Fabarm XLR5 Waterfowler 12 Gauge Autoloading Shotgun
This is part of what Fabarm USA has to say about their new XLR5 Waterfowler:
"If pure performance is the heart of the XLR5, the extensive list of user friendly features are the brains. The oversized trigger guard, safety, magazine cut off and extended bolt handle are purposely designed to allow for full control of the firearm with even the bulkiest winter gloves. The competition bred LR (Long Rib) concept has a top rib that increases the sighting plain by four inches and allows the shooter to see down the rib with a more comfortable head-up posture. To reduce glare we have masked off the top surface of the rib to provide a camo free matte black finish and added a high visibility fiber optic front sight."
"Water and mud can destroy a shotgun quickly. To reduce the possibility of rust and corrosion the barrel extension and bores are chrome plated. We have also PVD coated the bolt, nickel plated the chokes and covered the external metal surfaces with camo to reduce rust. The synthetic stock is also coated with a Soft Touch camo process to create a rubberized feel."
The overall fit, finish, and assembly of the Fabarm XLR5 Waterfowler, as you might expect, is superb. The combination of the molded-in but crisp checkering and the softer (rubberized) overcoat gives the gun a very comfortable, non-slip, solid feel.
The Waterfowler comes with 28 inch or 30 inch barrels. Even with the tested 28 inch barrel, the gun is a bit muzzle heavy.
The tested Fabarm XLR5 Waterfowler 28 inch comes in an included, $110 Integrale hard case, along with four choke tubes. The tubes are a 5/10 (Mod), a 7/10 (Full), and two 9/10 (Extra Full) tubes. As is the case with all Fabarm Tribore barrels, all choke tubes are approved for steel shot. Three of the choke tubes are flush, however one of the 9/10 choke tubes is extended. The extended portion is camouflage-finished to match the gun, a nice touch.
Further, the camo extended choke is marked "Optimized Patterning With Steel Shot." I have no idea what this means, no one does, and no choke tube produces anything without being mated to a specific shell at a specific range. As measured by Skeets Bore Gage, the extended choke tube has .002 inch less constriction than the flush tube. What differences in pattern diameter there might be only the pattern board can discern. We will find out, though.
Contrary to the published specification, the XLR5 Waterfowler weighs 7-1/2 pounds on the nose, not seven, and that is likely a good thing for waterfowl hunting. The Fabarm L4S 26 inch weighs 6-3/4 pounds for comparison. The Waterfowler trigger breaks at about five pounds.
Fabarm did a clever thing with the rib, in this case the "Long Rib" that extends on top of the receiver inspired by the popular XLR5 Velocity LR target gun. The top of the rib is black, not camo, and that offers a very crisp reference point in your peripheral vision compared to an all-camo rib. I am surprised no one else has thought of it, but as far as I know Fabarm is the first. It is just the ticket for those dingy, dusky, misty moments in the duck blind.
The actual rib portion that resides on the top of the Waterfowler receiver is six inches long. It provides a continuous rib that, combined with the ventilated rib portion of the barrel, is 34 inches in length for the 28 inch barreled Waterfowler and 36 inches for the 30 inch barrel.
The XLR5 Waterfowler is very easy to clean. The elastomer portion of the Pulse Piston acts as a wipe to scrub away fouling from the gas housing.
The Waterfowler is a soft shooter. At this juncture, the heaviest loads I have tested have been 1-1/2 ounce, 1315 fps #4 lead loads that decidedly break clay pigeons. Ejection on the tested model is positive, throwing fired target load shells about seven feet and fired 1-1/2 ounce magnum shells 12-14 feet.
Sling swivel studs are included with the XLR5 Waterfowler. I do like the rubberized finish of the Waterfowler, but have not conducted any abrasion testing. Some may well drag the shotgun over gravel or rocks, but that is not part of what I call conventional testing.
It has been my experience that water transfer printing, in general, is extremely durable and most of that durability comes from the proper application of the clear coat. As far as corrosion resistance, Fabarm XLR5 and L4S models have generous, heavy chrome plating on the internals and a titanium finish on the gas housing. The Waterfowler adds to that with a PVD coated bolt.
PVD is the abbreviation of Physical Vapor Deposition. PVD is a process that covers a large group of coatings. It includes titanium nitride (TiN), chromium nitride (CrN) and aluminum titanium nitride (AlTiN). Which specific coating Fabarm is using, I do not know. I would speculate that it is likely nickel boron, which is becoming popular in shotguns and adds lubricity, wear resistance, reduces carbon fouling and offers easier cleaning.
I have been asked to compare the recoil of the Fabarm XLR5 Waterfowler to other shotguns. This is not easy, as there are several gas-action autoloaders that are similar in both felt recoil and weight. As a group, the XLR5 Waterfowler, Browning Maxus and Remington V3 are all significantly softer shooting than inertia guns. Between gas guns, some might find the Remington V3 to be the softest-shooting. This is my impression, but there isn't really much of a difference between the three.
I will compare the Fabarm Waterfowler to the Browning Maxus, not because the Maxus is a poor shotgun, but because it is a good one and quite popular, as well. You can expect a better trigger with the Fabarm, better choke tubes and a proper hard case, along with the extended bolt handle and a better warranty with a higher standard of customer service.
Mechanically, there are no springs in the gas piston to snap, nor can there be any issues with the mainspring tube or mainspring in the buttstock, as the XLR5 does not use them. The Fabarm Waterfowler also comes in left-hand versions, notable because most gas autoloaders do not.
The most appealing and unique feature of the XLR5 Waterfowler is the Long Rib. Not only does it make target acquisition faster and easier, but the 10.4 mm rib height encourages a natural, comfortable, heads up shooting style that offers better visibility beneath your target, which may well be duck number two or duck number three. If you use the XLR5 Velocity Long Rib target gun for clays, using the Waterfowler for hunting is an easy choice.
Barrel length is a personal preference affair. If it was up to me, a 26 inch Fabarm Waterfowler would be ideal. I would imagine that Fabarm will expand their hunting line as time goes on, as the initial shipment of the XLR5 Waterfowlers to the U.S. sold out very quickly. This is a good sign that the Waterfowler is here to stay, despite its excessive price for a plastic shotgun.
I will do some patterning comparisons with the Waterfowler in the near future, starting with Kent Silver Steel 1-1/4 ounce, #2 loads and the new Kent Bismuth 1-1/4 ounce, 1350 fps, #4 loads. These two loads are extremely good duck medicine!
Copyright 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.