An Italian gun with a Basque name in the American market? Now that’s interesting. When Alan Thompson and Wayne Rodrigue decided to start an American shotgun company, they first thought of having guns produced in Spain. Appropriately, they selected “Baserri” as the company name. A baserri is a typical stone-and-timber farmhouse, or perhaps hunting lodge, in the Basque Pyrenees. “Mari” was selected as the model name. The foremost goddess in the Basque pantheon, Mari is the deity of thunder and wind.
But a trip to AyA and ARDESA, AyA’s parts supplier, came up blank. The Spanish couldn’t change their production methods to accommodate the guns Thompson and Rodrigue wanted. They suggested that Fabarm, in Italy, might be a good fit. And it was.
Fabarm, located near the gunmaking center of Brescia, was established in 1900. The firm produces a complete line of shotguns and rifles for the Continental market and recently Russia. Fabarm has never had a separate US branch, but in the past has sold here under the aegis of H&K, SIG Arms, TriStar and others. The company is also well known as a parts supplier to the industry. Caesar Guerini used Fabarm’s services quite a bit when CG was just starting out and didn’t yet have its own plant.
Fabarm recently came out with a new Elos model over/under for the European market, and that is the basis of the Baserri Mari. At press time, Baserri is bringing in a steel-receiver 30" 12-gauge Mari Elite sporter as well as our test gun: the aluminum-receiver 28" 12-gauge Mari HR hunter.
The design of the alloy action of our Mari HR is about as conventional as it gets in Brescia and Val Trompia. The lock and hinge are similar to those on the Caesar Guerini Ellipse EVO, tested in January/February. CG, along with B. Rizzini, Fausti, Fabarm and others, uses a Browning-style lock. The locking tongue emerges from the bottom of the standing breech and engages a slot in the bottom of the monoblock lugs. This lock type is said to make the receiver deeper compared to a gun with mid-locks like the Beretta 680 series, but when I measured, the difference was a mere 1/8".
Like the Browning, the monoblock has four passive under lugs. On the Baserri, only the rear two lock by engaging a recess in the receiver floor, but they do not go through it. In the Superposed all four fully engage and penetrate the receiver floor. Hinging is by the usual Italian replaceable hinge stubs, as found on Berettas and Perazzis.
Hammers pivot on the triggerplate. Sears are suspended from the top strap. Ejector cocking rods are fixed to the base of the hammers so that the auto ejectors are cocked when the hammer drops. All very standard and proven.
The single trigger is inertia operated, so the first shell must fire to set the second barrel. The barrel is selected by the usual Beretta-style safety toggle switch. The safety is automatic, whether you like it or not. If you don’t, a little time at your gunsmith’s shop will set things right. There’s a nice additional safety feature in a lever that disconnects the trigger when the opening lever is moved to the right. The gun can’t fire if the action isn’t completely locked.
Our test gun’s trigger varied between 4-1/4 pounds and 4-3/4 pounds on both sears. That was fine, but there was also a distinct hitch in the midst of the pull. This was noticeable when measuring but not when actually shooting. Sometimes these things smooth out when a gun has more rounds through it. Trigger take-up is adjustable via an Allen key, offering a nice little extra.
The interior of the action shows a mixture of parts that are machined, cast and stamped based on their usage. There were no extraneous tool marks. It was clean. Solid pins, not roll pins, are used to hold the bits in place. Well done.
The big thing about the Mari HR action is that it is aluminum. Ergal 55 aluminum alloy for you metallurgists. The triggerplate too. And not just the action. My trusty magnet showed that the forend iron wasn’t iron. It was aluminum for additional weight savings. In a relatively low-volume hunting gun, the wear on the receiver knuckle and mating forend piece, even if made of aluminum, is minimal. The high-wear area is the hinge stubs, and those are steel on steel. My testing was too short to draw any conclusions regarding the durability of the gun’s aluminum components, but Browning’s aluminum O/Us hold up well.
The whole point of the aluminum bits is to lower weight, both real and advertised. It’s a known fact that just about all gunmakers fudge a touch by lowballing the stated weight of their field guns. The Baserri Mari HR has a listed weight of 6 pounds 3 ounces. Don’t believe everything you read, unless I write it. Our gun came in at almost 6 pounds 10 ounces. Not that it really matters. A weight of 6 pounds 10 ounces is definitely light for a field 12, and it will be a delightful gun to carry all day.
The cosmetics of the receiver include a proprietary matte-silver titanium coating and tasteful acanthus-leaf roll engraving on the receiver sides. The lower edges of the receiver are nicely rounded for a comfortable field carry.
At press time, barrels for the Mari HR come in only a 28" length. Again, perfectly nice for a field gun for most uses. What makes the Baserri’s barrels different is that they are built on Fabarm’s Tribore principle from thrice-bored chrome molybdenum steel that has been aged outdoors for a year. The company claims that the outdoor exposure makes the steel harder. I don’t know enough about metallurgy to vouch for this, but the Baserri barrels are overproofed to 1630 BAR, as opposed to the 12-country European CIP proof standard for high-performance steel shot of 1370 BAR. The US standard SAAMI definitive proof minimum average is 1310 BAR, and the maximum average is 1413. Clearly, the Baserri has very sturdy barrels.
