Franchi Harrier Deluxe 12 bore
Michael Yardley tests the Franchi Harrier Deluxe 12 bore, another useful and well priced gun from the GMK stable
The Franchi Harrier Deluxe is brought in to this country by GMK of Fareham who also bring in Beretta shotguns. GMK are Britain's biggest distributors of sporting shotguns and maintain excellent service facilities. Beretta themselves have bought into GMK, and Franchi are also part of the Beretta empire (which also includes Benelli, Sako and Tikka - all maintained with their own identity).
Readers may remember that when I made a visit to the Beretta factory some little while back, I saw Franchi barrels being manufactured in the Beretta 1 factory (where the Silver Pigeon range is made - as opposed to Beretta 2 where the premium guns are made). This is significant, but in no way bad. Whilst we might bemoan the loss of another independent maker, the fact is that Beretta make some of the best barrels in the world. Discovering your Franchi has Beretta made barrels is a little like discovering your Mondeo has a Mercedes engine (which, of course, it doesn’t). I can, meanwhile, wax quite lyrical about Beretta barrels and their manufacturing methods - the firm create some of the most consistent and durable shotgun barrels in the world. I know of none tougher or better engineered (though they can be a little heavy in some cases).
Getting back to the main plot, this Franchi is a reasonable looking gun. The slab-sided, silver polished, and gold inlayed action body is not quite to my taste frankly. My preference in less expensive guns is either for scroll engraving with a coin finish, or, for a scroll or border engraved, colour case hardened frame as one sees in the Beretta SC (where it is achieved by chemical
means). Gold and game and bright ‘silver’ don’t really do it for me. As far as the latest Beretta range is concerned, the SC really cuts the mustard aesthetically in my opinion - it might be described as neo-classical. The Harrier may appeal to those who like a bit of bling, though.
Let’s consider the rest of the Harrier spec. It has 30” multi-choked barrels and has quite a lot going for it in most departments. It is well finished, the stock was made from good wood and the shapes and standard dimensions are better than average. The chequering - probably cut by laser - was practical; well cut diamonds and not too small, providing good purchase. The grip was quite tightly radiused, but even in depth and therefore ergonomically efficient. The Schnabel forend was good of
its type - although I have developed a prejudice against lipped forends recently (you can’t extend your hand and potentially clean lines are made more fussy - I appreciate simplicity and elegance of form).
The gun came up well to face and shoulder cleanly (and note how I always say face and shoulder - in a good mount the face does not come down to the comb - the gun goes straight to the face as the shoulder comes in behind the butt sole). It was not especially heavy at 7 ¼ pounds. To use an old-fashioned expression, the Harrier felt ‘handy‘. Some modern guns feel lifeless, this didn’t - a sensible (not too heavy) barrel weight and good stock shapes helping to create an overall positive impression.
Beretta (and I am assuming they made these) seem especially good at putting consistent barrels together as noted. The barrels bear Italian steel proof marks for 3” (76mm) shells and are both marked up at 18.4 (a bit tight) with regard to bore dimension. Joining ribs are ventilated, the ventilated sighting rib is well done and there is a small translucent rod-type front sight - which
does its job, but looks a bit delicate. There is not much to beat a simple brass or silver metal bead. Three multi-chokes are supplied (which seems a bit stingy).
The action of the Harrier is of the traditional Franchi pattern - developed by makers like B.Rizzini and FAIR. It combines the very common system of studs pins for hinging at the knuckle, with a Browning style flat bolt engaging a slot bite beneath the bottom chamber mouth engaging a slot bite in an under lump. All the machining is well up to scratch - although it might be added that all the metal work coming out of Italy seems to cut the mustard these days thanks to CNC and similar.
The fences of the action are attractive but the flat, sparsely (if brightly) decorated action walls do not excite greatly as noted. It looks to me as if the shallow engraving has been accomplished by laser. The action would look much better with a more coverage - preferably with something a bit deeper too.
Oddly, there is some excellent scroll engraving on the forend iron which would ideally suit the rest of the gun - why not just cover the action with this and get rid of the gold birds?
I like the top-lever, and the Browning style safety-combined-barrel-selector was especially good because of its practical size and positive function. The gun has an inertia operated single trigger mechanism and the trigger blade is quite large and gold-plated - more bling. Trigger pulls were adequate and everything functioned as it should. There is nothing much wrong with the action on the mechanical front. It is notable though, that this pattern of action works better, aesthetically speaking, on a 20 than a 12. The under lump necessitates a deeper profile - something one can get away with more easily in a 20 than a 12.
How did this Franchi shoot? Surprisingly well. Indeed, I was impressed by what an efficient target breaking machine it was. I tried it at the Braintree shooting ground in Essex - our usual test venue.
It was a natural and forgiving gun to shoot. Felt recoil was less than average, the gun was natural to swing. The stock dimensions suited me too, save for the length which was a little short at 14 3/8" (easily remedied with a butt extender), drop, however, was near ideal at 36mm (1 3/8") and 52mm (2 1/16") - much better than some so-called game guns (many of which tend to be too low at heel). Cast-off was 4mm (3/16") at heel and 6mm (1/4") at toe.
If this gun had any significant practical vice, it was that it did not point especially well at longer birds, but, it is not being billed as a trap gun. My overall rating is more positive than my first impression - not a bad gun at all, soundly engineered, good shooting, and a pretty good price to go with it. It would be ideal for someone moving up from a first gun to something a little bit ritzier.
|Model||Franchi Harrier Deluxe|
|Action type||bifurcated lump, browning bolted, boxlock over and under|
|Chokes||Multi (three supplied)|
|Weight||7 1/4 pounds|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates