At $50,200 this custom Blaser shotgun may be the most expensive F3 ever produced by the company.

When you consider the top F3 Imperial lists for nearly $29,000, this custom F3, which we call One-of-One because of its trigger-guard inscription, becomes worthy of recognition.

A Conversation With Tullio Fabbri

Written by Irwin Greenstein
By Irwin Greenstein

Meet Tullio Fabbri, shotgun maker to the stars.

His clients include director Steven Spielberg, actor Tom Selleck, rocker Eric Clapton and writer-director John Milus.

“A lot of very, very wealthy people in the public eye are Fabbri owners,” noted Mike Burnett, manager of Dewings Fly & Gun Shop in West Palm, Florida, the only authorized Fabbri dealer in the world.

That’s because Fabbri shotguns are recognized as the pinnacle of shotgun achievement. Fabbris are technically perfect, and with their stunning Renaissance and fantasy-style engravings are truly “functional artwork,” said Mr. Burnett.

A Matched Pair for $395,000

Today you can purchase a matched pair of new 12-gauge Fabbris selling for a cool $395,000 on the Dewings web site (simply click on the “Add to Cart” button). The starting price for a new Fabbri is $100,000 -- and the waiting list can be up to five, very long years for a bespoke shotgun.

You can of course sidestep the queue and find yourself a previously owned Fabbri. Even then, you can expect to pay $60,000 to $240,000.

Or you can talk with Mr. Burnett. He has reserved time with the engravers and has several Fabbris in the pipeline whose stocks he could custom fit during production. In that case, your wait would be approximately 15 months. If you can accommodate an off-the-rack Fabbri, Mr. Burnett had six in his store as of this writing -- among the largest retail inventories of Fabbris anywhere.




The Fabbri Vision

The scarcity, quality and star-power of Fabbris elevates them into the same rarefied universe as the British legends: Purdy, Holland & Holland and Boss. Yet while these institutions have been making shotguns for hundreds of years, Mr. Fabbri’s father, Ivo, started the firm in 1965. The remarkable trajectory of Fabbri is a testament to the craftsmanship and vision that catapulted this tiny shotgun company straight to the top.

So what is the secret to a Fabbri shotgun?

Mr. Fabbri was kind enough to spend about 30 minutes on the phone with us from Italy, to explain the philosophy of the company.
“We have to use anything we can afford to do our job better,” he said. “The design and mechanics of our guns change according to new technology.”

The payoff, according to Mr. Burnett is “The details. A Fabbri gun is absolutely perfect. Not a flaw, not a burr, not anything that would cause that gun mechanical failure. They are mechanically perfect, and as close to perfection in an over-and-under shotgun there is.”

Only 30 Fabbris per Year

As a matter of course, Fabbri has been at the forefront of computerization and advanced manufacturing -- an approach that some critics judge as extreme when you consider that the business employs only 16 people who make approximately 30 shotguns per year.

For example, he will use one of these $10-million machines to make a single screw from scratch, explained Mr. Burnett.

“A lot of people don’t appreciate the effort we put into our shotguns,” Mr. Fabbri said. “We keep working very hard to make improvements. The design of the gun is alive -- it’s a laboratory for people who really want the best.”

Like a Silicon Valley Clean Room

In his quest, Mr. Fabbri broke ground in 2004 on a new facility that could rival the semiconductor clean rooms of Silicon Valley -- a place he knows quite well from his frequent visits to test and try new equipment for his shop.

Fabbri’s 50,000-square-foot factory is climate controlled. It uses 3-D software for design and manufacturing -- similar to what the big car makers employ to see renditions of parts and designs in 360º before committing them to production.

Laser-Welded Barrels

Mr. Fabbri has opted to laser-weld the barrels for enhanced precision. The sears in the locks are coated with a diamond dust finish for durability. Materials for making a Fabbri shotgun include titanium alloys and stainless steel for strength and agility. All 150 individual parts of a shotgun are manufactured in the Fabbri workshop -- an entire shotgun completing a rigorous 1,500 production steps.

