Bruce Potts tests this practical, no-frills bolt-action rifle and finds that its lack of finery in no way affects its excellent performance in the field
With the short days you have a only small window of opportunity before the fallow feeding on the fields disappear into the woods. Get there early, stumble to the field margins quietly and hopefully, as the light improves, you will have a chance. The trouble is the fallow are wise to this now, so the early-morning routine I prefer turned into an evening sit-and-wait session.
It was cold, with that still-damp atmosphere that seems to chill you to the bones, and huddling up in the dripping foliage did not improve matters. However, I was trying a spot where fallow crossed between woods along a narrow strip of hedging to get to the grazing grounds. As I waited, I checked the rifle over — I had been impressed with the Horizon as I crawled into position, quietly loaded up with Sierra GameKing reload ammunition and securely locked the bolt down on a chambered round. On a still, murky day noise travels for miles, so I was grateful.
I was giving up hope but just as the last knockings of usable light were fading, a single fallow pricket seemed to appear from nowhere.
Usually I would use him as a confidence decoy to lure the other deer out but time would not allow it, so the Sierra GameKing reload found its mark just at the top of the heart. I gralloched the deer, taking the head and feet off in the field, and had to wait till next day to take a picture as it was too dark by this time.
Testing a Franchi Horizon stalking rifle
I have tested many a Franchi shotgun in the past but never a rifle. I’m doing so now because Franchi has ventured into the bolt-action rifle scene, offering its loyal supporters — and hopefully new converts — a new, very well-priced sporting rifle.
Franchi has been based in the gun capital of Italy, Brescia, since 1868 and has a lot of experience. Its approach is to offer a product at a good price that real shooters want and need and can rely on. Sometimes that means no frills but many a stalker, fox shooter or vermin controller does not need the finery, just a decent, honest, accurate rifle.
The Horizon is one such rifle that is aimed squarely at the stalking market, a synthetically stocked, lightweight bolt-action gun for less than £750. I was pleasantly surprised when I lifted the Horizon from its box. Sure, it has that plastic/synthetic feel to the stock but it also felt robust and handled well, with its 3kg weight being well distributed.
I also liked the overall design as it has that Italian flair without being too radical, with flowing lines and ergonomic handling. The stock has features I like and some I don’t. The negatives are really only the odd-looking sling swivel recesses that form a cut-away section to the underside of the stock. This slanted groove allows a good degree of sling movement as the sling swivel hole is moulded into the actual stock. This means it is also totally silent, so actually it is a good idea.
You also have some nice and practical additional handholds in the form of raised and sculptured fore- end chequering panels. The fore-end chequering is moulded into, and wraps around, the stock, offering a good hold from any position. There is another raised chequered panel above the magazine, so you can grip the Horizon securely from a standing position when you tuck in the supporting shoulder to the torso.
A clever little addition
The pistol grip has the same chequering as the fore-end with a slim profile but slight lip, to rest the palm. There is no cheekpiece so it is pretty much an ambidextrous design and easy to shoot from either shoulder. You have another small panel of chequering at the base behind the cut-in sling swivel fixture, again well thought out to add grip when shooting off a bipod so the supporting hand can grip here to steady the aim.
Finishing off the stock is an inset rubber recoil pad, very squishy and with a dimpled gripping surface. It is available in three different lengths and has a Twin Shock Absorber system that is claimed to reduce recoil by 50 per cent. The stock material is reinforced glass fibre for lightness and robustness, making it highly practical for stalking duties.
With rifles, you are always concerned about accuracy so the stock must not flex and must have a decent bedding system to maintain consistent accuracy.
The Horizon has hollowed-out sections but reinforced with horizontal sections to aid rigidity, and the action beds to the stock via two large V-shaped steel lugs embedded at 45°. These sit in corresponding recesses in the action and anchor the action to the stock really well.
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Barrel and action
- The barrel on this .308 Win rifle is 22in, which is fine for this calibre, though a .308 Win can go shorter with little loss of velocity. It is threaded ½in UNF for a sound moderator and is fully floated right up to the action union. In .308 Win the rifling twist rate is 1-in-11in — good for bullet weights to 180-gr — and forms part of the hammer-forged barrel. This is also finished in a durable matt bluing, as is the action. I know stainless steel is more popular, but the dull blued finish is still practical.
- The action is a cylindrical design with a flat top, which is stepped and accepts either a one- or two-piece scope base mounting system. This Horizon came with twin Weaver-type bases with no MOA bias.
- It is a well-thought-out action with a large bolt release and convenient loading port. This model had the hinged floor-plate magazine, meaning you load from the top and then release from the bottom.
- The bolt is 7in long, cylindrical with a polished finish and no flutes to the body, but having twin exhaust ports to the front and rear. It has a low 60° lift thanks to the A-type three-lug arrangement that houses the plunger ejector and single claw extractor.
- The bolt handle is 2.5in long and has a nice teardrop knob, and the bolt shroud has a cocking indictor as a protruding red spur. The whole action is both slick and reliable.
- The Franchi Horizon came with a target to prove accuracy as tested at the factory. This rifle shot a 0.97in three-shot group at 100m with Norma 150-gr ammunition. No complaints there. Still, I selected a few factory and reloads to eke out as much accuracy as I could.
I decided not to fit a sound moderator, though I did fit a Schmidt & Bender 6x42mm scope befitting a lighter-weight stalking rifle. Of note, it did seem to have less recoil, so that recoil pad must be doing something.
- Winchester Extreme Points have a large synthetic tip to aid bullet expansion and in the Horizon I achieved 2,791fps for 2,595ft/lb energy and just over 1in groups. A good start.
- Hornady and its SST Superformance load always shoots well and, true to form, achieved a high velocity of 2,888fps and 2,779ft/lb energy with sub-1in groups.
- I tried to replicate the Norma test target but my 150-gr Norma Ballistic Tips hovered around the 1in mark and achieved 2,823fps for 2,655ft/lb energy.
- This was good accuracy from a mid-priced rifle but a bit of judicious reloading shrunk the groups to ¾in, with the best reload being a 150-gr Sierra GameKing using 45.5 grains of RL 15 powder for 2,851fps and 2,708ft/lb energy and three shots in 0.75in.
- An alternative of 44 grains of Vit N140 powder and the heavier 168-gr AccuBond achieved the same accuracy and 2,703fps/2,678ft/lb
Need to know
- Manufacturer: Franchi
- Model: Horizon
- Type: bolt action
- Overall length: 42.5in
- Barrel length: 22in, ½ in UNF thread
- Calibre: 308 Win on test (1 in 11in rifling twist rate)
- Finish: Blued steel
- Weight: 3kg
- Magazine: Hinged floor plate, four shot
- Stock: Black synthetic Sporter
- Trigger: Single stage, adjustable
- Safety: Two position side lever
- Sights: Non, drilled and tapped for scope
- Price: £720
- Importer GMK, tel 01489 579999
With prices of premium rifles and scopes skyrocketing in recent years, a decent rifle for stalking or vermin control seems bit out of reach for many stalkers. Thankfully manufacturers such as Franchi still offer realistic prices for what is a good, practical, no frills stalking rifle. It will serve a stalker well and save them money to buy the additional accoutrements that seem mandatory these days; scopes, sound moderators, rangefinders and so on.
Will serve a stalker well