Review: Franchi Instinct L 12 Gauge O/U

The tested shotgun is the second half of the newly revitalized Franchi brand, joining the Franchi Affinity models previously, and very favorably reviewed. The Instinct L is a steel receiver Over / Under shotgun, made by Bettinsoli of Italy, imported into the United States by Benelli USA, and sold under the Franchi nameplate. Its published specs are as follows.

Part # 40800
Gauge: 12 Gauge
Barrel length: 28" barrels
Chokes: IC, M, F
Length of Pull: 14.25"
Drop at Heel: 2"
Drop at Comb: 1.5"
Type of Sights: Red fiber optic front bead
Stock: A-Grade Satin Walnut
Receiver: Color Case-Hardened Receiver
Barrel Finish: Blue
OAL 44.25"
6.4 lbs. (actual weight as tested 7.1 lbs.)
MSRP $1149.00

Currently, the Franchi Instinct L has a beguiling street price of about $1000. The claimed weight is way off the mark as my example weighs a bit over 7 lbs. unloaded, clearly over half of one pound heavier than touted. While the stock is called “A grade,” the test gun has only average, straight grained walnut. Perhaps that is what “A grade” is? The fore end and the buttstock are well matched in color and tone.

The receiver, while called “case hardened” appears to be a chemical case-coloring attempt. The safety on my test gun is a bit on the stiff side and unfortunately resets after you break the gun open, a genuine hassle. The buttstock to receiver fit is amateurish, with both excessively proud wood and easily noticeable visible gaps.

The cut checkering on the stock is cleanly and deeply cut and the recoil pad is well-fitted. The sliding type safety is not marked, but if slid to the right the bottom barrel fires first. The triggers are mechanical as opposed to inertia, a bit heavy with a 5 pound lower and 5-3/4 lb. upper barrel break, usable but not particularly well-matched.

With B & P F2 1-1/8 oz. 1230 fps loads, shooting in a short sleeve shirt, the gun becomes unpleasant to shoot at clays in very short order. With 1 oz. loads, I found it comfortable enough. The tested gun had no mechanical issues, no failures to fire, and the auto ejectors worked satisfactorily as well.

There are too many issues with this gun to ignore. They include excessive, crude machining and tooling marks inside the receiver, the excessively stiff safety, the auto re-setting safety, the heavy and poorly matched triggers, the poor buttstock inletting with visible gaps and overly proud wood, and the far heavier than advertised weight. While one or two issues may not be a deal-breaker, combined it is far too much to ignore despite the fairly low price tag. Cumulatively, this shotgun aspires only to mediocrity and doesn't quite make it to even that level. Perhaps this is the best that Bettinsoli can do, I really don't know. When the Beretta Group outsources vertical doubles, it makes me wonder why. In this case, I'm still wondering a bit, but left completely disinterested for the reasons stated.

Unlike the Franchi Affinity autoloaders that quickly impressed in categories of “great for the money” and excellent in general, the Instinct L is nothing more than a wonderfully adequate, unremarkable and immensely forgettable shotgun. While functional, the erratic and sometimes crude build quality quickly left us wanting a lot more, even from an entry-level priced vertical double.

Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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