Unlike his pricy British counterparts, Mr. Fabbri is unapologetic that his exquisite over-under shotguns are machine-made. In fact, he believes it’s the best way to make the best possible shotguns.

“We make a 12-gauge that weighs like a 20,” he said. “It’s perfectly balanced. You can’t do that with a file, anvil and drill.”

Fabbri is still blazing a path set in the 16th century of the Val Trompia region of Italy, where the company is located.

The Craftsmen of Val Trompia

Val Trompia is reknown for its Italian craftsmen who have been plying their weaponry skills since Bartolomeo Beretta started making barrels for the arquebus, a heavy matchlock gun favored by kings and popes.

The narrow valley of Val Trompia runs through the Columbine Mountains. The region is rich in high-grade iron ore and timber that fueled the furnaces and fire pits of the earliest artisans. The Mella River which flows through the valley supplied water and hydro power.

This rustic area has been at the leading edge of weapons development for centuries. It is home to Beretta, Franchi and an astonishing concentration of gun-making expertise.

The raw materials of the mountains enabled the Berettas to work the small fires that shaped rough plates heated and wrapped around steel mandrels. It marked the beginning of the fine art of welding the seam along the length of the barrel by hammering the overlapping edges together.

The Brescian Style

Over the centuries, magnificent guns and armor of Val Trompia were manufactured with intricate embellishments chiseled into their design. It came to be referred to as the Brescian style -- in acknowledgement of the nearby industrial hub of Brescia.

Val Trompia was relied upon to keep Napoleon’s Grand Army in guns. Almost 40,000 muskets were produced annually until Napoleon was brought to his knees in 1815.

Today, the Val Trompia region is a Mecca for engravers. This ancient mountain region is now home of Sabbati, Pedretti, Torcoli and Pedersoli. How much are collectors willing to pay for Fabbris engraved by these masters? Well, that $395,000 matched pair on the Dewings web site was engraved by the legendary Mr. Pedersoli. An engraving by Mr. Perdersoli can easily add $50,000 or more to the price of a base, $100,000 Fabbri, Mr. Burnett told us.



That’s why it’s hard to believe that the Fabbri phenomenon could have happened anyplace else in Italy.

An Italian Feast of Shotgun Makers

The Brescia Consortium of Arms Manufacturers touts over 30 world-class shotgun manufacturers plus more than 40 subcontractors -- the artisans who specialize in barrels, triggers, stocks, engraving and other components that are scrupulously manufactured.

Go down the list of shotgun makers in the consortium and you’ll see Italian legends such as Pedersoli, F.A.I.R., Famars, Piotti, Rizzini, Zoli and others. And it is very similar to the concentration of talent that you find in Silicon Valley where tradition, genius and proximity give rise to a hotbed of innovation.

When you visit Val Trompia, it seems like every Italian gun maker in the country is housed here.

Now, when you think of the specialization that marks so many craftsmen in the area, Mr. Fabbri has taken that 16th century craftsmanship into the space age.

As Mr. Burnett explains, “Basically when you buy a Fabbri you’re paying for the labor. Tullio makes every part in house.”

The Maestros

Tulio Fabri img 3Mr. Fabbri deftly walks the high wire that spans digital manufacturing and old-world craftsmanship. Ask him who engraves his shotguns, and you’ll get a Who’s Who of Italian Maestros…Angelo Galeazzi, Gianfranco Pedersoli and Manrico Torcoli (the father of the fantasy style of engraving), among others.

Mr. Burnett said his customers buy Fabbris for different reasons, but mostly they see these shotgun masterpieces as investments. "They’re not going to lose money -- they’re so sought after. You could probably make 10% year over year on a Fabbri."

Art of the Gun

Written by Irwin Greenstein
art_img

In this section we celebrate the great engravers, stock makers and craftsmen who combine their talents to produce beautiful shotguns.

Since the 16th century, guns have been adorned with depictions of great hunts and battles. Now in the 21st century you’ll come to understand that, with the right talent, a shotgun can actually become a piece of jewelry -- something that distinguishes the owner and enhances the value of the shotgun.


