A look at the enhanced Franchi Momentum Elite, proof that Franchi is playing the hunting rifle game for keeps.
Most are familiar with Franchi. The Affinity is the acme of affordable, inertia-drive, semi-auto shotguns, and their host of over/unders leave nothing to want. So, it was a bit mindboggling when the Italian gunmaker, in 2018, took a crack at the budget hunting rifle market. Might as well jump in the deep end and turn out a polymer-frame, striker-fired pistol while you’re at it.
Both are cutthroat niches—the rifle end maybe even more so. Not only are they a dime a dozen, but they also pit newcomers against powerhouses such as Winchester, Ruger, Savage, Browning and Remington, just to name a few. Might as well ask a Ford or Chevy guy to give a Fiat a whirl. Tough sell. However, the Momentum has shown incredible impetus against the old guard. Three short years later, Franchi looks to take another bite of the pie with the updated and upgraded iteration of its flagship.
Despite being dubbed the Momentum Elite and boasting a suggested retail price of $899, the line expansion is well within reach of most hunters. After some time with a 6.5 Creedmoor Elite, it’s easy to say the enhancements the package offers are welcome and worth the money. They also continue to square away the one-time shotgun specialist as a player in the hunting rifle market.
As expected in the affordable bolt-action market, the Momentum Elite sports a polymer stock. Honestly, this doesn’t bend my nose out of shape, though my traditionalist streak tends to walnut on a hunter. On the Elite version, Franchi gives a good reason to appreciate polymer, offering four camo patterns—Realtree Excape, TrueTimber Strata (what was on my rifle), Optifade Elevated II and Optifade Subalpine. Overall, these options blend in with the better part of North America’s environments, from dusky alpine to dark woods.
As nice as the addition is, the stock’s big selling point remains how Franchi lays out the main rifle-to-shooter interface. Pull the barreled action and you’ll see a pair of recoil lugs embedded in a “V” shape near the front action screw. Interfacing with slots milled into the bottom of the receiver, the lugs perfectly center the rifle in the stock and ensure absolute rigidity in mate-up. In short, the Momentum Elite is in line and devoid of play, even under recoil. While not billed as a long-range hunter, its mechanical consistency certainly sets the rifle down this path.
Cleverly, Franchi recesses the sling studs, offering a low-profile design that won’t hang up on gear. At the same tick, there’s ample room for a standard sling to do its job. The forend projects past the front attachment point, a break from the typical rifle design and welcome for those who utilize bipods. This extra real estate gives the accessory more surface area to attach to, thus forming a solid base. This might seem like a small feature … until you try to attach a bipod where there isn’t ample room to do so.
However, the forend is also much flatter and wider than the blade-like examples found on most hunting rifles. The rifle is a natural off a rest—be it a backpack, fence post or bench. In the rear, the slender buttstock sports a near pistol grip—textured with a touch of swell—making the Elite very responsive. Falling back on their shotgun knowhow, Franchi tops the whole thing off with a TSA recoil pad, which on some models is a solid addition.
One of the unheralded advancements in bolt-action rifles in recent years is the rise of what Gun Digest contributor Jon Sundra deemed the “fat bolt.” More loquaciously, the industry calls them full-diameter, three-lug bolts. The design saves money, given there’s less machining involved in their creation, but this doesn’t mean they’re cut-rate—far from it. The system allows for unparalleled lockup, with maximum case head-to-bolt contact when stripping a round off the magazine, thus lowering the chance of a misfeed.
Those are just icing. Where the push-feed intrigues is its 60-degree bolt throw. The rifle cycles quickly, even more so given the slightly oversized bolt handle and chrome-plated, spiral-cut bolt. Add a drop of oil and it runs like a western mustang. It offers greater clearance for large optics, which has been the trend in recent years as precision glass becomes cheaper.
