Fabarm L4S Gray Hunter 12 Gauge Autoloader
There are eight different configurations of Fabarm USA's L4S series available, starting with the Initial Hunter model, which is also available in a left hand model. Then, the upscale L4S Grey Hunter model reviewed here, and finally the top-of-the-line Deluxe Hunter that features more elaborate engraving with a dash of gold and high grade walnut. 26 and 28 inch vent rib barrels are available in all models.
As supplied, the Fabarm L4S Grey Hunter weighs 6 pounds 13.5 ounces. The trigger has essentially no take-up and breaks at a pleasingly crisp 4-3/4 pounds. Four choke tubes are supplied, the usual IC, MOD and FULL flush choke tubes, with the fourth choke an extended Light Modified, also marked as 4/10.
The barrel comes with a gold metal front bead front sight and no center bead. My gun was slightly customized, with the addition of a one inch Pachmayr sporting clays pad that gave me the finished length of pull I prefer for wild pheasant hunting, 14-1/4 inches.
Regardless of the L4S model in which you are interested, there is no difference in build quality or performance. The Grey Hunter and Deluxe Hunter models are the same, aside from the receiver embellishments and upgraded wood (designated as semi-deluxe on the Grey Hunter and deluxe on the Deluxe Hunter). Both come in a $110 Integrale hard case. The retail price points on the line are $1250 for the Initial Hunter, $1695 for the Grey Hunter and $2100 for the Deluxe Hunter.
There are not that many autoloaders out there with real, traditional walnut stocks, but the L4S is one of the few. The pistol grip has a tight curve and the forend is the unavoidably thick type typical of autoloading shotguns.
The Fabarm L4S Initial Hunter compares extremely well with the Browning Maxus Hunter and this Grey Hunter and the Deluxe Hunter both match up quite strongly against the Browning Maxus Ultimate.
The L4S is not saddled with several issues that afflict many autoloaders. There are no piston springs to break, for the Pulse Piston has no springs and no complicated valving or gas bleed array. Nor does the L4S have a mainspring or mainspring tube in the stock to neglect, or the familiar tongue at the back of the breechblock to batter it. The forearm of the L4S is not a stressed part, so it is not prone to cracking or loosening, nor will it screw itself on into a state of perpetual immobility like the bizarre forearm nut of the now-discontinued AL391 Urika 2. That is one of the things I appreciate about the Fabarm L4S, all of the problems it cannot have, as the problematic components do not exist.
The Fabarm L4S is vertically integrated with the rest of the Fabarm autoloading line. The Fabarm HRA recoil pads (there are a total of four available) fit all Fabarm USA autoloaders. So do all of the Fabarm Exis choke tubes, which are all steel shot approved. The XLR5 extended choke tubes, optional 5.36 ounce kinetic balancer recoil reducer (this screws effortlessly into the butt stock) and other accessories, such as the T&S hull catcher, all work with the entire L4S line.
Many people have their own ideas about cleaning and lubrication. With any gas operated autoloader, I clean the barrel with Hoppe's No. 9 and use BreakFree ClP on everything else. It has been that way for many, many years. I have dabbled with the "lube of the month" from time to time, but have not discovered any reason to change.
With the L4S, basic cleaning can be accomplished with disassembly, for by just taking off the forearm you can get to a goodly portion of the internals. A quick wipe of the front of the gas piston with Breakfree CLP, hitting the magazine tube with CLP and getting a thin film of CLP on the dual action bars takes less than a minute.
This is the sixth Fabarm autoloader I have worked with and the third three inch magnum chambered Pulse Piston model. My examples have all functioned perfectly with one ounce, 1180 fps loads on up. While I prefer the handling of the 26 inch barrel model for my primary uses of dove and wild pheasant hunting, if you are going to shoot more clays than hunting, you may prefer the 28 inch barrel.
For general use, the L4S is quite comfortable with high velocity one ounce loads, such as the B&P F2 Mach, and Remington American Clay and Field 1200 fps, 1-1/8 ounce loads. For wild pheasant hunting, the current Winchester Rooster XR 1300 fps 1-1/4 ounce loads are the best lead loads on the market. If you cannot use lead shot, you might want to consider the Kent Bismuth 1-1/4 ounce, 1350 fps loads for mallards and pheasants.
Though gas-operated, the L4S is still a fun to carry, 6-3/4 pound shotgun. There is noticeably more muzzle rise with the peppy Kent SilverSteel 1-1/4 ounce, 1480 fps loads. They do not bother the gun, but a steady diet of them tends to wear out Randy.
Of all the twelve gauge hunting autoloaders I have tested over the last few years, the Fabarm L4S is the most satisfying and my personal favorite. It isn't just one factor, it is cumulative. I like the weight, balance, overall handling and aesthetics. I like the fact that the cross-bolt safety is where it needs to be for me, at the back of the trigger guard. I appreciate the fact that it comes with factory steel-rated chokes, regardless of constriction, and the Exis choke tubes stay far cleaner on the outside of the tube than most choke tubes. There is not much blow-by and resultant crud. It is one of the few autoloaders that does not need aftermarket choke tubes, a trigger job, or action-polishing. It is good to go out of the box.
I also like the bolt release on the opposite side of the receiver from the breech-bolt and charging handle, something that makes sense. I appreciate the look and warm feel of oiled walnut.
The L4S is also satisfying for what it doesn't have: a barrel that wiggles, a forearm that wiggles, an annoying center bead, or that pogo stick feel. Instead, it is a very solid feeling, stable platform that has none of these distractions and annoyances.
Note: For a review of the Fabarm LS4 Initial Hunter 12 gauge shotgun, see the Product Reviews index page.
Copyright 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.