Not everything was better in the past. Not so long ago, many gun manufacturers gave the varmint version of their popular hunting bolt-action rifles a bulky barrel extended to 60-65 cm with a muzzle diameter of around 20 mm or more. That was often all – sometimes not even the forend was optimized in its contour, but simply cut out further for the thicker barrel. Today, it's no longer that simple if you want to be successful with a Varmint rifle – not even in the entry-level price class in which Franchi's Horizon series moves.
Franchi Horizon bolt-action hunting rifle – The variants
Franchi has been manufacturing the Horizon for a few years now. The basic Black Synt model is priced at a wallet-friendly 930 euros. Key features of the Horizon series are the three-lug bolt and steel receiver. Franchi combines this bolt with a single-stack removable magazine and a two-position safety. This acts only on the trigger, not the bolt, the principle being similar to the Remington 700's safety. The extractor claw sits directly in front of the right bolt lug, and a spring-loaded plug integrated into the bolt face serves as the ejector. The action is drilled and tapped for mounting bases or rails, and regardless of model, intended use, stock or stock material, the manufacturer generally omits sights. The polymer stocks can be individually adjusted in length and height using accessories, and the panels in the pistol grip are also interchangeable. The stock height is determined by the comb, which is held in place by a metal clasp – it can be removed and replaced with a straight comb, and three heights are available. The length of pull can be adjusted thanks to the replaceable recoil pad. Here, too, you can choose from three options: the factory-mounted (medium) pad ensures a LOP of 355 mm.
The Varmint Black Synt model of the Horizon line in detail
The new additions to the Italian manufacturer's production lineup are the two Varmint models. The "real" Varmint model for applications such as fur hunting as well as predator and pest hunting is called the Varmint Elite Subalpine. Its trademark is a Optifade Subalpine camouflage stock and a bronze Cerakote coating on the barrel and action. Franchi offers this 1,285 euro Varmint version exclusively in purebred .22 Varmint calibers such as .223 Remington, .222-50 and .224 Valkyrie. The Varmint Black Synt model is different: the rifle comes blued, completely in black and exclusively in .308 Winchester. Even though it also says "Varmint" on it, the model is aimed at raised hide cloven-hoofed game hunting, but above all for sporting use. This is also reflected in the selected twist of 1:11 inches, perfect for typical .30 match and hunting bullets in the weight range of about 150 to 180 grains. When it comes to the Varmint Black Synt's features, the barrel fluting provides moderate weight reduction and improved balance. At the same time, it looks classy and also visually matches well with the bolt's helical millings.
A 62-mm compensator improves the shooting behavior. For those who don't appreciate comps, a threaded cap alternative is included with the gun. The scope of delivery also includes QR sling swivels and two magazines, one of which has a capacity of eight cartridges, while the short magazine, which is flush with the stock, holds three. As for the workmanship, the stock cuts a decent figure both visually and haptically in relation to the gun's price range. It can be individually adjusted using accessories, while the grip areas feature a non-slip texture. The pleasantly wide forend is flat on the underside and has a flat contour – a solid base for shooting from a rest. However, if you prefer a tripod or bipod instead, directly in front of the forend QD mount a threaded hole for a standard sling swivel is hidden under a plastic plunger. The synthetic stock is not a luxury stock, it appears to be of higher quality than some of the most favorable offers in the hunting sector from the USA, but it sounds hollow when knocked on. The fact that Franchi has to pay attention to the price in terms of equipment can also be seen in details such as the trigger guard made of plastic and the bluing as corrosion protection. But the metal surfaces were perfectly processed before bluing, everything looks functional and also the factory supplied Picatinny rail made of steel makes a decent impression. Out of the box, the test rifle cycled correctly. But the bolt slides rather rough in the receiver. Significant relief came from hearty lubricating of the relevant parts with Fluna Tec's ceramic-based Gun Coating. Above all, the spring-loaded bolt catch, which is integrated into the left side of the receiver, benefits from a bit of additional lubrication. If you want the bolt to be even smoother, an additional polish of the bolt catch wouldn't hurt. The spring could also be treated separately.
