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A very accurate and nicely engineered stalking rifle for under £1,000! Broadsword loves it, and who could blame him?
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We often forget that for many, a rifle can be just a tool, a necessary accoutrement to someone’s job that needs a reliable, accurate and cost-effective gun for vermin, game or deer management. Sub-£1,000 rifles are more commonplace these days but one that stands out with regards to build quality and accuracy is the new, revised Franchi Horizon bolt-action rifle.
Franchi is a name familiar to a lot of shotgunners; they are an Italian firm based in the gun capital of Italy, Brescia, since 1868 and have a lot of experience in all manner of gun manufacture. They have the ethos of ‘build it good and strong at a price that real hunters can afford’, and I like that sentiment as no corners are cut either.
The Horizon rifle is one such rifle that is aimed squarely at the stalker, new or old, and offers a synthetically stocked, detachable magazine, Picatinny rail, lightweight bolt-action rifle for 800-odd quid.
Delving a little deeper into the rifle, as I lifted it out of the packing revealed, yes, a plain Jane rifle of sorts but one with an obviously good build quality and balance.
I was really pleasantly surprised, as it had that right amount of heft to make a non flimsy rifle but was obviously built to take a few knocks yet handle and operate very smoothly indeed.
The stock always catches the eye first and as such at first glance looks like any other synthetic sporter stock, but this has been designed from scratch to act as a good ambidextrous design for universal appeal with some nice features and solidity that definitely helps in the accuracy stakes. In fact, it’s a two-piece black polymer moulding but feels rigid and dense with no flex at all. A tad short for me at 14” length of pull, but at this length it is made for a more universal fitment no doubt.
The barrel channel has enough clearance so as not to impede the barrel on firing – even if a bipod is fitted that can cause bipod bounce. Bedding to maintain consistent accuracy shows the action bedded to the stock via two large V-shaped steel lugs embedded at 45 degrees in the stock. These sit into corresponding recesses in the action and anchor the action to the stock securely.
Outwardly, as with most Italian gunmakers, they can’t resist a little Italian flair with some nice flowing lines and ergonomic handling. This is via the semi-beavertail form that creates a raised platform for the hand and fingers with a full-length top finger groove and one continuous moulded-in chequered panel to both sides and bottom of the fore-end. Just in front of this is the moulded-in slanted groove sling swivel attachment which allows a quiet and comfortable attachment with a good degree of sling movement; the same is replicated in the butt.
Moving along the stock there is another raised chequered panel above the magazine well so shots off the knee or a more freestyle stance can be adopted. The pistol grip has a neutral rake with a quite slim grip aided, again, with more moulded-in chequering.
There is no cheekpiece and no cast that I could detect but with a scope fitted it achieved a good scope alignment. Just behind the rear sling attachment point is another moulded chequered grip point for bipod use with the free hand and a soft rubber recoil pad offers a good hold in the shoulder.
The barrel has a nice slim sporter barrel of hammer-forged construction with a 14mm/1 thread and is available in .223, .243, .270, .308, and 6.5 Creedmoor, of which we had the 6.5 Creedmoor, what else!
It’s a sensible 22” long, taking advantage of reduced length for better handling without impeding ballistics too much. Finished in a durable matt bluing, as is the action, it was remarkably resilient to the field tests I have to say; non reflective too, always handy.
Talking of which, the action is blued but the bolt is highly polished so brightly some may baulk, but the roe does we shot did not seem to see it as a problem! This bolt is big at 7” long and heavy with new fluted exterior, visually nice, and the low 60 degree lift is thanks to the ‘A’ type three lug arrangement that houses the plunger ejector and single claw extractor. The bolt handle is 2.5” long and has a nice teardrop knob, and the bolt shroud has a cocking indictor as a protruding red spur.
The whole action is both smooth and reliable. On top of the action is a good one-piece Picatinny scope rail for universal fitment and a side mounted two position safety, which is both quiet and easily accessed. This new model now has a three shot detachable magazine with trigger guard release lever, and as such fed without flaw and will not rust either.
Franchi state a MOA performance at 100 metres and the accuracy tests can attest to this, see for yourself at www.broadswordballistics.com
This rifle will no doubt appeal to someone who wants a reliable/accurate rifle and shoots factory ammo, just pick up and go and not worry too much about scratching it. I tested factory loads and then forgot my 6.5CM dies for the reload test!
First up were the Federal 95gr V-MAX Creedmoor loads, a great flat shooting fox or small species deer round this one. We had an average velocity of 3001 fps, nice and fast for 1900 ft/lbs energy and all shots touching at 100 yards. Great start, next the Hornady SST loads with their 129gr SST bullet are always fast with the Superformance powder used to accelerate these bullets to an average of 2892 fps and 2396 ft/lbs. Accuracy wise they bug holed! All for £800. Let’s continue.
Lead-free options and the groups spread, as expected with the RWS 93gr Evolution Green shooting an inch or so at 3053fps, fast and 1925 ft/lbs. The Barnes TTSX were better with the 120gr TTSX bullet traveling at 2726 fps for 1981 ft/lbs and 0.8" groups.
The Horizon did not like the Federal 130gr TSX loads with 1.25” groups at 2686 fps / 2083 ft/lbs whilst the S&B Blue 120gr lead frees shot consistent 2855 fps velocities at 2172 ft/bs for 1” groups.
I also shot a Match Winchester load with 147 grain bullet just to see velocities and these were 2546 fps for 2116 ft/lbs.
Loaded up with the superbly accurate SST 129gr factory loads and Steiner Ranger 8 scope zeroed at 100 yards, I headed for the Argyll forestry and fields. Roe doe season was just at its close but it’s a good time to harvest deer that might have slipped through the net, prior to the buck season.
What I liked about the Franchi is that it is easily portable on a sling or manhandling off sticks and its ‘practical’ finish is just that, ideal for real ‘get in and get dirty’ stalking.
I had roe entering a 15-acre field at first light, eating across the pasture and then exiting via a small stream/burn. Experience has taught me to position myself against a tree parallel to this stream so you can get a clear and often close shot at a deer. Sometimes they appear right in front of you as it did on this day; a mature doe was ambling along the water’s edge, often in it, until a well-placed shot from the Franchi concluded that morning’s stalk.
It’s refreshing to test value-for-money rifles that actually shoot well and as this Franchi Horizon has proved, it can out-shoot many more higher priced rifles, with factory ammo! The cost allows you to spend more on a decent scope and then fit a sound moderator and maybe some ammunition.
I see it as a good all-round hardworking rifle ideal for landowner, beginner, estate rifle user or experienced stalker who just wants a rifle they can pick up with a box of ammo and concentrate on the stalk and not on worrying about it. What’s more, it has a seven-year warranty!
Type: Bolt Action
Overall Length: 42.5”
Barrel Length: 22”, 14mm/1 thread
Calibre: 6.5CM, 1 in 8 inch rifling twist
Finish: Blued steel
Weight: 2.9 kg
Magazine: Detachable 3 shot polymer
Stock: Black synthetic sporter
Length of Pull: 14.0”
Trigger: Single stage, adjustable
Safety: Two position side lever
Sights: One piece Picatinny rail
Contact: GMK Ltd
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