Fabarm XLR 5 Velocity Competition Autoloading 12 Gauge Shotgun
With the combining of Caesar Guerini and Fabarm, the result is Italy's second largest shotgun manufacturer, which now rivals the in-house design and manufacturing capabilities of any shotgun manufacturer in the world. The Fabarm XLR 5 has not been released in the United States, that I know of, until right now. The basic gas action used in this autoloading shotgun was introduced in 2003, the Fabarm “Pulse Piston” system. By now a well-proven system, the action bar design associated with this action was improved back in 2005.
The barrel design of the XLR 5 is the Fabarm “Tribore HP,” also introduced in 2005, improved from the original 2003 design. The Tribore system was designed to handle lead and steel shotshells with equal aplomb, using the “Inner HP” parabolic choke system that allows for substantially tighter constrictions than the C.I.P. standard for conventional barrels and commensurately tighter patterns. What the "hyperbolic" choke appears to be is a continous taper choke with a larger diameter, flared section at the muzzle. More marketing hyperbole than hyperbolic, there is no doubt about their excellent performance.
The idea of the Tribore barrel is that the area after the forcing cone begins at an overbored .740 inch diameter and tapers to .725 inch at the choke area. Here's how Fabarm describes it:
I think I can describe it a bit more simply. It is a slightly tapered barrel that constricts a total of about fifteen thousandths along its length.
Like most claims of this nature, the Tribore barrel notion contains more than a little bit of wishful thinking. One piece wads have such a low coefficient of friction in the first place that notions of reducing it have little basis in fact. For wads or wadding to have no friction, they wouldn't be sealing in the first place. Increasing shot payload speed invariably increases recoil. Ed Lowry was able to show that increased choke constriction does increase muzzle velocity, but you hardly need any special barrel to achieve it.
It isn't that the Tribore barrel is a negative, it isn't. It is like a lot of hyperbole in that it cannot do anything that you'd notice. Further, the graphs and pattern percentages from Fabarm that attempt to show improvement against anonymous competitors have nothing to do with clay sports, as they use #4 steel shot. While there may well be pattern efficiency tested against other factory autoloaders, the most logical reason for the tighter patterns would be attributed to the more aggressive constriction of the Fabarm chokes. CIP sets a maximum choke constriction of 0.5mm (0.0195 inch) for High Performance Steel only, this approximates what is often called “Modified” in the U.S. The Fabarm Inner HP chokes can be used with about twice that constriction with steel.
The Fabarm XLR 5 Velocity has a C.I.P. Proof Certificate included with the shotgun, identified with the shotgun's serial number, showing that it has been proofed to 1630 BAR (23,610 PSI). The proof level for standard steel C.I.P. Barrels is 1200 BAR, while C.I.P. high performance proof levels are 1370 BAR. This probably means the Fabarm 1630 BAR barrels endure the highest level of proof testing given to any shotgun in the world.
Over the years, I've discussed a variety of shotgun topics with Wes Lang, President of Fabarm USA and President of Caesar Guerini USA. I've asked on more than a few occasions when CG might start bringing over some of their autoloaders, the “Roman” and “Gladius” short recoil guns that is a standard part of their line overseas. Wes replied that they wanted to do something different, something exceptional. In that answer lies the basis for the Fabarm XLR 5 Velocity, a no apologies, dedicated clay busting machine.
What's wrong with the glut of autoloading shotguns as applied to clays? It largely isn't a matter of what is wrong with them, it is what is either ignored or missing. How many allegedly dedicated clays autoloading shotguns have true competition triggers right out of the box? How many have adjustable trigger positions or adjustable combs? How many shotguns have user adjustable point of impact? The answer to the last one is none of them. None have all of these features, until now.
Shotguns are invariably a compromise. There is a world of difference between a fast-handling upland gun and a clay smasher. The problem is, too many clays guns are themselves just relabeled versions of field guns. It makes zero sense to have a three inch, much less a three and half inch, chamber in a clays gun, since all clays shells are 2-3/4", yet most do. Small surprise that a gun with an overly long chamber may become sluggish with light clays loads.
It is also little surprise that there is a brisk aftermarket for optional, oversized bolt handles and oversized or redesigned bolt release buttons. Nobody wants a dinky little bolt handle or a tiny bolt release button to fumble with with the job at hand is breaking clays. Yet, obvious things like this have been ignored, even on models that say “Sporting” on the side of the receiver. If it is truly a sporting gun, the last thing you should have to do is start paying for trigger jobs, aftermarket bolt handles and buttons to make the gun easy to use.
As supplied, the 30 inch barrel Fabarm XLR 5 Velocity weighs right at 8-3/4 lbs. Included in its well-padded hard case are three additional forearm cap weights, that you can quickly add to balance the gun as you prefer. They weigh 1.5 ounces each, so you can quickly add over a quarter pound. The kinetic balancer is already installed in the buttstock. It weighs 5.36 ounces. Stock adjustment shims for cast are also included, as are five parabolic choke tubes. They are designated Exis skeet, Exis HP Short 2/10, Exis HP Medium 5/10, Exis Long 7/10, Exis HP Extreme 9/10. All are steel-shot approved.