Prepare to be amazed.

Shotgun Fit: What You’re Missing

Written by Irwin Greenstein

A proper fitting shotgun is so important that some folks are willing to spend $90,000 and more to get it. For that $90,000, you can take possession of a bespoke Purdey side-by-side custom fit to you much as the company did to the British landed gentry in the 19th century.

But for shooters who don’t have the money or the time to wait 12 long months for their shotguns, you can fit an off-the-shelf shotgun to your frame in ways that will enable you to hit plenty of targets -- consistently.

Ask the experts about purchasing a shotgun and the first thing they’ll advise is to make sure it fits. In this section you’ll find everything necessary to help you understand the dynamics of a well-fitting shotgun…

  • What to look for
  • Eye domination
  • Trigger pull
  • Adjustable combs
  • Adjustable butt plates
  • Common mistakes
  • Low gun fit

Cleaning Your Shotgun (Or Not)

Written by Irwin Greenstein
Do you really need to clean your shotgun?

You’d be surprised that the answer is: “It depends.”

One 50-year veteran shooter will hardly ever clean his over/under. He’ll go shoot birds in Argentina with a dirty shotgun, spend a few days shooting 4,000 rounds or so -- and just keep on shooting without a drop of Hoppe’s ever touching it.

Then there are shotgun owners with semi-automatics that need to give it a good cleaning every 300 rounds or so.

And then of course there are shooters who clean their shotguns after a few rounds of skeet.

What’s right? What’s wrong? Well, it depends.

In this section you learn the ins and outs of proper shotgun care…

  • The importance of a clean shotgun
  • Products that do the job

Shotgun Shells

Written by Irwin Greenstein

About Shotgun Shells

The components of a shotgun shell include the rim, primer, brass, shell case, powder, wad and shot — with the exception of shotgun slugs, which are like blunt bullets encased in a shotgun shell and used on larger game.

Saturday, 30 August 2008 16:33

Shotgun Safety

Written by Irwin Greenstein
Nothing -- repeat nothing -- is more important than safety when handling your shotgun.

Many shooters get so focused on making the shot, that they lose track of what’s going on around them. Once that happens, it’s simply a matter of time until an accident happens with your shotgun.

In this section, you’ll learn about everything you should do and should not do when handling a shotgun. You’ll also discover the most important safety tips regarding children and shotguns.

Ignoring or forgetting the safety basics is very easy to do. Shooters get complacent, over-confident or distracted. Eventually, every shooter at one time or another does something unsafe with a shotgun. This section makes you realize when you do it, how to prevent it and how to spot safety slip-ups in others.

This section is a must-read for every shotgun shooter -- and for anyone who is even contemplating owning a shotgun or being around others who are shooting shotguns.

Shotgun Triggers

Written by Irwin Greenstein
When it comes to shooting shotguns, if anything goofy is in your head, it will likely show up in the trigger.

Recoil aversion, doubt over the break point, longings for banana-nut pancakes and bacon drenched in warm maple syrup -- whatever distraction or bugaboo that causes you to miss a target can easily manifest as a fickle trigger finger.

Even then, assuming the target has your full concentration, the trigger is the place on the shotgun where you commit: if the trigger pull is too heavy, too light or too long the results are likely to be the same: a target that just keeps on going.

When it comes to trigger-pull weight, the ideal is between 3½ to 4 pounds for single- trigger shotguns. On a side-by-side shotgun that has two triggers, the front trigger should set at about 3½ pounds. The rear trigger can be slightly heavier due to the fact that it rests on a slightly stronger part of your finger.

Shotgun Triggers and Your Local Gunsmith

If you have any doubts about the weight of your trigger pull, you can purchase a trigger-pull gauge for anywhere between $20 and $70 -- or you can visit your local gunsmith. A trigger-pull gauge is standard-issue equipment for gunsmiths.

The next problem with your trigger could be the length of pull. If it’s slightly too long or too short, you could find yourself shooting prematurely or flinching because the trigger is simply too far back for you to exert the proper pressure.

