located on the manual, tang-mounted safety. The trigger is user-adjustable via an Allen wrench from about 3 to 5 pounds. It's a good one.
All Elos models have 28-inch barrels. Company reps say its Tribore HP barrels are deep-drilled from chrome molybdenum steel—an expensive process—and feature an 8-inch conical section that works like the nozzle of a hose to gradually reduce the over-bored barrel diameter from .740 inch to .725 and thereby increase pellet speed. Then the barrels swell out into the hyperbolic profile of the flush-fitting choke tubes. I can’t say for sure if Fabarm’s trademarked Tribore HP barrels are the reason, but my test gun certainly delivered admirable patterns, and many quail perished.
Technical talk aside, when the dog locked up on point I thought not of chokes, stock fit or how well the gun carries by its rounded action, but of the small, fast bird that was inevitably about to take flight as if launched via land mine. When it did I simply focused all my concentration on the bird, and the Elos came up instinctively. When it touched my shoulder it went off, a bird fell and the pointer fetched it to my hand. I didn’t remember consciously shouldering or shooting the Elos, and that is why I like bird hunting. It can take your mind off the trivial things in life so you can focus on what’s important—grilling birds with Georgia Pelligrini.
Type: over/under shotgun
Gauge: 20 (tested), 28
Trigger: single, selective
Sights: front bead
Safety: tang-mounted, barrel selector
Stock: pistol grip, beavertail; European walnut; length of pull 14.5"; drop at heel 2 1/4"; drop at comb 1 1/2"
Overall Length: 45"
Weight: 7 lbs., 1 oz. (Elos B, Elos De Luxe); 5 lbs., 14 ozs. (AL)
Metal Finish: color-casehardened (Elos B); titanium-colored aluminum (De Luxe, De Luxe AL, B AL)
Accessories: hard plastic case, felt bags, 5 choke tubes
MSRP: $2,895 (De Luxe, De Luxe AL); $2,350 (B, B AL 20-ga.)
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