Now in its 17th year, readers may count on American Hunter’s Golden Bullseye Awards to denote excellence. Indeed, these days many companies knowingly strive to hit the mark—to produce innovative products that catch our attention. After all, any product worthy of our gold standard must meet or exceed American Hunter’s expectations of innovation—and they absolutely must provide hunters with value for their money.
2019 Shotgun of the Year: Franchi Affinity 3.5
Waterfowl hunters are always looking for go-anywhere, shoot-any-load versatility. The problem is such a package could be heavy, ugly and expensive—and it could leave one’s shoulder black and blue. None of that is true with the Franchi Affinity 3.5.
It’s an upgrade of Franchi’s original semi-auto Affinity, built on an Inertia Driven action, which, rather than gas, uses recoil as power. Cycling happens in an instant—and it actually requires few moving parts. No gas equals a cleaner system. A recoil spring wrapped around the magazine tube (not housed in the buttstock) and a drop-out trigger make cleaning simple.
The streamlined stock design ensures surprisingly nimble feel. The stock wrist fits tightly in the hand, providing a natural reach to the trigger; a slight swell at the bottom of an otherwise slim fore-end produces a lip to ensure fingers on the support hand get a controlling grip. The wrist and fore-end are checkered to aid purchase.
This gun can fire magnum 3½-inch loads yet it weighs only 7 pounds. A thick TSA recoil pad handles the push; it’s rounded at the heel to prevent hang-ups on clothing. Other features hunters should like include an oversized bolt handle and bolt release, and an enlarged action port to make loading/unloading quick and easy. An included 3.35-ounce weight threads into the buttstock to customize the gun’s balance point.
“It’s a feature-rich sportsman’s shotgun made to be used all year,” wrote Managing Editor Jon Draper (“Hardware,” November 2018). “With an MSRP around $1,000 and a seven-year warranty, it’s a shotgun you won’t hesitate to carry into the swamp.” MSRP: $1,069; franchiusa.com.
Editor's Note: Winning products must be tested by the editors, meet or exceed expectations on innovation, and provide hunters and shooters with value for their money. NRA Publications presented the annual Golden Bullseye Awards at an invitation-only breakfast during the 2019 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis, Ind., Apr. 25-28.