Franchi Raptor shotgun
In Britain the semi-auto has never enjoyed the popularity it has achieved in some countries. Socially unacceptable on game shoots and seen as a ‘shooting machine’ rather than a gun in some quarters, it is, nevertheless, a highly practical alternative to the break-action gun – with some advantages.
At one time Franchi was a leading contender in the semi-auto market, with a range of recoil-fed guns suitable for clay shooting and non-game field use. Their rugged reliability made them a particular favourite with pigeon shooters.
There then came a period of spares shortages and erratic availability of new guns, which suggested all was not well in the Italian factory. This was all solved in the mid 1990s when they were taken over by the Beretta group, which not only put the long-established company on a sound footing at home, but also gave them the key to a world-wide network of distributors.
A new range of guns was soon to be developed.
Who makes it?
Franchi have a modern and well-equipped factory in Northern Italy’s famous Gardone Valley gunmaking area near Brescia. The company was established in 1868 and, as we have said, is now part of the Beretta Group – whose main factory and headquarters is in the same area. The company makes semi-autos and break-action shotguns.
How adaptable is it?
Most clay disciplines and all field shooting except game are well within the range of the Raptor, and it is light enough to carry relatively long distances without fatigue.
How does it work?
The old Franchi semi-autos many shooters will remember were recoil-fed guns. The means they relied on the recoil of the first shot to eject the spent cartridge case and load another from the magazine tube. The Raptor, like most modern semi-autos is gas fed. That means that, as the shot is fired, high-pressure gas is bled from the barrel to cycle the mechanism.
The Franchi Raptor sports an ultra slim fore-end wood.
One handy spin-off from the way in which this mechanism works is that it tends to reduce recoil, which is one reason why some shooters opt for a semi-auto. In the case of the Franchi, the gas mechanism has also been very carefully tuned so that it gets over one of the old semi-auto bugbears – a reluctance to cycle cartridges of widely different performance.
Many of the older semi-autos require a relatively potent cartridge in order to work reliably. The Franchi works with all loads from 24 to 56 grammes – and you can’t ask for more than that!
Franchi have achieved this by employing a reversible gas piston in the mechanism: one way round it deals with light loads; the other way round and you can shoot anything up to three-inch magnums. This feature also reduces stress on the action frame when heavy shells are fired.
Another stress-reducing factor on the action is the way in which the Franchi’s bolt works. Many semi-autos lock closed for firing with a peg which engages with a recess in the action, which means that the action frame takes the full recoil stress for a split second before the mechanism starts to cycle and withdraws the peg. The Franchi employs a bolt with a turning head, with lugs which engage with slots in the breech end of the barrel. Thus, at the moment the gun fires the main stresses are borne by the barrel and the bolt head – and nothing else. This, in turn, allows for a lightly-built action frame, which helps reduce the all-up weight of the gun.
A beefy bolt with rotating head ensures both a proper lock down on the cartridge and clean ejection after firing.
As is usual with semi-autos, the Raptor has a drop-out trigger group which also incorporates the lifting mechanism which brings fresh cartridges from the magazine tube. The trigger group frame is made of a lightweight polymer – a tough engineering plastic – which is another contributory factor to the gun’s light weight.
The safety takes the form of a button in the forward part of the trigger guard, showing the usual red ring when the gun is set to fire. The button which releases the bolt and lets it slide forward to chamber the first cartridge is on the forward right side of the action frame.
Exterior of the frame is in a nickel silver finish with minimal decoration – just the name of the gun and an oval, green panel bearing the manufacturer’s logo.
– Tubes of 26, 28 and 30in are available.
– All have 3in (76mm) chambers, and all are magnum proofed.
– Bore diameter is around 18.3mm (0.720in), so Franchi obviously don’t go for over-boring.
– The barrel is removed by the usual screw cap on the front end of the magazine tube.
– Finish is in a dull, non-reflective black, and the 7mm top rib is ventilated for cooling and lightness.
– Remember, due to the length of the action, semi-autos barrels give the impression of being approximately two inches longer than similar length tubes on break-action guns.
– The stock is 14.1/4in long at the centre and, straight out of the box, has a drop at heel of around 2.1/2in.
– However, the drop is adjustable with shims provided.
– The fore-end is slim and straight, and has been strengthened with a reinforced liner to prevent a familiar semi-auto problem: cracking at the back where the wood joins the metal of the action.
– Chequering is machine-cut, and exterior finish is in Weather Coat, which gives the impression of very high-quality walnut with an attractive grain pattern.
Weight is around 6.3/4lb, with slight variations due to barrel length.
What the tester thought
Sporting Gun tested the Raptor in September 2005. The tester was clearly impressed, because it scored 8 out of 10 in all categories – build quality, handling, styling, and value for money. The tester described it as a nicely-made gun carrying a very competitive price tag: “Not quite the same standard as its Beretta stable mates, but not far behind,” was one comment.
This is a competitive market, with guns by Browning, Winchester, Fabarm, Benelli, Betetta and Remington all vying for position. Some, however, are much more expensive than the Franchi.
From the importers, GMK, on 01489-679999.
Try www.gmk.co.uk for the importer, or www.franchi.com for the manufacturer. Remember that what you see on manufacturer’s websites are not necessarily the versions imported into the UK, and we suspect this to be the case here.