By Jason Harris
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Franchi Alcione shotgun: Here we review a fresh-looking Franchi field gun out of Italy. Has the wait for this shotgun been worth it?
Franchi Alcione shotgun: Franchi is a company with an illustrious gunmaking history that stretches back almost 150 years, a record that makes them one of Italy's oldest gunmakers.
They're old, but not as old or as famous as the company that now owns them - Beretta.
At one time, Franchi was quite a force on the UK shooting scene with a range of semi-automatics and over-under guns being imported back in the 1970s by ASI of Snape.
This arrangement eventually petered out, which meant that Franchi virtually disappeared from the British market during the 1990s. Things might have stayed that way had Beretta not taken over in the late 1990s and breathed new life into the company, bringing fresh investment and new ideas.
Today, as well as being owned by Beretta, Franchi guns are now distributed here by Beretta importers, GMK.
One of the best sellers is the Alcione, a model that has been made by Franchi for many years, but which, thanks to Beretta's influence, has seen a number of worthwhile design changes.
That said, it is still remarkably similar to the models that were made in the 70s.
A new look
Most notable improvement is the stock finish on both the Field and Sporter models. Being at the lower end of the price range, the Alcione rarely had what could be called pretty wood, but this has changed totally. The gun now appears to have very good wood but, like a lot of things in life, appearances can be deceptive.
Weathercoat - the name given to the eye catching stock finish on this Franchi
On this model the stock and fore-end have been coated with an eye-catching synthetic skin, which Franchi call 'weather coat' - a covering on plain walnut that gives the impression of very high quality wood.
End result is that it looks really attractive.
Initially I did have some reservations on the level of grip it might afford a shooter, but these doubts disappeared when I looked more closely at the satin finish and chequer pattern on both stock and fore-end.
The slightly coarse chequering allows both hands to get a good hold on the gun and this is further improved by comfortable flutes on both sides of the Schnabel fore-end. Together they result in a positive grip.
The stock has been given a pistol grip and has drops of 1.1/2in 2.1/4in at comb and heel with an overall length of 14.1/2in. This might seem a little short for some but it should be remembered this field gun will doubtless be used with more clothing than you would wear if you were clay shooting in spring or summer.
The stock is finished at the butt end with a very thin black rubber recoil pad which has a hard heel built into it to help ease the gun into the shoulder.
This is a useful feature which will be welcomed on days when you need to wear a bulky shooting coat to keep out the elements.
Unusual action frame
Take a close look at the action frame and you will see that it is quite unusual for an over-under gun coming from Italy. Straight away you will see the gun hinges open on a full-width cross pin rather than stub pins set into the action walls.
The cross pin used in the Alcione has a huge surface area where it meets the barrel hook. In addition to this the barrels are held closed by a full-width locking bolt in the bottom of the action and the barrel lumps also fit into the floor of the frame.
Collectively these features mean the gun has an extremely strong lock up which should withstand a lot of shooting.
The sturdy internal mechanism produces nice trigger pulls with very little drag. Second shot re-set is achieved mechanically.
Cosmetically the Alcione has a silver action frame with game scene engraving on either side.
The engraving might be rolled on, but it has a very good quality look about it and at first glance you could even be fooled into thinking it had been hand cut.
The action frame is not covered with engraving, but there is certainly enough on show to ensure this gun doesn't look plain and, by way of contrast, the makers name and legend appears on the belly of the action.
Some of the mechanics of the Alcione remind me of the Browning/Miroku style of gun - particularly the cross pin hinge but more especially the way in which the ejectors work. These, too, are tripped by rods running through the action walls and pushed forward by the hammers as they re-cock.
As with the Miroku the spring loaded ejector hammers are housed in the fore-end and the ejector slide and extractor are also free floating in the barrel monoblock.
The gun is very well built and finished mechanically to a high standard.
In true Franchi fashion the fore-end metalwork has been made from alloy, rather than steel, to keep weight down. A useful feature with the fore-end design is a spring mechanism that both keeps the fore-end wood snug on the barrel and also helps take up wear that might occur during the life of the gun. The fore-end also contains the cocking cam that pushes the cocking lever back when the gun is opened.
The cocking lever runs through the floor of the action and connects with a cam that lifts the hammer back into the fully cocked position. The rest of the mechanism follows along other tried and tested lines with the hammers being powered by coil springs held captive on rods to ensure they rebound slightly when the gun is opened to prevent striker drag.
The sears sit below the hammers and re-set for the second shot comes mechanically after the first shot is fired. Needless to say the trigger is selective, with the selector button being located in the rear of the trigger body.
Barrels and safety
As you would expect on a field model the safety catch is automatic but on this gun its return is accomplished when the gun is physically opened rather than when the top lever is pushed across, which is the more commonly seen method.
Barrels on this gun are 28 inches long with a ventilated top rib that is just under 7mm wide and matted to prevent glare and reflection. To help keep the weight down and aid cooling the side ribs have been ventilated.
Overall weight is around 7.1/4lb, about what I would expect from a field gun. The barrels are made on the monoblock principle and have been fitted with 3in chambers to cope with normal magnum loads.
The bores are chrome plated, which makes the gun very tough and the barrels have been nicely blacked to match with the top lever, trigger guard and fore-end iron.
The barrels are fitted with multichokes and five chokes are supplied along with a useful ABS travel case and three year guarantee on mechanical parts.
BARRELS: Chrome-lined 28in tubes with 3in chambers and ventilated top and side ribs. Chrome plating helps protect against corrosion and makes cleaning easier.
ACTION: Single selective trigger boxlock action with mechanical re-set for the second barrel. Automatic safety catch.
STOCK: Walnut stock covered in a special finish to give it an attractive colour and figure. Length 14.1/2in with drops at comb and heel of 1.1/2in and 2.1/4in respectively.
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