Fabarm’s fabulous Classis Grade IV double

John McDougall

I have great respect for Fabarm shotguns which stems from a trip I made to their factory in Brescia, Italy almost two decades ago sponsored by then-distributor Spiros Teboneras. Before his passing, Spiros transferred his agency to Raytrade in Victoria who now proudly circulate the excellent Fabarm line.

During that factory visit the Fabarm research team had just developed their Tribore system of barrel construction. Thanks to their design these barrels hit harder than standard configurated options and more recently along with their HP (Hyperbolic Profiled) choke tubes, patterning is superior to many mass produced shotguns. Targets are simply demolished with this combination.

When I was hosted by the owners of Fabarm I was intrigued by the quality of wood offered on shotguns, their warehouse holding literally pallet upon pallet of amazing Turkish walnut blanks of all grades. And the amount of CNC machinery was overwhelming, these computer-driven machines capable of making and milling parts to the finest of tolerances.

Their sturdy double guns, or side-by-side shotguns, have four huge lumps as part of the monobloc of which they’re formed, ensuring integrity of the locking system and reduction of lateral forces that would eventuate from a single row of two lumps formed between the barrels. So let’s take a closer look at one of the premium models, the Classis Grade IV.

Barrels

Measuring 760mm (30^), the finish on the barrel set is perfect with a deep lustrous blueing. Joined at the top by a ‘swamped’ rib which runs beneath the upper height of the barrels, tapering from 10mm at the receiver to 7mm at the muzzle, this is complete with a fine anti-glare finish and topped with a single brass bead front sight. At the muzzle end the barrels are fitted with versatile interchangeable choke tubes which enable the shooter to use either open chokes for driven birds or tighter chokes for passing shots or high flyers, such as pheasants or waterfowl.

At the chamber end, for a 3.29kg gun it’s chambered to accept 76mm loads (3^ cartridges) somewhat outside the petite 6lb guns for English game species such as partridges, quail, woodcocks and grouse. In Australia our game species are more restricted and generally larger ‑ ducks, magpie geese - with introduced partridges and pheasants along with smaller stubble and brown quail where permitted.

So it could be argued the added advantage of 76mm, semi-magnum loads in the Classis are justified but of course lighter 12-gauge, 70mm, 28-gram loads can also be used for quail and smaller game to devastating effect. The 76mm chambering and HP Steel Proofing is a bonus for the hunter who enjoys shooting a well-balanced double gun in the field.

Furthermore, Fabarm have tighter than industry standard chokes, those for a full choke being 70 per cent patterning within a 30^ circle at 40 yards. Fabarm’s full choke will produce an 80 per cent pattern so it’s essential you fashion your favourite load with a Fabarm gun to be able to select the correct constriction for the type of shooting you’re doing.

These barrels are also bored their whole length rather than hammer forged, a seemingly superior approach to barrel manufacture. The ejectors on the Classis Grade IV are well-timed and split so each operates individually, their timing perfect and the power of the springs sent spent shells well clear of the chamber for fast reloading. This is an exceptionally well-made double shotgun built on the traditions of an old-style double gun but with modern manufacturing based on the demands of the contemporary shooter and cartridge loadings.

Receiver

Engraving about the silver receiver is spectacular with game scenes designed by Cesare Giovanelli, the scroll borders around the triggerguard and along the bottom tang also complementing the Classis IV. The gold inlaid model identification banner on the underside, also completed beautifully, reminds me this classy gun is a far cry from the ‘trade’ old English doubles which proliferated in bygone years, not quite up there with premium English guns but drawing aesthetics for the practical hunter and shooter of today at an affordable price.

Design of the top opening lever is superb and functions well. Finished with a touch of engraving and hatching for a non-slip surface, it swings aside comfortably to release the barrels then spritely kicks back into position when the barrels are closed, resting slightly to the right to allow for gradual wear.

The safety catch-cum-barrel selector is to the rear of the top lever in a traditional position on the top tang and works positively, requiring some effort to select its positions. This is quite acceptable as you don’t want a safety catch-cum-barrel selector that’s easily moved if knocked inadvertently.

The triggerguard is quite generous, significant enough to accommodate hands wearing thin leather gloves while the triggerfoot is fixed and comfortable. The Classis Grade IV uses a single trigger system incorporating an inertia firing mechanism which requires the first barrel to fire to cock the second. This is standard for many guns though I prefer a mechanical mechanism whereby either barrel can be fired without relying on recoil from the first but few guns, except those from Turkey, appear to incorporate such a mechanism now. Trigger releases are around 4lb for each barrel.

Stock and fore-end

The Classis Grade IV is exactly what is says ‑ a ‘classic’ double gun in that the stock is straight English or ‘swan neck’ with great chequering coverage at around 20 lines per inch. The wood-to-metal fit about the stock and fore-end is completed perfectly with stunning walnut an identical match to the splinter style fore-end.

I suggest pushing the fore-end wood tight against the barrels to facilitate release as the fitting is tight. Care is needed in replacing the fore-end to ensure the retaining lug on the underside of the barrels is precisely aligned to accept the fore-end and its retaining catch. Once correctly fitted the front button moves forward.

I’m a little concerned for the buyer who may want to take advantage of the gun’s proofing and pursue some geese shooting using high velocity and HP Steel Shot loads, as the wooden buttplate with its chequering may not be the most comfortable option. It’s fine for shooting quail with 21 or 24-gram loads of 10-shot but not so comfortable when shooting semi-magnum loads of size three steel shot with velocities in excess of 1500fps. I think I’d be investing in a reliable recoil pad if that was the case, available from Fabarm dealers as an original accessory or you may prefer an aftermarket addition.

In the field

Work entitled me to visit my local gun club for the purpose of testing the Classis Grade IV which I did with great delight, firing a host of 28 and 32-gram loads without a problem. The heavier the shells, the more the muzzle flipped which is standard for any shotgun but maybe more so with a side-by-side or double gun as they’re known. As mentioned, if shooting magpie geese in the NT or Cape Barren geese culls on Flinders Island, I’d invest in a recoil pad that could be easily interchanged.

In conclusion I found this gun a delight. It was a great compromise between a traditional English gun, being a double with straight stock and modern day twist - single trigger and HP proofing along with interchangeable choke tubes for various shooting conditions. Suited to clays or the field, I’d enjoy shooting it in competition in its class or out and about on quail, rabbits or ducks.

It’s a striking gun, well balanced with sensational timber and retails for about $6850, ideal for the double-gun shooter who appreciates the pleasure of such a sporting firearm. Along with a great case, instruction booklet, full set of chokes with spanner and set of gun socks, the Classis Grade IV is perfect for the avid double-gun enthusiast.

Specifications

Manufacturer: Fabarm Spa, Brescia, Italy

Distributor: Raytrade, Victoria

Overall weight: 3.29kg/7lb 4oz

Overall length: 119cm/46¾^

Barrel length: 760mm/30^

Barrel weight: 1.52kg/3lb 6oz

Bore and chamber: Tribore, 12-gauge, 76mm chamber/3^, HP steel shot proof

Chokes: Fabarm HP (Hyperbolic Profile, 82mm long, internal), Cylinder: Short, Medium, Long and Extreme

Trigger: Inertia-operated single. Trigger pulls: Right barrel 4lb 6oz, left barrel 4lb

Length of pull: 365mm/14⅜^

Drop at comb: 37mm/1½^

Drop at heel: 58mm/2½^

Warranty: Five years

Price: Cased with all accessories, chokes/spanner and gun socks, $6850

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