The Tribore-barrel concept gets a lot of hype. Baserri’s Website glowingly reports that the Tribore barrel “has eliminated the forcing cone by gradually reducing the bore from .740 to .724 inch, which increases shot velocity, reduces felt recoil and provides better patterns.”
Maybe yes. Maybe no. A little time with a bore mike on our test gun’s barrels showed a standard 3" chamber and a very normal short forcing cone leading from the chamber to the bore. It was hardly eliminated. But then it got interesting. From in front of the forcing cone to about 15" from the breech, the bore measured a constant overbore .740". Then, over the next 10", it did indeed gradually taper down to about .724" at the back of the screw choke’s skirt.
Taper-bore barrels are nothing new. In the 1890s Horatio Phillips patented the Vena Contracta, a 12-gauge shotgun barrel that reduced to 20-gauge dimensions in the first third of its length. The Tribore is not nearly that extreme and remains all 12 gauge with a modest .016" bore taper. It was nice to see that both barrels had the same interior diameter. You would be amazed at how many double shotguns have bores of slightly different sizes. The backs of the screw-choke tubes open to .733" for safety clearance, so there is a bit of a jug before the choke constriction.
The Baserri Inner Plus flush-mount screw chokes are a longish 3G". They use a constant taper to a K" parallel. The four screw chokes that came with the gun were an Improved Cylinder, with .006" constriction; a .017" Modified; a .027" Improved Modified and a .035" Full. The IC is a little more open than usual for American standards, but the others are normal. They are notched for the adequate wrench and rim-grooved for identification. The IC and M are approved for steel shot.
The barrel exterior sports full-length solid side ribs and an untapered G"-wide vent top rib finished with a sensible single stainless front bead sight. The barrel finish was a low-glare matte black. The barrel exterior appeared smooth and properly struck, with modest swelling at the muzzle for the screw chokes.
The stock on our test Mari HR measured 14-1/4" x 1-7/16" x 2-1/4" with a little cast, typical on Italian guns. The dimensions are a little higher than we typically see on Browning or Remington guns. Pitch was the usual 2" of stand-off. The rubber recoil pad was 1/2" thick, but there is an optional 7/8" pad if you want to increase length.
The stock wrist and pistol grip were a little thicker than I like on a field gun due to a slight ambidextrous palm swell, but they were good enough. Checkering was laser cut in a simple borderless pattern. The wood-to-metal fit was a bit proud but uniform. The wood itself is listed as “Grade 2 Plus,” and I’ll certainly give it that. It had a good bit of figure and was said to be finished in hand-rubbed oil. As with many Italian guns, the finish showed some open grain, but it was nicely colored. The inside of the head of the stock looked as though it had a couple of protective finish coats too. Nice. The forend had one of those Schnabel schnouts but, of the type, it was well done.
A nice plus, especially considering the aluminum mating surfaces, is an adjustable opening-tension feature. With the supplied Allen keys you can alter the pressure of the forend bracket on the barrel tenon to change resistance of the barrel rotation around the hinge pin if things begin to wear.
The Baserri Mari HR comes in a serviceable black ABS take-down case complete with the four screw chokes, functional choke wrench, 1630 BAR proof certificate, manual, warrantee registration and a useful parts diagram. You can learn a lot about the gun’s design from the parts diagram.
The Baserri warranty is for three years parts and labor. Baserri recently signed on with Briley for warranty work, replacement chokes and customization. Briley’s stellar reputation makes this selection an intelligent move for a new company.
Shooting the gun was interesting. You’d think that a gun with an aluminum receiver would balance like a broomstick with a brick on each end, but the Mari HR didn’t. The barrels were comparatively heavy, weighing 7-1/2 oz more than the 28" barrels on my Beretta O/U, so the gun had a definite front bias. This helped it swing smoothly but made quick starts and mid-air corrections more difficult. Pheasants beware. Ruffed grouse rejoice.
The stock dimensions seemed to suit most who tried it. Low stocks make you lift your head. That, to the utter delight of the bird in question, stops the gun. High stocks just make you hold a little under the target.
The gun functioned correctly in all respects. Ejectors were properly timed. There were no misfires, even with reloads using sunken primers that balk in my Superposeds. The screw chokes stayed snug. Both barrels shot to the same point of impact. Sporting clays target breaks seemed normal for the choke.
Comments that I have read say that the gun has low recoil. To me, recoil seemed about normal for a gun of this weight. I didn’t notice any magic Tribore recoil reduction, nor did I expect it. Mr. Newton laid out the rules pretty clearly. I extensively shot a Fabarm Sporting Clays Competition Extra O/U 10 years ago and didn’t notice any particular Tribore recoil reduction then either. Besides, so much of perceived recoil is gunfit. But the Mari HR was comfortable to shoot. I would be quite content taking this gun afield.
And now here’s the good part. The Baserri Mari HR 28" 12-gauge lists for $2,395. A little bit of the usual dealer discount would get it down to a very nice price level. It’s a lot of gun for the money. It weighs less and costs less than the aluminum-receiver Browning 625 Feather. It handles decently, seems well made and looks nice. The Baserri Mari HR may be the new kid on the block, but this goddess of thunder is definitely worth a look.
Author’s Note: For more information on Baserri Shotguns, contact Baserri Shotguns, 281-686-3544; www.baserrishotguns.com.
Check out Bruce Buck’s “Technoid Talk” blog at www.shootingsportsman.com.
- By: Bruce Buck