Not just FAIR
F.A.I.R. is fair, good shotguns from the historic town of Brescia in Italy.
Well constructed and put together, F.A.I.R. shotguns are worth looking at. Recently I was invited by Mark Pledger and Cuan Robinson of VMC Ltd., better known for Rapala, the world-famous fishing lures and gear makers, who have become the agents for F.A.I.R. shotguns, to put their guns to the test at Waterhaven Estate.
F.A.I.R. stands for Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini who has been in business in Brescia since 1971 and is well known for the production of solid wellmade shotguns. Rizzini shotguns have been around in South Africa for longer, and these originate from the eponymous factory of a brother, Battista, who has been in the gun business since 1765. The gunmaker families of the Brescia area are inextricably and convolutely interrelated; just to confuse things, there are three more Rizzinis – Guido, Stefano and Emilio – who are also in the gun business in and around Brescia. Battista, for example, had the Guerini brothers working for him until they went off on their own and Stefano’s son Fabio is mar- ried to Barbara Fausti, but works for his father. Emilio stopped working on his own a while back and his guns are now made by Fausti. Guido runs F.Lli Rizzini which makes not more than 25 high-quality and expensive custom guns a year.
Common features of the F.A.I.R. guns are that firstly and most importantly, all action components – bodies, triggers and guards plus the forearm metal – are made of forged high-tensile steel billets. This gives more durable components, but they are more expensive to make, compared to the investment-cast ones. The barrels are machined from steel alloy bars and the chambers and bores are internally chrome-plated. All are steel shot proofed with 76mm (3”) chambers. Long-tapered forcing “X-cones” are universal to reduce recoil and improve patterns. Five interchangeable “Techni-chokes”, in the Beretta long style, both flush fitting and extended hand-removable, are supplied with every gun. Available barrel lengths are 28” (712mm) 30” (762mm) and 32” (813mm). The top ribs are all
finely cross-cut to reduce glare and are ventilated. Depending on the model, most side ribs are ventilated as well. “Old silver” brushed chrome-finished actions are used for all models except the Racing, which have black actions. This is fine for range guns, but I do wish that all field guns were available with black actions.
Secure lock-up of barrels to action is achieved with a full width (30.5mm on the 12ga actions) tapered-wedge locking bolt on the action floor, similar to the Browning system. Similarly the action hinge pins are easily replaceable via removable lock-pins on the outer curved front of the action, another Latin innovation.
All models are available with single selective or double goldplated triggers, the higher grade guns have adjustable triggers. Most models have auto ejectors, extractors can be had on request. The ejector system is of the dual vertical post type which is prettywell generic to the Italian makers, excluding Beretta, of course. The safety catch/barrel selector switches are non-automatic.
Turkish walnut is used for the stocks and finely-chequered by laser. Most models come with black rubber ventilated butt pads. Superior models have chequered contrasting walnut butt plates. Standard pistol grips, as well as some relaxed curve rounded-end styles and English straight stocks are the stock options allied to a variety of forearm designs – schnabel, rounded field and semi-beavertail. Standard length of pull for all models is 14½” (368mm).
We tested the entry-level “Premier EM Sporting” models in both 12ga and 20ga. Both are easy-handling guns with 28” barrels and ventilated side ribs; the 12ga weighing in at 3.25kg and the 20ga at 2.75kg. I was impressed with the 20ga and found its slimmed down stock and pistol grip would ideally suit the young and/or female shooter, yet even with my largish hands I shot well with the gun. The “Premier M” field guns are also to be had, but with solid side ribs which make them a trifle heavier.
The SLX 692 Gold was the only field gun on test, differing from the sporting ones with a bead front sight as opposed to orange fibre-optic sight of the others. Its weight at 3.15kg is acceptable for a 28”-barrelled 12ga field gun and it handled nicely. The sideplates with their gold pheasant and partridge inlays are well done. The relaxed pistol grip curve was comfortable. A gold escutcheon inlaid into the stock near the heel is a nice touch.
Next was the Master de Luxe, made in trap, skeet and sporting formats, in 12 and 20ga. The trap and skeet come with fixed chokes. These, with a higher grade of wood, have adjustable cheek-pieces, a feature unique to the models imported into South Africa. Again, easy-handling, good guns.
The Carrera is a full-on sporting gun with golden clay targets inlaid on the action sides and bottom, I found the tight pistol grip curve not to my liking, but I have always preferred more relaxed curved grips. The 3.8kg weight is fine for a gun that will live on the ranges, though a trifle heavy for carrying about in the field.
Lastly were the top of the line Racing and Racing 2 models. These, in trap, skeet and sporting format, all come with adjustable cheekpieces and the latter with an elevated top rib. Extra colour and pattern have been added to the woodwork by a laser process and I confess to being ambivalent about this finish, it looked a bit gaudy to my conservative eyes, though I’m sure that it will have admirers. Versatile gadgets, lasers! I did not get round to trying these out, though I noticed our host, Mark, racking up some pretty decent scores with the elevated top rib version.
I did suggest that consideration should be given to bringing in their X-light ultra-light field guns in both 12ga and 20ga (at 2.4kg) which I had tried out a couple of years ago, and liked. Now that nearly everybody is producing round-action guns, the light-weight field guns are the new rage.
Mark stressed that they are not just importing guns, but also offer something gun dealers in this country all too often lack, and that is service. They have a full complement of spares for all the models that they import. An attitude I can only applaud, looking back upon years of having to order special hand-made (by a gunsmith) replacements for broken parts.
The Racing model with gold inlaid clay targets on the action.
Charles Duff with the Premier 20ga, a “very nice little gun”.
ABOVE: Top to bottom: SLX692 field gun with sideplates; Carrera Sporting; Racing Sporting; Racing II Sporting. Both Racings have adjustable cheekpieces. The Racing II comes with an elevated top rib for trap shooting.
LEFT: Al the guns we had on test. Racing II held by an admirer.