Okay, I’ll admit it: 3½-inch No. 2’s were overkill for blue-winged teal. But I had Franchi’s new Affinity 3.5 in my hands, and when it comes to sending shot at small ducks, more is better, right?
Regardless of what I stuffed into it, that lithe Italian semi-auto, chambered to accept anything from light 2¾-inch dove loads to duck-thumping 3½-inchers, turned out to be one heck of a shotgun. Along with a little help from its 3-inch-chambered Affinity 3 kin, the Franchi Affinity 3.5 put more than a few teal, pintails and one stud of a canvasback into the gumbo pot during a December hunt in Venice, La.
An upgrade to the original model, the new 12-gauge Affinity 3.5 sports design features that increase its appeal to the American hunter. (The same can be said about the 12- and 20-gauge Affinity 3, which has also gotten a facelift.) First, let’s talk guts. An Inertia Driven semi-auto, the Affinity 3.5 operates on the same, clean cycling system that made the Benelli Super Black Eagle famous (remember, Benelli is the parent company of Franchi).
Rather than directing gas through the gun to cycle the action, the Inertia Driven system harnesses recoil. While recoil sends the shotgun toward your shoulder, the bolt momentarily remains stationary. The rotating bolt head is pressed even tighter into the barrel extension as the shotgun moves rearward, and the heavy inertia spring located in the bolt body is compressed. Once internal pressure drops, the compressed inertia spring expands, finally sending the bolt rearward to extract and eject the spent shell and re-cock the action. The recoil spring—located around the magazine tube in the Affinity rather than inside the buttstock as in the Super Black Eagle—sends the whole system back home to pick up a shell from the carrier and load into the chamber on its way.
It sounds like a complicated system, but in reality, it all happens in a fraction of a second and requires relatively few moving parts. And since there is no gas involved, inertia-operated actions are inherently cleaner, too. When you do need to clean the Affinity 3.5, the recoil spring’s location around the magazine tube, along with a drop-out trigger group, make it a simple task.
Other than a fast and proven Inertia Driven action, what does the Affinity 3.5 have going for it? Pick one up and it’ll be obvious. The stock wrist sits tight in the hand and provides a natural-feeling reach to the trigger, and a slight swell at the bottom of the otherwise slim fore-end produces a lip to ensure your fingers get a solid hold. Both the wrist and fore-end are checkered to aid purchase. The synthetic stock is available in black, or with a Mossy Oak Bottomland or Realtree Max-5 finish.
Thanks to its streamlined design, the Affinity 3.5 has a surprisingly nimble feel. This magnum shotgun sits right at 7 pounds unloaded, making it seem more like a 3-inch gun as you bring it to shoulder. To protect that shoulder from abuse, Franchi added a thick TSA recoil pad, which is not the least bit tacky and is rounded at the heel. Both of these features help eliminate snags on heavy waterfowl coats. Franchi offers additional recoil pads of differing thicknesses to adjust the Affinity 3.5’s standard 143/8-inch length of pull. For even more stock adjustments, the shotgun ships with a shim kit to tailor drop and cast. Sling-attachment points are provided: one molded into the buttstock and one on the magazine cap.
Perhaps Franchi’s most appreciated upgrades to the Affinity 3.5 are an oversized bolt handle, bolt release and an enlarged loading port—simple changes that make all the difference while hunting. Another great feature, one exclusive to the Affinity 3.5, is an included 3.35-ounce weight that, when threaded into the interior of the buttstock, allows you to customize the shotgun’s balance point.
The Affinity 3.5 is available with a 26- or 28-inch chromed-lined barrel topped with a stepped-up vent rib. You’ll find a red fiber-optic sight out front, and the receiver of the Affinity 3.5 (as well as the Affinity 3) is conveniently drilled and tapped to accept optics. Franchi includes three choke tubes with the gun: improved cylinder, modified and full.
What I experienced with the Franchi Affinity 3.5 was flawless operation, natural swinging ergonomics, and despite its light weight, a shotgun that didn’t leave my shoulder black and blue at the end of the hunt. It’s a feature-rich sportsman’s shotgun made to be used all year. The Affinity 3.5 is dependable and durable, fast and light. With an MSRP around $1,000 and a seven-year warranty, it’s a shotgun you won’t hesitate to carry into the swamp.
Technical Specifications • Type: inertia-operated semi-automatic shotgun • Gauge/Chamber: 12/3½″ • Barrel: 26″, 28″ (tested); chrome-lined; stepped vent rib; threaded for choke tubes • Sights: red fiber-optic front; receiver drilled and tapped for optics • Magazine Capacity: 4 rnds. • Trigger: 5.4-lb. pull weight • Safety: cross-bolt • Stock: synthetic, Realtree Max-5 finish; LOP 14⅜″, drop at comb 1½″, drop at heel adjustable 2″-2½″ • Metal Finish: Realtree Max-5 • Overall Length: 49.5″ • Weight: 7 lbs. • Accessories: three flush choke tubes (IC, M, F), wrench, shim kit and balance weight • MSRP: $1,069; franchiusa.com