FABARM L4S 12 Gauge Autoloader In Detail

By Randy Wakeman

FABARM L4S Autoloading Shotgun.
L4S Grey Hunter. Image courtesy of FABARM USA.

The Fabarm L4S series of autoloaders are among the best field series of autoloaders introduced in the last decade. The basic action itself is anything but new. In fact, it has been established through the last twelve years.


The Pulse Piston gas action is a departure from most gas actions. There is no mainspring in the buttstock and everything is easily accessible from beneath the forearm. That means no mainspring to collect crud unbeknownst to the shooter, no mainspring tube to bend or crack and no problems with buttstock modifications, as you have no part of the action inside of it that could interfere.

There are no springs, O-rings, or valves with which to be concerned. No spring can break, as in the Browning Active Valve system. There are no secondary bleed springs to adjust or change (Beretta 390, 391), no fragile components or scrapers as in the A400. There are also no annoying rattles as you get with several actions, as in the dual pistons of the Remington Versa-Max and as yet unreleased V3.

The short version of the Pulse Piston operation is quite simple. The elastomer band of the piston is compressed outward as the action starts to cycle. The more force that impacts the piston, the more friction is created between the gas cylinder and the elastomer band that surrounds the piston. That is basically all there is to it.

The tested L4S cycles 1180 fps, one ounce loads with authority. That is the lightest load I would ever shoot out of a 12 gauge gun. However, some folks want to shoot 7/8 ounce loads out of 12 gauges. According to the folks at Cole Gunsmithing, that is easily addressed merely by switching in the gas piston from the XLR 5 Velocity, after which most 7/8 ounce and even 3/4 ounce loads cycle with no problem. I have no interest in this, but obviously some do.


No 6-3/4 pound, 12 gauge autoloader is my personal idea of a clays gun, but Cole Gunsmithing already has several customers that have opted to do just that. Starting with a 28 inch barrel L4S, the most popular path is to add a Kick-EEZ #10 pad (a 1-1/8 inch thick pad) to absorb some of the recoil and away you go. The relatively heavy Kick-EEZ pads also add a bit of much needed weight.

If you like, the optional Kinetik Recoil Reducer from Fabarm screws into the buttstock in moments, adding an additional 150 grams of weight, while moving the point of balance farther rearward. This is a matter of personal preference. I have already replaced the factory 12mm rubber butt plate on my example with the 22mm (about 7/8 inch) Fabarm pad and it makes a world of difference.


The Fabarm Tribore barrel is drilled, not hammered, and proofed to 1630 BAR, a higher level than all other shotguns. The CIP "High Performance Steel" proof is 1370 BAR. Unlike most shotguns sold today, all the Fabarm choke tubes are rated for steel shot. The Fabarm XLR5 and L4S shotguns are rare in the sense that they cannot be easily improved by using aftermarket chokes.


The crisp, 4.5 pound trigger of the L4S is not Fabarm's competition trigger from the XLR5, but it is better than most field autoloaders. A tested Benelli Ethos trigger released at 5 pounds 7 ounces, for example, and that is a shotgun that carries a $1999 MSRP in 2015.


The tested L4S Initial Hunter weighs 6.75 pounds on the nose, the lightest gas-operated 12 gauge I can recall testing. It is substantially lighter than the Browning Silver, the Remington V3 and so forth. It is also lighter than a Remington 870 Wingmaster pump, the Benelli Vinci and the Benelli M2. The tested L4S comes within about a quarter pound of the pogo-stick stock equipped Benelli Ethos and the harsh-shooting Browning A5 Hunter.


Most gas autos have a basic one year warranty (Beretta) or no written warranty at all (Browning). Fabarm USA has a five year warranty and their track record is that they are generous and prompt compared to most. At $1100 discount retail price, what Cole Gunsmithing is selling the L4S Initial Hunter for in 2015, Browning, Beretta and Benelli autoloading products are suddenly revealed to be miserably over-priced.


The catalog image of the L4S shows a plastic front bead. However, as supplied the L4S has a gold metal front bead. Sling studs are included, but not installed. Both of these things are positive developments. The satin-finished walnut of the L4S Initial Hunter is a bit higher grade, with more figure than I expected.


The L4S has a lively, responsive feel that most 12 gauge autoloaders lack. Nothing rattles, no loose forearm syndrome and it has a very solid, steady feel that the pogo-stick and "springy stock thing" autoloaders lack. Based on trigger quality, barrel quality, choke quality, generously chrome plated action parts and flawless assembly, the L4S is the most satisfying 12 gauge autoloader I have shot in decades. Add its relatively good looks and surprisingly low price (by contemporary autoloader standards) and the Fabarm L4S Hunter gets my vote for Shotgun of the Year.

Note: For a review of the Fabarm LS4 Initial Hunter 12 gauge shotgun, see the Product Reviews index page.

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Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.