Franchi’s Horizon 150th Anniversary rifle

Con Kapralos

The release of the Horizon rifle by Italian gunmaker Franchi was a huge departure from the norm of manufacturing primarily shotguns. Their first sporting bolt-action rifle has been well received and the Horizon, marketed in the US as the Momentum, continues to sell in good numbers.

With Franchi’s 150-year anniversary, the release of a limited-edition run of the Horizon was only natural, something I was alerted to when discussing the first review of the standard Horizon with Beretta Australia, and when the Anniversary model arrived in Australia this year, the SSAA received one of the first to clear Customs. While the standard polymer stocked Horizon impressed me (Australian Hunter, Edition 65), the 150th Anniversary model could be expected to be even better.

Up close

The review rifle arrived in a striking orange injection-moulded plastic hard case with ‘Franchi’ in white. The rifle is of a turn-bolt repeater configuration and available in .30-06 Springfield or .308 Winchester - the one supplied. At a glance it boasted a handsome walnut stock, fluted bolt and special ‘150th Anniversary’ laser-etched enamel decal on the receiver and came with a user manual, warranty card, factory test target and sling swivels.

The receiver

This measures 215mm x 35mm and its cylindrical appearance lacks any harsh angles or ‘slab-sided’ profiles, the left side of the receiver inscribed with ‘Made in Italy’. On the right-hand side, a well-proportioned ejection port runs at 77mm x 35mm and allows easy loading of cartridges into the internal magazine from the port by hand and, when required, enables the bolt to serve its purpose ejecting fired or unfired cases from the action. The top of the receiver is drilled and tapped to accept the Remington 700-style scope bases which makes scope mounting easy.

To the rear left flank of the receiver is the 38mm x 5mm bolt-release button, large by normal standards but serves its purpose. On the rear right of the receiver ring just forward of the bolt handle is a laser-etched enamel decal bearing the dates 1868-2018 and a mini replica of the Italian flag. The receiver, along with the barrel, is finished in matte blue and complements the overall look.

The bolt

The one-piece steel bolt measuring 78mm x 25mm and weighing 395g encompasses a three-lug bolt head. One thing quite noticeable is the fluting applied to the bolt body which is also hard-chrome plated, fluting in this case probably more cosmetic ‑ it would save a few grams and adds to the aesthetics.

Case manipulation is via a spring-loaded plunger which protrudes through the bolt face and a claw extractor on the rim of the bolt head which works in tandem with the plunger to ensure fired or unfired cases are cleared from the action.

The bolt body has a long slot milled into it which mates with a corresponding guide in the receiver wall to ensure unflustered bolt travel. The rear of the bolt has a distinctive blued steel shroud which, with its triangular shape, is rather pronounced but blends in well with the lines of the rifle. It has a cocking indicator in its centre.

The bolt handle is one of the best I’ve seen and obviously borrowed from tactical-style rifles. It comes to hand efficiently and offers the user great manual dexterity when working the bolt.

Safety and trigger

Rearward of the bolt handle notch is the two-position safety, operated through a small lever with a knurled surface - ‘forward’ enabling the rifle to fire, ‘back’ engaging the safety by blocking the trigger - though the bolt can still be cycled with the safety ‘on’ to allow any chambered rounds to be removed. It’s a standard arrangement found on many sporting rifles, simple, uncomplicated but effective and trouble-free. The trigger is fully adjustable and set from the factory at 0.9kg, the trigger group with a metal trigger blade.

Magazine

The triggerguard and magazine box consists of a single-piece unit made from polymer to which a steel floorplate is fitted to contain the four rounds the internal magazine holds. A spring-loaded button inside the triggerguard releases the floorplate in the event the magazine needs to be cleared of any loaded rounds. What’s also good to see is a polished steel magazine follower rather than plastic, which seems to be on most rifles in this price range.

Barrel

This is of a sporter profile, 22^ long (560mm) made from chrome moly steel, cold hammer forged and matte blued to match the receiver. It tapers from 30mm at the knox form to 15mm at the muzzle and is threaded in the traditional manner to the receiver. At the muzzle, a threaded segment allows attachment of accessories such as muzzle brakes and, when not required, a knurled cap protects the thread.

