Over the past year I have developed a fondness for semi-automatics. There is something really satisfying about loading them, shooting them and, in many cases for me, having that third shot! I have found them to be a handy tool in the pigeon/crow hide. Then there’s the advantage of not having to stand up over the netting to reload my over and under, or scratching it when trying to reload discreetly in the hide.

Being invisible in a hide is absolutely paramount and using a semi-automatic has made this a lot easier. A lighter weight semi-auto allows me to get over the netting effortlessly to take those quick shots.

Controlling a lighter shotgun has taken quite some getting used to, but I am now seeing some great results.

A few months ago I was very kindly sent a Fabarm XLR Columba Palumbus on a long- term loan. After using this gun numerous times out in the field, I now feel very confident in sharing my findings.

Fabarm was founded in 1900 and have been making over-and-under shotguns in Italy ever since. The older Fabarm shotguns were very basic, made to a budget and at that time were not a well-known name compared with other shotgun manufacturers.

However, in 2011 Caesar Guerini bought a majority share in the company and have made some major improvements. Fabarm have really made a name for themselves over the past few years, introducing a number of great sporting and game guns including a selection of semi-automatics. I would say their name now sits equal to some of the best value-for-money shotguns on the market.

First impressions

I tried a Fabarm semi-automatic a few years ago and I felt the recoil was quite fierce, so I was very sceptical when I received this one to have a go with. Without even altering the shims to get the perfect fit, I took the Columba Palumbus out to have a shot at some clays. If the recoil was excessive, it would be no use to me. I was very pleased that it was incredibly smooth to shoot and knew I was going to have a lot of fun with it.

Before my next outing I did change the casting shim with one of the others provided as I like a high point of impact. This was very easy to do and I think it is great to have this option because it is so important to have a good gun fit.

I had a good rummage through what else was provided in the canvas case. There were a selection of three internal chokes and one external. The most important one for me was a half choke, which I installed right away. All the chokes have been overpressure tested to 1630 bar and are suitable for high-performance steel shot. The extended choke that is provided with the gun has been specifically tuned for the use of steel shot loads. The similarly steel-proofed barrel has a 3" chamber.

I then picked up a little black box that contained two quick-release sling swivels, which are a great feature. I fitted a sling to the swivels and have used it every time I have been out rough shooting or wildfowling. The brilliance of this design is that I can use the sling to carry the gun on my shoulder, but if I want to take it off it is simply removed by a press of two buttons.

A great selection of high-visibility fibre optic front sights are also provided, so I swapped to a smaller red sight that gave me a clearer focus on the target and not the end of the gun.

Mechanically the Columba Palumbus it is very well built. It is fitted with the revolutionary Pulse Piston System, which is simple and very effective at reducing felt recoil by progressively slowing the action with heavy loads. It contains less parts, is easy to clean which in turn makes it a very reliable action. The bronze-coloured receiver has a great futuristic look and the synthetic stock is coated with a soft-touch camo finish to create a rubberised feel.

In the field

The first time I shot the Columba Palumbus in the field was on a very windy day decoying wood pigeons over a field of laid wheat. I struggled with the handling of the gun at the start of the day because the birds were extremely fast and not the of easiest targets. The gun weighs 7lb 3oz, making it very light and fast handling. However, I quickly realised that I could never shoot it in the same way as I handled my usual over-and-under, so I began to handle it with a technique that I adopt when shooting smaller gauges. It is quick and effortless to mount over the netting and has become a great companion for my hide shooting.

I have also been lucky enough to take it out wildfowling this season and have made some great memories having shot geese, duck and snipe. On all these trips the rain and mud have been relentless. I haven’t been precious over the Columba Palumbus and it has been used as a tool. But no matter how wet or dirty it got, it has never failed.

I haven’t had a single malfunction. I now honestly believe and trust in the reliability of this gun.

Although I was initially worried about recoil, I have not found it not to be a concern. The main cartridge load I have used has been a 30g load of no. 6 lead shot with a fibre wad, which cycled without fail. The recoil is smooth and the second and third shots can be taken as quickly as I you can pull the trigger. For geese I used 3" loads of 34g no. 3 shot high-performance steel. These loads are known to have excessive recoil, but I found them smooth enough to fire through the Columba Palumbus. I would happily recommend this gun to anyone who is recoil sensitive like myself.

The one cartridge I hadn’t tried was a 21g load, so I put them to the test. I loaded three cartridges into the gun and it cycled them perfectly. Fabarm have done a brilliant job with whatever makes this gun cycle as well as it does.

It is great that Fabarm offer a left-hand port option, as there are a lot of left-handed shooters but very few semi-automatic options. I have shot several right-hand ported semi automatics in the past and the empty cartridge cases eject straight in front of my face, which can be distracting. But the biggest issue was that debris from the ejected load occasionally blew back into my eyes, which is not only uncomfortable but dangerous as well.

My only criticism of the Columba Palumbus concerns the high-visibility filament at the back of the receiver. Not only do I feel it is absolutely unnecessary, but I found when wildfowling in low light that it was hard to ignore. The last thing I want to do is have my focus on the back of the receiver and not the target. A black marker pen soon eliminated the problem.

Have I been Converted


Fabarm have put a lot of thought into this model and I think that will give people confidence when considering buying one. It is slightly heavier and has a chunkier profile than most other semi-automatics, which is a great advantage to me as I find it easier to control. It is also nice to be able to change the stock shims for a perfect fit.

I’m really pleased with how the Columba Palumbus has performed over the past few months. The gun has been reliable, comfortable to shoot, looks great, is very competitively priced and is backed with a three-year mechanical warranty. Pick one up the next time you visit a Fabarm stockist – and then try to put it down!


Make: Fabarm

Model: XLR Columba Palumbus

Calibre: 12-gauge

Mechanism: Semi-automatic

Orientation: Left handed (right handed available)

Barrel length: 30" (28"also available)

Stock length: 145/8" Weight: 7lb 3oz

Chamber: 3" Chokes: Multi

Steel proofed: Yes

Importer: Anglo Italian Arms

Warranty: 3 years

Price: From £1575

More information available from Anglo Italian Arms Telephone: 01564 7424 77Have I been Converted