Franchi’s latest Horizon offering impressed Con Kapralos
I’ve been fortunate to have reviewed Franchi Horizon bolt-action rifles on several occasions. Since those early days the Horizon has continued to be made with models encompassing blued and stainless barrelled actions as well as coloured synthetic stocks and, more recently, newer versions imported by Beretta Australia offer options which include Cerakoted metalwork and synthetic stocks with upmarket hydra-dipped camouflage patterns.
One such model is the Horizon Elite Strata which encompasses a Midnight Bronze Cerakoted barrelled action with Strata True Timber camouflage hydro-dipped techno-polymer stock. Australian Shooter secured one in .308 Winchester for review coupled with a Steiner Predator 8 3-24×50 riflescope.
At a glance
The gun rifle arrived in the customary orange and white Franchi carton, the rifle being a turn-bolt repeater with 22” (560mm) sporter weight barrel and purpose-designed techno-polymer stock with the Strata True Timber pattern applied to its surface.
The rifle is supplied with a detachable three-shot box magazine and fitted with two-piece Weaver bases for scope mounting, a comprehensive user manual, warranty card and test target completing the package. The firearm weighs 3.01kg, is 1075mm long with length-of-pull at 355mm and is offered in calibres of .223 Rem, .243 Win, .270 Win, .30-06 Sprg, 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Win Mag as well as the .308 Win review version.
The receiver is made from circular steel bar-stock and extremely well finished to exacting tolerances. It maintains a circular design and measures 215mm which includes a small rear tang. The receiver tube is 172mm x 34mm wide with a well-defined ejection port on the right with top milled flat, drilled and tapped in the Remington 700 pattern for scope-mounting provision.
The left of the receiver has the bolt release lever on the rearward section along with the serial number, model name and country of manufacture inscribed, the right side devoid of markings except for proof marks on the rear ring. The receiver is finished in Midnight Bronze Cerakote which complements the barrel with its identical finish.
The bolt is termed ‘Dependa bolt’ by Franchi and is smooth in travel and operation. The one-piece steel bolt measures 78mm x 25mm and weighs 395 grams with the body and bolt head finished in hard-wearing nickel plating. The head is of a three-lug design which allows 60-degree bolt lift and accommodates a spring-loaded plunger ejector through the face and claw extractor on the rim of one of the bolt lugs, an arrangement which makes for reliable ejection and extraction of fired and unfired cases.
The bolt body is fluted in a spiral pattern which means a slight reduction in weight but looks the part. The body has a long slot milled into it which mates with a corresponding lug in the receiver wall, resulting in smooth and efficient bolt travel. The only blued components on the bolt are the rear shroud and bolt handle and knob, the latter with its conical design being of a tactical nature though comes to the hand well and is suitably placed for quick cycling of the action if required.
This is of a sporter configuration. The crown has a recessed target-style profile with the muzzle threaded to accept accessories and supplied with a protective cap. The barrel is chrome molybdenum steel and cold hammer forged to achieve that sporter-weight profile and the one-in-11” rate of twist should see it perform well with projectiles in the 130-180 grain range.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The trigger unit is referred to by Franchi as the ‘Relia trigger’ and is fully adjustable from 0.8 to 1.9kg. At the factory it was set at 1.5kg and broke cleanly and crisply with no excessive creep or drag (owners may wish to adjust this and a gunsmith is the best option).
The safety, an integral part of the trigger unit, is a two-position affair just behind the bolt handle notch. Working in a linear manner the most rearward slot blocks the sear/firing pin but permits the bolt to be cycled and chamber loaded or unloaded. Moving the selector fully forward the rifle fires as normal and the bolt cycles, a red dot on the stock indicating this position.
The triggerguard and magazine shroud are a single entity made of polymer as is standard on many factory rifles, the front of the guard also housing the magazine release lever which easily disengages the magazine for removal. The detachable box magazine arrangement continues on the Horizon Elite Strata with a single three-shot polymer version supplied (four in the .223 Rem).