The first thing to do is check to see if your trigger is adjustable. These adjustable shotgun triggers generally come in two flavors: notched and variable. The notched variety will let you move the trigger in preset increments. The variable has no preset increments -- providing a more accurate fit.



Is Your Shotgun Trigger Adjustable?

The give-away as to whether or not you have an adjustable trigger is a tiny Allen-screw in the trigger (or you could just read the manual). And if your gun did come with an adjustable trigger, the proper Allen wrench should have been packaged with your shotgun.

After adjusting the trigger, if the gun still doesn’t fit right, then its time to consider adjusting the length of the stock. You can either cut the stock or get any number of adjustable recoil pads.

One thing about shotgun triggers that may surprise you is how your efforts to combat recoil could impact your trigger performance.

Shooters with recoil problems try to address the predicament by either going with low-recoil shells or inserting tubes that allow you to shoot a smaller gauge with reduced recoil. Suddenly, you find that your trigger won’t reset on the second shot.

Here’s what happened…

Shotguns With Inertia Triggers

Most shotguns are manufactured with inertia triggers. That term is derived from a mechanism where the recoil from the first shot actually enables the trigger to get off the second shot. The prerequisite recoil set by the factory takes into account a standard off-the-shelf load that would be used for the original gauge of the shotgun.

When you manipulate the recoil, you’re also manipulating the inertia necessary to cycle the trigger for the second shot. So if you develop trigger malfunctions as you experiment with low-recoil and subgauge loads, it could be that you’re not generating enough pressure.

At that point, your recoil problems become more complicated. Do you buy a smaller gauge shotgun? Do you reload your own shells to custom-tailor your own load? Do you take the trigger to a gunsmith to see if they can adjust the trigger to a lighter load? Or do you replace the inertia trigger with a different type of trigger?

(Actually, there could be one more incredibly easy solution. Change the selector on your shotgun to reverse the order of which barrel shoots first. Most shooters want their bottom barrel to fire first. But if you select your top barrel to shoot first, it could conceivably solve the problem with inertia triggers.)

Mechanical or Release Triggers for Your Shotgun?

If you opt to replace the trigger entirely, that leaves you with two alternatives: mechanical triggers or release triggers.

With a mechanical trigger, both hammers are cocked when you break open the shotgun. By eliminating the inertia factor, the second barrel will fire when the first barrel fails to fire.

Then there are release triggers. They sound counter-intuitive, but shooters who use them can’t go back. Think of a release trigger as drawing back the string on a bow. To fire the arrow you simply release the string. It’s similar with a release trigger.

To set the trigger you pull on it as though to fire it. But the trigger won’t fire until you take your finger off it. Release triggers were originally designed for single-shot trap guns -- the idea behind it that you were less likely to flinch on targets that generally flew straight out.

Over time, release triggers migrated to skeet and sporting shotguns. And the technology has grown more sophisticated. You can now either order, or have customized, just about any configuration of a release trigger.

You can have release-pull, release-release, pull-release -- pretty much whatever your heart desires.

Look for the Big R on the Shotgun

Be advised: release triggers can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. In fact, any responsible shotgun owner with a release trigger will affix a sticker that sports a big R on a fluorescent background as a warning. It is highly advised not to let new shooters try release triggers, since instinctively they want to pull the trigger to fire the shotgun.

Whether or not you’re looking to solve a problem with your shooting, some shooters simply prefer different kinds of triggers to make them more successful.

Side-by-side owners really go for the original double trigger. This system predates screw-in chokes. Since early side-by-sides were mostly field guns, the barrels were choked to hit birds at different distances.

If you missed the first shot on an outgoing bird, then the assumption was that the second shot would be further away and you would need a tighter choke. For incoming birds, a wider choke ensured bagging the bird on the second shot.

To remedy the problem with fix-choked shotguns, the early side-by-sides (and the modern English variation) are fitted with two triggers in one tang. The front trigger fires the right barrel and rear trigger the left.

Shooting double-trigger shotguns is definitely an acquired skill -- especially if you’re a vintage shooter.

Most shooters are happy with the standard inertia trigger. If you want to experiment with your shotgun trigger, though, you’d be pleasantly surprise at the different options available to you.

Shotgun Tubes

Written by Irwin Greenstein

What’s the difference between a choke and a tube?

The choke controls the constriction at the muzzle. The tube (or subgauge insert) is a sleeve that fits inside the barrel in order for you to safely shoot different gauges from a single gun. Each tube is machined to a specific gauge -- like the gun barrel itself.

These tubes don’t work with pumps or semi-autos because the receivers are gauge-specific. For example, you can’t load a 20-gauge shell into a 12-gauge pump or semi-auto receiver under any circumstances. With your over/under or side-by-side, however, the shells are loaded directly into the chamber. Crack open the gun, and the proper set of tubes can turn your 12 gauge into a 20-, 28-gauge or .410 shotgun.

There are plenty of options when it comes to finding the perfect tube set for your shotgun.

Some shotgun manufacturers bundle tube sets with a new gun. For retrofitting, tube sets can be purchased over-the-counter while others have to be sent to the tube manufacturer where they are fit to your gun. You can go with a full-length set of tubes or shorter chamber-length tubes.

Your decision is usually based on price and weight.

Full-length tube sets can weigh 5-12 ounces, affecting the balance of your shotgun. But if you’re a nose-heavy kind of shooter who believes the extra weight improves your swing, then these tubes are for you. Other shooters balk at the extra up-front weight, and may opt for shorter tubes.

Into the Chamber

Chamber-length tubes let you reduce your gauge preference without going for a full-length version. When you fire, the subgauge shell then patterns with a 12-gauge barrel. How does that affect your shooting? Some manufacturers swear that there’s no penalty whatsoever -- or even go as far as to claim an improved pattern compared with an original subgauge shotgun.

Given their size, these chamber-length tubes are less expensive than the full-length alternatives and are obviously lighter (3-4 ounces).

Regardless of which tubes you ultimately use, there are a few cautionary measures to consider. Make sure your shells eject properly and your chokes still fit. If you’re using chamber-length tubes, you also have to examine if the ejectors start moving them out of the gun. Hunters will want to verify that their tube sets can accommodate 3-inch shells as well as steel shot.

 


Shooters who reload their own ammo may encounter ejector problems. Since reloaded shells tend to get distorted, their imperfections may contribute to persistent troubles when combined with auto ejectors and tubes.

And then there’s the triggers…

Your 12-gauge shotgun probably uses an inertia trigger, where the recoil from the first shot resets the trigger for the second shot. Since subgauge shells have less recoil, the second shot may not automatically reset. A quick trip to your gunsmith could fix the problem. For shotguns with a mechanical trigger (not recoil-dependant), shooting subgauge shells in your 12-gauge won’t impact trigger performance.

While tube sets are plenty of fun and open you to new shooting experiences, they are not to be trifled with. Remember, tube sets change the character of your shotgun, and there are always inherent risks with this kind of undertaking. So read the user manual carefully before installation.

Helpful links:

http://www.mynssa.com/

http://www.shootata.com/

http://www.trapshooters.com/

http://www.ushelice.com/

http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/basictraining.asp

Shotgun Chokes

Written by Irwin Greenstein

Count yourself lucky that some genius invented the screw-in shotgun choke. Otherwise, you’d probably need five shotguns.

Adjustable shotgun chokes give you the ability to change the pattern of your shot by tailoring the constriction. The baseline constriction is cylinder -- or the inner diameter of your barrel. From there, the designations grow tighter. 

Choke Bore Sizes and Constrictions
CYL LTSK SK IMK IC LM M IM LF F XF D
12 Bore .000 N/A .005 N/A .010 .015 .020 .025 .030 .035 .040 .005 and Rifled!
20 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .009 .012 .015 .018 .021 .024 .027 .005 and Rifled!
28 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .009 .012 .015 .018 .021 .024 .027 N/A
.410 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .008 .010 .012 .014 .016 .018 .020 N/A

(Courtesy of Briley Mfg.)

