Staring at very large, fresh, grizzly tracks in the snow has a way of making you wonder if maybe, just maybe, you’re going to end up in one of those hunter-becomes–the-hunted stories. It can also make the .30-06-chambered rifle in your hands suddenly feel somewhat inadequate compared to, say, something in the .375-and-up persuasion. That’s especially true when you’re hunting from dark morning to dark night in heavily forested, grizz-rich country for eight days with an unproven prototype rifle… from a company that has never made rifles before.
That’s the situation I found myself in late last year during an elk hunt in southern Alberta, just east of Banff National Park, where grizzlies were very much in evidence. I was there with five other hunters to test the new Franchi Momentum bolt-action rifle and provide feedback on its design.
Unfortunately, I never saw an elk, thanks mainly to an overabundance of wolves, which were even more in evidence than grizzlies. Happily, the rifles held up their end of the deal: My hunting partner shot a huge white wolf while it was watching my guide and me as we scouted our way along a river. I saw several other wolves that never presented a shot opportunity, but two of our hunters in the wildlife management unit north of us found themselves in the middle of a pack of wolves during a snowstorm. They shot three before the rest of the canines departed. Only two of our party, hunting the northernmost unit, managed to connect on a pair of nice 6×6 elk bulls, but they reported no wolf sightings. The clear takeaway for me, apart from the fact that the rifle showed promise, was that Americans don’t have a monopoly on the unwise practice of overprotecting predators.
“One thing that sets the rifle apart, even at a quick glance, is the unique polymer stock. It has a sleek appearance with what some would call ‘modern’ styling. Franchi touts it as being ergonomically designed to yield an ideal hold in five frequently-used shooting positions.”
LIGHTWEIGHT AND AFFORDABLE
The prototype rifles we hunted with showed a little room for improvement, as you might expect with a company’s first-ever rifle. Our group made several suggestions that mostly had to do with the barrel and trigger. Months later, as I unboxed the new production rifle, I was pleased to see the changes Franchi had made to the gun.
“The Momentum is designed to be a lightweight, ergonomically superior and affordable hunting rifle.”
For starters, the rather thin barrel had been replaced by a slightly heavier one, and the slick-surfaced protective cap for the threaded muzzle now had a knurled surface for easier tightening and loosening. The somewhat plain, fat bolt had been replaced with an attractive, weight-reducing, spiral-fluted one, and the trigger seemed much improved. I was particularly happy to discover that the trigger on the production gun is considerably better than the one on the prototype rifle I tested. That one had an excessive amount of creep. It would seem to correct itself but then revert to its prior state. It was, in a word, inconsistent.
The single-stage trigger on the production gun has no discernible creep and breaks crisply. Franchi says the trigger pull weight is adjustable from 4 to 2 pounds. My production rifle arrived with a trigger that broke consistently at 3 pounds, 4 ounces. That’s just a bit heavier than I prefer for most applications, but, as is my practice, I left it at that setting to duplicate a buyer’s out-of-the-box experience. The Momentum is designed to be a lightweight, ergonomically superior and affordable hunting rifle. How affordable? The MSRP is $609, placing the rifle’s actual retail price roughly in the middle of the pack between today’s budget-priced rifles and the higher-priced flagship models from the likes of Ruger, Remington and Winchester.
The rifle is available with and without a threaded barrel (5/8×24), and you can buy a packaged combo that includes a Burris Fullfield II scope, Burris two-piece base and Burris Zee rings for about $110 more than the rifle alone. The chrome-moly barrels are cold hammer-forged and truly free-floated. Tipping the scales at just 6.6 pounds without a scope, all variants of the rifle, except for the 6.5 Creedmoor, have 22-inch barrels. The Creedmoor-chambered gun has a 24-inch barrel for enhanced velocity. Rate of twist in the .30-06 rifles is 1:11.
“Mounting a scope on the production rifle, which was also chambered in .30-06 Springfield, was a snap, because the gun accepts the same scope bases as the Remington 700.”
The rifle has a single-piece, three-lug bolt with a short, 60-degree throw that provides lots of scope clearance. A two-position safety is located on the right rear of the receiver, just behind the bolt handle and within easy reach of your thumb. When engaged, the safety does not lock the bolt down, so you can cycle rounds through the action with the safety in either position. The Momentum is initially chambered for six popular hunting cartridges, including .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06 Springfield and .300 Win. Mag. The rifle employs an internal magazine with a hinged metal floorplate. The floorplate release button is located inside of—and is protected by—the trigger guard. It takes a fair amount of pressure to operate, so the floorplate is unlikely to be opened accidentally. Magazine capacity is four rounds for standard calibers and three rounds for the sole magnum chambering.
If you’re willing to part with a bit more money, you can buy a limited-edition version of the Momentum that commemorates Franchi’s 150th anniversary. This model comes with a nice walnut stock and a 150-year-anniversary logo on the receiver.
One thing that sets the rifle apart, even at a quick glance, is the unique polymer stock. It has a sleek appearance, with what some would call “modern” styling. Franchi touts it as being ergonomically designed to yield an ideal hold in five frequently used shooting positions. This translates into somewhat curvy lines and crisp checkering with cutout borders. The checkered surfaces below the action and along much of the forend ride atop swells that fill the hand, while the fingertips tend to wrap around the cutout borders on the top side, providing a solid and comfortable grip in just about any shooting position. There’s even a checkered cutout at the rear bottom of the stock just ahead of the bottom of the recoil pad that’s intended to serve as an offhand finger- gripping point when shooting from a bench.
The stock has recessed swivel attachment points and is equipped with Franchi’s TSA recoil pad, which I found to be fairly effective at reducing felt recoil. Mounting a scope on the production rifle, which was also chambered in .30-06 Springfield, was a snap, because the gun accepts the same scope bases as the Remington 700. I used a Trijicon AccuPoint 4-16X50mm scope (lately, I’ve used this frequently for both hunting and as a dedicated testing scope) that’s nestled into a set of Talley lightweight rings, which I have long favored for hunting rifles. With everything properly torqued to specifications, I set out to see how the final version of the rifle would perform.
“The checkered surfaces below the action and along much of the forend ride atop swells that fill the hand, while the fingertips tend to wrap around the cutout borders on the top side, providing a solid and comfortable grip in just about any shooting position.”
At the range, the rifle turned in a decent performance… with one exception: It did not care very much for the all-copper Barnes VOR-TX 150-grain TTSX load. That, in itself, is not unusual. Some rifles purely love copper bullets, printing tiny, little groups with monotonous consistency; others react like a human who has just been dosed with arsenic. Rifles, like people, can be very individualistic in their tastes.
Whatever the reason, the Momentum was not fond of that copper load, and it proved to be a show-stopper. The case from the first round I fired stuck in the chamber and would not extract without some persuasion applied to the bolt handle with a rubber mallet. So did the second and third rounds. Things gradually loosened up just a bit, but my frustration was likely evidenced in the fact that the load printed average groups at 100 yards of more than 2 inches. That extraction issue might possibly have been partly due to dimensional differences with the Barnes brass, because the rifle had no issues loading, firing or ejecting all four other groups that would make me perfectly happy to take those rounds hunting with the Momentum. The rifle never quite broke the sub-MOA mark with five-shot groups, but it came close.
Federal’s Edge TLR 175-grain load shot a best group of 1.15 inches and average groups of 1.37 inches, while Winchester’s 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip load produced a best group of 1.23 inches and average groups of slightly less than 1½ inches. Hornady’s Precision Hunter 178-grain ELD-X load also turned in a good performance, with a group average of 1.49 inches and a best group of 1.27 inches. The Winchester round was the hottest of the loads tested with lighter bullets, with an average muzzle velocity of 3,074 fps. Fastest among the heavier-hitters was the Federal Edge TLR 180-grain load, which stepped out at 2,743 fps.
BIG GRIZZLES EXCEPTED
I would not hesitate to take the Momentum hunting with any of these three loads—the Hornady, Winchester or Federal Edge TLR—for just about anything that walks in North America… with the possible exception of big grizzlies. The .30-06 can do the job, of course; it’s just not my first choice for that particular job. For anything else, the new Franchi bolt-action is more than up to the task.
|Ammunition||Avg. Muzzle Velocity (fps)||Avg. 100-yard Group (inches)||Best 100-yard Group (inches)|
|Barnes VOR-TX 150-grain TTSX||
|Federal Edge TLR 175 grains||
|Federal Non Typical Whitetail 180-grain SP||
|Hornady Precision Hunter 178-grain ELD-X||
|Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 150 grains||
NOTES: Three five-shot groups were fired in wind between 5 and 12 mph at 100 yards. Velocities are an average of three shots, measured with a Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 chronograph.
CALIBERS: .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06 Springfield (tested), .300 Win. Mag.
ACTION: Bolt-action, push-feed
CAPACITY: Four-round, hinged-floorplate magazine
BARREL: 22-inch (24-inch in 6.5 Creedmoor)
RATE OF TWIST: 1:11 (.30-06 Springfield)
STOCK: Polymer with swells and checkering
TRIGGER: Single stage
WEIGHT: 6.6 pounds
LENGTH: 42.3 inches
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.