Shotgun Review: Franchi Intensity

May 12, 2014

Last year Italian gunmaker Franchi introduced a new semi-auto shotgun called the Intensity, a 3½-inch 12-gauge super magnum powerhouse that’s sure to appeal to many waterfowlers.

Outwardly, the Intensity is similar in appearance to the 3-inch Affinity, save for one distinctive difference — the scope mount grooves on top of the Intensity’s receiver.

Inwardly, the Intensity is also similar to the Affinity, as both guns are powered by parent company Benelli’s proven Inertia Driven system. Franchi’s first super magnum shotgun was the gas-operated 912, but shortly after becoming a Benelli subsidiary, Franchi started phasing out its gas guns and incorporating inertia technology into its autoloaders, first in the I-12, followed by the Affinity, and now the Intensity.

The only non-inertia-powered semi-auto still in Franchi’s lineup is the featherweight 48 AL, which uses essentially the same long-recoil operating system as Browning’s original Auto-5. Weighing just 5 ½ pounds in 20 gauge and a hair less in 28 gauge, the 48 AL is popular among many upland hunters, myself included.

The Intensity is also lightweight, especially for a 3½-inch 12-gauge. With a 26-inch barrel, my test gun weighs only 6.7 pounds, making it a great choice for run-and-gun hunters who have to hike to their hunting spots.

Barrels of 28 and 30 inches are also available. The raised vent rib is exceptionally thick and robust, and a red fiber-optic front sight sits atop it, a half-inch back from the muzzle where it’s protected from damage. Three choke tubes are included: IC, modified and full, and are of the Mobile-style variety, so accessory tubes are readily available.

My test gun came in basic black synthetic, but Realtree Xtra and new Max-5 camo finishes are also available, as is Mossy Oak Bottomlands — a rarity on Franchi shotguns.

The Intensity’s thin pistol grip and large, oval-shaped trigger guard accommodate heavy gloves. The safety is placed where I like it, behind the trigger. The molded-in checkering on the Intensity’s synthetic stock and forearm seems crisper than on a previously tested Affinity. A sling attachment is integrated into the stock, and there’s a swivel stud on the magazine cap.

The bolt handle and bolt release button are smooth but easily manipulated. The bolt handle will initially be difficult to remove for cleaning, so here’s a tip: tie an old shoestring around the handle’s base — there’s just enough space between it and the receiver — then tug to pull the handle out. The handle will likely loosen up over time, but so far it remains pretty tight on my test gun. Overall, the gun’s lock-up and general fit and finish is tight, a testament to Franchi’s renowned quality.

Like with many autoloaders today, a shim kit is included. Five shims are labeled Z, A, B, C and D, in descending order of drop (measured in mm). Cast is indicated by either an R for right or L for left. For right-hand cast, install the shim so the R faces outward; for left-hand cast, flip the shim so the L is showing.

The Intensity comes from the factory with the RB shim installed, which is a good starting point for the average right-hander shooter. I shot the Intensity well with this shim installed, but felt there was room for improvement. I first tried the RD shim, but drop was too low and I couldn’t see the front sight, so I moved up to the RC shim. That gave me a more natural sight picture.

Switching shims can be tricky. The first step is to remove the TSA recoil pad by simply screwing out two screws. The pad is extra thick and does a nice job of protecting the shoulder from recoil. It’s also durable. Over the course of testing I removed and reinstalled the pad several times, and the rubber around the screw holes held up. Lesser pads would have disintegrated.

Once the pad is off, the manual says to remove the lock nut from the stock bolt using a 15mm socket, but that’s only half the story. The 15mm socket has to be 1 ¾ inch long so it’s deep enough to fit over the stock bolt. A 6-inch extension is also needed to reach down into the stock.

With the stock off, install the chosen shim. Now comes the really tricky part: reinstalling the stock. With the stock in place, line up a cleaning rod extension with the stock bolt and slide first the washer, followed by the lock washer, and finally the lock nut down the rod and onto the stock bolt. Retighten the nut with the 15mm socket and reinstall the recoil pad.

A balancing weight can also be screwed onto the stock bolt using a 13mm socket. Although I didn’t notice any recoil reduction benefits, the weight counterbalances the Intensity’s slightly muzzle-heavy feel, caused by the recoil spring (which returns the bolt into battery) being located on the magazine tube rather than the stock bolt, as on Benelli semi-autos.

Function

I ran several loads through the Intensity during testing, mostly target since I was between seasons. Like many 3½-inch autoloaders, the minimum recommended charge weight is 1 1/8 ounce, but my testing indicates the Intensity will reliably handle most 1-ounce loads, as well.

At trap, I fired 24 rounds of 1 1/8-ounce Rios and a lone 7/8-ounce Kemen round through the Intensity. Other test loads included five rounds apiece of the following: four Bornaghi offerings (two 1 1/8-ounce loads at 1,200 and 1,300 fps and two 1-ounce loads at 1,280 and 1,300 fps); three Herter’s offerings (one 1 1/8-ounce load at 1,200 fps and two 1-ounce loads at 1,290 and 1,250 fps); and 1 1/8-ounce Winchester TrAAcker and Federal Field & Target loads, both at 1,145 fps. Everything worked just fine, save for one failure to cycle with the Federal load. Not surprisingly, the ultra-light Kemen round didn’t cycle, either.

I also ran two boxes of RC Cartridge loads through the Intensity, 1 1/8-ounce RC4 Red Shot at 1,250 fps, and 1 1/8-ounce RC Sporting-Trap at 1,285 fps. Again, everything worked well, except for one primer failure with the Sporting-Trap load. This was in no way the Intensity’s fault, because the shell also refused to fire in two other guns. It was that one-in-a-million dud round.

I also put some heavy waterfowl loads through the Intensity in preparation for what turned out to be a disappointing snow goose season: 3½-inch Kent Silver Steel 1½-ounce BBs at 1,450 fps; 3-inch Hevi-Steel 1 1/8-ounce Bs at 1,550 fps; and 3½-inch Rio Blue Steel 1 3/8-ounce BBBs at 1,540 fps. All cycled interchangeably. Other hunting loads tested included one 3½-inch round of 2¼-ounce Kent Five Star Penetrator and three 3-inch, 1½-ounce Hornady Heavy Magnum turkey loads.

Up to this point, I was using the factory-installed RB shim and shooting fairly well. After installing the RC shim, I ran 15 more TrAAckers and five more each of Herter’s 1,290 and 1,200 fps loads through the gun before press time. Everything again cycled perfectly, and despite windy conditions, I shot better with the RC shim installed. Plus, the added drop moved the comb down and away from my cheekbone, making for much more comfortable shooting.

The Intensity is a very versatile semi-auto, reliably cycling a much wider variety of loads than it was ever designed to. For the money, the Intensity is probably the best value going currently among 3½-inch 12-gauge inertia-operated autoloaders.