This is described as ‘techno-polymer’ but is essentially a synthetic unit made from glass-filled polymer which gives the stock inherent strength and stiffness, its surface hydro-dipped in the Strata True Timber camouflage pattern. Dipped synthetic stocks have been around for many years and look attractive in the multitude of patterns available, though with hard use the pattern will eventually wear and fade.
The stock has panels of chequering on the pistol grip, two small panels either side of the magazine well and a large one on the sides and underside of the fore-end. The execution of these is excellent and offers positive grip without being excessively sharp or abrasive. Franchi’s TSA (Twin Shock Absorber) recoil pad is fitted and is fairly soft in composition, while provision for attaching a sling is served by two points moulded into the stock rather than sling-swivel studs (one on the underside of the buttstock near the toe and another under the fore-end). While these points serve their purpose and have a steel insert for additional strength, I’d have preferred studs but must praise Franchi for thinking ‘outside the square’.
Internally the bedding arrangement is the standard design offered on the Horizon, an aluminium ‘V-block’ inletted into the body of the stock mating with two slots milled into the sides of the receiver tube. This actually gives a superior bedding system with the barrel free-floating in the process. The rear of the receiver bears directly on to the polymer and the barrelled action is secured by two action screws, one into the rear tang and one into the underside of the front receiver ring.
Some of Sako’s best in the 150-grain Super Hammerhead and 180-grain Hammerhead loads complemented others from Sellier & Bellot and Hornady for accuracy testing. While my previous testing regimen used to entail five 3-shot groups at 100m, I’ve decided to start shooting four 5-shot groups for a better assessment, being mindful to let the barrel cool between shots. Most manufacturers give a 3-shot Minute-of-Angle guarantee and while this is a valid selling point, shooting an extra two-shots gives a better indication of the rifle’s (and barrel’s) potential with the ammunition used.
Franchi Horizon Elite Strata in .308 Winchester accuracy test
|Ammunition||Best group (mm)||Worst group (mm)||Average group* (mm)|
|Sako Super Hammerhead 150gr Bonded Soft Point||25||33||29|
|Sako Hammerhead 180gr Soft Point||32||42||37|
|Hornady Precision Hunter 178gr ELD-X||20||30||26|
|Sellier & Bellot 150gr SPCE||22||37||29|
* Average calculated from four 5-shot groups at 100m from a Caldwell Benchrest and rear bag
All average groups hovered around the Minute-of-Angle mark with the exception of the 180-grain Sako load but all test ammo would be perfectly suitable for hunting medium to large game species in Australia. Some tight groups from 20-25mm across three brands of ammunition also is indicative this rifle isn’t fussy. The Horizon Elite Strata was a pleasure to shoot but that’s not surprising, as it follows the previous three Horizon rifles reviewed in offering a reliable and well-made sporting and hunting firearm.
The fact Beretta Australia offers the Franchi Horizon Elite Strata in seven calibres shows they believe in the rifle platform and I’ve yet to review a Franchi Horizon that didn’t shoot well. Its forte is purely as a hunting rifle and is not intended to be a long-range or tactical option. Its greatest attribute is its affordability and with a RRP of $1320 it should make your shortlist if looking for a new hunting rifle. More at Beretta Australia.
Manufacturer: Benelli Armi, Italy.
Model: Horizon Elite Strata
Distributor: Beretta Australia
Action: Turn-bolt repeater
Barrel: Chrome molybdenum cold hammer forger 22” (560mm), one-in-11” rate of twist, muzzle threaded for accessories
Calibres: .308 Win (tested), .223 Rem, .243 Win, .270Win, .30-06 Sprg, 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 Win Mag
Magazine: Detachable box, three-rounds all calibres (four in .223)
Overall length: Standard calibres 1075mm, Magnum 1125mm
Weight: 3.01kg (bare as tested)
Metal finish: Midnight Bronze Cerakoting to barrel and receiver
Stock: Techno-polymer with hydro-dipped Strata True Timber camouflage pattern
Warranty: Seven years (mechanical parts)
RRP: $1320 (bare rifle) as quoted