Fabarm L4S 12 Gauge Autoloader: In Detail
The Fabarm L4S series of autoloaders looks to be the best field series of autoloaders introduced in the last decade. The basic action itself is anything but new, though, in fact it has been established through the last twelve years.
THE PULSE PISTON GAS ACTION
The Pulse Piston gas action is a departure from most gas actions. There is no mainspring in the buttstock, 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, 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 to be concerned with. 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's all there is to it.
The tested L4S cycles 1180 fps 1 oz. loads with authority. That is as light of a load as I personally would ever use out of a 12 gauge, however some folks want to shoot 28 gauge loads out of 12 gauges. According to the folks at Cole Gunsmithing, that's easily addressed merely by switching in the gas piston from the XLR 5 Velocity, and most 3/4 and 7/8 oz. loads cycle with no problem. I have no interest in this, but some obviously do.
THE L4S AS A CLAYS GUN
Again, no 6-3/4 lb. 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 (an 1-1/8 inch thick pad) and away you go. Kick-Eez pads themselves add a bit of weight, and if you like the optional Kinetik Recoil Reducer from Fabarm screws into the buttstock in moments, adding an additional 150 grams of weight. That's all a matter of personal preference. I've already replaced the factory 12mm rubber buttplate on my example with the 22mm Fabarm pad and it makes a world of difference.
BARREL / CHOKES
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 upon by using aftermarket chokes.
I have mic'ed the spectrum of Exis 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 immediately 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. Three chokes are supplied with the L4S, five with the XLR5 Competition clays guns.
The three supplied flush chokes are IC, Modified, and Full (2/10, 5/10, 7/10). The XLR5 extended chokes are interchangeable with the flush chokes. Unlike most factory-supplied Full chokes, the Fabarm Full choke is approved for use with steel shot.
The crisp, 4.5 lb. Trigger of the L4S is not Fabarm's competition trigger from the XLR5, but it is markedly better than most field autoloaders. The tested Benelli Ethos trigger breaks at 5 lbs. 7 oz., for example, and that is a shotgun that starts at $1999 MSRP.
The tested L4S Initial Hunter weighs 6.75 lbs. on the nose, the lightest gas-operated 12 gauge I recall testing. It is substantially lighter than the Browning Silver and similar guns, 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 equipped Benelli Ethos and the harsh-shooting Browning A5 Hunter: http://www.randywakeman.com/ComparedBenelliVincivsBrowningA5.htm .
PRICE / WARRANTY
Most gas autos have a basic 1 year warranty (Beretta) or no written warranty at all (Browning). Fabarm USA has a five year warranty and their track record is such that they are generous and prompt compared to most. At $1100 street price (that's what Cole Gunsmithing is selling the L4S Initial Hunter for right now), Browning, Beretta, and Benelli autoloading products suddenly look to be miserably over-priced.
HOW THE TEST GUN DIFFERS FROM THE CATALOG EXAMPLE
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, as far as I'm concerned. The satin-finished walnut of the L4S Initial Hunter is a bit higher grade than I expected, with slightly more figure than I expected as well.
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 sadly 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've shot in decades. Add in its dashing good looks and the surprisingly low price of $1100, the L4S Initial Hunter easily gets my vote for “Shotgun of the Year.”
Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.