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Franchi Affinity 3 Elite: Shotgun Review

The Franchi Elite treatment adds style and substance to the brand's dependable semi-auto shotgun line.

Franchi Affinity 3 Elite: Shotgun Review

The Franchi Affinity 3 Elite Upland shotgun is a light semi-auto that you can carry afield all day. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

It’s no secret that Franchi’s superbly reliable, Italian-made Affinity semi-auto shotgun is one of the best values in upland and waterfowl guns, but the Affinity’s aesthetics have remained largely unchanged throughout the gun’s ten-year lifespan. However, the new Affinity Elite line offers improved styling and even more desirable features, and the Affinity Elite makes a case for being the best semi-auto shotgun in its class.

At the heart of the Elite guns is the same trusted Inertia Driven System that has made the workmanlike Affinity one of the most dependable semi-autos on the market today. Franchi is a sister company of Benelli, and Benelli is, after all, the brand that introduced American hunters to the benefits of Inertia-Driven shotguns. Like its Benelli cousins, the Affinity Elite utilizes a very simple cycling system comprised almost entirely of a rotating bolt head, a bolt body, and a return spring. Inertia guns rely on the force of recoil to move the shotgun rearward. The lone component of the gun that does not move back with each shot is the floating bolt body. A spring in the bolt body compresses with recoil and that causes the rotating bolt head to release and move rearward. When the bolt is shoved back, the empty shell is extracted and ejected, and as the return spring pushes the bolt back forward into position, a new shell is scooped from the carrier and shoved into the chamber. The rotating bolt head locks, and the gun is ready to fire again.


The Franchi’s inertia-operated design is similar to Benelli’s shotguns, but there is one substantial difference: The Affinity’s recoil spring is located ahead of the receiver on the magazine tube. Benelli’s SBE 3 and other shotguns have recoil springs in the stock, and when the Affinity first arrived on the market it promised that the forward-mounted recoil spring reduced felt recoil by keeping recoil in line with the shooter’s shoulder. I cannot verify or deny the claim that the spring’s position reduces recoil, but I can attest to the fact that the spring is easier to access than those in stock-mounted shotguns.

Inertia operation is quick and clean. Unlike gas systems that foul and need to be cleaned regularly for there to be any hope that the gun will run reliably, inertia guns run clean because gases and debris exit the barrel after the shot. That means that inertia guns like the Affinity Elite tend to be reliable and are less demanding to maintain than most gas-operated semi-autos. The system’s beauty lies in its simplicity, and so long as the handful of moving parts that form the operating system are in good working order, relatively clean and lubricated, you can run these guns until the ammo dries up without cleaning.

Franchi Affinity 3 elite shotgun
Inertia guns like the Affinity Elite tend to be reliable and are less demanding to maintain than most gas-operated semi-autos. (Photo courtesy of Franchi)

The Details

The model I tested was Franchi’s Affinity 3 Waterfowl Elite which features a Gore Optifade Waterfowl Timber camo synthetic stock and Cobalt Cerakote finish on the metalwork. The Affinity 3 Waterfowl Elite is also available with a Gore Optifade Waterfowl Marsh stock with Burnt Bronze Cerakote metalwork in your choice of 12- or 20-gauge with a 3-inch chamber. 12-gauge models with a 3 ½ chamber (known as the Affinity 3.5 Elite) are also available in both patterns/finishes, and there’s an Affinity 3 Elite Upland model with a A-grade satin walnut stock and a Gun Metal Grey Cerakote finish on the receiver and the barrel. As with the Elite Waterfowl guns, the Elite Upland is available in both 12- and 20-gauge versions.

Franchi Affinity 3 elite shotgun
The Franchi Affinity 3 Elite Upland Shotgun (Photo courtesy of Franchi)

All Affinity Elite models come with five shims that allow the shooter to fine-tune drop and cast for a natural fit and more consistent accuracy. The gun’s lightweight anodized aluminum receiver is drilled and tapped for mounting optics, and Affinity Elite shotguns come with a TRUGLO Dual Color Fiber Optic Front Bead that’s bright and easy to see in any light conditions. Elite guns also feature oversized, aggressively-textured controls that are a step beyond what you’ll find on the standard Affinity, and both guns come with beveled loading ports. It’s no problem to run the Elite while wearing heavy winter gloves.

Because they rely on recoil to operate the action, inertia guns tend to be lighter than gas guns. That minimal weight (just 6.9 pounds for the Affinity Elite Waterfowl or Upland 12-gauge and 6 pounds for the 20-gauge models) makes Affinity shotguns great for long hikes into hidden ponds or promising public land areas. The downside of minimal weight is, of course, added recoil, but the Affinity 3 Elite is very manageable thanks in large part to the gun’s TSA recoil pad which is dense and lacks sharp edges to hang-up in vests or clothing while mounting. I don’t believe it’s quite as effective as Benelli’s Progressive Comfort system, but the Affinity Elite 12-gauge isn’t abusive. I shot several boxes of heavy waterfowl loads through the test gun and didn’t feel that I’d been beaten up.  

