By Brad Fitzpatrick
Photos by Veronica Gettinger
The Italian town of Brescia, which lies in the northern portion of the country at the foot of the Alps, is home to some of the country’s most skilled gun makers. Chief among these was Knight Stefano Fausti, a machinist and hunter who decided to lend his skills to building fine sporting firearms. In 1948, he began building luxury shotguns under the Fausti Stefano S.R.L. label and his guns were immediately embraced by European shooters for their fine craftsmanship, detailed engraving and foolproof reliability.
American wing shooters were introduced to Fausti’s guns when they began being imported in the States by Traditions, Weatherby and, most recently, Cabela’s. In 2009, however, Fausti Stefano S.R.L. made an effort to sell its fine shotguns directly to U.S. customers and opened Fausti, USA in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Today, the company is owned and operated by Stefano’s daughters Elena, Barbara and Giovanna.
The company wanted American shooters to experience the elegance and dependability of its product and started importing shotguns that reflected the company’s long history of producing reliable working guns that combined old-world craftsmanship and the latest in machine technology.
WELCOME TO AMERICA
The first two Fausti guns to enter the U.S. market were the Dea side by side and the Caledon over-under in 2009. The success of the company in this country hinged upon the reaction of American shooters to these two offerings.
Recently I had the opportunity to test the Caledon. Stefano Pensa, the new head of Fausti’s U.S. operations, provided me with a 12-gauge version of the Caledon sporting 28-inch barrels. I was immediately impressed by the overall look and feel of the gun and the attention to detail. The harder I looked at the Caledon, the more its fine touches impressed me. Italians are known for their superb sense of style. After all, this is the land that produced Versace, Ferrari and Italdesign Giugiaro, which has sculpted the lines on everything from Maserati cars to Sako rifles.
The Caledon did not disappoint. All Fausti guns are laser etched and hand finished in the Brescia facility. The wood is top-grade walnut that is dark grained and nicely finished. The receiver, trigger guard and fore end latch are all treated with a classy nickel finish that protects the gun and gives it a fantastic look. The top half of the receiver is untouched (minus the Caledon gold lettering) above an arching line that starts near the trigger guard, rises in the middle of the receiver and falls near the intersection with the rear portion of the fore end.
Below that line is detailed floral engraving that wraps around the receiver and is complemented on the underside by a gold game bird. This gives the Caledon an eye-catching, artistic look void of unsightly embellishments found on some other guns.
Fine laser engraving is generously applied to the Caledon. The fore end latch is even treated to floral engraving. The trigger guard and top tang have the same pattern, as does the upper portion of the skeletonized top lever. Even the recessed slot on the receiver, which intersects with the steel at the back of the fore end, is given a checkered look.
The Fausti’s stock is fitting for such a fine gun. The handsome walnut is richly checkered and well finished. Fit and finish are superb thanks to Fausti’s CNC machining capabilities that allow for ultra-tight tolerances throughout. The quarter-inch recoil pad is plain black and has a radiused heel to avoid hanging up on shooting vests and clothing. Barrels are deeply blued. The Caledon was conceived as a high-end field gun and thus has an automatic safety with integrated barrel selector similar in form and function to those of other Italian guns.
Aesthetics are nice, but the true heart of an upland gun is its action. Fausti uses a modified Anson and Deeley boxlock. The minimal number of parts engineered into this action insures the Caledon will withstand years of heavy use without failure.
Fausti offers the Caledon in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge and .410 caliber variants. All of these are built on gauge-specific frames except the .410, which is mated to a 28-gauge frame. Weight, therefore, varies with gauge. The 12-gauge version I carried weighed 7Â½ pounds, which is ideal for a field gun that must be light enough to carry all day, yet heavy enough to swing well with moderate recoil. The 20-gauge Caledon weighs in at just 6Â¼ pounds and the sub gauges weigh even less.
