Franchi Harrier 20 bore
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
The Franchi Harrier is a budget model from a well respected and long established Italian firm. It is an over and under gun with a single selective trigger, 28” barrels and a fairly narrow, game style rib. The gun is brought into the UK by GMK of Fareham who also handle Beretta, Tikka and Sako amongst other famous lines. The last two mentioned companies, like Franchi, are now all part of the great Beretta empire (and like Tikka and Sako, Franchi is maintained as a separate brand). The last time I was in Italy, however, I was quite surprised when I saw Franchi barrels being made in the ‘Beretta 1’ factory in Gardonne. It is sad in a way to see independent makers disappearing, but the technical support and research facilities of an industrial giant like Beretta are a plus to any brand. Franchis have always been good honest guns – no doubt why Beretta bought them – they are likely to be even better in the future. If
Beretta make them, it’s like complaining that your VW is being put together by Mercedes. So, who's complaining?
There are fewer true manufacturers these days than most of us realise. You would be surprised who makes what for who, and who actually own one firm or another. I think Marx was probably right, the only thing that you can say about a dozen capitalists is that one day there will be two! Meanwhile, like it or not, we live in the age of the ‘euro-gun’. The costs of production machinery – such as CNC and barrel making equipment – have risen vastly, so they have to be kept in operation 24 hours a day to pay their way. It is hardly surprising therefore that some rationalisation has taken place. Generally speaking this has been good for the consumer who ends up with a gun which is often significantly better than the mass produced article of a generation or two back.
Machines are much cleverer than they were, they can do things which human craftsmen are incapable. Even ‘best’ London guns are part or predominantly
machine-made these days (and, as ever, may share common sources of parts such as
barrel tubes, action forgings and locks).
As ever, I am rather veering off the point. The new Franchi, frankly, does not particularly impress when first seen. It is a bit of a ‘plain jane’. The action is very simple externally. The fences are quite nice but the flat action walls do not excite greatly. The mechanically (or laser?) applied engraving of game birds is a bit thin. Finish is generally good though, with deep bluing and better than average – indeed excellent – wood to metal fit. Metal to metal fit is good too. Bring the gun up to face and shoulder and one notes an only slightly muzzle-heavy balance. This 28” gun (the only length available in this model) has a 6mm ventilated rib and multi-chokes.
The barrels are well constructed on the near universal mono-bloc system. They have 76mm (3”) chambers too and Italian proof marks. Bores of the test gun measure 15.9 on top and 15.8 on the bottom - a little tighter than my ideal. Readers will be well aware of my prejudice in favour of wider bores, as I believe that they reduce felt recoil. The bores of the test gun were well polished, straight and forcing cones were not too short. The rib presented an excellent subliminal picture to the eye, naturally leading focus to the target. The white bead at the muzzles was not too big either (I have developed a prejudice against very bright or very large beads that might distract the eye).
The action of the test gun is of common type – split hinge pins like a Beretta combined with Browning style bolting. There is a long slot bite beneath the bottom chamber mouth, which is engaged by a full width bolt that emerges from the bottom of the action face – not unlike a Rizzini. This results in a slightly deeper action than one that employs Beretta style bolting. The action employs coil springs through out. There is a barrel-selector/safety of Browning type on the top strap (my favourite pattern). Machining is neat – no doubt carried out by CNC.
The stock of the Harrier is made from surprisingly well-figured timber. Stock shapes are good. I found the gun comfortable to mount and the standard dimensions were good. Length is 14 1/2" with a thinnish pad (earlier models had a plastic butt-plate), drop is a standard 1 ½”, 2 1/8”. There is a little cast for a right-hander. I liked the matt oil style finish. Chequering was competent and probably cut by computer controlled machine or laser. The fairly subtle schnabel forend was a little square to my eye but essentially inoffensive and practical (like the rest of the gun). The grip was good too – not to short or long, well angled and even in depth. It provided good purchase and
I did not shoot the little Franchi as much as I would have liked to have done. Nevertheless, when I shot it on the skeet layout at Braintree – where I begin most tests for this magazine - I liked the way it handled. It weighs in at just under 6 ½ pounds – ideal for a 20 bore over and under. The sensible stock shapes made it comfortable in use and easy to hang on to. Felt recoil was better than average. Mechanically it was very sound. This would make a good little workhorse for someone who preferred a 20 bore.
The bottom line? It’s a better gun than it looks - solid and offering pretty good value.