*Abbreviations:
CYL = Cylinder
LTSK = Light Skeet
SK = Skeet
IMK = Improved Skeet
IC = Improved Cylinder
LM = Light Modified
M = Modified
IM = Improved Modified
LF = Light Full
F = Full
XF = Extra Full
D = Diffusion
N/A = Not Applicable

Looking at the chart, you’ll see that SK (skeet) imposes a .005% constriction compared to cylinder. Full gives you a .035% constriction. Yes, that’s a 600% difference.

Percentage of Constriction Based on Distance
Choke 20 Yards 30 Yards 40 Yards
Cylinder 80% 60% 40%
Skeet 92% 72% 50%
Improved Cylinder 100% 77% 55%
Modified 100% 83% 60%
Improved Modifiedz 100% 91% 65%
Full 100% 100% 70%



In this chart, you’ll notice that as the choke grows tighter (from cylinder to full) the density of the pattern increases based on distance.

That’s because tight chokes distribute the shot in a tight, dense pattern best for long shots. Open chokes give you a wider, diffused pattern intended for close shots.

If this sounds counter-intuitive, here’s the way it works.

You may be thinking that you want the wider pattern for longer shots because the target is further away. The longer the distance, logic dictates the wider the pattern giving you a better chance to hit the target.

But what you’re not taking into account are the laws of physics.

Smaller shot (which tends to be used for close shots of 16-20 yards) lacks the energy (momentum) to give you accuracy at longer range. The shot spreads willy-nilly and you lose accuracy.

So if you’re going for a long shot, you want to use a bigger pellet in a tighter shot string for an arrow-head effect. Hence, a tighter choke.

For close-range shots, as in skeet, physics dictates that the more pellets you shoot the greater the odds for hitting the target before the smaller (lighter) pellets lose their momentum. So you want to go for a wider choke that lets the smaller, lighter pellets actually swarm around the target while they’re still effective.

Basically, there are three types of chokes.

The fixed choke is already machined into the barrel of the shotgun. You’ll see guns that are designated with skeet chokes, or full and improved cylinder chokes for wingshooting. The type of chokes depends on its specialized use, and will often be accompanied by stock and sight complements.

When you buy a new shotgun, it will include a few screw-in chokes most appropriate for its design. You usually can purchase after-market chokes to fill out your inventory.

Screw in chokes come in two varieties: extended and flush mounted.

Extended chokes protrude above the muzzle and are generally clearly marked; they are designed to be screwed in by hand.

Flush-mounted chokes are screwed entirely into the barrel so that in the end the choke is flush with the muzzle. Newer flush-mounted chokes tend to also be clearly identified. But less expensive or older flush-mounted chokes rely on a notch system to identify their constriction.

Choke Notches
Cylinder /////
Skeet /////
Improved Cylinder ////
Modified ///
Improved Modified //
Full /



Then there’s the adjustable choke. This is a single choke with multiple settings. Turn the selector to set the most appropriate constriction.

Once you have the choke installed, it’s best to pattern it on paper.

You’ll need a pattern target and something disposable to mount it on.

Typically, you’d want to be about 40 yards from your “pattern board.” Draw a 30-inch circle around the center of the pattern and then count the pellets as a means to determine the accuracy of your choke. A full choke should put 70% of its pellets in a 30" circle at 40 yards. A modified choke should put 60% of its pellets in the circle. And an improved cylinder should give you 50%.

Perhaps the biggest risk with chokes is that they become a crutch.

For example, if you consistently missed the #3 station on skeet with a skeet choke, moving to a wider cylinder choke probably won’t help. After all, if you’re on the target, you’re on it. The same can be said of most other clays sports.

Missing shots is generally not a function of your choke selection. It’s a function of your skill, technique and body mechanics.

The worst mistake you can make with a choke is using it as an excuse for missed shots.

If you have a problem station, and you’re using the recommended choke, the best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice.

Helpful links:

http://www.mynssa.com/

http://www.shootata.com/

http://www.trapshooters.com/

http://www.ushelice.com/

http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/basictraining.asp

Page 17 of 17