Fabarm L4S Sporting
Like a lot of shooters who participate in the clay target games, I will often shoot with over/unders some days and semi-auto shotguns other days. I thoroughly enjoy shooting my over/unders. They fit me well, are comfortable to shoot (primarily because they do fit me), are attractive and, admittedly, there is a level of pride I feel when shooting an over/under. But, if I had to be brutally honest, and someone asked me which design I shoot better, I would have to say the semi-autos. Why is that?
I have thought about this and would tell you softer recoil is one reason. My over/unders fit me quite well and they do shoot with a level of recoil I do not object to, given the loads I generally use, which are one-ounce loads. But the semi-autos are hard to beat in the recoil department. Also, there is a different feel of control to the bird I appreciate when shooting a semi-automatic that I do not feel with the O/U. I am not sure exactly how to describe it. The best description I can come up with is more confidence in the move I am making onto the bird. The semi-auto just seems to give me a stronger sense of surety. Recently I tested a new model, the L4S Sporting from the Italian gunmaker, Fabarm, that gave me that same feeling of certainty on the target I normally only feel when shooting my personal semi-automatic guns.
The L4S Sporting came to me configured with a 30" barrel on top of which is a beautifully machined ventilated rib with a full-length center groove and a 3mm Bradley-style white bead at the muzzle. I have mentioned this style of vent rib many times in my gun reviews. It is my favorite design of rib for a shotgun. The chamber is cut for 2¾" shells. The chrome-lined bore, chamber and barrel tang are not only highly resistant to rust and corrosion but also a bit easier to deal with come time to clean your bore and chokes.
Speaking of chokes, the L4S Sporting is packaged with a set of five Hyperbolic Exis HP screw-in chokes. Typical of most screw-in chokes that accompany shotguns these days, they extend beyond the muzzle with a knurled head notched for a supplied choke wrench. The Fabarm Exis HP chokes are nearly 4" long and are made of stainless steel. The five-choke set includes Skeet, Improved Cylinder, Light Modified, Modified and Full. The designations of the choke constriction can be found on the knurled extended head in a numeric callout and on the body of the choke reading Skeet, Imp. Cyl., Light Mod, Mod, Full. These choke tubes are designed with a unique internal geometry that works to improve not only pattern density and uniformity but velocity and penetration as well. Combined with the Tribore HP inside diameter of the L4S barrel, the result is a soft-shooting gun that crushes clay targets and is fully capable of turning a dove, chukar, grouse or pheasant inside out.
The L4S Sporting is a gas-operated semi-automatic incorporating what Fabarm calls their Pulse Piston. This system makes use of a gas chamber attached to the barrel, a heavy-duty gas piston, hard-chromed action rails and high-strength return spring housed within the confines of the forearm. The gas chamber and gas piston are PVD coated with titanium nitride for greater reliability and increased wear resistance. The Pulse Piston used in the L4S Sporting uses a version of the piston that does not have the heavy Neoprene cushioning ring around it. This is used in the field grade 3" chambered semi-automatic Fabarm guns likely to use heavier-pressured loads. The ring would in those cases expand when the gases are bled out of the barrel into the gas chamber and essentially slow down the action rod by means of the friction fit under pressure against the gas chamber walls, thus lessening the rearward impact of the mechanism. This system works and works well. The L4S is a comfortable gun to shoot.
The receiver of the L4S is made from high-strength aluminum and it, like all Fabarm guns, are proofed at a level higher than other Italian guns. Actually, it is an over-pressure proof that reaches 1630 BAR versus the normal 1370 BAR used by other Italian gunmakers. This level of proof testing has been used by Fabarm since 2008. By the way, 1 BAR = 14.50377 pounds per square inch (p.s.i.). Impressive, when you think of it. That is more than 23,640 lbs. p.s.i. Wow!
Magazine capacity of the L4S Sporting is 4+1, unplugged and 2+1, plugged. The mag capacity reducer or plug can be easily removed or returned into the mag tube if necessary.
The attractive color and grain figuring in the forearm and buttstock are the result of a process Fabarm uses called Triwood™. This process infuses the European walnut and accentuates the color and grain of the wood, as well as giving it a tough outer surface very resistant to scratches and tears. One of the first things you notice about the new Fabarm L4S Sporting is how good the wood looks. In a lot of cases where gunmakers have decided to use a similar process, one of the results is often a trim line visible along the belly line of the stock and sometimes along the belly of the forearm as well. With the Fabarm L4S Sporting, there was no cheesy trim line along the belly or anywhere.
The L4S Sporting semi-automatic is designed to be a competition shotgun intended to withstand thousands upon thousands of rounds without skipping a beat. With that purpose in mind, Fabarm included a few creature-comfort features. One of them is the over-sized, aluminum anodized cocking handle. Another is the over-sized, aluminum bolt-release button on the left side of the receiver. Both of these and the forend cap are anodized a bold red color, giving the L4S a racy look.
