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Ata Venza – Franchi Afinity Duel Test

Ask any group of pigeon shooters which is the best shotgun for the job and I guarantee you’ll more than likely wish you’d never actually asked the question. There are those who’ll never be separated from a doublebarrelled 12 bore, be it overunder or side-by-side, the ones who swear by 20 gauge along with the dedicated single-barrel shooter, be it semi-auto or an old school pump. Equally, whilst some shooters use only one shotgun irrespective of target and there is a good argument for this approach, given the environment the pigeon shooter tends to inhabit, a growing number now prefer to own a dedicated, pigeon hide-specific shotgun.

Given that, unless your pigeon shooting is a paid-for, fully organised, expert-guided day, you’ll have plenty of kit to lug about in addition to your gun. There’s also the chance that once you’ve got your hide, decoys, dog, if you have one, seat and various other items sorted out, you could well find yourself sat out in less than ideal conditions. Hides, netting lashed to a wall, tree or poles, even hay bales might seem soft and to a degree friendly, but I guarantee you’ll find every opportunity to damage your gun once you’ve removed it from the slip. Throw in the occasional gusts of wind, the likelihood of rain, plus mud and conditions at times being less than ideal, especially for your shotgun, and the very nature of harvesting a few woodies means that you’re working within a relatively confined space, hoping upon hope that the woodpigeons have somehow failed to see you getting ready. Decked out in camo you may well be, but pigeons aren’t blind.

So it’s for all of the above reasons, plus maybe a few more besides that many a pigeon shooter now owns or is giving serious consideration to buying a dedicated shotgun. Even more likely is that it’ll be a semiautomatic, reason being there’s now a whole host of them to choose from, many of them costing a fraction of the price of your beloved double-barrel. The other benefit is that, besides pigeons, a semi-auto makes for the perfect duck gun, vermin controller which is the reason numerous gamekeepers prefer them along with their undisputed abilities as a clay breaker. In fact there’s times when a semi makes far more sense than a conventional shotgun.

New For Old

Most shooters tend to initially think they’ll have to buy used, mainly because it tends to be a Beretta they think they have to buy, the price of the topend models at times a little rich for a second shotgun. However, there’s now a mighty fine selection of brand new semis from both Italy and Turkey with price tags that significantly undercut the second-hand of the big names.

So with plenty to choose from here’s a pair that could potentially become your pigeon gun, one a gas powered Italian ironically from the Beretta stable, the other an inertia-driven Turkish offering. Both priced at under £700, you’ll be surprised as to just how good this modern pairing actually are, there quality, performance and handling more than equalling the established makes and models.

They’re also tangible proof that owning a budget-orientated shotgun doesn’t mean you have to compromise, this duo is as good as any semi-auto you’ll pick up. Built under the parental umbrella of Beretta, the Franchi Affinity Max5 is the latest singlebarrel offering to bear this historic name. Swathed in Max5 camo, this gas-driven 12g will fulfil any pigeon duties asked of it, the full multi-choke outfit all in for £695 or even less if you’d prefer the all black synthetic version. Equally, the Turkish built Venza from ATA, an inertia-driven 12 bore that can be had in a variety of barrel lengths, the same Max5 camo or black synthetic or even with walnut furniture for no more than £689.

ATA Venza

Various finishes include bronze, green, black or grey; if you go for the walnut or full-synthetic in black or Max5 Camo, buyers also have the choice of a 28 or 26 inch barrel lengths. Either way both tubes are gloss black with a low-vented 7mm rib with an extended orange bead sat above the gently flared multichoked muzzle, the Venza coming complete with a full set of five extended tubes. Move rearwards and the rib slopes gently down towards the receiver whilst internally, a long barrel extension protrudes from the three-inch chamber.

Alloy, angular and anodised with squared shoulders, a long bolt handle extends from the right side of the receiver as does the square bolt release, a short, efficient loading gate to the front of the polymer trigger guard. Surrounding a gold plate but non-adjustable trigger, the familiar cross-bolt safety sits in the rear span whilst the short bolt-lock lever is located out of the way on the left-hand side.

