It was 1948 when a young Stefano Fausti started Fausti Stefano Arms, in Brescia, Italy, along the Mella River. When he retired, in 1996, his three daughters, Elena, Giovanna and Barbara, took over the management of the successful company that they had been raised in. Elena is the production manager at the plant, while Barbara looks to the markets in Britain and Europe. Giovanna handles the US market and in 2009 set up Fausti USA, with offices in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
There is no question that “The Gun Sisters” know what they are doing, as Fausti has prospered, modernized and upgraded under their governance. Today they make side-by-side and over/under field and competition guns plus express rifles. The shotgun line is divided between their basic Core guns and their custom Boutique models. Prices range from several thousand dollars to many times that.
Our review gun is the DEA SLX. It comes in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge as well .410—all with sized receivers. Assembling, fitting, stocking and finishing are all done by hand. Barrel lengths can be 26", 28" or 30". Our test gun is in 28 gauge and sells for $6,040. In Italian “dea” means “goddess,” and the gun certainly has divine looks. The action is Anson & Deeley, a classic design dating from 1875. It revolutionized the side-by-side then and remains extremely popular for boxlock side-by-sides today. It’s that good. The Fausti action uses classic leaf springs, not coil springs. Leaf springs are said to produce crisper trigger pulls, and modern metallurgy makes them durable. The firing-pin protrusions are built into the front of the hammers, which simplifies things. The entire action is built from one solid chunk of steel that has been carefully CNC’d and then hand-fitted. The 28-gauge action is extremely simple and appears durable. Keeping with the simple and functional approach, the automatic ejectors are of the Southgate design, in which the ejector springs and hammers are contained in the forend.
Trigger pulls on the single-trigger gun were a consistent 4 pounds on the right barrel and 4¾ pounds on the left. There was a very slight bit of take-up, but then the release was exceptionally crisp for an overall excellent pull. On the downside, this model does not offer a selective single trigger or double triggers, so you must always fire the right barrel first. On the plus side, the safety is manual, not automatic, so you will not be driven insane when practicing on clays before hunting season.
Lockup is basic. The locking bolt protrudes from the bottom of the action and engages recesses in the rear of the two extensions coming down from the monoblock. These extensions also act as passive locks. The action hinges on a cross pin that engages the front extension. In all it’s nothing new, but it is proven beyond a doubt.
The exterior of the action is really this gun’s major selling point. It has sideplates that have been laser engraved in an attractive floral pattern and then case colored. The gun is also available in a silver coin finish. Unlike the DEA Round Body (which we reviewed in the March/April 2009 issue), the DEA SLX’s action bottom is squared, to better accommodate the sideplates. This adds to the looks but detracts from the field-carry comfort. The bottom of the action features a gold engraved bird in addition to the gold “DEA SLX” lettering on the floral background. The blued trigger guard has the gold Fausti emblem on it and is extended well back on the underside of the stock for an attractive look.
The barrels on our gun were 28", with the tubes fitting into a modern monoblock in the rear. The flat base surface of the monoblock is nicely engine turned for better oil retention and an upscale look. The outsides of the barrels are properly medium-gloss blued. The top rib is low and flat, measuring ¼" at the rear and tapering to 1/8" at the muzzles. There is a single small brass bead up front. The top surface of the rib is machine-scribed to reduce glare. It is really a minimalist rib, as it should be on a sub-gauge side-by-side meant for the field. The rib solder seams were flawless.
Inside, both barrels measured .551" in diameter, almost matching the 28-gauge .550" nominal measurement. The chambers were 2¾" and led to modest forcing cones. The gun comes with five screw chokes. They are 19⁄16" long and threaded at the rear. They also are notched on the front rims, so that you can tell which is in the gun; but the choke designations are not stamped anywhere on the choke-tube barrels. Constrictions were in the classic taper/parallel format.
The choke measurements on our test gun were all over the place. The Cylinder choke was dead-on true Cylinder. The Improved Cylinder had .008" constriction, close enough to Briley’s referenced .009". The Modifed had .019" constriction, about an Improved Modified on Briley’s chart. The Improved Modified had .029" constriction, slightly exceeding a Briley Extra Full of .027". The DEA Full choke had an off-the-charts .035" constriction. Of course, it’s the patterns that count, and patterns vary a great deal with the shells used. I wouldn’t want to deprive you of the pleasure of doing that patterning grunt work.
The wood on our gun was decently figured walnut. It wasn’t super fancy, but it was definitely a step or two up. The grip was in the English, or straight-hand, configuration. Fausti gives the stock dimensions as 14½" length of pull, 1½" drop at comb and 2¼" drop at heel, and our gun measured close to that at 1411⁄16" x ١½" x 23⁄16". There was a slight amount of right-hand cast, and pitch was about the usual 4°. A left-handed stock is not offered in this model. At the back end is a nice black ½" rubber buttpad. While this won't really reduce recoil, it should keep the gun from slipping off the shoulder or out of the gun rack.
Checkering was machine-cut in a classic conservative pattern with an aggressive number of lines per inch that would allow a non-slip grip. The forend in the DEA SLX 28 and .410 is a semi-beavertail, with the Anson pushbutton nicely installed in the smooth, curved front end. The wood sported an oil finish that nicely emphasized the grain; however, as on most Italian guns, it didn’t quite fill all the pores. That said, in general the wood-to-metal fit throughout the gun was flawless.
The gun comes in a black PVC case that might survive the airlines. There’s a large Fausti logo on the outside and red felt lining the inside. Contents include the gun in cloth sleeves, a plastic box holding the five chokes and perfectly nice wrench plus a very basic manual and a two-year warranty to the original purchaser.
Shooting the gun was just what you’d expect of a 5-pound 9.8-ounce (on our scales) 28-gauge. It was charming. If ever a gun were made for quail, woodcock and ruffed grouse, the DEA SLX was it. A Skeet choke was not included but is available. Skeet and IC would be ideal for the game and distances most suitable for a 28-gauge.
The gun worked correctly in all aspects. Empties were tossed perfectly paired for about eight feet. The trigger was excellent. The manual safety was easy to operate. The balance point of the gun was a little more than an inch in front of the hinge pin. In a gun this light, you want a bit of forward bias to keep it from being whippy but not too much. It was interesting to note that the factory had installed an extra weight of several ounces inside the stock, to get the balance in the right spot.
In all the Fausti DEA SLX is a very nice gun. It has a good bit of competition in its price range, but it compares nicely. The well-engraved sideplates give it an edge. A good gun should be pleasant to shoot and pleasant to look at. The Fausti DEA SLX fills the bill.
Make & Model: Fausti DEA SLX
Action: Boxlock side-by-side
Finish: Medium-gloss blue with case-coloring, laser engraving and gold lettering
Barrel length: 28"
Weight: 5 pounds 9.8 ounces
Chokes: 5 flush-mounted screw chokes
Stock: 1411/16" x 1½" x 23/16", 4° pitch, slight cast-off
Accessories: Case, chokes, choke wrench, manual, 2-year warranty
Price as tested: $6,040