This month we’re testing the Fabarm STL Competition High Rib, the latest in the Italian maker’s flagship line of STL clay competition guns, and its first to offer the in-vogue high rib style. It’s keenly priced at £2,495, and will certainly catch the eye of anyone looking for a new competition Sporting gun
Fabarm established its name in the UK with field and game shotguns – semi-autos as well as side-by-sides and over-and-unders. More recently it’s been making waves with its STL clay target range. Its UK presence got a boost recently when another Italian gunmaker, Caesar Guerini, took a major share in the company. That led to new models and a change of distributor.
So what do we make of the new Sporter? The first thing to catch your eye is that rib. Made of Ergal, a type of aluminium alloy, it’s 17mm deep and heavily ventilated. It is attached to the barrels by screws and lugs at each end, and cannot be adjusted for height – it is fixed at 20mm above the top barrel tube. A soft insert reduces the vibration of the rib on firing.
The next thing you notice is the Monte-Carlo style stock, fitted with a cheekpiece that is parallel along its length, rather than being angled downwards as on most guns. This is usually associated with high-shooting Trap guns, and looks odd at first on a Sporter.
What’s it like to shoot?
This stock is matched to the rib so the gun shoots to the same point of impact as most standard Sporters. We tested it at South Worcester Shooting Ground with a precision laser device used for gun fitting by senior coach Tony Harber. This showed that both barrels shot about three inches high at 15 yards, which will put the pattern between a half and two-thirds above the barrel line at 40 yards – ideal for Sporting clays.
When you first try a high-rib gun it can seem a bit imposing – will it dominate your view of the target? Those fears are soon dispelled. I encouraged several shooters to try it, and they quickly came to appreciate the gun’s easy sighting. They enjoyed shooting the Fabarm, and found it required little if any change to their usual technique with their own, conventional guns.
The high stock-rib arrangement means you hold your head more upright, helping with peripheral vision and giving your eyes more chance to operate to the full – especially tired or older ones!
The STL is heavy enough to feel solid and not flighty but it also handles well. The balance is slightly forward, which can help with steadiness on longer targets. The stock shape and dimensions made for a comfortable, smooth shooting gun with minimal felt recoil. This was enhanced by the right-handed palm swell, fine chequering and 22mm Sporter-style rubber recoil pad with rounded top.
Fabarm over-and-unders follow the same fundamental design used by several guns from the Brescia region of Northern Italy. There are two sturdy trunnions (hinge pins) mounted in the sidewalls of the receiver. These connect and hinge the barrels to the receiver. When closed, the barrels are locked by a full width, Browning-style bolt under the bottom barrel. It’s a neat arrangement, and has proved reliable over many years.
The latest STL Competition has some interesting differences from earlier models. The receiver body, still machined from steel forgings, has been strengthened and is now made in two parts instead of three. The lower receiver tang extension and rear upright that joins top and bottom tangs are now a single forging – a feature carried over from the Axis design. The locking bolt is now made from a steel forging for added strength, and the angle of its engagement faces has been modified.
Fabarm has improved the looks of the gun, with a rounded and slightly conical profile to the receiver body. It is slimmer at the hinge pin end than the rear, and is complemented with curved sideplates. This profile gives an elegant appearance that is also very strong. These are complex shapes to produce. Such features are normally found in far more expensive handcrafted guns, and Fabarm is proud to offer such an intricate profile in a machine-made gun.
The receiver and sideplates, top tang and top lever are attractively engraved with floral scroll designs using modern techniques. The receiver top fences are deeply scalloped too, saving weight and improving looks. The result is increased strength when it was not in doubt before.
Internally the action parts are very well made, heat-treated and assembled by hand. Trigger pulls are good on the review gun but the Fabarm technicians are working to refine them further and the next batch to reach the UK should have even better trigger pulls. The smooth, open profile trigger blade has four positions to which it can be adjusted.
Fabarm is justly proud of its barrels and still goes to the time and added expense of machining barrel tubes from steel billets seasoned outside to relieve all stress before being bored in the traditional gun-drilling way, whereas many makers now hammer-forge their barrels.
Fabarm then hand assembles the tubes into the breech monobloc and attaches the side ribs, silver soldering the assembly in special ovens. The barrel sets are then de-soldered to remove any excess solder. Skilled technicians inspect and straighten the barrels using a traditional capstan vice to ensure the bores are true.
Internally the barrels have a special bore profile that Fabarm call Tri-bore. This has lengthened forcing cones, leading to an oversize central section of the barrel bore measuring 18.8mm (.740”) diameter for 12 gauge, which is about .011” above standard size. The bore then steps down to 18.4mm (.724”) – slightly smaller than standard 12 gauge diameter – immediately before the choked section.
This profile is claimed to offer benefits such as reduced pellet deformation, and increased velocity with reduced recoil. It seems a magical system but it’s not easy to confirm without a ‘before and after’ facility. The end results seem uniformly positive though.
The choke tubes are the latest Exis HP type, where HP stands for Hyperbolic Profile rather than High Performance as you might expect from other makes. At 92mm the Exis HP is the longest of the internal choke tube designs currently offered as standard. Its internal profile is a hyperbolic curve, not the traditional straight cone.
The advantage with this profile is that the pellets are more gently guided from the bore size to the degree of choke required. This is also claimed to generate less friction and pellet deformation, and also produces less variation in velocity between the pellets in contact with the choke tubes and those in the central section of the shot load.
This in turn is claimed to reduce the length of the shot string, strengthening the pattern’s effectiveness by up to 10 per cent at normal Sporting ranges. Uniquely, the combination of their length and the hyperbolic bore allows the Exis HP choke tubes to be used with steel shot right up to Full Choke boring.
Fabarm submits its guns to CIP proof testing at around 20 per cent above that required by CIP Internationally approved rules – a higher level than any other make. All Fabarm 12-bore guns have been submitted to 1,630 bar pressures for three years. This has recently been extended to their 20-bore guns too, even those with Ergal 55 alloy receivers.
This new high-rib Fabarm combines quality of construction and very pleasing finish with a host of features at a very attractive price – and it shoots well too. Expect to see the high rib STL appearing at a shoot near you!