Franchi Fast semi auto shotgun
Now available here in the UK, Mark Stone gets his hands on Franchi’s new Fast, the quickest handling semi-auto ever built; but what its parentage?
Launched at IWA 2008, Franchi’s new ‘Fast’ was the talk of the show, billed as the quickest handling semi-auto 12-bore you’d ever hold. However, no matter how vehemently Franchi skirted around Benelli’s involvement it just had to be there. With the Benelli name adorning the aluminium receiver and barrel you had to look extremely hard even to find the Franchi logo.
One of three
Available in three guises all employing Franchi new ‘Light Tech’ weight saving principles, the Fast seen here is the ‘Black’, the ‘White’ and lighter weight ‘Pro’ versions coming with a silver, nickel-plated or black receiver and ‘Optowood’, the ‘Pro’ deleting the twin shock absorber (TSA) recoil pad. Apart from these minor cosmetics and the Pro’s slightly lighter weight they’re exact same, each kit containing a full set of flush-fit, multi-chokes, fitting key and three additional stock spacers.
The stock is oil finished, and the noticeably slimmer and more comfortable forend was of a far higher grade and grain than might usually be expected on a semi of this level. The fit to the alloy receiver likewise exceeded expectations. Nicely and evenly chequered, all the angles are designed to accommodate the vast majority of shooters, although the stretch of the trigger finger to the blade may seem excessive to those with stumpy hands, a causal effect of the gentle radius of the semi-pistol grip.
Manufactured from Ergal (aircraft aluminium) the receiver’s black anodised finish is plain and simple, only the two ‘Fast’ emblems either side attracting the eye along with the non-adjustable silvered trigger blade and chromed rotating bolt. The bolt release is just below the ejection port, with the cross-bolt safety to the rear of the trigger guard. The magazine cut-off or bolt lock is situated just above the guard on the right side, a finger flick being all that’s required to activate the mechanism.
Interestingly, the Fast utilises a front-mounted recoil spring that like a gasser is located around the magazine tube. Adopting this slightly unusual placement adds significantly to the felt recoil, and has a smoothing influence on the cyclic effect when the gun is functioning. It also allows for easier maintenance and reduces the mechanical structures normally located within the stock.
One significant point is the assembly of the Fast. Unlike most semis the barrel is located with the forend in situ and the bolt in the battery. By sliding the forend away from the receiver by an inch, the glossy black barrel locating ring slides inside then over the end of the magazine. Pull back the bolt and the barrel slots neatly into place allowing the mag cap screw to be tightened.
Instructions tell you that your first six rounds should be of the larger variety to ensure the system is kick started. No problem - six 50g rounds followed by some 36s more than got the ball rolling. Likewise, they highlighted the Fast’s true ‘in the hand’ characteristics. Even dropping down to my more usual 28g Express, the Fast is lively between the hands. Where it differs is that hardly any recoil is transferred to the shoulder, the TSA being very effective. This pad is made of soft rubber with what Franchi call a Technogel insert, as the recoil pad compresses, the central gel addition deforms laterally, so deflecting the rearward energy to either side and away from the shooter. Want to see it work? Press on the recoil pad with the heel of your hand and the insert will distort accordingly.
Equally, Franchi’s aim of creating a 12-bore semi that weighs and handles like a 20 has also been achieved. The entire gun comes in at just 6lbs 4oz whilst despite the reduction in weight, the Fast is still full sized. The length and weight of trigger pull are 14 3/8th and 4lbs 10oz whilst drop at comb and heel is 1 7/16th and an exact 2” at the recoil pad.
Shot round 50, quite demanding sporting birds at Withets Farm SG with nothing other that ½ choke, the Fast instantly proved both effective and entertaining, the 8mm cross – cut vented rib and 28” barrel lightening quick at locating their targets. The gun more than lived up to its name, handling and balance backed up in equal measures by the speed and efficiency of the inertia drive system whilst unlike many semis it shoots only marginally high.
As an all round package either as a competition gun or a general semi-auto for multiple usages, the Franchi’s Fast will to my mind set a new benchmark. Equally, if you’re unacquainted with an inertia drive semi, this gun is an ideal introduction to the sheer speed and usability of this type of mechanism.
No matter how you view the Fast, either as a partially retagged Benelli, a conjoin build or a Franchi design partially manufactured on their behalf, you can’t deny that it’s both attractive and effective. Similarly, by combining lightweight technology and what on the surface is a relatively simple looking, neatly constructed and noticeably unobtrusive recoil pad, Franchi have created a semi that’s enjoyable to shoot. It’s undeniably modern yet still embodies many of the traditional virtues of a good, old fashioned semi that takes the sting out of the most powerful loads.
Lastly, the Fast is good value for money, the gun’s £995 price placing it head-to-head with many of the established budget orientated models, the Franchi name adding a significant pedigree. All in all a semi well worthy of serious consideration and one that won’t break the bank either.
• An ideal introduction to the world of recoil/inertia semis
• Much like a Hungarian Schmidt & Bender scope is this a name in its own right or a cheaper Benelli?
• Attractive price and looks
|Name||Franchi Fast Black|
|Calibre||12-bore / 3” Chambers|
|Price||£995 (As tested)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates