October 2006

12-Gauge Semi-Auto Shotguns: Don’t Buy the Franchi I-12

Looking at the market for semi-automatic 12-gauge shotguns with a price tag of under $1,000 can give shooters quite a variety of options.

Questions like “Should I decide based on price or go for the pretty package?” or “How does the handling, balance and function of this model compare to the others?” all seem to ?ow together. More often than not, the bottom line is often the bottom line — how the purchase hits the pocketbook.

We jumped into the issue with three semi-automatics that ranged in price from $435 to $907. The low-end model was the recently released Stoeger 2000; it was followed by another newcomer, the Franchi I-12 at $749; and the highest-dollar member of the trio, the veteran Remington 11-87 at $907.

Acknowledging that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, each of the models has its good points and bad points based on appearance. Some shooters prefer the wood and metal look of the Franchi and Remington, while others favor the spaceage features of the Stoeger.

One of the major surprises in checking out the three models right from the box was the very pleasing trigger pull of about 4 pounds for each shotgun. When an out-of-the-box shotgun arrives with a trigger pull of less than ?ve pounds (heavier trigger pulls are favored by most manufacturers for safety reasons), a new owner should put a check mark on the plus side of his ranking ledger. A lighter trigger means that the shooter can be smoother in the move, mount and shoot practice of engaging targets.

All three of the models also received favorable marks in their ease of assembly and disassembly for cleaning. Although the Remington is gas operated and the Franchi and Stoeger are ?xed-barrel inertia-recoil operated, all test models found favor during cleaning sessions.

On the handling side, we focused on smoothness to the target and how the shotguns allowed for ease in follow-through. Balance and ease of handling rank almost as high as reliability for most shooters.

Our test ammunition for the trio on the sporting clay argets was Winchester AA 2.75-inch 2.5-dram shells in both No. 8 and No. 7 1/2 shot. Both shells were 1 1/8-ounce loads, with an average muzzle velocity ranging from 1,100 to 1,145 fps. In addition, each of the shotguns was tested with a few Federal 3-inch 1 1/4-ounce steel BB shot loads with a muzzle velocity of 1,300 feet per second to check out recoil from heavy loads. Here’s our test report:

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