The Fausti’s good looks impressed me and most everyone that saw it at the various clubs and shooting ranges where I put the Caledon through its paces. Even die-hard skeet club members gave pause to look over the Italian import. In a world of Berettas and Brownings, the Caledon garnered high praise for its unique good looks.
Good looks alone weren’t going to help me improve my skeet and sporting clays scores, though. The Caledon is engineered by shooters and thus handles like a dream. The Prince of Wales pistol grip is heavily checkered and broad, giving the shooter a positive grip. One characteristic of the Caledon that impressed even the most jaded clay breakers was its excellent fore end. The wood is narrow near the receiver and flares slightly toward the muzzles, which allows for a steady, positive grip no matter where you hold the gun. Every shooter found their personal comfort spot on the fore end that allowed for the best follow through.
One of the Fausti’s best attributes is its excellent balance, which is slightly muzzle biased. This allows for good follow through on passing shots and offers a good balance point for outgoing clays. As a field gun the balance was very forgiving and made the Caledon a favorite among die-hard sporting clays enthusiasts.
When testing a shotgun, it is important to try and mimic in a few weeks what the average shooter will do in a year or more. This meant that the Caledon received no rest during testing. I put it through the paces at every venue I could imagine where clays were being hurled into the air. It fared reasonably well at the trap range and was a big hit at the skeet club.
Yet, I felt that the most critical test of a field gun was what it could do on a variety of crossers, overhead shots, incomers, springing teal, rabbits and the like. This meant that the Caledon would have to prove its mettle as a sporting clays gun. For this test I chose to take the Caledon to Dwelley’s Sporting Clays in Feesburg, Ohio, a small, family-owned course that has left many a seasoned shooter frazzled and frustrated. Many top shots finish the course and are still waiting to find that easy station to pad their score. But there isn’t one.
I shoot the course fairly often and I found that my scores with the Fausti were on par with the scores I typically shoot with my Beretta 686. The Fausti never failed to impress. Its excellent balance made it a great help on the rapid crossers that appear for only a few seconds between tree limbs on the fourth station. It swung well and practically broke the rabbits by itself. I missed my shots, to be sure, but most of those were the result of operator error.
I kept the Caledon as busy as I could during the time I spent with it, ejecting spent hulls and stuffing fresh AAs into their place as quickly as I could during long hours on a variety of courses. Thankfully the recoil pad, stock design and weight of the Caledon relieved some of the recoil fatigue. But at the end of a long day on the course I was happy to hand the Caledon over to a couple of the most vexed onlookers to see what they thought of the lively little Italian import.
I love the balance, said Travis Dorsey, who is an excellent sporting clays shooter. I like the weight, too. Good for a field gun.
I had to agree. So did several of the other shooters who broke birds with the Fausti. Most commented on the great balance, nice weight, well thought-out design and solid action. There were only a few carps, mostly derived from taste issues. Sporting clays shooters roundly detest the automatic safety, but on a field gun like the Caledon it is appropriate. One tester commented that he longed for a mid bead or a more visible front bead. Everyone loved the look of the Caledon, however. One tester summed it up best by simply saying, “It has eye appeal in spades.
It is hard to imagine that the Caledon is the entry level Fausti. Mine was the boxlock version (retails for just under $2000). The company offers higher grades of field guns, the flagship of which is the aptly-named Magnificent, a sidelock action with an engraving of Aphrodite on one side and the crest of the town of Brescia on the other. Talk about eye catching!
It was hard to let the Caledon go, but my time was short with the fine Italian stackbarrel. As a gun writer, it is always a pleasure to test a gun that leaves such a good impression as the Fausti. It didn’t take long to fall in love with it and I can only imagine what fun it would be to knock roosters out of the sky with it or carry it into the grouse coverts of Minnesota.
If you are in the market for one of the finest field guns available a gun that credibly combines style and substance ”you owe it to yourself to visit Fausti’s website at www.faustiusa.com and check out the latest offerings from this storied Italian maker. I think you’ll be impressed.