Franchi Affinity 12 and 20 Gauge Autoloading Shotguns
For 2012, Franchi has been hard at work reinventing, or at least revitalizing, the brand. The Affinity is the recoil actioned autoloading replacement for the I-12 of years past. The tested 12 and 20 gauge Affinities are the 26 inch barrel Max 4 Camo versions that have a MSRP of $950 and a street price of about $850. The matte black finished versions retail for a hundred dollars less.
The control layout of these guns will be familiar to Benelli M2 fans, as it is identical. My understanding is that manufacture and assembly of the Franchi Affinity is done at the Benelli Urbino facility. The Franchi Affinity action differs from the Benelli recoil (inertia) action in one basic aspect: the mainspring is located under the forearm, as opposed to inside the buttstock. The triggers of both guns released at 4-1/2 pounds, better than average for an out of the box autoloader.
The 20 gauge Affinity comes in any barrel length you want, as long as it is 26 inch. That makes some sense, as one of the ways to reduce street price on a shotgun model is to limit the number of configurations available.
Assembly of the 12 gauge gun was easy, but there was a minor quality control problem with the 20 gauge. There is a simple metal plug that protrudes from the forearm cap that serves as a sling swivel stud. It is supposed to be retained in that cap by a little external retaining ring. Someone forgot to install the retaining ring on the sample 20 gauge gun, so when removing the cap it falls to the ground. After assembly, I gave the actions three drops of M-Pro 7 gun oil and cycled them briskly a couple of dozen times.
Along with stock adjustment shims, you receive the usual compliment of three Mobil-choke style flush tubes, choke tube wrench and a bottle of Franchi gun oil. The Affinity comes with what Franchi feels is an industry-leading seven year warranty.
Common Specifications, 12 and 20 Gauge
· Barrel Length: 26"
· Magazine Capacity: 4+1
· Chokes: IC, M, F
· Length of Pull: 14.25"
· Drop at Heel: Adjustable 2-2.5"
· Drop at Comb: 1.5"
· Front Sight: Fiber optic red-bar front sight
· Measured trigger pull: 4.5 lbs. (both guns)
· Overall length: 47-1/4 inches (26" barrel)
· 2012 MSRP: $950
The minimum recommended load for proper functioning of the 12 gauge Affinity is 3-drams powder equivalent and 1-1/8 ounces of shot. For the 20 gauge Affinity, the minimum recommended load is 7/8 ounce of shot at 1275 fps. I have no idea where Franchi cooked up the oddball 1275 fps 7/8 oz. 20 gauge load minimum: I'm not sure it even exists. Your standard 20 gauge 7/8 oz. target load, like a Federal Gold Medal, is a 1200 fps load and the test Franchi cycles them perfectly.
The weight of both guns is misrepresented. The catalog weight with a 26" barrel is 6.4 pounds for the 12 gauge gun and 5.6 pounds for the 20 gauge. The tested guns actually weighed 7.0 pounds and 6.0 pounds (empty) respectively. Still, the 20 gauge knocks a full pound off the weight of its 12 gauge counterpart.
Measuring the bore of the 12 gauge gun with my handy Skeet's bore gauge, I found it came in at .725, the European standard bore dimension. For the supplied Mobil-chokes, the Improved Cylinder mics .716", the Modified mics .704" and the lead shot only Full measures .690". That yields nine thousandths, twenty-one thousandths and thirty-five thousandths actual constrictions. This is right in line with what you might expect, no surprises here.
The Affinity 20 that I fired at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas loaded easily enough, but the test gun retains the annoying thumb-busting loading of the Benelli M2. After shoving a dozen shells into the magazine past the nasty shell-stop, you'll have a sore thumb. I sure did. Though the folks at Franchi/Benelli are well aware of the situation, our Italian friends apparently just don't care. It is such an obvious and irritating issue, you'd think they would have fixed it by now. It is reason enough for some people not to buy this shotgun. To be fair, the thumb-busting level has to do with the rim diameter of the specific shotshell. While some Fiocchi one ounce loads were unbearably stiff to load, one ounce Federal loads were markedly easier to load. This is a legitimate issue. Of the many dozens of 20 gauge repeaters I've tested and owned, none of them are as remotely as hard on your thumb as the Benelli M2 and the Franchi Affinity. The finish, trigger, safety and overall build quality of the overall shotgun is good, so it makes the poor magazine loading really stand out. Note that the 12 gauge Affinity does not have this obnoxious problem.
To get an idea of the feel, function and handling of the Affinity guns, I compared them to a 12 gauge, 26 inch barreled Benelli Vinci and a 24 inch barreled Benelli M2 20 gauge. When you are going to spend the afternoon shooting (and shivering), you might as well make it count. Those familiar with the Benelli M2 will find the handling of the Franchi Affinity virtually identical.
For many people, a three inch chambered, seven pound autoloader is all the shotgun they will ever need (or want). I shot the Affinity 12 gauge with a variety of loads from B&P one ounce loads up to Federal 1-1/2 oz. buffered baby magnums. Function was flawless throughout.
In the felt recoil department, I found the 12 gauge Affinity comfortable to shoot with target loads. With a shell like the B&P F2 Mach (1 oz. @ 1300 fps) you could shoot the Affinity all day. Recoil was not noticeably different, to my shoulder, than the Vinci with target loads. At the higher end, with 1-1/2 oz. loads, I could tell the difference. The Vinci was clearly softer shooting, which I attribute to its ComforTech stock. However, the Affinity was not abusive and for many hunting applications it would present no issue.
The 20 gauge repeater has been largely ignored over the last several years, with a glut of 12 gauge autos, but not much for 20 gauge fans to cheer about. That makes the affordable 20 gauge Affinity all the more interesting. It is a responsible, easy to shoulder, well-balanced shotgun and at the end of a long day chasing wild pheasants, the full pound it saves you over the seven pound, 12 gauge gun may make it feel like it is fifty pounds lighter.
At the approximately $850 discount retail price of these camo Affinity guns (less for the matte black versions), no other autoloader on the market can compete with them. Aside from the caveat of the harsh loading into the 20 gauge's magazine, the Franchi Affinity is an excellent value in a low-maintenance, well-built, hassle-free autoloader.
Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.