A couple of items that would fall under the heading of “Oh, that’s cool” would be the red, aluminum-threaded cap that threads onto the end of the magazine tube. It has a specific purpose, to hold the barrel assembly and the mag tube assembly together. You might ask at this point, “So?” So…with other semi-automatic shotgun designs (with a few rare exceptions), barrel/mag tube/forend assemblies are secured by only the forend cap. As most semi-auto shooters can lend testimony to, they have the habit of hand-checking the tightness of the forend cap during shooting sessions, as most forend caps have a tendency to loosen up which could cause mis-fires eventually. Not a good thing…especially during a tournament. With the L4S, the cap inside the forend holds the barrel and mag tube assemblies together, and the forend cap on the outside of the forend simply secures the forend to the gun. One more thing I liked about the Fabarm forend cap design, it stays on the forend when you disassemble the gun. No more worrying about dropping it on the floor or on the ground when you remove it from the gun. Also, it has a hole in its body designed to accept the shank of something like a small-diameter screwdriver to help tighten and loosen the forend cap. This is a much bigger help and more wanted than you might know.
Upon assembling the L4S Sporting, I immediately made a mental note of its light weight. I was surprised to see the LED screen of the postage meter in our shipping department showed only a mere 7.35 lbs. total weight for the 30" barreled L4S Sporting. When I test a gun knowing beforehand the manufacturer touts the light recoil of the gun and then I find the weight of the gun to be less than I suspected, I get a bit nervous. Situations such as this will sometimes have me wondering which element of the gun will win out and impress me more, the light weight or the scant recoil? I was pleasantly surprised to find with the L4S Sporting, both features impressed me. The L4S Sporting is light in weight and in recoil.
Stock dimensions for the Fabarm L4S Sporting are as follows: Length of pull - 14.75", Drop at comb - 1.5", Drop at heel - 2.25", Cast at toe - .125”, Pitch - 5°, Cast to heel - .125", Weight 7 lbs., 3 oz. *This may vary according to wood density.
The recoil pad mounted on the buttstock made the LOP on the L4S rather long for me. I shoot a reasonably short stock, but I cannot alter every gun I test just to have my LOP closer to my personal fit. Nevertheless, the Fabarm L4S performed well.
As with many of my test evaluations, I visited the 5-Stand course at the nearby Auburn Trap Range a few minutes north of my office in Auburn, CA. My loads of choice this day were the famous and first-class performing B&P Legend load launching one ounce of hard 7 1/2s. The choke I selected to try first was the Modified. A good choice for the tougher transitioning birds at Auburn’s 5-Stand, such as the Number 6, a quartering and slightly incoming bird from the far-right berry bushes, terminating almost atop the Number 9 Springing Teal. Or a good choice for the latest version of the Number 2, a high left, over-your-shoulder, outgoing quartering target that curls harder and harder as it runs out of steam some 45+ yards out in front of you. All great birds. Thanks, Dennis and Barbara.
The L4S Sporting lacks some features other target-dedicated semi-autos may have, such as an adjustable trigger blade, adjustable comb, adjustable rib or adjustable buttplate/recoil pad. Does that make it any less a performer on the sporting clays or 5-Stand course? I should say not. This gun is quick-handling, alert yet smooth to the target, not overly heavy, soft-shooting, attractive, reliable and offered in a left-hand version. I did not miss any of the adjustable features. The L4S does just fine without them.
How did my rounds go? They went well. My right shoulder had suffered a small tear in one of the muscles the week before while doing some work on the gutters at my house. This caused me to shoot my rounds every other round while taking a break and watching other shooters shoot. The breaks on the birds were authoritative, with the in-your-face Number 7 target being utterly vaporized by the combination of the Hyperbolic Exis HP choke and the B&P Legends.
Ejection of the spent hulls was always positive. The Safety, though almost never used in a real-life situation, clicked firmly and reliably. Chokes did not tend to loosen under fire, and loading the loading gate to feed a fresh round into the mag tube was not a tiring chore. Some guns have a much stiffer shell-latch spring, making the push with your thumb to get a new shell into the mag tube hard and giving you a sore thumb. Not so with the L4S Sporting.
There you have it, a detailed look at the new Fabarm L4S Sporting semi-automatic. It’s fast-handling, comfortable to shoot, smooth onto the bird, has great chokes, great looks and lightweight. MSRP for right-hand versions of the Fabarm L4S Sporting runs $1,850; left-hand models, $2,030. If you’re looking for a new semi-auto that will not tire you out, hits targets like it has a grudge with them and will turn heads when you uncase it, you should take a good, long look at the new Fabarm L4S Sporting. It is available in 28", 30" and 32" barrels. Check with your dealer or one of the fine dealers in this issue who offer Fabarm shotguns and make your best deal. Be sure to tell them you saw their ad in Shotgun Sports. SS
Photos courtesy of Fabarm USA