In late March and early April of 2017, Shotgun Life visited the legendary Gardone Val Trompia in the province of Brescia, which is the heart of Italy’s shotgun manufacturing. We spent time with shotgun makers Perazzi, Beretta, FAIR and F. illi Poli as well as master engravers Stephano Pedretti, Creative Art, Francesca Fracassi and Cesare Giovanelli. Here is Part 1 of our eight-part series called Shotgun Life in Gardone Val Trompia.
Although Luca Rizzini lives in Italy, he shares a kindred spirit with many American shotgun enthusiasts. He’s unpretentious, hard-working and dedicated to his craft. He manages Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini, or F.A.I.R. as we have come to know it, in Gardone Val Trompia. At F.A.I.R. headquarters, the modern showroom is airy and bright, but downstairs in the factory is where Mr. Rizzini really comes into his own.
“F.A.I.R is medium class in the market,” Mr. Rizzini tells us straight from the heart. F.A.I.R. strives to satisfy the large swathe of American shotgun owners who work hard at their jobs, support families and put meat on the table through their hunts. There’s no highfalutin marketing speak from him, even though F.A.I.R. is Italy’s second-biggest shotgun maker behind Beretta.
F.A.I.R’s impressive low-key dominance in the shotgun market is reflected in the unsentimental realities of the factory floor that originally dates back to 1971 and now supplies F.A.I.R hunting and clays guns to 42 countries and has the best-selling side by side in the world, the F.A.I.R. Iside.
After a five-year absence in the U.S., F.A.I.R. returned in 2014 with an expansive inventory of affordable Italian shotguns and rifles. The homecoming was facilitated through an exclusive importer, the Italian Firearms Group (IFG) – a consortium of four Italian firearms manufacturers and an American partner that operates from an 8,000 square foot warehouse in Amarillo, Texas. The original IFG had ceased importing F.A.I.R. long guns in 2010, but the new organization is in full swing with the backing of Italian gunmakers F.A.I.R., Sabatti, Pedersoli and Tanfoglio. Prior, New England Arms Corp. of Maine brought the guns here until the late 1990s.
The F.A.I.R. Iside Prestige Tartaruga Gold is available in the U.S. thanks to the company’s distribution agreement with Texas-based Italian Firearms Group.
Although the F.A.I.R. brand took an American hiatus, the factory in Italy remained busy producing shotguns for Americans through private-label agreements with Savage, Cortona, Verona and others.
The F.A.I.R. factory actually has two dispositions. Any American machinist would feel right at home amidst the smells and sounds where individual parts are shaped from steel and aluminum ingots and plates on the CNC machines. But there’s another facet of the factory that Mr. Rizzini calls “handmade” – the finishing by craftsmen at their benches, heads down, thoroughly focused on assembly. After completion, 50 percent of the shotguns are tested for fit and function, and 25 percent are patterned in the company’s 164-foot tunnel for proper barrel regulation.
The tunnel used for barrel regulation in the F.A.I.R. factory.
F.A.I.R.’s computerization program also allows shotguns to be custom engraved. Moreover, IFG has the ability to execute custom engraving. As an example, Justin Dodd, Chief Operating Officer of IFG, owns a F.A.I.R. sporting gun with sideplates that feature an engraving of his daughter taken from a photo.
For Mr. Rizzini, shotgun manufacturing in his blood. He belongs to Gardone Val Trompia’s Rizzini dynasty, whose family members control F.A.I.R., Fausti, B. Rizzini, F.lli. Rizzini, Ferlib and Caesar Guerini, among others. The three Rizzini brothers, Battista, Isidoro and Emilio, have engendered cousins, nephews and nieces who are prominently active in the regional production of long guns.
Luca Rizzini explains the systems used in the F.A.I.R. manufacturing processes.
Our visit with Mr. Rizzini started in the bright, contemporary showroom. He arrives in blue jeans, sneakers, sport jacket and gray knit shirt. His grey hair and beard are trim. His English is rocky but good and we never needed to resort to our interpreter, Giulia Zera. He makes the impression of being easy-going yet passionate about F.A.I.R. shotguns.
He tells us about the F.A.I.R. over/unders, side by sides, slug guns and rifles. Shouldering the F.A.I.R.s during his explanations, they feel better than what you’d expect for an average American retail price of $2,500 for hunting and sporting models in all popular gauges.
The F.A.I.R. Iside Vintage hammer gun, as shown by Luca Rizzini, that’s available in the U.S.
In part, that’s due to the integration of parts from different models that actually range in price from $1,475 to $6,000. Mr. Rizzini tells us about the high degree of interchangeability in the components that originate from the company’s design department. Using CAD/CAM systems, the engineers accurately create the parts and then simulate their function before the renderings are sent to the CNC machines for production.
The system certainly helps keep down prices but at the same time the high-volume replication pays off with refinement made possible through repetition. As we tour the factory floor, Mr. Rizzini shows us where this modularity is put to work in the different factory sectors that produce barrels, actions and then hand-finished with Turkish walnut.
F.A.I.R. over/unders being prepared for shipment from the factory.
The results are borne out by F.A.I.R.’s reputation in the U.S. for reliability, as evidenced in various online forums. Like Mr. Rizzini himself, F.A.I.R. shotguns get the job done with little fanfare – attributes apparently valued by hunters with a practical bent.
Still, there is that Italian thing – a cultural aesthetic that bubbles to the surface in a region that’s home to some of the world’s best gun engravers, manufacturers and designers. And given the F.A.I.R. price points, Mr. Rizzini likes to deliver attractive and affordable shotguns in an effort to remain viable to the largest possible international audience.
F.A.I.R.’s SLX 600 Deluxe Black over/under.
The Iside Gold side by side has case-colored sideplates adorned with full coverage scroll engraving; the SLX 600 Deluxe Black over/under has a rich black, engraved receiver with contrasting gold birds and a checkered butt plate; the Racing II sporting gun comes with an adjustable comb, rib and sleek completion black receiver; and the lovely round-body Pathos extra light has upswept engraving with gold game birds on guns possessing a classic English profile.
These shotgun triggers are in the process of being finished in the F.A.I.R. factory.
After our visit at the factory, we all go to the nearby Marcheno Hotel, whose restaurant has a popular restaurant for people in Gardone Val Trompia’s firearm industry. Mr. Rizzini is apparently quite popular as greetings are exchanged with other diners. We order salads, house-made, ravioli-like Casoncelli alla bresciana with butter and sage stuffed with meat and a few bottles of red wine.
Mr. Rizzini and I sit across the table from each other and the conversation turns to the challenges of competing in the market. He believes that F.A.I.R. needs to raise its profile in the U.S. but also believes in the value proposition and quality of his shotguns.
Irwin Greenstein is the publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at email@example.com.