By J. Scott Olmsted, American Hunter
As I approached the apex of the hill and prepared to peek over the top at what we hoped would be our game standing before us, the weight of the rifle I held in my hands reminded me I didn’t grasp the ideal tool for the job. It was a Franchi Momentum Elite Varmint, and it weighed more than 10 pounds with a scope and a sling and ammo. My left hand gripped a beavertail fore-end. The rig was a bit much to swing into action quickly. But if I felt less adroit than I wished, I was impressed with the rifle when that buck dropped and I was ready to deliver a follow-up before it hit the ground.
The Momentum is Franchi’s hunting rifle, introduced by the Italian firm in 2018. American Hunter’s first reports of it indicated excellent fit and function and accuracy. The Elite series, added alongside the budget-priced original in 2020, did nothing to diminish those impressions. The Elite Varmint, introduced last year, should readily attract hunters who need such a specialty tool.
Every Momentum is built on a round, push-feed receiver inside which is a full-sized round bolt body. It’s spiral-fluted and chromed, and features three lugs on its face to create a short rise to unlock the bolt, just 60 degrees vs. 90 degrees on a two-lug bolt. An extractor is fitted to one of the lugs. A spring-loaded ejector resides in the bolt face.
Franchi’s Relia trigger is adjustable for pull weight between 2-4 pounds. It is single-stage and breaks crisply, as any trigger should on a varmint rifle. My test unit broke at 3 pounds 2 ounces, which was light enough for my big-game hunt. A two-position safety rides along the right side of the receiver; it does not lock the bolt. A fat bolt handle is easy to find and grasp.
The barrel is 24 inches long and cold hammer forged. It’s a heavy contour, of course, and is spiral-fluted and free-floated. It is threaded ⅝x24 to accept a suppressor, purchased separately. Included with every gun is a muzzle brake and thread protector. Twist rates are as follows: .223 Rem. 1:9; .22-250 1:12; .224 Valkyrie 1:7.
All metalwork is finished in Midnight Bronze Cerakote. Every receiver is topped with a factory-mounted Picatinny rail, so a hunter need only find the rings and scope of his choice. Another bonus: Two magazines come with each rifle. A small mag holds up to three rounds, depending on caliber. A large mag holds up to eight rounds.
To create its composite Evolved Ergonom-X stock, Franchi studied the five most common shooting positions and designed to maximize for comfort and efficiency in each of them. Crisp checkering lies where it’s needed. Rounded edges minimize snags on clothing. A cutout on the stock toe accommodates a toe bag on the shooting bench. The Varmint stock includes a removable and adjustable cheekpiece and checkered grip. A TSA recoil pad reduces recoil by 50 percent. The included pad keeps length of pull to a pretty short 14 inches, a measure I appreciate since I am not the tallest hunter. Two optional pads adjust for length of pull. Into the Varmint stock are molded quick-detach sling swivel receptacles; one on the butt and two on the fore-end, the better to accept a bipod without sacrificing sling carry. The stock is finished in Gore Optifade Subalpine.
Franchi test-fires every rifle to offer its 1-MOA guarantee when using factory premium ammunition. The rifle I used on my Montana pronghorn and prairie dog hunt was chambered in Federal’s .224 Valkyrie, a good choice in order to use one rifle for game of vastly different sizes. As such, I had only two different loads at my disposal, both loaded by Federal: a 60-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip and a 78-grain Barnes Triple-Shock X. I fired both on the range and was impressed by the accuracy delivered by both. See the results herein. Some credit for those groups should go to Federal Premium ammunition loaded with premium bullets. As my pronghorn hunt lasted longer than anticipated I never got around to firing the 60-grain Ballistic Tip at prairie dogs. But I am happy to say the 78-grain TSX delivered pinpoint accuracy and devastating results on the best pronghorn buck I have ever killed.
When my Crow guide and I poked our heads over the hill, the buck and the two does he was bird-dogging were still standing there, less than 150 yards away. Our plan had worked. Now we simply needed to work smoothly and quickly, two factors that would be aided by the rifle in my hands.
From previous handling, I knew that full-sized bolt riding back in forth in the round receiver was slick, but honestly, I was surprised just how slick. It’s true this is a varmint rifle built to fire from a bench at targets or rodents, or alternately from a pair of shooting sticks at predators. But don’t let its overall weight fool you. This gun can be thrown into action quickly.
I knew the buck stood within my zero range; no need for a laser. So I dropped to a knee, threw the gun on my sticks and the reticle, resting atop that wide beavertail, settled with a thud on the buck as it stood quartering to me. I focused, breathed and squeezed. At 118 yards, the TSX struck the buck at the base of its neck on a downward trajectory and plowed through vitals. The buck was dead when it hit the ground. By then I’d run the bolt and recovered for a follow-up. As I did so I noted the fat bolt handle easily came to hand. The three-lug bolt ensured a short throw upward. The short-action cartridge ensured minimal bolt travel. The full-sized bolt reduced slop to smooth travel back and forth inside the round receiver. A follow-up wasn’t necessary, but it was nice to know the heavy rifle in my hands could be pushed into action so quickly. This Momentum Elite Varmint is a hunter and shooter this much is true. And as it costs less than a grand, I think a lot of hunters will learn that, too.
• Type: bolt-action centerfire rifle
• Caliber: .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .224 Valkyrie (tested)
• Magazine: detachable box; 4-rnd. or 8-rnd. capacity
• Barrel: 24″; heavy contour; .224 Valkyrie 1:7″ RH twist (tested)
• Trigger: Relia; single-stage; adjustable 2-4 lbs. pull
• Sights: none; Picatinny rail installed
• Stock: composite; Evolved Ergonom-X; 14″ LOP (std.); Gore Optifade Subalpine
• Metal Finish: Midnight Bronze Cerakote
• Overall Length: 46.75″
• Weight: 9-9.4 lbs.
• Accessories: small, large capacity magazine; Picatinny rail; muzzle brake; thread protector
• MSRP: $999; franchiusa.com