By Bruce Buck
Fausti’s DEA line of boxlock side-by-side shotguns just got a new addition, and it is not merely the usual cosmetic extension. It is the Fausti DEA Sport, and it is a dedicated target side-by-side. The cost is $4,899.
In the past the Fausti DEA line has concentrated on field guns, which is certainly where most side-by-sides are used. The DEA Round Body side-by-side that I reviewed in March/April 2009 was a good example of that traditional field line.
But what about a side-by-side built specifically for targets? Most of us would be quick to say that side-by-sides aren’t really used for targets. That’s an area for autoloaders and over/unders. Well, not so fast. Things have changed. Sporting clays has become so popular today that there are now some large events limited exclusively to side-by-sides. The Southern Side by Side Championship, Northeast Side X Side Classic and Vintage Gunners Cup are just a few of the popular side-by-side-only shoots.
Usually entrants in these events use field guns, because that’s pretty much what has been available in side-by-sides. But the Fausti Sisters, always innovative, see things differently and have introduced a target side-by-side in their new DEA Sport. The company describes the gun as “rational, simple and robust.”
What are the differences between a field side-by-side and one built for targets? The first thing I noticed was size. Currently the DEA Sport comes only in 12 gauge, and it is a lot of gun. It weighs a bit more than 7 pounds 7 ounces, but it feels much heftier due to our sample’s 32" barrels and extended chokes. The stock, with its adjustable comb, is also much bulkier than an upland stock would be.
The DEA’s Anson & Deeley action is strongly made and differs from the standard field DEA action in that it uses reliable coil, not leaf, springs and an enhanced ejection system. The action is a solid piece of steel, with the top tang and triggerplate being integral. You can’t get sturdier than that. Hammers pivot on the bottom plate motivated by horizontally braced coil springs, while sears are suspended from the top.
The single selective trigger is inertia operated and requires the recoil from the first shot to move the inertia block over to select the second sear. The single trigger on our sample gun did have some take-up and then creep before engaging. Pull on the right barrel was 3½ pounds, while that on the left varied between 3¾ and ٤½ pounds. The slight amount of trigger play was not noticeable when shooting. The manual safety has a built-in Beretta-style lateral toggle to select which barrel is fired first.
Lockup is the typical side-by-side boxlock Anson & Deeley with large Purdey double underbites. The solid horizontal hinge pin protrudes a bit on either side of the receiver exterior and appears to be replaceable. The ejectors follow the original Deeley format that has proven so successful for so long. The fired shell is ejected, and the unfired shell is simply lifted a bit.
Fausti’s website says that the DEA Sport is intentionally Spartan, and that is certainly true of the receiver decoration. The plain blued receiver has “DEA Sport” stamped into the sides and bottom, and that’s it for engraving and embellishment.
The barrels are the heart of any shotgun, and the DEA Sport’s 32" barrels are what you will notice first. They are big and weighty, as befits a target gun. They are built for claybird steadiness, not gamebird alacrity. Both 28" and 30" lengths are available for shooters who want less weight up front.
Barrels are chambered for 3" shells, and the forcing cones are standard length. Bore diameters in our gun measured .721". Nominal is .729" for 12 gauge, so these were tighter than usual—certainly the opposite of today’s trendy overbores so popular in target over/unders. For practical purposes, I doubt the pattern difference matters in the slightest. More important: All things being equal, tighter bores do add weight to the barrels. If those .721" barrels were overbored to .735" and the outside diameters were kept the same, the barrels would weigh almost 4 ounces less.
The gun comes with five extended screw-in Technichoke tubes in a nice plastic box. Included is a proper metal choke wrench, an Allen key for the adjustable stock comb and some circle spacers for stock height. The chokes miked Cylinder (-.005"), Improved Cylinder (.005"), Modified (.016"), Improved Modified (.026") and Full (.037"). (IC and M were a little open compared to the usual 12-gauge measurements.) The chokes are each 3" long, with 5⁄8" of the choke extending beyond the muzzle. Inside, the chokes are built with a conventional taper to a 1¼" stabilizing parallel. Fausti OKs the C, IC and M chokes for steel shot but not the tighter IM and F.
The exteriors of the barrels were first rate. The solder seams were perfect, and the deep bluing was flawless. The top rib is low and set down between the barrels. It tapers from 2⁄5" wide at the rear to ¼" wide at the muzzle, where there is a white Bradley bead. There is no center bead.
The DEA Sport comes with an adjustable-comb stock. This allows you to set the height and comb offset to suit your build and style of shooting. The stock also comes in cast-off (for right-handed shooters) and cast-on versions. Length of pull is 147⁄8" to the back of a ½" rubber pad. Drop can go as low as 13⁄8" at the comb and 2¼" at the heel. You can add any height you wish by moving up the comb and installing the supplied washers.
Another thing that you will immediately notice about the stock is that it is relatively thick. The pistol grip is quite full, as befits a target stock. The head of the stock is thick and extends at least 1⁄8" past the sides of the rear of the metal receiver. While this wood-to-metal fit looks odd, it is clearly built for strength and many rounds of target shooting. The forend is a hand-filling beavertail. The wood checkering is of a simple, functional design and appears mechanically done in a tight-lines-per-inch pattern. Unlike on many Italian guns, the low-sheen finish on our gun completely filled the walnut pores. The wood on our sample had a linear grain about midway between standard and fancy.
The DEA Sport comes in a black PVC takedown case that might survive the airlines. Inside you get the gun and the plastic choke box containing the adjustable-comb Allen key, spacers, choke wrench and chokes. The manual is very basic and not DEA Sport specific. The non-transferrable warranty is good for two years.
This gun is all about shooting, not looks. Don’t compare it to your side-by-side field guns, because it is in a different league. Clearly it is built to last for thousands of targets, as it looks and feels hefty. But it is by no means a clunker. A better adjective might be “stately.” The gun was clearly comfortable on longer shots where steadiness was critical. On short targets correct initial barrel placement was quite important. If you prefer a more agile target gun, the 28" barrels might be the answer. Mechanical function was correct with 11⁄8- and 1-oz target loads.
I have shot some heavy waterfowling side-by-sides, but the DEA Sport isn’t just a question of weight. It has the balance, feel and stability of a true target gun. The modern adjustable stock and single selective trigger are at home on the sporting clays course. I shot the gun best when I treated it just like my usual O/U sporter and paid no attention to the side-by-side barrels. If you enjoy shooting side-by-side target competitions, the Fausti DEA Sport is definitely worth a try. You may just find it to be your new favorite clay breaker.