By Nick Sisley, Shotgun Life
The Franchi Aspire is going to be particularly favored by the upland bird hunting community.
Franchi’s Aspire is a great looking sub-gauge over/under that, with a suggested retail price of $2,299, won’t scare your plastic credit card into melt-down mode (let’s call it a mid-priced shotgun). While over/under birds guns in that price range are usually coming out of Turkey, the Franchi Aspire is Italian made, in close proximity to many of the other great Italian shotgun names – yes the legendary town of Brescia.
The affordable, subgauge Franchi Aspire over/under.
Assuming that customers will be upland gunners, the boxlock Franchi Aspire is available only in 28 gauge and .410. In fact, the 28 gauge and .410 barrels are interchangeable on the scaled, case-colored receiver, although Franchi doesn’t currently sell the Aspire barrels separately. The frame measures 2.35 inches top to bottom. The lower edges of the receiver are rounded to an aesthetic ergonomic – resulting both in an elegant look and the reduction of a few ounces of metal. Don’t forget that a shotgun like this is probably going to be carried plenty – tramping for grouse, woodcock and quail – and thus not shot all that much. Such hunting conditions mean the Franchi Aspire’s low weight of 6 pounds, 2 ounces becomes a genuine advantage.
There’s no receiver engraving save around the outside of the replaceable trunnions. On the bottom, “Aspire” is in gold plus there’s “Franchi” and “Made in Italy.” There is an “F” for Franchi in gold on the trigger guard. Inside said receiver the barrels, of course, pivot on the trunnions. The other part of the receiver lock up is a receiver-wide bolt at the bottom of the frame, which moves into lugs milled into the bottom of the monobloc upon closing the gun. The ejectors worked flawlessly for me – tossing the 28-gauge empties a respectable distance.
The Franci Aspire receiver up close.
The forend is removed by pushing backward on a button-type device. Said forend comes off easily, goes back on easily, and it’s tight with no wobble once in place. The trigger is gold plated. The barrel selector is the common type found on the thumb safety. That safety is automatic; when shooting clay target practice you have to remember to push the safety forward before calling or as you call for the bird.
The barrels appeared well-struck as I see no rippling – just the even, dark-blue finish from one end to the other. There’s a solid rib between the barrels that adds heft to the light shotgun for a steadier swing. The top vent rib is narrow – usually preferred on small gauge hunting guns – ¼-inch from stem to stern. A “glow” type bead is at the muzzle end.
Three screw-in, flush chokes ship with the Franchi Aspire: Improved Cylinder, Modified and Full. The Full constriction was too tight to measure with my Baker Barrel Reader probe. The Modified constriction was .529 and the Improved Cylinder was .538. Both barrels measured .550. For close work on grouse and woodcock I would have preferred Cylinder and a second top barrel choke with .004 constriction.
The slender forend of the Franchi Aspire provided comfort and style.
I found several aspects of the Franchi Aspire particularly appealing. One of them is the forend. I love the slender, stylish look – it goes only 1.60-inches in width. Length is 9-inches. I think you will also like the semi-pistol grip on this hunting gun – as I do. The base of that grip is stylishly rounded, plus the grip is both open and fairly thin at 1.30 inches. Big, thick grips that we carry for hours on end while looking for birds eventually feel clunky so the slender dimensions of the Franchi Aspire registered as a plus.
The walnut was nothing fancy: all-strong, AA Grade, straight-grain with an oil-finish that will appeal to traditionalists. The ½-inch thick recoil pad is solid rubber with a thin black spacer setting the pad off from the stock. At the price point of the Franchi Aspire, lasered checkering is expected and it appeared flawless.
The rounded-knob, semi-pistol grip cast a classic look to the Franchi Aspire.
It was also impossible to find a flaw in the shooting. There were no malfunctions. Most of my Franchi Aspire evaluation was done with the gun down off the shoulder in the ready position. The trapper would toss going-away quartering shots at his pleasure. This wasn’t exactly like hunting but perhaps simulated walking in on a locked-up pointing dog – as I would anticipate a flushing bird.
The recoil pad has somewhat sharp edges so I was expecting hang ups during my gun mounts, but I did not experience any. The back of that pad is slick and smooth.
The Franchi Aspire ships in a lightweight, blaze-orange plastic case. There are also bright fabric soft covers for the receiver/butt stock and the barrels/forend. A piece of foam covers the top of this case, plus there is bottom foam protection for the receiver/butt stock section as well as the barrels/forend area.
The ejectors on the Franchi Aspire tossed empties a respectable distance.
Unfortunately my Aspire testing occurred in late summer so grouse and woodcock seasons were not open yet. Consequently, much of my shooting was on clay birds. I’ve already covered shooting this gun on quartering-away targets, which simulate an escaping grouse of sorts. But I also worked the gun on some higher incoming birds to replicate incoming doves. The Franchi Aspire is a light shotgun so you have to keep it moving on such birds. Take your mind off the task at hand, and the momentary distraction can easily stop your swing – thus shooting behind the target. Obviously, heavier guns can be a factor in keeping your smoothbore on the move, but a shotgun swing can be stopped or slowed no matter the gun weight or length of barrel.
Early one morning I took the Franci Aspire on a pest pigeon shoot. Despite being a 28 gauge I was pleasantly surprised at the shotgun’s ability to down these meaty birds. There were no short range shots, yet my ⅞ ounce, #7½ Magnums hit the pigeons in mid-air using the two most open chokes of the three already discussed.
What I ultimately discovered is that the quality and price of the Franchi Aspire makes it a strong contender for the budget-conscious upland hunter inclined toward time-honored over/unders.
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