by Phil Bourjaily

I first saw the Fabarm Velocity XLR5 in the Caesar Guerini booth at SHOT Show earlier this year. Amid all the Guerini O/Us, the Euro-styled, high-ribbed Velocity, in the words of Raymond Chandler, “looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.”

It also looked cool. I am not usually a fan of the concept-car styling we see on a lot of new shotguns, but I was immediately taken with the Velocity’s looks – the walnut stock probably helped. And, now that I have been shooting one for a while, I find there is a lot to like about it. It’s a dedicated target gun with a high price tag ($2,535; $2,712 for a left-handed model) and while that is still mind-boggling to me, who remembers when semiautos cost under $500 and believes they should sell for under $1,000, the price can be explained away, sort of, and I’ll get to that in a bit.

First: Fabarm guns are made in Brescia, Italy. They have been imported off and on to the United States by various companies over the years including H&K. Caesar Guerini, well-established here, recently bought Fabarm out. The Velocity XLR5 is the first gun the “new” Fabarm has brought to the U.S. market.

The Velocity is a gas gun. Its internal parts are as highly polished as I have ever seen on a semiauto, and simple: there’s a gas piston, action bars, and the return spring is on the magazine tube. That’s it. On the outside, the Velocity adjusts in many ways. There are stock shims and an adjustable comb, allowing you to fiddle with stock fit endlessly.

Changeable recoil pads let you tweak length of pull and you can slide the trigger back and forth to accommodate finger length. The high rib adjusts from a 90/10 (90 percent of the pattern above point of aim) down to 50/50. You can add 4 ½ ounces in 1 ½ ounce increments by screwing the three including weights into the magazine cap. It also has an extended bolt handle and an oversize bolt-closure button which come in handy on the range. It comes in the sturdiest plastic case I have yet seen included with a gun, one that actually looks as if it could withstand multiple plane trips.

The high comb and high rib are designed to allow you to shoot with your head upright, in theory directing recoil into your shoulder and away from your face. At the range – and I have shot trap, skeet and sporting clays with the Velocity – it is a very easy gun to hit with. Some guns just are. Mine has a 30-inch barrel and weighs about 8 ½ pounds. Felt recoil is mild and it will cycle almost anything. I have not cleaned the gun yet (this is known as “testing” not “laziness”) and after about 600 rounds it started having trouble with my slow 11/16 ounce reloads. Otherwise it has cycled everything from pigeon loads down to subsonic 15/16 oz Winchester Feathers. Early versions had a different piston, which did not work well with very light loads. I had one of those guns, returned it, and the model with the new piston spits out everything I run through it.

That’s all to the good. But what about that price? The Velocity XLR5 is intended as an alternative to buying a Beretta 391 or A400 and having an adjustable stock and high comb added, which many shooters are doing these days. Either way, you come out around $2,500 and while that is a lot, it’s also a fraction of the cost of a high end, fully adjustable O/U. Currently, Berettas own the semiauto target gun market and the Velocity’s long-term reliability will determine whether it can compete. That I can’t speak to yet, but I can say that the Velocity has everything else your heart could possibly desire in a semiauto target gun.