Fausti Arms Factory Tour in Italy
Northern Italy is a beautiful region of Italy that consists of various lakes and located at the foot of the Alps. One can go suntan and swim at one of the lakes in the Summer time and go ski in the Alps in Winter. Gardone Val Trompia, or simply as “The Valley” as the locals call it, is a town and commune in the province of Brescia in the Lombardy region. It is the mecca of Italian weapon making tracing back to the Roman times over 700 plus years ago.
Amongst various shotgun manufacturers in that region, one stands out from the rest are owned by 3 sisters. They are known as the Fausti sisters – Barbara, Giovanna and Elena. They’re second generation of a family business started by their father Cavalier Stefano Fausti whom founded the company in 1948, 3 years after the end of World War II manufacturing over under and side by side shotguns for hunting.
When the company was originally founded 70 years ago, Mr. Fausti worked from a small room until he had to move to a larger building taking over one complete floor to meet increasing production demand. The company moved to the current building in 1990 and it housed production on the first floor and a complete boutique and showroom on the second floor.
In 2008, Fausti USA was founded in Fredericksburg, VA and acts as the importer to the American market. The office contains an Italian style showroom and they deal with after sale support including minor repairs and wood refinishing with the in-house gunsmith.
In 2016, Fausti UK was founded in Stokesley, North Yorkshire and acts as the distributor for United Kingdom which still have a large client base despite their restrictive gun laws on rifles and pistols.
Their over and under and side by side shotguns were originally catered to hunting and they have since introduced new models such as the XF4 which are designed for sporting and competition.
The XF4 features their patented Four Locks locking system. As the name implies, it uses four contact points to maintain tight tolerance, rigidity and strength between the barrel and receiver over the life of the shotgun even under heavy usage.
It was almost unheard of for any company, let alone a firearm manufacturer to run by females. Giovanna and her younger sister Barbara, are the faces of the company and they also model next to their shotguns in all of their marketing material. Fabio, Barbara’s husband is the general manager for the production area and he also does measurements for their clients for custom fitment of their stocks.
Barbara and Giovanna, despite their beauty, are savvy when it comes to marketing their brand. Using social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, they have a large following online both in Italy and abroad. Barbara is fluent in Italian, English, Russian and German while Giovanna speaks fluent Italian, English and French. They certainly know their shotguns inside and out as they started working for their father at very early age.
Three of them work as a team. They attend various US trade shows such as DSC (Dallas Safari Club) and SCI (Safari Club International) Convention in Reno, NV in Janurary followed by Houston Safari Show, Antique Gun Show, SHOT Show and NRA Annual Meeting. They also travel to various trade shows and industry events across Europe.
I first met Fabio at SHOT Show in January 2018 and had him take my measurements. He started working in the industry when he was just a teenager and has over 23 years of experience doing measurements for their clients. Upon my amazement, he already observed my body size on the first minute of meeting me. He made more notes when he asked me to pose with my shooting stance while holding one of their shotguns on display. He tells me they do a lot of measurements at various US trade shows but they also get a lot of customers visiting their factory to get measured while staying in Italy for summer vacation.
Fitment of a shotgun, Fabio says, is one of the most if not the most critical elements of choosing the right shotgun whether be for hunting, sporting clays, skeet and trap shooting. Upon mounting the gun, it has to position itself perfectly otherwise the shot will be missed.
Upon one of his recommendations is selecting an adjustable cheek piece, as he says my shooting stance will likely change over time.
The production floor is divided into three main areas, first is the design office which has powerful computer workstations with the latest CAD software to do product design by their in-house engineers. While the design is being done in the computer they can also stress test the components via simulation before the prototypes are made. The parts will then be made via rapid prototype using a 3D printer to check for dimensions. The design office is currently being renovated and in the process of being expanded to accommodate more computers and engineers on the production floor so if there are design and/or production changes, it can be done swiftly.