Based around what ATA call their Gas Pressure Control System, the valve is smaller, twin vents allowing the gas to bleed into the cyclic system in the usual way. Since the amount of gas generated by various load sizes differs, ATA’s system recognises these variations and alters things accordingly, the single slide only running the distance it actually needs to, excess gasses venting in parallel to the gun reduce muzzle flip. Unusual at first glance it makes good, common sense whilst significantly reducing the build-up of dirt.

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Sensibly sized, with the 26 inch barrel fitted the overall length and weight are 46½ inches and 7lbs 3oz with drops at comb, heel and length of pull of 15/16, 25/16 and 149/16 inches. If attention is needed it would be the lightening of the 7lbs 2oz trigger. Compact and well-sized mounting is precise, the balance point directly below the bolt meaning weight and handling are more or less neutral. Well-balanced with exceptional handling, ATA’s new gun has been designed to work as closely with the shooter as it currently gets, getting the muzzle back on track and tagging on that extra bit of lead is a matter of milliseconds.

Franchi Affinity MAX5

Take a close look at the new Franchi Affinity and what you actually see is a budget-orientated Benelli without the price tag, but with all the benefits of what have to be some of the best semiautos in the world. The Affinity Max5 camo model means that apart from the black polymer trigger guard, trigger, bolt and mag cap the rest of the gun is cloaked in Realtree’s latest pattern although a black only synthetic version is also available for just over fifty pounds less. Complete with a set of three steel proofed, flush-fit choke tubes and additional stock shims the Affinity outfit should be everything the all-round shooter needs.

Barrel-wise the Affinity is 28 inches only, the three-inch chambered tube featuring a vented 7mm stippled rib and a small orange bead on the muzzle. Feeding into the aircraft grade alloy receiver, the lowprofile and slim characteristics provide the shooter with the proven basics of this type of design. Inertia-driven, Franchi’s self-regulating ID or Inertia Drive cyclic system is based heavily around the two-piece rotating head bolt usually associated with the Benelli range. Mated to a long action spring and runner, the rotating head spins and locks the live round into place and ejects the spent shell through the elongated ejection port.

Physically, Franchi’s new Affinity should fit most shooters, the gun’s well-balanced 7lbs 1oz centred directly beneath the chamber giving the gun a neutral feel. Just over 49 inches long with a 14¾ inch length of pull and a 4lbs 2oz breaking trigger, the drops at comb and heel that in their factory setting are a little low at 19/16 and 29/16 inches, although the additional shims will allow for personal adjustment.

Responsive to shoot, the Franchi moves and handles well, the profiling of the grip and forend allow the shooter to keep the gun fluid prior to and between shots. End result is a semi-auto that flicks between targets with ease the only negative being the gun’s dislike of 21g and 24g loads, 28g and above are all taken care of without any need for adjustment, the larger loads considerably speeding up the Franchi’s cyclic rate.


For many shooters it’s the Franchi that will hold sway, mainly due to the fact it’s Italian, carries a well-known and respected name and has the backing of an Italian giant. However, ATA’s Venza adds a whole new twist to Turkish shotgun ownership. The Venza is physical confirmation that, whilst other brands might have their quality issues, ATA has instigated a quality control system that places their shotguns on a par with virtually every other semiauto irrespective of where it originated.

Neither shotgun holds any unwelcome surprises, both shoot and handle extremely well, will cater for a variety of load sizes and be perfectly at home as dedicated pigeon guns. And whilst they may go about their business in a different manner to each other, both of these 12 bores achieve the exact same result: a game-bag full of woodies at a price that certainly won’t break the bank.

The main point of this informative feature is to highlight two of the latest semi-auto 12 bores that will more than prove their worth in a pigeon hide. And whilst I know as to which one I’d buy, it’s not down to me to tell you, since shooters are by their physical nature individuals – a shotgun that suits one won’t find favour with another. During testing both guns lived up to and exceeded their manufacturers’ claims, either one of them worthy of inclusion within and shooter’s cabinet. But what I will say to finish is that I was more than delighted with one of them to a degree I couldn’t find a single fault.

For additional information and a list of outlets for the ATA Venza visit www.wildhunter.eu or www.gmk.co.uk for the Franchi Affinity Max5


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