Franchi is one of the yeoman brands of firearms located in the famed city of Brescia in the Italian Alps. It’s been making working gas-operated semiautos for decades but recently decided to take advantage of its business partnership with another Brescia native, Benelli, and its inertia action patent.
The inertia action is, frankly, weird. Like a lava lamp, it shouldn’t work, but it does, and it doesn’t seem to wear out. Maybe it will, but there is a legend of an Australian government rabbit hunter who’s supposed to have an inertia-actioned shotgun with more than a half-million rounds through it and counting (legendary government hunter If you’re out there, write to us to confirm, please).
The Franchi I-12 is a gun for the bush and field. It comes with the usual assortment of chokes, so you can train with it on Sporting Clays, Skeet or Trap and then lay into everything from dove to deer. Additionally, there is a set of shims for adjusting cast on or off. It burns low-base and high-base shells equally well and without those nagging piston changes or rubber O-rings.
Here’s how it works When the gun recoils, the rotary bolt is held in battery by the weight of the bolt carrier pressing against the cam pin, a lĂ the M16. That keeps the three locking lobes in place in the barrel extension.
But then when the gun stops recoiling against your shoulder, mild spring pressure and the mild forward movement of the gun take the carrier to the rear, rotating the cam pin and opening the rotary bolt. No gas system to clean, but there is one catchâ€”you don’t get the reduced recoil offered by a gas system. It gives you the same kick as a pump action.
With all the locking stresses contained inside the barrel extension, the receiver can be built of aluminum. Adding to the weight-savings theme is the polymer trigger housing. The whole action took about five minutes to completely disassemble, without resorting to the manual. The only difficult part was wiggling out the bolt handle. The bind was solved by vigorous shaking of my thumb and forefinger, and a squirt of Jig A Loo spray lubricant prevented a repeat.
This action has been astounding folks since it was introduced by Benelli in the seminal Montefeltro shotgun in 1967. I used to call it a Montefeltro action in casual conversation, not realizing that Benelli’s staff had given it the name of a distinguished family in Italian history. One of the early powerhouses of the dynasty was Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino. It would be like Remington calling a new shotgun the Lee or Purdy naming one of its the Churchill.
Franchi is a very healthy company, enjoying the support of strong parent Beretta, so you’ll never have to worry about parts decades down the road.
Last spring I got a chance to hunt giant Rio Grandes with the I-12 at the elegantly understated Sarco Creek Ranch. In addition to the dense game, I enjoyed being coached by Cally “Jelly a Head!” Morris of Hazel Creek Taxidermy. Cally builds amazingly effective decoys made from pen-raised birds, and from his calling skills you’d think one of his past lives was spent as a gobbler.
We were tucked under some of that scrub that passes for trees in South Texas, with all the costumes and camoflage in place. When toms appeared down the survey-cut road, Cally scratched the slate and the big toms took one look at the life-like decoy and charged. Running the massive video camera for “Benelli on Assignment” was the highly skilled Jesse Krause. The toms paused and, boom, a load of #7 shot put the big boy down. Yes, yes, veteran turkey hunters will be saying, “Don’t you know you’re supposed to use #5 shot?” But his was Federal Premium #7. Heavy steel. Better living through chemistry. The head was pure jelly inside. The stuff causes less tissue damage (making taxidermy easier for folks like Cally), yet produces better penetration and pattern density. When you pick up a five- or 10- round box, you can tell there’s something fishy because it seems to weigh twice as much as it should. The incredibly dense heavy shot travels far and flat and responds better to choking than lead.
All in all, the Franchi I-12 seems to be an excellent value for someone who wants a life-time shotgun that can survive the year-in, year-out pounding that hunting guns suffer. It looks good and has the reliability to back up that appearance.