Firing performance of the Franchi Horizon Varmint in .308 Win.
The Horizon Varmint shoots well. Functional issues: zero. Now that the most important things about the gun's performance have been clarified, let's get into the details. Not only does Franchi offer a seven-year warranty on the Horizon rifles, they also specify a 1 minute-of-angle (MOA) or better accuracy for three shots. At a distance of 100 m, that would equate to a 29-mm group. The rifle's bests of the day were several times below 25 mm for five shots, and the best group was delivered by the HIT hunting load from RWS (23 mm). However, there is certainly still room for improvement:
In combination with the Franchi Horizon Varmint Black Synt: Burris Four Xe 2.5-10x50 and Six Xe 3-18x56 riflescopes
The test rifle came fully assembled and sighted-in with a Four Xe 2.5-10x50 from Burris with reticle 4 including illuminated dot in the center. By European standards, this is a typical general-purpose riflescope for raised hide hunting at short to medium ranges. We have already reviewed the Four Xe series from Burris. For pure target shooting, most shooters would have no problem simply using a higher magnification scope in the 15-25x range with a finer reticle to add a few millimeters to the average group size without otherwise changing anything about the combo of rifle, mount and ammo. Since a Burris Six Xe 3-18x56 (we already had the model in a detailed individual test) could be found in the editorial office after the visit to the shooting range, the testers took this combo and the Diamond Line from Norma to the 100-meter course again. Result: the finer reticle of the Six Xe at 18x magnification makes "hole punching" even easier: three hit groups with the large Burris were 15, 23 (14) and 21 millimeters.
The Franchi Horizon Varmint Black Synt in practice
The factory-set trigger weight of an average of 1,150 g was a bit too hard for our taste, and a third less trigger pull would not be bad for a rifle used for sporting purposes. According to Franchi, the "Relia Trigger" can be adjusted in the range between 800 and 1,900 g via a screw. The Horizon Varmint delivered splendidly overall. The trigger released pleasantly crisp, and the recoil of the .308 remained nice and mild thanks to the combination of the rifle's weight, the compact compensator, and the soft recoil pad. Cartridge feed was smooth, and the ejector and extractor moved all cases out of the ejection port with (not too much) gusto. Ease of aim, stock, stock length, such things are always subjective. And subjectively, the rifle was excellent to use from a benchrest, and the included (medium-height) comb fits in height for a comfortable scope aiming starting from 50-mm objective lens diameter. For pure sporting use, the bolt handle might like to be a bit larger. Cycling itself is quite normal, as is usual for a modern bolt action with a 60-degree throw, and the bolt travel remains short enough that hardly anyone with a tightly shouldered stock would have to keep their eye or cheek safe from the retracted bolt when repeating. For those who prefer to use the Varmint-Franchi for hunting, the polymer removable magazine can be handled very quietly with a little feeling. The click of the safety is already not excessively loud. If you also apply a little pressure on the safety slide from above, it works completely silently.
Franchi Horizon Varmint Black Synt specs and price
|Model:||Franchi Horizon Varmint|
|Magazine Capacity:||3/8 cartridges|
|Overall Length:||1,125 mm (without compensator)|
|Barrel Length:||610 mm|
|Rifle Twist:||1:11" (1:279 mm)|
|Trigger Pull Weight:||1,150g (800 – 1,900 g)|
|Left/right version:||Right version only|
|Features:||Three-lug bolt, two-position trigger safety, adjustable
trigger, bluing, Picatinny rail, fluted barrel and bolt, compensator.|
Test conclusion: what the Franchi Horizon Varmint can offer
Seven-year warranty on the gun, plus a 1 MOA accuracy guarantee, this combined with a practical basic equipment and at a very competitive price. If you are looking for a .308 sporting or hunting rifle with a heavy barrel that will not immediately put your bank account in the red, Franchi's Varminter really opens up a new horizon.
What we liked:
What we liked less:
|- Adjustable trigger and stock|
- Solid factory equipment
|- Plain stock as for material and
- Relatively small bolt handle