I mic'ed the supplied chokes. The smallest diameters are as follows: Exis skeet = .722, Exis HP Short 2/10 = .714 in., Exis HP Medium 5/10 = .699 in., Exis Long 7/10 = .691, Exis HP Extreme 9/10 = .680. Based on a nominal bore diameter before the choke of .725 inches, the actual constrictions approximate: Skeet: .003 inch, Exis #2 .011 inch, Exis #5 .026 inch, Exis #7 .034 inch and Exis #9 .045 inch effective constriction. Pattern percentage is commensurate with constriction.
I'll include the normal laundry list of specifications, but most of them are variable: the weight is adjustable, the cast is adjustable, the comb is adjustable, the distance from the pistol grip to the trigger is adjustable, which means the length of pull is also adjustable. The supplied recoil pad is 22mm thick, but three optional pads are listed, starting at 12mm thick. I though the supplied pad was fine. However I was shooting in a thin, short-sleeved shirt. For use with a shooting vest, or with heavier clothing in cold weather, the 12mm pad would be benificial, at least for me.
XLR5 Velocity Sptg 12g 30” Semi-Auto Black RH $2,535
For those that consider price along with everything else, note that the apparently discontinued Beretta AL391 Teknys Gold had a MSRP of $2540, the current plastic-stocked Benelli Performance Shop Supersport 30 inch has a MSRP of $2949 and comes with only two choke tubes. Both are just glorified field guns. The Beretta UGB25 Sporting, a shotgun that is generously described as peculiar, carries a MSRP of $3975. None of them have adjustable ribs or triggers and only the plastic-stocked SuperSport is available in a left-hand version.
My understanding is that one of the last minute modifications that slowed the introduction of the XLR 5 Velocity was the trigger. It was as good as most autoloaders (faint praise, indeed), according to Wes Lang, but that wasn't good enough. Thus, they redesigned the trigger so it would qualify as a competition trigger on this competition gun and I'm glad they did. My example breaks cleanly and repeatably at just under 3-3/4 pounds.
It is hard not to notice the generous amount of nickel plating on the gas action array. This, of course is no accident, making for both additional corrosion resistance and easy clean-up. The XLR 5 receiver is aluminum alloy, what Fabarm calls Ergal 55, with a titanium finish.
One of the most interesting (Not to mention ugly! -Editor) and innovative features is the adjustable point of impact rib. This is done with no tools and a simple thumbwheel; if you raise the rib, you lower the point of impact. The range is supposed to be from 90/10 to 50/50 patterns at 35 meters. Point of impact, like so many things, is personal preference. I like a flat shooting shotgun, in the area of three inches center of pattern high at 40 yards. Some skeet shooters prefer it a bit higher and trap shooters, with a constantly rising target, sometimes like it extremely high, so they can float the bird significantly over the rib. Extremely high, for me, is a negative, particularly in sporting clays where sometimes you'll get as many fading or drop shots as risers. All up to you, of course, and whatever you prefer you're exactly right. The XLR thumbwheel adjustment makes adjustment quick and easy.
Off to the patterning board, at a laser-verified 40 yards. The patterning work was done with the Exis HP Extreme 9/10 choke installed, along with B&P F2 1-1/8 oz. #7-1/2 shotshells. With the rib almost all the way up, I found it actually shot a bit lower than 50/50, with some of the best pattern efficiency I've seen out of a factory choke tube. I consider this race game performance, right out of the box. I moved the rib down a couple of clicks and got the point of impact I wanted.
The XLR 5 is one of the softest shooting shotguns I've ever fired. Recoil with 1-1/8 ounce, 1230 fps B&P F2 shells can only be described as minimal. There is little muzzle jump and there is a distinct lack of vibration or mechanical feeling. All I could feel was the bolt closing after the shot. There's no reason to settle for wimpy, low-pellet count loads with the XLR 5. It is an easy gun to shoot, to shoot well and supremely comfortable.
Ejection was positive, throwing hulls about six feet from the gun. There were no failures to eject or failures to feed. As to how long you might be able to go without a full cleaning of the action, I have no idea. Though a gun review is not a destructive test, this gun is enough fun to shoot that it is going to get heavy use at the club over the next couple of months.
About the only thing lacking is a factory hull catcher. However, it is my understanding that Fabarm has one in the works.
This is the most thoroughly competent, well-executed clays gun I've tested in years. The Fabarm XLR 5 looks like a hundred miles an hour standing still, will fit more people perfectly than most any shotgun on the market and is wonderfully soft-shooting. The XLR 5 delivers higher efficiency patterns than any shotgun recently tested, making it one of the few that does not need aftermarket chokes. It also needs no trigger job, with a factory trigger lighter and crisper than most autoloaders and better than many vertical doubles. The XLR 5 adjustable point of impact works as advertised and is a feature available in no other autoloader.
The Fabarm XLR 5 is an impressive shotgun and fills a gap in the clays market. It fits the way you want, balances the way you prefer, has the point of impact you want and is going to make a whole lot of owners happy. It is the most impressive autoloading shotgun I've tested this year.
Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.