Other key features found on the Affinity 3 Elite models are removable trigger groups, chrome-lined barrel (the Upland also features a chrome bolt and bolt handle), Franchi’s Precision Cone Patterning forcing cones, and three extended choke tubes rated for close, mid, and long-range shots.  

Affinity 3 Waterfowl and Elite Upland shotguns with 3-inch chambers carry an MSRP of $1,249 and the Affinity 3.5 Waterfowl Elite carries an MSRP of $1,419. That puts these guns in competition with Weatherby’s 18i Waterfowl ($1,249) Fabarm’s L4S Initial Hunter ($1,375), and Browning’s Silver Black Lightning ($1,229.99). Like other Franchi products, the Affinity Elite shotguns are backed by the brand’s seven-year warranty.

In the Field

I had the opportunity to test the Affinity 3 Waterfowl Elite in a marshland on the southern edge of Lake Erie at the heart of the mid-November migration. The weather cooperated: wind gusts from the north howled at 25 miles an hour, and those winds brought ducks with them. I was hunting with my friend Jim, and within an hour of the opening of the hunt we were already closing in on our limits of birds.

The Affinity performed well with 3-inch Federal TSS, Fiocchi Flyway Series, and Winchester’s new Bismuth load, cycling every round without hesitation and without any of the finagling that’s sometimes required of other guns. With the Affinity, it was easy to load and operate the gun with gloves on, and while virtually every shotgun company now offers oversized controls, the Affinity 3 Waterfowl Elite’s controls were the easiest that I’ve used. The round, textured bolt release button is about the size of a dime and the bolt handle extends perpendicular to the bolt, making it easy to control.

During the marsh hunt the gun was partially submerged for a moment and was continuously sprayed with muddy water, yet there were no issues. Despite a full day of rough handling that included taking a beating in the stern of an aluminum boat, the Affinity Elite finished the day without a scratch on the stock or the cerakote finish.  

Franchi Affinity 3 elite shotgun
Duck guns need to be tough, and the Affinity 3 Waterfowl Elite held up well to abuse. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

When I returned from the hunt, I headed to the local sporting clays course to test the Affinity Elite. It would have been better to shoot clays with the Franchi before trying to hit real, live, hard-flying ducks, but the Affinity Elite does make an admirable clay target gun that handles recoil very well and shoots flat. The balance point is located at the front of the action and the forearm is trim and comfortable despite the positioning of the return spring on the magazine tube. Franchi recommends 1 1/8-ounce target loads and up for the Affinity Elite. With that equivalent load and everything heavier, the Affinity ran without hesitation.

The Affinity 3 Waterfowl Elite proved to be a great duck and clays gun, but it’d also make a fine upland gun, especially for those who hunt in areas where a walnut stock takes heavy abuse. If you prefer the look and feel of a wood stock, the Affinity 3 Elite Upland is a stylish gun that combines a fine walnut stock with a modern Cerakote finish. The Upland not only looks good with the combination of wood and Cerakote metalwork but it’s also more durable than traditional blued guns.

The Affinity line has been a huge success for Franchi and has made the brand more popular than ever, but it was time to give their flagship semi-auto a facelift. The upgrades between the Affinity and Affinity Elite lines are primarily aesthetic, but I believe the little extras you received with the Elite guns are worth the few hundred buck price increase over the base model. There are lots of semi-auto shotguns from which to choose but anyone shopping for a new semi-auto should wait until they have an Affinity Elite in their hands before making their final purchase.

Franchi Affinity 3 elite shotgun
The Franchi Affinity 3 Elite stands out in a very crowded field of guns and remains one of the best buys in shotguns under $1,500. (Photo By: Brad Fitzpatrick)

Franchi Affinity Elite Shotgun Specifications

  • Models: Affinity 3 Waterfowl Elite (tested), Affinity 3 Elite Upland, Affinity 3.5 Waterfowl Elite
  • Action Type: Inertia-operated semi-auto
  • Gauge: 12, 20
  • Chamber: 3 in., 3.5 in.
  • Stock Adjustment: Shim adjustable for drop and cast
  • Sights: TRUGLO Dual Color Fiber Optic bead Receiver drilled and tapped
  • Chokes: 3 extended (close, mid, long-range)
  • Barrel Length: 26, 28 (tested)
  • Weight: 6 lbs. – 20 gauge, 6.9 lbs. – 12 gauge (tested)
  • Suggested Retail Price: $1,249–$1,419
  • Website: www.franchiusa.com


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