Internally, the review rifle being chambered in .308 Winchester has a 1:11^ rate of twist and is well finished with only the odd tooling mark evident and that twist rate should handle all bullet weights from 130 to 180gr without an issue. As a user of factory ammunition, it would just take a few range sessions to ascertain what load shoots well and hand-loading would bring the best out of the rifle. All metal surfaces with the exception of the bolt body are finished in a matte blue as is the polymer triggerguard.

Stock

This is deserving of a commemorative rifle, furnished from walnut but Benelli (owners of Franchi) use their expertise and ‘wrap’ the surface with an ink finish to simulate AAA-grade walnut. Such stock blanks with AAA level and higher command premium prices and are normally reserved for top-grade or custom firearms. In this instance it gives the rifle some class without the inflated price tag - and no one will never know. The lines are based around a classic American profile with straight-combed stock and no cheekpiece.

The pistol grip offers a palmswell to ensure better control when shooting from bench or offhand and has a nice touch with ‘F’ for Franchi inscribed into the base. The stock has three distinct panels of chequering on either side, one around the pistol grip, one either side of the magazine well and one along the fore-end. It also has steel QD-sling swivels, one near the toe and one under the fore-end front.

To the rear of the stock Franchi has used its Twin Shock Absorber (TSA) recoil pad system, its specially designed profile helping direct recoil away from the shooter’s face. It was fitted to the buttstock and complemented the stock nicely.

With the rifle disassembled the bedding arrangement was evident. Franchi has opted for an arrangement where a slot is machined into each flank of the receiver either side of the front action screw, these slots corresponding with two steel bedding blocks inletted into the side. Additionally, the rear of the action beds directly upon a polymer cradle which has been neatly inletted into the stock, ensuring the barrelled action doesn’t contact the stock at any point, resulting in a superior bedding platform and free-floated barrel along its entire length.

At the range

The rifle was supplied with a lovely Steiner Ranger 2.5-10x50 scope. There was a thorough clean prior to testing five different loads, both target and hunting ammunition at the normal 100m. Between changes of ammunition the barrel was again cleaned.

Some tidy groups were shot with the match (target) ammunition in the Sellier & Bellot and Federal Premium loads, but being a hunting rifle it shot respectable averages with the three brands of Sako ammunition supplied. For shooting out to 300m I’d be happy to use any of the three Sako hunting loads tested. All loads chambered and extracted without fault and the rifle performed beautifully.

Conclusion

With an RRP of $1200 the Horizon 150th Anniversary rifle makes for a great buy and being a limited edition could prove a solid investment for not a lot of money. Backed by Franchi’s seven-year warranty on mechanical parts, the Anniversary rifle is a little bit of luxury within easy reach of most Australia hunters - and it shoots superbly. More at berettaaustralia.com.au

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Benelli Armi S.p.A Divisione Franchi, Italy

Model: Horizon 150th Anniversary

Distributor: Beretta Australia

Action: Turn-bolt repeater

Barrel: Chrome molybdenum cold hammer forged 22^ (560mm), 1:11^ rate of twist

Calibres: .308 Win (tested), .30-06 Springfield

Magazine: Internal box with floorplate, holds four rounds (all calibres)

Overall length: Standard calibres 1075mm

Weight: 2.95kg (bare, as tested)

Metal finish: Matte blue

Stock: Walnut

Safety: Two-position

Warranty: Seven years on mechanical parts

RRP: $1200 (bare rifle)

Range testing of factory ammunition at 100m - .308 Win

Factory load

Best group (mm)

Worst group

(mm)

Average*

(mm)

Sako Powerhead 165gr Barnes TSX

24

42

30

Federal Premium Gold Medal Berger 185gr OTM

13

34

24

Sako Super Hammerhead 150gr SP

28

37

32

Sako Hammerhead 180gr SP

25

41

33

Sellier & Bellot Match 168gr HPBT

18

36

25

*Average calculated from five 3-shot groups

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