Jason Harris recommends the new Franchi Affinity; a Beretta stable-mate with Benelli inspiration making for a fine entry-level semi-auto shotgun
Although not one of the names you might first think of when considering mass-market gunmakers, Franchi has had a presence in the UK market for many years.
The company was first founded in 1868 and there are few gunmakers of that age still around. Though Franchi has altered somewhat in recent years.
I can remember their semi-autos and O/U guns from when I first started shooting. At that time, the Franchi semi- autos were recoil operated in a similar way to the Browning A5; reloading by the barrel sliding back, pushing the breech-block to eject the fired cartridge and bring the new one forward. There was also the Franchi Falconet, an alloy-actioned gun that was extremely lightweight. Browning, Winchester and Beretta all do them now, but Franchi was probably the first and 25 years or so before the others.
In those days ASI of AYA fame was the distributor, but a few years ago, it was bought out and became part of Beretta’s group of companies. As such, Franchi is now distributed by GMK, the Beretta distributor.
Though maybe not totally autonomous, they are very proud of their name and have an air of independence, though they enjoy the security of being part of the world’s largest gun manufacturer.
Thinking about it, Franchi may have the broadest base of experience when it comes to semi-auto shotguns. While the earliest semi-autos worked on recoil, they have also made a number of gas-operated models and lately have moved on to inertia driven mechanisms. I can’t think of another maker that has used all of these operating principles.
The inertia system was really pioneered by Benelli, which itself is now part of Beretta. So it is no real surprise that Franchi are using the same principle now. The advantage of an inertia driven gun is the lesser number of moving parts. Because there is no gas piston under the fore-end, it can be made slimmer. The gun also keeps clean more easily as there are no exhaust gases coming back to a piston system around the magazine tube. Usually inertia autos aren’t quite as soft to shoot, as the gas system seems to absorb more of the recoil, but the gun will certainly recoil significantly less than a conventional O/U.
The other thing is cartridge sensitivity: generally autos work at their best with heavier loads as they have more energy to work the mechanism. But over the years, cartridges have got lighter and auto design has altered to accommodate the lighter cartridges.
When the bolt goes forward its head rotates and locks into the pocket in the breech end of the barrel. When fired, the bolt has the effect of going forward whereas the gun as a whole moves backwards under recoil. This movement causes the bolt head to rotate further as the back of it compresses a large spring housed in the bolt. Once compressed, the spring opens very quickly, which unlocks the head as the bolt is thrown back by the energy stored in the spring. and so the fired cartridge is ejected and the next one brought up and forwards.
A larger bolt handle makes things easier when loading and unloading, even with gloves on. For the UK, the affinity is brought in black synthetic with a 28in barrel. The gun comes with three choke tubes; 1⁄4, 1⁄2, and full. There is also a comprehensive set of shims to alter the stock for comb height and cast either left or right. The barrel is chambered for 23⁄4in and 3in shells and carries special steel shot proof. The bore is chrome lined.
The top rib is 8mm wide and slightly raised at the breech end. It is ventilated and matted and there is a small red foresight. The metalwork is satin matt black and the finish is very good. The pistol grip is slim and both it and the fore-end have a printed chequer pattern. There is a position in the stock to fit an optional sling swivel and provision at the front end is through a hole in the fore-end retaining nut.
Stock length is 375mm. Included in this is a soft recoil pad that has a smooth heel for quick mounting. The gun also comes with a very generous seven-year warranty.
The Affinity is a very practical gun. No great beauty, but a very useful tool. It will make an excellent pigeon shooting and wildfowling gun; a great all-rounder and for an Italian-made semi-auto it is very good value for money.
Price: Franchi are offering more of an entry-level price, with an RRP of £640, but you will probably find them on racks for less. While more expensive than some of the cheaper autos coming from Turkey, the Franchi is made in Italy and as such is slightly crisper in its finish.
More details: contact the distributor GmK 01489 579999
Marks out of 100
Build Quality: 23/25
Value for money: 23/25
Total score: 90/100
For an Italian-made semi-auto it is very good value for money