REVIEW: 2018 Orvis Fabarm Elos D2 20 Gauge O/U, the Shotgun of the Year?
The definition of a quality double gun hasn't 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.
This should surprise very few people, for what is regarded as quality materials hasn't changed in a century for many other things we enjoy using. Quality shoes and belts are made from leather, not thermoplastics. A quality necktie is made from silk, a quality suit is wool . . . not triple-worsted polyester. Quality optics use glass with careful polishing and a minimum of nicks, gouges, and surface occlusions.
In the 1800s, O/U shotguns were not generally considered. One of the reasons was the standard ignition systems of the day using external hammers: not something easily used in a vertical double. The Browning Superposed 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 it could be completed. The Superposed was finally completed by Val Browning and released into production in 1931. The timing couldn't have been much worse, as the Great Depression of 1929 – 1939 was already underway. The 20 gauge Superposed didn't appear until 1949, seventeen years after the 12 gauge was introduced.
In a fairly lengthy conversation with the President of a major player in the shotgun market, consumer interest in new twenty gauge shotguns was gauged at far higher levels than 12 gauge interest, 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 shotguns are touted as “handling like a 20,” but in actuality . . . only a 20 gauge really handles like a 20, exactly like a 20.
Some will be pleasantly surprised to discover that a 6-3/4 lb. 20 gauge pheasant gun has less recoil than a 6-3/4 lb. 12 gauge. It does, the way it is used, due to 1-1/4 oz. ammo velocity. While 1330 fps – 1400 fps (or faster) 1-1/4 oz. 12 gauge loads are common, 1-1/4 oz. 20 gauge loads are often 1185 fps – 1200 fps. It is enough difference that you may well feel the shoulder-stabbing 6-3/4 lb. 12 gauge is a lot rougher to hunt with than a slimmer 20 gauge of the same weight.
Here is a fairly common comment from a Mr. Lorensen.
"I'm 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's what I know:
- Steel Receiver
- 20 ga
- 28" Barrels
- Good Quality
- Would not prefer a "plastic-like" glossy finish
- Would like nice wood, but it's not a must-have
- Intend to give to my kids someday
- $3,000 budget."
If you look at what is out there in the United States marketplace, this arena of affordable, upscale shotgun is not quite as common as you might think. For example, the Citori 725 Field Grade VI 20 Gauge is horrifically overpriced at $5995 MSRP. The Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III 20 gauge has an MSRP of $3425, the examples I've seen have average to just barely above average wood, and the engraving seems to get softer, lighter, and less distinct year after year. The nearly $6000 Browning has no warranty at all, while the Beretta has a one year warranty. The Beretta is still plagued with a slippery, low-profile tang safety that doesn't work well with cold or gloved hands. In the case of my brother in law's high-grade Beretta 20, it didn't work at all for him, lasting less than one day of hunting.
note that the well-figured wood has a lavish hand-rubbed oil finish,
the engraving is crisp and tasteful, and the gold trigger has
checkering on its face for excellent feel with gloved hands.
New for fall, 2018, is this Orvis Elos steel receiver D2, and here are the specifications.
ORVIS ELOS D2
Action Material Forged steel
Finish Nickel plating
Action Embellishment Elos DII engraving with birds in gold finish. “ORVIS” logo on both sides of the receiver. “Elos DII” on the bottom of the receiver in black finish.
Receiver Shape Standard Elos DII frame
Top Lever Standard, blued
Safety Blued. Auto Safety option included
Gauges 12, 20, 28
Material (Trigger Guard) Steel
Trigger Guard Finish Color Blued
Trigger Guard Style Standard
Trigger Color Gold
Performance Minimal creep and take-up
Weight 3.75 pounds
Internal Finish Cleanly machined, blued
Trigger Type Inertia
Barrel Material Chromium steel
Chamber 3” on the 12, 20 and 2 ¾” on the 28 gauge
External Finish Polished Blue
Internal Finish Chrome plated chambers and bores
Top Rib Ventilated
Center Rib Solid (non-ventilated)
Choke System Flush fitting choke tubes with matching wrench. 5 chokes included: THE STANDARD SET IS COMPOSED AS FOLLOWS: Improved Cylinder, Modified, Full, Improved modified , Cylinder
Choke Finish. Nickel plated for rust resistance
Beads Brass (gold) bead, front only
Weight Distribution: Center of barrel hinge point
Design Pistol grip
Length 14.5 inches
Finish Oil finish
Recoil Pad Standard rubber pad
Recoil Reducer None
Checkering Standard (ELOS)
Fore-end Material Walnut
Finish Oil finish
Checkering Standard (ELOS)
Design Standard (ELOS)
Forearm Latch Push latch, blued finish
Forearm Iron Blued finish
Forearm Iron Embellishment Standard Elos DII engraving
walnut is outstandingly good, with excellent figure and distinct
mineral streaks. The recoil pad is perfectly mated to the butt, and the
pistol grip is one of the best-designed grips I've used on an upland
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 so much as finish this review. The steel Orvis Elos D2 retains the lighter, livelier barrels of the alloy Elos D2 (it comes in 28 inch only) and it weighs almost a pound more at just under 6-3/4 lbs. That's just about perfect for a 20 gauge O/U, for you can have comfortable fun breaking clays yet using heavier hunting loads is not a problem. Aside from the (slightly) lighter barrels, Fabarm has improved both the ejectors and the forearm design as well. 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.