They have a dozen CNC machines with the latest being a large 5-axis machine that is worth 1.5 million dollars that can do multiple angles of machining with extreme precision while reducing machining time. With tighter tolerances, hand fitting time is significantly decreased and the cost saving is passed on to the customer. They produce every component in house, from barrels and receivers to extractors and triggers. Each internal components are machined from aluminum bar stock which offers strength over cast components which are cheaper to make.
To put things in perspective, casting of a small component is around $3 whereas to CNC the same part costs around $20. In addition, design changes can be made quickly to a CNC part by reprogramming whereas for casting a new mold has to be made which is quite costly.
The CNC machined parts are randomly checked for tolerance in the quality control room where the part is fed to a Zesis Duramax machine where it uses probes to check the dimensions against the specification. This is an automated process where the engineer simply sets the part on the machine and let the computer do its job. It’s important to note that each machined part have exactly the same high quality whether it goes into a $4000 gun or a $40,000 gun.
Across to the next room is fitting and assembly. Each shotgun is carefully assembled here by experienced craftsmen. This includes welding the two barrels together and silver soldering them into the monoblock. The forend and stock also need to be shaped hand fitted according to the specification sheet.
The most important job here is making the perfect match between the monoblock and the action and it can only be done by hand. First the craftsman applies blue powered paint between the touching surface of the monoblock and the action. He then closes the action and see where the paint rubs off and will then uses various hand sanding and polishing tools to create the perfect mating surface where the gun perfectly closes and locks into action with just the right amount of tension. The craftsman looks through the barrel and receiver for opening gaps (or lack thereof) and by feel which is acquired by years of experience. The process is repeated until the action feels perfect when opening and closing.
Engravings are done by five skilled engravers who strictly work from home. Unlike a factory worker, these artisans are paid for each piece of their work instead of an hourly wage. They have flexible working hours as engraving work is tedious and exhausting as it requires extreme hand to eye co-ordinations they look through a small magnifier and have consistency with each light stroke of the hammer. They often have to take breaks in order to look for new inspirations. An engraved gun can take anywhere from 8 to 12 months to complete from date of ordering.
Checkering on the wood is applied by laser for core products and for custom, high end models are done manually by hand. This job is usually reserved for female craftsman as it is a delicate task.
Back in year 2000, the company was making 13,000 guns annually. To increase quality, production has steadily cut back to about 3000-3500 guns a year. About one third of these are custom guns made to specification for the customer. They have 40 employees working in multiple shifts.
It is not unusual that generations of workers follow their parent’s footsteps working for the same company. Many people started work as soon as they finish their education and continue to stay loyal to the same company until retirement. One of the craftsmen whose job is to apply oil to the finish of the walnut stock has been with the company for 43 years and was set to retire the following week. This is something very unique to Italian businesses and is deeply ingrained into their culture. The worker’s dedication to each product coming off the production line is admirable and each role in the company is well respected. They’re proud of their job and the company they work for. Unlike in North America, where we’re often moving between jobs every few years to advance our career.
This year is the 70th anniversary of Fausti and they have special events planned both in Italy as well as in US. To mark the special occasion, they are producing 70th anniversary shotguns in both side by side and over under, each model specially engraved and are limited to 70 pieces. Over under model is available in 16, 20, 28 or 410 gauges and are available either in 2 ¾” or 3” chamber with barrel length choice ranging from 24” to 32”. They are available to order either in fixed or interchangeable chokes. Similar options and customizations are available on the side by side models with the additional choice of 32 gauges.
As part of the celebration, they had a luncheon this past July with close friends and associates at a hotel overlooking Lake Iseo. A similar event took place in Texas in October.
Fausti offers a personalized experience when it comes to ordering your favorite Italian shotgun compare to various shotgun manufacturers in the same region. It’s a delight to meet and speak to Barbara, Giovanna and Fabio and get to know them personally. They’re the faces of the company at the same time they’re available at various trade shows and over phone and email to answer all of your questions from various factory options to customizations. They offer the perfect blend of high-tech, precision manufacturing methods to custom hand engraving and fitting at a competitive price.
Fausti will continue to evolve using the latest production technology and maintain high level of traditional, artesian quality gun making for generations to come.