Looking for a sleek, do-anything over/under? Look no further than Fausti’s excellent Class SL. If the name Fausti doesn’t ring a bell, it may be that while they have made shotguns under other names in this county, it was only in 2009 that they set up housekeeping in Fredericksburg, Virginia, under their own name to better serve us Americans.
Following the second World War, Stefano Fausti began manufacturing shotguns in the Brescia, Italy, area. It is here that names like Beretta, Perazzi, Fabri, and others are commonplace. From that beginning, Fausti now produces between six and seven thousand shotguns a year. Although Stefano envisioned his sons taking over the business, it wasn’t to be, as he had three daughters, Elena, Giovanna and Barbara, who run the company and are themselves ardent shooters and hunters.
Built in the Italian style, with the barrel selector in the top-tang safety, the 12-gauge Class SL quickly shows its American styling in the stock. The length of pull is 14⅝ inches over a soft rubber pad and with the slight ¼-inch cast off at the heel and straight dimensions, it comes right to my face and eye. Another surprise from a shotgun made in a country using the metric system, the barrels are exactly 28 inches long.
The Class SL is also available with 26- and 30-inch barrels, and in 16, 20 and 28 gauges and .410. All of the gauges are built on their own scaled action or frame, making the 28 and .410s as light and sleek as a magician’s wand. Regrettably, the hunting season, even for game-farm birds, is closed in July and August, so I had to settle for clays.
The 28-inch barrels aren’t really my cup of tea for clays, but for an all-around hunting gun they provide sufficient length for a smooth swing and are short enough not to become entangled in heavy cover. As an aside, while at Fausti’s Virginia headquarters, I had the chance to swing a svelte 28-gauge side by side that would be a dream to carry all day yet put it on ‘em at the flush.
As part of my testing I have a machine on which I can rotate a shotgun and by working through some math come up with the moment of inertia that provides a figure that allows me to compare the Fausti Class SL with other guns I have likewise tested. The result is that the swing characteristics of the Class SL are spot on with those of a fine British game gun…the ones for which you pay a sheik’s ransom then wait three years for delivery.
One thing we all look for in a fine shotgun is durability. Fausti’s patented Four Locks system ensures the longevity of this gun. Locking is by means of a Purdey-style sliding underbolt that engages a slot beneath the bottom barrel; add to this two projections, one on each side of the action, that engage matching cutouts at the breech end of the barrels providing increased solidity upon firing.
When a break-action shotgun is fired, the barrels try to rotate on the axis of the hinge pin, and in the case of the Fausti the underbolt keeps them tight against the breech face as they try to rotate open and the Four Locks keeps them solid in the upward thrust of recoil, so that nothing moves and wear is nonexistent.
At 7 pounds, 8 ounces the SL is light enough to carry all day behind dogs but hefty enough to shoot the occasional 3-inch shells for which its chambered. The vent-rib barrels both measured .720, a bit on the tight side of the SAAMI standard of .725, but I was surprised at their consistency, as most barrels, even from the bespoke makers, will vary a bit. They carry the Brescia Proof House marks indicating the barrels were very carefully measured, subjected to pressures about one-third higher than normal maximum loads then remeasured to ensure there was no distortion, and finally stamped approved.
The SL’s five screw-in chokes measure exactly two inches in length. The constrictions are identified using the European notch system in which more notches indicate more open constrictions, i.e., cylinder has four notches and full-choke one. Zero notches measured .004 against the cylinder bore of .720, four .005, three .017, two .025 and one .032. This array gives the shooter and hunter plenty of choices depending on the game and cover.
Trigger pulls averaged 5.3 pounds. for the bottom barrel and an even 5 pounds. for the top. There is a shade of preliminary take-up, but in a shotgun that’s insignificant, and the triggers break clean with no creep or drag.
Although function is far more important than looks, good looks never hurt! The wood is excellent French or Turkish walnut with enough grain to please the eye. The fine laser-done checkering—about 24 lines to the inch—provides a solid grip and is generously applied down the sides of the Prince-of-Wales grip and around the sides of the slim yet hand-filling fore-end.
The gun has side plates that give it the appearance of a much more expensive sidelock action, and more important give the engraver a broad canvas for his art. The right side of the action has a pair of gold-colored pheasants in flight and the left two flushing bobwhites. Another gold-colored bobwhite adorns the bottom of the action. The remainder of the action and the rear of the fore-end iron has rose and scroll-style laser engraving.
While at Fausti USA’s HQ I compared the laser engraving on the SL with similar hand engraving on a far pricier model, and the difference was only in the depth of the cutting, but to the eye, seemed little different. To add to the luxurious appearance, the trigger guard is engraved with a miniature of the Fausti coat of arms set off by rose and scroll. The fore-end iron that anchors the wood is often left plain, but it is also engraved with an attractive arrow head pattern. A further classy touch is the pierced top lever.
To protect your fine gun, the Class SL comes in a fitted Negrini case with combination locks for air travel or just out to the back 40 to chase birds.
The proof is in the shooting, and I found the Class SL to mount smoothly and to swing with any target, clay or feathered, I’ll encounter.