Franchi’s Designer Shotguns For Women
By Holt Bodinson
With the recent and encouraging influx of women into the shooting sports, it’s about time firearm manufacturers got serious about designing shotguns for a woman’s proportions. Not pretty pink stocks and cut down buttstocks, but a completely new look at drop, cast, pitch and length-of-pull.
Stepping up to the challenge is Franchi, which has been making fine shotguns since 1868. Being Italian, they know a thing or two about shotguns and women. Franchi’s answer is two new shotgun models stocked specifically for women—the Instinct Catalyst O/U and the Affinity Catalyst autoloader.
What sets the Affinity Catalyst apart from the run-of-the mill autoloader, and makes it more beneficial to women is its inertia drive system. In fact, the Affinity Catalyst is built at the Benelli factory. From a woman’s point-of-view, no operating system could be more simple and require less maintenance. It’s versatile and capable of handling every loading from 2-3/4-inch target loads to 3-inch waterfowl and turkey loads. It’s reliable and keeps functioning under a wide range of weather and temperature conditions.
Finally, it’s light and compact, adding minimal weight to the gun and permitting the forearm to be made smaller and mounted closer to the bore line for improved hand-eye coordination and pointing qualities.
The 12-gauge, Affinity Catalyst is fairly light, weighing only 6.6 pounds and its trigger breaks cleanly at 5.6 pounds. A conventional push-button safety rides at the rear of the triggerguard.
I think the secret of the Affinity is in its stocking. According to Franchi, the average shotgun is designed for a right-handed male who is 5 feet, 9 inches tall with 33-inch arms. Meanwhile, the average female shooter is 5 feet, 4 inches tall with 28-1/2-inch arms. The immediate question coming to mind is the length-of-pull (LOP) of the Affinity. As delivered, the Franchi has an LOP of 13-7/8-inch which might be a bit long for the average woman.
There are two solutions for resolving the LOP problem. The first is to change out Franchi’s “TSA” recoil pad for a thinner one (available as an accessory). Thus, the LOP can be adjusted from 13-1/2 to 14-1/4 inches. Franchi also supplies a set of drop and cast shims.
The Affinity fosters a good stock weld and a choice of hand positions on the forearm.
The second solution is more subtle. One of the advantages of the semi-auto forearm is it’s dimensionally uniform. Move your hand anywhere along the forearm and the hand-to-barrel relationship is a constant. If the LOP feels a bit too long, pull your hand back toward the receiver, which also helps to support the gun’s weight.
The best part of the Affinity stocking is the Monte Carlo buttstock. “Horrors,” you say? Well, it’s not the prettiest styled buttstock, but the Monte Carlo design has a few subtle advantages addressing a fundamental challenge in shotgunning—the consistent placement of the cheek to the comb and hence the consistent location of the eye relative to the plane of the barrel and muzzle.
The eye is the rear sight a shotgun. Inconsistency in cheek position, either forward or backwards, along the slope of a typical comb, will affect the position of the eye vertically and laterally. This variance occurs anytime you mount the gun, and when swinging the gun left or right.
Pick up a shotgun with a typical sloping comb and while concentrating on the movement of your cheek along the comb, swing it to the left. If you’re a right-handed shooter (opposite for lefties), you’ll feel your cheek shift back along the comb. Swing the gun to the right, and your cheek will creep forward. That’s your rear sight moving up-and-down the slope of the comb.
The advantage of the Monte Carlo stock is its comb height is the same at both ends of the comb. Now the position of your eye relative to the rib, will not vary, even when swinging to the right or left. It’s a consistent sight picture.
To get away with a level comb and still have the butt fit comfortably in the shoulder notch, the Monte Carlo has a loop at the end of the comb. The drop-at-heel of a Monte Carlo stock is within normal shotgun stock dimensions.
Monte Carlo styling permits the use of a level comb, ensuring consistent
cheek placement. The uniform dimensions of the Affinity’s forearm ensure
a consistent hand-to-barrel relationship.
The Affinity threw nicely centered patterns with Federal Premium 1-1/8 ounce,
7-1/2 shot-loads. Only clays hit with 2 or more pellets were crossed out.
The advantage of a Monte Carlo stock with a level comb makes it an easier gun to learn to shoot accurately because it assists the shooter in maintaining a consistent sight picture. Because the comb is level, thick and well rounded, it’s easy on the cheek when shooting, and Franchi’s big, deep, wide, soft, recoil pad really soaks up recoil.
It was now lady test time. Handing the Affinity Catalyst fitted with a modified tube and box of Federal Premium Gold Medal Grand to my spouse, I asked her to shoot some Hunterjohn patterning targets at 30 yards. Mounting the gun, she looked comfortable and exhibited a good cheek weld with the comb. I asked her what she saw. She responded she saw the whole rib ending with the red bar front sight. She started shooting. The patterns were pretty much centered which is the way I like them as well. Every clay hit by two or more pellets was crossed out. After half a dozen patterning targets, I asked her how she liked the gun. The lady said she liked it. I threw a dozen clays out with a hand trap. She smoked ’em.
Franchi’s Affinity Catalyst is an impressive shotgun. I like its inertia drive, its Monte Carlo stock, its balance and its overall quality, fit and finish. Does it succeed as a woman’s gun? It does, but it’s also perfect for gents. Franchi needs to bring it out in 20-gauge which would be an even more perfect match for the ladies.
900 Ehlen Dr.
Anoka, MN 55303
P.O. Box 771457
St. Louis, MO 63177
MAKER: Franchi, a Division of Benelli Armi
S.p.A., Urbino, Italy
17603 Indian Head Hwy
Accokeek, MD 20607
ACTION: Semi-auto, inertia drive
BARREL LENGTH: 28 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 48.5 inches
CHOKE: IC, M, F furnished
LENGTH-OF-PULL: 13-7/8 inches
DROP AT-COMB: 1-1/4 inches
DROP-AT-HEEL: 2-1/4 inches
WEIGHT: 6.6 pounds
FINISH: Black anodized receiver, blue barrel
STOCK: A-Grade walnut, satin finished
SIGHTS: Fiber-optic red front