A sub-gauge shooter loaded with features, Franchi’s Affinity 3 Elite Upland swings like a dream, is perfectly balanced, and is easy on the shoulder. If you’re in the market for a new-for-2024 hunting companion, this is the shotgun for you.
by Jace Bauserman
While hunting longbeards in the Cornhusker State a few years back, I tested Franchi’s Affinity 3.5 Turkey. The shotgun performed flawlessly. I loved the pistol-style grip, balance, and hooded front sight with a red fiber optic bead.
The shotgun patterned remarkably well, and after jellying the head of a Nebraska tom, I took the shotgun home to Colorado and experienced more springtime success.
Since that hunt, I’ve had an affinity (no pun intended) for Franchi’s Affinity semi-auto shooters, and I was thrilled when my local FFL called to inform me that a new Affinity make was ready and waiting.
Franchi’s Affinity 3 Elite Upland
Available in 12- and 20-gauge builds, I was thrilled to see that Franchi shipped the 20-gauge make fitted with a 26-inch barrel in its Affinity 3 Elite Upland model.
I’ve developed a love for sub-gauge shotguns. I was a 12-gauge-only guy for years, but as shotshell ammunition improved, I’ve leaned on 20- and 28-gauge shotguns more and more. I love their lightweight, easy-to-swing nature. They are a joy to tote around the field or the clay range. Plus, recoil is less, even when shooting magnum 3-inch shotshells with tungsten or bismuth payloads.
The A-Grade Satin Walnut stock and forearm jumped at me from the get-go. I also cheer the Gun Metal Gray Cerakote, which cloaks all metal parts on the shotgun besides the magazine cap, extended choke, bolt release button, and action. Not only does Cerakote reduce shine, but it boosts the longevity of metal parts.
Other must-notes include the oversized bolt handle and sizeable, round bolt release button. I hate fumbling and fiddling with small bolt handles and bolt-release buttons, especially in the field. Sizeable controls boost functionality, even when wearing shooting or thicker winter gloves.
The forearm is slim, and the vented rib barrel sports a contained-in-a-metal-housing fiber optic that is long and bright. Protruding out the end of the barrel was an extended choke tube, which I love, and I also tip my hat that Franchi includes Close-, Mid-, and Long-Range chokes. This allows shooters to swap chokes easily in and out, depending on the bird species on the menu.
Light and Maneuverable
As mentioned, weight is one of my favorite features of an excellent 20-gauge build. Measuring 48 inches long and weighing a feather-like six pounds, this shotgun felt airy in the hands, and with the action open and the chamber clear, I spent several minutes swinging back and forth and up and down. This shotgun moves effortlessly, and because of its weight, it will be easy for any hunter, regardless of size or sex, to tote around the field or the clay range.
Helping the Affinity 3 Upland achieve a lightweight rating and perform each time the trigger is fingered is the Inertia Driven System. With no bulky gas cylinder under the shotgun’s forend, the forend is slimmer and more streamlined. Each time the shotgun goes boom, the inertia that typically transfers to the shoulder is used to eject spent hulls.
I’m also a big fan of Franchi’s Precision Cone Patterning. This feature is noticeable where the barrel melds into the receiver, and these proprietary forcing cones ensure maximum pattern density and consistent patterning no matter what extended choke tube is in the barrel. The cones also reduce felt recoil, which means a more precise sight picture when the trigger is depressed.
You’ll make drop and cast adjustments where the stock and receiver meet. Franchi calls it Omni Stock Adjustable Fit, and adjustments are easily made by adding or subtracting included shims.
Soak It Up
I’m not a fan of recoil, and we’ve highlighted multiple ways the Affinity 3 Upland negates felt recoil. The good news is there’s more to come in the recoil arena. Franchi notes the TSA Recoil Pad reduces post-shot recoil by as much as 50 percent. Recoil becomes an afterthought when the TSA Pad marries with the Precision Cone Patterning and Intertia Driven System.
I busted coming-at-me and going-away clays with ease, and because of the shotgun’s slim, lightweight build, I turned orange discs flying right-to-left and left-to-right into powder. This shotgun builds shooting confidence rapidly.
Loading the shotgun is simple, and the oversized controls make loading/unloading extremely fast. I appreciate how well the gun balances. It shoulders instinctively, and the bright TRUGLO fiber-optic front sight is visible in all lighting conditions.
Comb to barrel rib height is perfect, which boosts shooter accuracy, and whether shooting light dove loads or 3-inch goose killers, recoil was soft and manageable.
Over the testing period, my 12-year-old son Brody shot the gun multiple times, as did my wife. They both appreciated a shotgun that was so light and airy yet didn’t abuse their shoulders.
The trigger guard isn’t oversized, but I had no trouble shooting with gloves on or off, and I like the back-of-the-trigger-guard safety position.
The Inertia Driven System sends hulls far and loads the next one quickly. For kicks, I tried to cycle the shotgun so fast that the action couldn’t keep up. I failed. I also didn’t experience a single jam or shotgun failure during the testing period.
Though I don’t plan to do too much turkey hunting with this shotgun, I gave the Long-Range choke a go with Apex’s Turkey Tungsten Super Shot 20-Gauge rounds a dance, and this shotgun/ammo combo would have zero trouble rolling a hard-gobbling tom out to 60 yards.
I was also pleased with the Close- and Mid-Range chokes performance. Each choke’s label is on the extended portion of the tube for easy viewing, and both the Close- and Mid-Range chokes made quick work of fast-flying clays.
There’s not much not to love about Franchi’s Affinity 3 Upland. It’s easy on the eyes, built to handle the elements, and shoots like a dream. The 26-inch barrel blends with stock and forearm to promote consistent swings while boosting overall gun control, and most components are oversized and highly functional.
Disassembly is a breeze — open the action and remove the magazine cap. I also applaud the checkering in the wood of the shotgun’s throat and the bottom of the forend. This gridded checking in the wood promotes consistent hand placement and feels excellent.
If you spend time behind this shotgun, you’ll quickly notice how it promotes instinctive shooting. I can’t wait to get it in the field when chasing quail later in the month.