Orvis Fabarm Elos D2 O/U 20 Gauge Shotgun
Photo courtesy of Orvis Co., Inc.
The attributes of a quality over/under shotgun have not changed in over a century. A desirable O/U is a symphony of steel and walnut, with polished bluing, excellent triggers, a good grade of checkered walnut, clean machining and tasteful engraving.
In the 1800s, O/U shotguns were not popular. One of the reasons was the standard ignition systems of the day used external hammers; not something easily used in a vertical double.
The Browning Superposed, introduced in 1931, was hardly the first O/U, but it was the most influential. Although it was the last design John Browning worked on, Browning passed in 1926, before the Superposed design was entirely completed. The Superposed was finished by Val Browning.
The timing of its introduction could not have been much worse, as the Great Depression of 1929-1939 was already underway. A 20 gauge Superposed did not appear until 1949, seventeen years after the 12 gauge was introduced.
The Italian guild or Brescia family of boxlock O/U's is well known and well respected. I have had many over the years, such as the SigArms SA-5 20 gauge that was produced by Battista Rizzini, along with several Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini (F.A.I.R.) and Fausti models. Several of these generally desirable guns have suffered from poor distribution, erratic availability and weak to non-existent factory service in the United States.
In 2002, the Guerini brothers and Wes Lang were the new kids on the block. Since then, their growth has been stratospheric, so much so that in January of 2011, the announcement was made that Caesar Guerini purchased an equity stake in Fabarm, creating the the second largest shotgun manufacturing group in Italy. Now a strong world-wide presence, Fabarm and Caesar Guerini have excellent customer service and repair. Buying with confidence is important, and ever more so as the acquisition price increases.
The history of Orvis is a lengthy one. Orvis is a family owned retail and mail-order business specializing in high-end fishing, hunting and sporting goods. Founded in Manchester, Vermont in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis to sell fishing tackle, the company has changed hands only twice and has had only five CEOs in its 150 year history.
In a fairly lengthy conversation with the President of a major player in the shotgun market, I was told consumer interest in new twenty gauge shotguns was at a much higher level than interest in new 12 gauge guns, by a 5:1 ratio. Desirable upland shotguns are supposed to carry like a 20, weigh like a 20, be slim like a 20 and shoulder like a 20. Various 16 gauge and 12 gauge guns are touted as "handling like a 20," but in actuality only a 20 gauge really handles like a 20.
Here is a fairly common type of e-mail that I received from a Mr. Lorensen:
I am looking for a new hunting O/U. It will be mostly used for upland hunting, but would likely see a few rounds of sporting clays throughout the year. Here is what I know:
- Steel Receiver
If you look at what is available in the US marketplace, affordable upscale shotguns are not as common as you might wish. For example, the Citori 725 Field Grade VI 20 Gauge is priced at $5995 (2018 MSRP). The Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III 20 gauge has an MSRP of $3425 and the examples I have seen have just above average wood and the engraving seems to get less distinct every year. The Browning has no warranty at all, while the Beretta has a one year warranty.
New for Fall 2018 is the Orvis Elos D2 that is the subject of this review. It features a forged steel action body, mono-block barrels with a ventilated rib and upgraded walnut stock and fore end with laser cut checkering. (See photo at top of page.) You will note that the well-figured wood has a lavish hand-rubbed oil finish, the laser engraving is crisp and tasteful, and the gold trigger has checkering on its face for excellent feel with gloved hands.
The walnut has nice figure with distinct mineral streaks. The recoil pad is perfectly mated to the butt and the pistol grip is one of the best designed grips I have used on an upland shotgun. The wood to metal fit is slightly proud, so as generations go by the walnut can be completely refinished, if needed, and you still have a gorgeous shotgun, or your grandchildren do.
The steel Orvis Elos D2 retains the lighter, livelier 28 inch barrels of the alloy Elos D2 and it weighs almost a pound more at just under 6-3/4 pounds. This is just about perfect for a 20 gauge O/U, for you can have comfortable fun breaking clays, yet shooting heavier hunting loads is not a problem. The gun is designed to balance on the hinge pin.
Aside from the lighter barrels, Fabarm has improved both the ejectors and the forearm design. As you might expect, the Orvis Elos D2 20 gauge has Tri-Bore barrels, a 1630 BAR proof level, is 100% made in Italy and all choke tubes, regardless of constriction, are rated for steel shot.
Not only does this model come in well under a $3000 target price, it comes with the greatest guarantee ever offered with a shotgun: "100% satisfaction, or your money back." You can call Greg Carpiniello, the Orvis gun-room Manager at 802-362-2580 to get yours today, as I suspect some will do before I finish this review.
I tested a Fabarm Elos Deluxe in 2013 and it did quite well. This Orvis D2 model outdoes the older model, with gorgeous walnut and a single selective trigger that breaks at 3-3/4 pounds out of the box. This is about 1/2 pound lighter than the trigger pull of the previously tested Elos Deluxe. The barrel selector is mounted in the center of the top tang safety slider, as with other Italian double-barreled shotguns. The weight of my Orvis D2 test gun is right at 6-3/4 pounds, as measured by my calibrated electronic scale.
The steel receiver Orvis Fabarm Elos is far softer shooting than the earlier alloy framed version, the engraving is more eye-popping and the walnut is upgraded. Not only is it a creampuff to shoot with 7/8 ounce loads, it is manageable with 1-1/4 ounce pheasant loads, as well.
While the D2 barrels are said to be a bit lighter, I cannot tell that based on memory. The Elos Deluxe was exceedingly well balanced and weighed about the same. The ejectors are said to be improved, but I had no issues with the Elos Deluxe ejectors. While the barrel set might be slightly lighter and the ejectors redesigned, the differences are subtle and of little consequence to me.
I can say that the forearm latching is, indeed, substantially improved. It is now very easy to remove and replace.
The Elos D2 top tang safety slider gives excellent purchase, even with cold or gloved hands. Unfortunately, it comes with a feature that I personally cannot stand, an auto-resetting safety. The automatic safety is activated by a little rod that pushes the safety on when you open the action. Regardless, Greg at Orvis assures me they will be happy to remove the annoying automatic safety for anyone who feels as I do about them.
Although I did not grow up in the years of the Great Depression, as did my parents, value is important to me. Price is what you pay, but value is what you get. This is what sets the Orvis Elos D2 apart.
You cannot just "phone in" hand oiled, high grade walnut, tool-mark free machining, light and crisp triggers and proper wood to metal fit. You have to do it every day, with every gun. Proper walnut O/U guns are built to be lifetime guns.
The Orvis Elos D2 checks all the boxes in a quality twenty gauge O/U. You can have a lot of fun with it breaking clays, yet it is easy to manage with heavy hunting loads. It has stunning good looks, but is not ostentatious. It is an honestly made, steel and walnut gun that is, perhaps, the most O/U shotgun you can buy for under $3000 today.
Copyright 2018 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.