Mike Yardley is impressed with the L4S Sporting clay shotgun, a light and nimble claybusting machine from Italy.
Having shot with a Beretta 303 for years, I am a big fan of semi-automatics for some forms of clay shooting, notably Sporting and Skeet. It wouldn’t be my first choice for DTL and the like, although I have shot a 100-straight at domestic Trap with one.
This month our test spotlight falls on the Fabarm L4S Sporting, a dedicated clay model brought into the UK by Anglo Italian Arms based in West Warwickshire.
This dynamic firm are also well known for distributing Guerini, a brand that has made great strides in the UK in recent years thanks to eye catching styling, technical innovation and a competitive pricing policy.
First impressions of the L4S are positive. This is a particularly attractive semi-auto with Italian design flair clearly evident. The gun weighs in quite light for a repeater at 7 pounds with its barrel a bit over 29 inches (it’s listed as 30ins).
It has a smart black receiver, and a grain enhanced walnut stock. Fabarm call this effect Tri-wood, and I would guess it is some sort of inking process applied to real, but plainly grained, walnut. The result looks good nevertheless.
The stock of the L4S has a full grip with quite an acute radius, which is a little tight for my hand. There’s a fulsome comb, much more to my liking, and a cleverly attached, unstressed fore-end which may be easily removed by means of its front nut for routine cleaning without a full take-down of the gun.
The barrel remains firmly attached to the receiver even with the fore-end off. As well as the externally visible one, there is an additional fixing nut forward of the gas collar. Unlike most repeaters you could theoretically shoot the gun with the fore-end removed – although that would not be advisable, or safe, because the working parts are not covered.
The profile of the fore-end itself is fairly slim. The shaping pleases the eye and is ergonomically efficient. Both grip and fore-end have a mix of conventional chequering and stippling, which offers better than average purchase and suits a competition gun well.
Getting the shape and proportion of the fore-end right is a big deal in any semi-auto design. Fabarm seem to have succeeded well. This one is not too bulbous, nor is it too slim. It is comfortable in the hand and offers good muzzle control.
The L4S has various bells and whistles. These include five Fabarm Exis HP 2 extended choke tubes, and an especially nice 11-8mm tapered rib with a shallow centre channel and twin beads. The small mid bead is white metal; the front bead is a white plastic globe and well proportioned – not over dominant.
This presents a good picture to the eye. The gun is also distinguished by an extended bolt release handle and a red anodised and comfortably enlarged bolt-release button. The alloy fore-end iron nut is similarly finished in red, the anodising making a pleasing contrast with black receiver finish and the fore-end wood.
The L4S’s streamlined Ergal alloy action is essentially plain – satin, black, with some knurling-like engraving to the bottom rear half. The trigger unit is fixed by two drift pins.
It is made of composite material as is the modern norm and has an elegantly shaped trigger guard with some simple decorative lines to its front sides. The overall effect is pleasing. The words ‘L4S SPORTING’ in white and gold adorn the right receiver wall to the rear of the ejection port. There is a bar safety to the rear of the trigger guard.
This test gun is 2 ¾in (70mm) chambered. The field model, which has been out a little longer, is 3in (76mm). There are 28, 30 (29+), and 32in barrels on offer too. They are all ‘Tri-bored’ with an extended forcing cone, a mildly back-bored section at 18.7mm, and a tapered section going down to 18.4mm leading to the long chokes.
The barrels are proofed at 1,630 bar, an unusually high figure – the industry norm is 1,320. They are designed for steel shot, and thanks to the long ‘Hyperbolic’ chokes which incorporate a curved conical section, can be used with steel shot even in tight constrictions.
Feel the pulse
The L4S, like its stablemate the XLR5, is a gas operated semi-automatic with an interesting gas regulation system introduced in 2003 and improved in 2005. The barrel has the usual ports and gas collar but a novel piston arrangement, at least in standard field models. Gas arrives in the cylinder and acts on a two-part unit.
It is made from a softish polymer and stainless steel. The gas pushes the stainless component rearwards and compresses the polymer element. The latter expands to a degree dependent on the load and regulates the speed of cycling by the resulting change in friction.
It’s very clever. Fabarm call this the ‘Pulse’ system. It is not, however, part of the spec of the firm’s 2 ¾in chambered target guns, at least not at the moment. In these – the L4S Sporting on test here and the XLR5 Velocity – the expanding polymer component is replaced with a solid brass one.
The mechanism is regulated to a range of target loads in a conventional manner. I mention the Pulse system not only because it is clever, but because it might – at least by tinkerers like me – be retro-fitted by replacing one component.
The Pulse system is of possible interest to high volume competitive shooters because of the potential to further reduce recoil. The degree of compression, as discussed, will depend on gas pressure.
If you shoot a light load the pressure is just strong enough to push back bolt and eject and recycle, but when you shoot heavy loads, it will compress as much as 5mm. It is a progressive system. “We can change the sensation of recoil…” the factory once noted to me when I visited them a decade or so back.
I routinely shoot a gas operated semi-automatic and have tried most that are on the market including the forerunner of the L4S, the XLR5, in various guises. The newer L4S guns are distinguished by their restrained aesthetics and lighter weight than previous Fabarm semi-autos. The gun as tested weighs about 7 pounds with a 29+ inch barrel.
With a longer 32in barrel and a Fabarm recoil reducer placed in the butt, it would come very close to my ideal for a clay-shooting semi-auto. I am not a fan of super heavyweights.
The test gun shot and handled nicely. Pointability was first class. The L4S has a distinctive, subjectively quite short, stroke with the brass piston fitted to the gas mech as discussed. Recoil was not excessive, though a bit more than my memory of the XLR5’s.
There was a little drag on the trigger pull, as there is on most repeaters, and I found the palm swell of the acutely angled pistol grip didn’t anchor my hand fully and tended to push it forward. I liked the comb profile of the stock.
The over-sized controls were just the ticket for clay-busting in all weathers. The tapered rib was excellent too, giving a great picture to the eye.
Although I was using only improved cylinder up front, I had no difficulty breaking Trap birds or anything else. My impression is that the Fabarm boring and choke system really does work well. I had one slight feed issue when loading a pocketful of remnants (not my usual Lyalvales). The overall form of the gun was especially good.
The stock was a whisker low in the comb for me with industry standard 35 and 55mm – I did not explore the fitting shims that came with it. It would suit many shooters out of the box, however; the length was ideal at 14 7/8in. The plain 22M black recoil pad was an ideal pattern; there are 12 and 27mm options.
Overall the quality and presentation of the L4S was impressive. It handled and shot well, with plenty of life forwards. I let my friend Kevin Lock at Fennes shoot the gun.
Another semi-auto aficionado, he too liked it, commenting on the lack of felt recoil but relatively light weight. My perception, as I’ve noted, was the the recoil was average though not harsh.
In conclusion, the L4S would make a very good basis for a serious competition claybuster, especially for those who prefer a lighter, faster handling, gun. For those that want something heavier, the 32in XLR Velocity is still in the Fabarm line-up, weighing in near the 9 pound mark.
My preference would be the newer gun but with the 32in barrel option. I would be most intrigued to try the polymer piston in it too. Overall, I was impressed with the spec, the quality and the design of the gun. Fabarm semis already have a strong following in the US, and deserve more attention in the UK.