THE TEST GUN
the slippery, very low-profile safeties found on Beretta 680 series
guns that are good for nothing except unintended pheasant conservation,
the Elos D2's safety gives excellent purchase even with cold or gloved
I did test a Fabarm Elos Deluxe in 2013 and it did quite well with nothing not to like. This Orvis D2 model outdoes the older model, with truly gorgeous walnut, and well-balanced triggers that break at 3-3/4 lbs. out of the box: about half a pound lighter than the previously tested Elos Deluxe. The weight of my test gun is right at 6-3/4 lbs. as measured by calibrated electronic scale.
While the D2 barrels are said to be a bit lighter, I cannot readily tell that based on memory. The Elos Deluxe itself was exceedingly well-balanced and weighed about the same. The ejectors are said to be improved, but there were no issues at all with original Elos Deluxe that I could find. So while the barrel set might be very slightly lighter and the ejectors perhaps were redesigned, the differences to me are subtle and of little consequence.
I can say that the forearm latching is indeed substantially improved, it is very easy to remove and replace, and as mentioned . . . the triggers are lighter, and the grade of oil-finished walnut is a substantially higher grade.
The Orvis Elos D2 does come with a “feature” that I personally cannot stand: the auto-resetting safety. This irritating feature apparently is an Italian thing of sorts. My vintage old Auto-Five's don't reset their safeties, nor do any of my pumps, autoloaders, or high-powered bolt action rifles. It is a little pusher rod that pushes the safety on when you break-open the gun. Do Italians do not grasp that when a break-open shotgun is broken open it cannot possibly fire? Regardless, Greg at Orvis assures me that they will be happy to remove the annoying auto-safety for anyone that feels the same as I do about them.
Above is the Fabarm Elos Deluxe 20 gauge that I tested five years ago, in 2013. This new Orvis Elos D2 features substantially upgraded wood, lighter and crisper triggers, a much improved forearm design, the new D2 engraving . . . and actually sells for less.
While the recently tested Elos D2 alloy (above) did extremely well, the steel-receiver Orvis Fabarm Elos is
far softer-shooting, the engraving is more eye-popping, the walnut is
upgraded, and not only is it a creampuff to shoot with 7/8 oz. loads,
it is quite manageable with 1-1/4 oz. pheasant loads as well.
The Italian guild or Brescia family of boxlock O/U's is extremely well-known, well-recognized, and well-respected. I've 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 (FAIR) and Fausti models. Several of these generally desirable guns have suffered greatly 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, of sorts. 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 the best customer service, and the best gunsmiths in the United States. Buying with confidence is important, ever more important as the acquisition price goes up.
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. This gun, the Orvis Elos D2, comes with the best guarantee ever offered to the consumer with a shotgun: you are 100% satisfied or you get your money back.
Though I did not grow up in the years of the Great Depression as did my parents, or struggle through it as did my grandparents and great-grandparents, value is personally important to me. Price is just what you pay, but value is what you get. That's 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 fits. You have to do it every day, with every gun. Proper walnut O/U's are built to be lifetime guns. The walnut itself is slightly proud wood, so as generations go by the walnut can be completely re-sanded and refinished if needed, and you still have a gorgeous shotgun . . . or, your grandchildren do. If you go to your local pro-shop, you'll be hard-pressed to find $6000 of quality in a Browning Citori Grade VI or $3500 worth of quality in a Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon III. It just isn't there, not in the walnut, not in the barrels, not in the triggers, and certainly not in the warranty or customer service.
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 as well. It has stunning good looks, but not ostentatious. It isn't a vulgar or pretentious shotgun, it is just a great-looking, honestly made O/U that happens to be the most O/U shotgun you buy for under three thousand dollars on the market today.
Although I suspect anyone would be supremely well-satisfied with the Orvis Elos D2, Orvis guarantees that you actually will be. As a result of all this, this late fall 2018 release from Orvis gets, and richly deserves, my vote as the Shotgun of the Year for 2018.
Copyright 2018 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.