2018 Fabarm XLR5 Waterfowler Autoloading Shotgun
The Fabarm XLR5 Waterfowler, introduced to the United States two or so years ago in Kryptek Banshee camo, has been extremely well-received. The new version for 2018 is essentially the same gun, with True Timber Viper camo. On this model, the receiver is Cerakote with the forearm nut coated as well, to match.
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 originally tested XLR5 Waterfowler weighed 7-1/2 pounds on the nose, while this particular gun weighs 7 pounds 5 ounces. Both test guns have 28 inch barrels.
While hardly excessively heavy guns, they are heavier than the seven pounds stated on the Fabarm USA website. As far as corrosion resistance, Fabarm XLR5 and L4S models all have generous chrome plating on the internals and a titanium finish on the gas piston housing. This Waterfowler adds to that with its PVD coated bolt. The entire gun is designed to get wet without drama; just be sure to clean it when you get home.
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 butt stock, as the XLR5 does not use them. 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.
This is a three inch chambered gun, with the long rib approach that stems from XLR5 LR target model. The actual rib portion that resides on the top of the Waterfowler receiver is six inches long. It provides a contiguous rib that, combined with the ventilated rib portion of the barrel is 34 inches in length for the 28 inch barrel Waterfowler, 36 inches for the 30 inch Waterfowler.
The most appealing, unique feature of the XLR5 Waterfowler is the "Long Rib." Not only does it make target acquisition fast and easy, but the 10.4 mm rib height also encourages a very natural, comfortable, heads-up shooting style that offers better visibility beneath your target. The top of the rib is black and this gives you a very crisp, precise reference point particularly beneficial in the gray, early morning hunting hours, as well as at sunset.
That reminds me of a related event from some years back, when I was hunting with Dad in Argentina. Dad bagged 105 ducks in one single morning, but he wasn't happy. He had shot the bead off of his A-5 and in the early morning the Brazilian teal were buzzing back and forth along the shoreline and they were thick. It was raining lightly, the visibility hazy and murky. At the start of the hunt Dad could make out the ducks, but the barrel of his A-5 just disappeared into the mist. Although the shooter's focus is always on the target and the rib is just an out of focus reference point, Dad griped that his missing bead cost him 20 ducks or so.
He would have done better with an XLR5 Waterfowler, but they were not made back then. I was particularly unsympathetic to the plight of my Dad, for I suggested that when he told his buddies about his minuscule 105 ducks-in-the-bag morning, no one was going to feel terribly sorry for him.
It is the rib of the XLR5 Waterfowler that makes it easy to shoot well, particularly in very low contrast conditions. The soft-touch stock finish is nice and grippy, but not sticky. The rubber comb insert helps makes the gun extra-comfy. The large trigger guard and extended bolt handle makes the XLR5 easy to use with wet, cold, or gloved hands. The gun is easy to load, the shells just seem to glide right in.
The XLR5 comes in a useful 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 and one of the 9/10 choke tubes is extended. The extended portion of this choke is camouflage-finished to match the gun, a nice touch.
The camo extended choke is marked "Optimized Patterning With Steel Shot." As measured by Skeets Bore Gage, the extended choke tube has .002 inch less constriction than the flush tube.
This XLR5 Waterfowler has no trouble cycling with 1180 fps, one ounce loads, so it will be easy to stay in good shooting shape on the clays courses, or the dove field and have a great time doing it. The Waterfowler is a soft shooter. At this juncture, the heaviest loads I have tested have been 1-1/2 ounce, 1315 fps lead loads. Ejection is positive, throwing fired target load shells about seven feet and fired 1-1/2 ounce magnum shells 12-14 feet.
Right now, the Fabarm USA semi-auto hunting line consists of the synthetic stocked Waterfowler models and the lighter L4S Hunter series. Both lines are available in left-hand models. They all have stock adjustment shims, they are all 100% made in Italy and they all have the same Tri-Bore barrels proofed to 1630 BAR. They all take the same choke tubes that are rated for steel shot.
If you want a lighter gun for pheasants and like the look and feel of walnut, a 26 inch, 6-3/4 pound L4S fits the bill. If you spend more time in the duck blind and in the rain, the Waterfowler is the gun for you.
The trustworthy XLR5 Waterfowler is just what most would expect from Fabarm. It is boringly reliable, with a better trigger, better machining and better finishes than you will find on most autoloaders, with better factory choke tubes. While functionally identical to the Banshee camo model, I personally like the Viper camo and if you hunt flooded timber, it is especially good. The 2018 MSRP is $1750.
Copyright 2018 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.