A Visit with Carlo Fiocchi of Fiocchi USA
I've been shooting Fiocchi ammo for a very long time, both inside the states and out. After reading about "130 Years of Excellence," I was surprised to find that Carlo Fiocchi has the appearance of a much younger man. Carlo works like a mule, according to Carlo, and since that necessarily restricts the time he can devote to sacrificing himself for the entertainment of women and fine dining, I'm all the more grateful that he has consented to talk a bit about shotshells, Fiocchi USA, and what lies ahead for Fiocchi.
RW: Carlo, I guess it has been about twenty-three years by now that "Fiocchi USA" has been established. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of where you were when you started, and the changes you've made leading up to today?
CF: Fiocchi of America was conceived (as many other similar operations on the US Market founded by Italian - European companies) as the result of the need to be present on the USA Market without depending on a specific importer; needless to say the operation started as a typical importer/distributor business, namely shipping goods from Italy and reselling them on the US Market thru an internal sales force. It soon became apparent that, as the business was growing by leaps and bounds, that it was necessary for inventory reasons and flexibility on the market to be able to produce locally. Therefore equipment was brought in from Italy (the best shotshell loading machines are unquestionably Italian) to load shotshells and soon after also center fire pistol rounds. At the same time the offer changed gradually from a "Typical" European load to a load that was more geared to the American Market requirements.
RW: Right now, it is hard to walk along a busy clays field without finding Fiocchi purple hulls or spent white Rino shells, so I guess things really have changed. I'm a big believer in nickel-plated shot, and both the patterning board and suddenly bagged pheasants tell me it is the "shot type of choice" when every pattern counts. I see it as superior to copper-plated, note that it is used by Olympic shooters, was originally developed in Italy, and even the current sport of Helice (ZZ-Bird, Electrocibles) flows from Italia. Carlo, are all the Fiocchi nickel shot offerings just a coincidence, or has Fiocchi found nickel-plated shot to be of great advantage?
CF: Nickel plating is definitively a better option than copper plating because of the superior surface hardness that Nickel grants on the lead pellet. The process is, as you pointed out, a typical Italian "Racing Shotshell" heritage. If the surface hardness (therefore the sphericity of the shot) is maintained when the shot leaves the barrel the pattern will benefit from this and the risk of "flyers" is greatly reduced by keeping the pattern as concentrated as possible. Downrange speed is benefiting also by the smoother surface of the shot. Moreover, the hardened surface does not require excessive antimony content, therefore upon hitting the target once the hardened surface of the pellet is disrupted by impact you will find a "softer" core that will enhance your possibility of bagging the bird or get that extra target.
RW: I'm glad you mentioned sphericity, as that is the way steel balls used in ball bearings are graded. Carlo, is it fair to say that a more perfectly round pellet flows through forcing cones and chokes better, patterns better, and flies farther? Regarding "excessive" antimony content-are you referring to brittleness of the shot, the problems in manufacturing a high-antimony pellet with precise roundness, or the inability of very hard shot (as steel) to expand upon impact with a game bird, or perhaps all of the above?
CF: For sure the better the sphericity the better the pattern and the down range effects are going to be. In hunting I would dare to say that patterning aside it will be preferable to have a shot able to deform upon impact therefore releasing all of his energy instead of "passing through."
RW: I, for one, am grateful that Fiocchi takes the time to publish pressures, standard deviations, as well as shot type and antimony content for your shotshells where many others don't bother. It makes me think that Fiocchi does a lot of testing before releasing a new load to the consumer. Is there any truth to this?
CF: Our aim is not necessarily to increase volumes of sales by price; we strive to offer to the market the best technical lines at a price that will not break the bank. It is probably in our genes (I am the only salesman in my generation, all the others are engineers) the need to be as detailed as possible (and why not as transparent also?) when offering a product.
RW: 2006 appears to be an exceptionally big year for Fiocchi USA, with the new centerfire, rimfire, and pistol cartridges you've introduced just this year. How did this come about?
CF: Fiocchi of America wanted to be able to have a more meaningful representation, offering-wise, for the market. Our Company supports traditional distribution, does not sell to "Marts" or mass merchants in an attempt of keeping the integrity of our image and support those who made an investment in time and money in this business. It was natural to increase the offerings in the line to be able to attract more interest for our line and allow the dealer to be able to sell a quality product without having his resale price dictated by the "Mart" down the street.
RW: Carlo, I view your "Extrema" rifle cartridge line as geared at the hunter, the "Exacta" line towards the competitive marksman, and the "Rifle Shooting Dynamics" line as being directed to the high volume shooter, or those looking for that "magic blend" of both price and performance. Does that sound about right?
CF: Yes, that captures Fiocchi thinking when offering these lines. We tried to load the best components available on the market of the high grade lines, Exacta and Extrema, but we did not want to compromise on quality when engineering the Shooting Dynamic line. We have above average brass (same standard as the one we use for Military Contracts), reliable powders and bullets. I believe that the high volume shooter will be pleased with this type of "cocktail."
RW: "High performance cocktails" apparently are a great traditional Italian favorite? Nothing beats actual patterning in an individual gun, but there are a few trends that I'm comfortable in commenting on. If someone is looking for a relatively soft-shooting yet great patterning skeet load, the 12FPL #8 (this year, #8-1/2 also) papers are a great choice. The Golden Pheasants are covered elsewhere, but whether you are shooting a 20, 16, or 12 gauge-any shell in the line in #5 shot has done a great job for me, personally, and they've bagged a lot of turkeys as well. For trap or sporting clays, the 12VIPL, 12VIPH, or 12WRNO all give you 5% antimony, 1-/8 oz., very consistent loads at whatever velocity you prefer to shoot at: 1150 fps, 1200 fps, or 1250 fps. The 12VIPH is one of the most consistent loads I've chrono'ed, and I've found it to be a great shell to fly first class with on the dove field as well.
I've not tried your new 44XTP 44 Magnum load yet, your 223 ammo, nor your new rimfire cartridges yet, but I'm certainly looking forward to trying them. I also wish you could help me get some fresh food from Tuscany to Illinois, but that is a lot to ask from any ammunition manufacturer. A great pity what we call mozzarella and prosciutto here really isn't.
With that, Carlo, I'd like to thank you for your time and generosity with this little interview-and I'm looking forward to the surprises that Fiocchi USA has in store for us in the future.
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.