I put this to the test, running a decidedly non-hunting Athlon Helos BTR Gen2 6-24x56mm in a set of Talley Modern Sporting rings on the rifle’s Picatinny rail. It’s a lot of glass for this style of rifle—frankly, better suited for a chassis rig or a long-range build. Yet the Momentum Elite wore it well and didn’t lose a beat cycling rounds. As a side note, the rifle spits spent brass like no tomorrow, ejecting cases well to the side, saving a high-priced optic any additional abuse. While the majority of hunters will run a more sober optic, slapping on the Athlon proved to me that shooters should be comfortable with any scope being the right one on the Momentum Elite.
Trigger, Barrel And Other Stuff
The aforementioned assets are all for not if a rifle doesn’t have one important element—a good trigger. The Momentum Elite doesn’t lack in this department. While it doesn’t boast some catchy branded name, the trigger is adjustable with a range between 2 and 4 pounds. However, I didn’t have to tinker with the switch. My model shipped from the factory with a break a hair over 2½ pounds according to my Wheeler Trigger Pull Scale, and that’s spot-on for range testing. As for its performance, the trigger didn’t have a lick of creep and broke like early autumn ice. It’s hard to think of what more a hunter could want. Mated to a two-position safety with a rather sizable switch the trigger is also quick into the action.
Depending on caliber (Franchi offers eight), the Momentum Elite sports a 22- or 24-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel. As expected, the longer fire tubes come on magnum and 6.5 Creedmoor models, whose accuracy and reach benefit from the extra bore. Not to leave modern shooters cold, Franchi threads the muzzle but offers a bit more than just a protector with the rifle. A removable muzzle break is a welcome addition to the rifle. Given its relatively light build—7.5 pounds unloaded and without a scope—it’s a bit bucky, even when pitching mild-mannered cartridges such as the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Franchi caps off the barrel and receiver with the choice of Burnt Bronze, Midnight Bronze or Cobalt Cerakote finish. Aesthetically pleasing, the ceramic coating also gives the rifle resilience in the face of bad weather and rough use.
One of the biggest changes between the Momentum and the Elite is the magazines. The new rifle boasts a detachable box magazine. If there was a hang-up shooters had with the original Momentum, it was the rifle’s internal mag and hinged floor plate—this is the 21st century, after all. Single stack and polymer, the magazine puts 3+1 rounds on tap, giving the ability to reload the rifle quickly. While not a flush fit, the box doesn’t protrude too far south of the magwell and keeps the rifle’s overall svelte profile. As a sidenote, the small-bore Varmint Elite has seven- and eight-round magazines available.
At The Range
I allowed the rifle to showcase its inherent accuracy by utilizing a lead sled. At 100 yards, it didn’t disappoint.
Running through several hunting loads, the rifle printed impressive groups, each sub-MOA … or pretty dang close. Interestingly, its favorite was Sellier & Bellot’s 140-grain SP load, which averaged .59-inch groups. That’s more than adequate for a hunting rifle.
Later, I switched to supported shooting—via sandbags—to get a better feel of the rifle at the shoulder. The rifle fit well and proved responsive. A superbly angled grip made an excellent leverage point to nestle the buttstock into my shoulder pocket. Furthermore, the forend’s wide base didn’t have an iota of wobble on the bags.
Though it’s not mountain-rifle light, the Elite nevertheless is light. While this is an obvious advantage for an iron destined to traverse hill and dale to fill a tag, it amplifies recoil. By no means is the 6.5 Creedmoor a punishing cartridge, but its recoil was more pronounced given the rifle’s light build. Franchi’s addition of a high-quality recoil pad was appreciated and ensures a quick follow-up shot, if needed, in the field.
It’s difficult to get whomped up about economical hunting rifles unless you’re after your first whitetail or elk. Most are very utilitarian and they don’t have a ton to endear them, outside the fact that they’ll get the job done. The Franchi Momentum Elite breaks this mold.
More accurate than most hunters require, configured to hump back further than most hunters go, and full of extras most hunters have never considered, it over-delivers. For its class, the rifle is anything but a yawner and quite possibly has the stuff to be a hunting season go-to.
Thank goodness Franchi set its sights beyond shotguns.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2021 Buyer's Guide special issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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