PUBLISHED: 11:05 26 December 2020
Mike Yardley tests the Franchi Affinity 3 semi auto – a robust shotgun perfect for the foreshore or hide, with an ingenius inertia-operated mechanism
FRANCHI AFFINITY 3 SEMI AUTO – BREIF OVERVIEW
WE LIKE: The Price; The handling and weight; Low felt recoil for type
WE DON’T LIKE: The slightly front-heavy balance; The thinnish grip
FRANCHI AFFINITY 3 SEMI AUTO – FULL FIELD TEST
This month’s test gun is a new Franchi Affinity 3 inertia-action semi-auto, imported and distributed by GMK of Fareham. GMK are an established firm who also bring in Beretta and Benelli to the UK (and are themselves part of the Beretta group). The test Franchi, weighing 7¼lb (relatively light for a semi-auto), has a 3”-chambered 28” barrel, ‘Max 5’ camo finish and is high-performance-steel proof. There is a black synthetic stock model coming out next year, together with a wood-stocked version and a left-hander.
First aesthetic impressions of the gun are OK. Camo finishes aren’t really my thing, but some love them, and they are well suited for the foreshore and the pigeon hide. And, before I am seen to damn with faint praise, I will also note that I liked the Franchi’s handling qualities on first picking it up. The specification and layout are sensible. The 10mm, parallel, and slightly stepped ventilated sighting rib was good. The only things that didn’t suit me were the rather low stock (easily put right with the stock fit shims supplied in the box) and the rather short length of pull – a fraction over 14¼” (perhaps better suited to those wearing thick winter clothing). The gun is a little front-heavy too.
The Affinity 3 is the first of a new series. Next year, the Franchi semi-autos you’ll see will be either the Affinity 3 (black, camo or wood) or the Affinity 3.5 with the even longer chamber. At the moment, you may still encounter the Affinity One at a slightly reduced price (£745). The latest gun is distinguished by an enlarged bolt handle and bolt-release button, and a bigger loading port. This makes the Affinity 3 well designed for shooting while wearing gloves in cold weather. I have little doubt it was redesigned with the US wildfowler in mind. This also means that it will be made in very large quantities for a very competitive US market and hence can be offered at a competitive price here too. The big feature of the Franchi is its inertia-operated mechanism. There are various systems for making semi-automatics cycle. They are all, perhaps, best thought of as pump guns, in which gas or recoil energy is tapped to operate the mechanism and cycle the action instead of a human arm and hand.
Without getting too techy, the main forms of semi-auto are the Browning long-recoil system (old A5), gas operation (as perfected by Remington and Beretta), and the Benelli inertia system. Moreover, the last two systems are seen in guns with and without rotating bolt heads, (a feature popularised by Winchester). Most modern semi-automatics are gas operated – not including the test gun, of course, or the Benelli design, upon which it is based.
Robert Frampton of GMK elaborates: “The Franchi offices are now based within the Benelli factory and the Affinity 3 is entirely made in Italy within the Beretta group. Specifically, the barrels are made by Beretta and the rest is made by Benelli. Franchi of course benefits from all the Benelli technology…”
I might add that they also benefit from Beretta barrel-making. I have watched the hammer-forging process in the factory many times, and I will venture the opinion that through it and Beretta’s metallurgical expertise, the Gardonne giant makes what I consider to be the toughest barrels in the world. If that sounds like bias, well, it is, but it’s an opinion forged from long experience of Beretta semi-auto barrels. On the dry-handling front, I have noted the gun is relatively light. It is also notable for a slim fore-end, and a slim grip (perhaps a little too slim for me with bare hands). The balance is quite forward as mentioned – about 1¼” from the front of the receiver – even with a 28” barrel. The test Affinity is equipped with a useful ‘TSA’ recoil pad (a 30mm pad is available for a little extra length too) and a small translucent foresight, which I like although it looks quite delicate.
Let’s discuss the Franchi’s clever operating mechanism. It is, in essence, the same as that in a Benelli M2, save for the fact that the recoil spring is positioned around the magazine tube and not within a dedicated tube in the butt. The main mechanism, the bolt body and rotating bolt head, is near enough identical, but the bolt and head are not interchangeable between marques, although some parts, such as extractors and springs, are (plus the Franchi bolt, just to be different, sits on a rail absent in the Benelli).
How does it all work? Ingeniously. On firing, the pressure in the barrel holds the bolt head in place by suction (because a vacuum is created). The main mass of the gun then goes back in recoil while the bolt head stays still, relative to the barrel into which it is locked. The inertia spring between the rotating bolt and the bolt body compresses. When the shot leaves the barrels, the pressure is released and the bolt head is able to unlock, moving backwards and starting the ejection and loading cycle.
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I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Affinity 3 handled and shot. It was not too heavy. Using my usual Lyalvale 28g test loads, I began as ever on Low 2 at Skeet. The first bird was smoked (with a Mobil style half choke), then another and another. Most satisfying. The gun did not feel especially refined, there was some trigger creep, but it just kept breaking targets. Moreover, the recoil was less than expected. I had no malfunctions. I tried some 24g fodder too. These cycled without complaint (inertia actions usually tend to be picky about light loads). Overall, I was impressed. I gave the Franchi to my shooting pal, Paul, and he did well with it too. This is a well-engineered gun with an interesting mechanism at reasonable cost – ideal for hide or foreshore (a boon of the inertia mechanism is that its easy to clean). I am told the bottom line will increase next year, so, if it appeals, it would be worth considering sooner rather than later. At the current price it offers real value (as does the Affinity One).
My thanks to Lyalvale Express for supplying the cartridges in this test
FRANCHI AFFINITY 3 SEMI AUTO – TECH SPECS
Chamber: 3” (76mm) with superior steel proof.
Action type: inertia with rotating bolt head
Barrel: 28” (no 30” option in this Max 5 model)
Rib: 10mm stepped
Chokes: multi – 3 supplied
Weight: 7 1/4lbs