Shotgun Review: Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite

The new Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite comes with a redesigned bolt handle and Sure Cycle bolt release button for easier operation while wearing gloves.

Shotgun Review: Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite

The Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite (bottom) features a redesigned bolt handle and Sure Cycle bolt release button.

A couple years ago, Franchi introduced its redesigned Affinity 3.5 semi-auto. Like its predecessor, the 3 1/2-inch 12-gauge Intensity, the Affinity 3.5 is chambered for super magnum shells. For those not needing that much firepower, 3-inch 12- and 20-gauge Affinity 3 models are also available.  

Unlike previous Affinity and Intensity models, all new Affinity models feature oversized bolt handles and bolt release buttons as standard issue straight from the factory. These are extremely useful items, especially for waterfowlers who frequently wear heavy gloves. From experience, I know that swapping out a duck load for a goose load is quick and easy thanks to these oversized controls. 

All Affinity autoloaders are powered by a version of Franchi’s parent company Benelli’s Inertia Driven operating system, the main difference being that the return spring straddles the magazine tube rather than being located in the stock. The result is a slightly weight-forward feel, which aids in swinging the shotgun. It also makes post-shoot cleanup easy.  

The system is exceptionally reliable. In fact, despite shooting numerous birds, including ducks, geese, doves, quail and even turkeys with my personal Affinity 3.5, I can’t recall a single malfunction.  

Surprisingly, this past season Franchi made a great gun even better. The new Affinity Elite, also available in 3.5-inch 12-gauge and 3-inch 12- and 20-gauge, features an even larger bolt handle and Sure Cycle bolt release button. But bigger controls are just the tip of the iceberg.  

Other enhancements include a dual-color Truglo fiber-optic front sight to aid target acquisition in low light and a set of Trulock extended waterfowl choke tubes available in close range, mid-range and long range. That translates to skeet, light modified and improved modified in terms of actual constrictions. This trio of chokes will cover the majority of wildfowling — and target shooting — needs. 

On the exterior, all Elite models feature Cerakote-coated receivers and barrels and camouflage synthetic stocks and forearms. There are two color options: bronze Cerakote and Optifade Marsh camo, or cobalt (gray) Cerakote and Optifade Timber camo. I chose the latter, since my Affinity 3.5 Elite test gun will be used for turkeys come springtime. The darker gray/Timber pattern is a bit more versatile than the bronze/Marsh version, although both models look great. 

Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite in bronze Cerakote and Optifade Marsh camouflage.
Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite in bronze Cerakote and Optifade Marsh camouflage.
Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite in cobalt Cerakote and Optifade Timber camouflage.
Franchi Affinity 3.5 Elite in cobalt Cerakote and Optifade Timber camouflage.

As for the interior, the Elite’s barrel features a lengthened forcing cone, which Franchi calls a Precision Cone. The forcing cone is the tapered transition zone between the larger chamber and the smaller main bore. On most shotguns, the angle of taper is rather abrupt. By lengthening the forcing cone, the taper is more gradual, resulting in less pellet deformation and hopefully better patterns. 

Looking down the empty barrels of both my standard Affinity 3.5 and Affinity 3.5 Elite test gun, the difference is quite noticeable. A sharp drop-off is visible on the standard model, while the taper is long and smooth on the Elite model. 

Patterning both guns also produced some noticeable results. In preparation for turkey season, I used a Cabela’s Black-Maxx turkey choke and Federal 3-inch Strut-Shok turkey load with 1 7/8 ounces of No. 6 shot in both guns. The standard model produced 72 hits in a 10-inch circle, while the Elite model, with its longer forcing cone, produced 87 hits, or nearly a 21 percent increase. Even better, the Elite’s pattern was more uniform and evenly distributed within that 10-inch circle, eliminating any gaps that might result in a miss. 

Other test loads included Remington Gun Club 1 1/8-ounce 7 ½s, Winchester Super Dove 1-ounce 8s, Kent Elite Pro Target 1 1/8-ounce 8s (spreader load), Winchester AA Steel 1-ounce 7 ½s, Winchester Xpert 1-ounce steel 6s, 3-inch Kent Fasteel 2.0 1 ¼-ounce BBs, 3-inch Federal Speed Shok 1 1/8-ounce BBs, and 3 ½-inch Hevi-Steel 1 3/8-ounce BBs. The Affinity 3.5 Elite cycled them all just fine. 

At one point, I ran a 2 ¾-inch shell, followed by a 3 ½-inch and a 3-inch shell through the Franchi. It fired, cycled and ejected all three different shell lengths perfectly. It’s safe to say the Affinity 3.5 Elite will digest a variety of ammo, ranging from 1-ounce target loads up to super magnum goose loads, interchangeably and reliably.   

Besides the Elite enhancements, other standard features include sling attachments on the stock and magazine cap, a shim kit for adjusting drop and cast, and a TSA recoil pad available in three sizes for adjusting length of pull. (One pad is included — the others can be purchased separately from Franchi as accessories.)

The TSA recoil pad does a nice job of protecting the shoulder and is one of the better factory pads. My test gun also came with a weight that can be screwed onto the stock bolt inside the stock to help absorb recoil. Without the stock weight installed, the Affinity 3.5 Elite with a 28-inch barrel is listed at exactly 7-pounds, although the gun feels much lighter and was a pleasure to carry while hunting upland birds.  

Although the new Affinity Elite line is undoubtedly designed with waterfowlers in mind, these versatile semi-autos can also be used to bag any quarry ranging from doves to turkeys. With the supplied Trulock chokes, it’ll also perform admirably on the skeet, sporting clays and trap fields in the off-season. Those looking for one gun that will literally do it all, and do it reliably, should consider the stylish, low-maintenance, inertia-operated Affinity 3.5 Elite. 

MSRP: 3.5-inch $1,419 (3-inch 12- and 20-gauge $1,249)

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