Getting started in 3 gun from scratch can be a daunting task. The expenses incurred while gathering the required gear and guns can escalate quickly. Let’s look at one piece that can make or break a match, the shotgun. There are several options in shotgun makes and models, and while the modifications typically are similar across all platforms, the price point is the deciding factor for most shooters. I personally believe that the Benelli M1/M2 platform is the best choice for our game, but the initial cost of a fully modified race M2 (or even a stock model) can be out of the reach for the shooter on a budget.
We modify 3 gun shotguns of all makes at Hawkeye Ordnance, but I was recently asked by a client to build a Franchi Affinity race gun. While I was familiar with the platform, and had a Franchi I12 for a short time for hunting, we had yet to build one in the shop. The Affinity is a inertia operated gun, and shares many parts with its Benelli big sister. The main difference is the recoil system, which is essentially the same as Stoeger uses where the bolt rides on a carriage that is linked to a recoil spring that rides on the outside of the magazine tube. The fire control group is essentially the same as Benelli, it is just not machined and finished to the degree that you would find in an M2. Stoeger also uses this configuration, but I found the Franchi to be higher quality. The receiver is also thicker and lends itself to load porting very well. The best part of this build was the carrier latch. This is the part that keeps your rounds in the magazine, allows the next round to advance after firing, and locks the bolt back when empty. This part is the first step in having a great running gun. Too tight and it will be hard to load, too loose and it will not keep rounds in the mag tube. We spend a bit of time tuning this when we build a race gun and the Franchi has the same one piece design as the Benelli. This can make all the difference. The Stoegers use a hinged two piece design that is difficult to tune, impossible to install an oversized release on, and just flat out fail. The lifter was also of good quality and welded up nicely for the extension. So overall, the Franchi build went about as smoothly as our M2 builds.
Now the price. The traditional choices for entry level models have been the Mossberg JM Pro at around $650, the Stoeger M3K at $625, and the Stoeger M3000 series at $500. As I write this, the Franchi Affinity is selling for about $699. The JM Pro and M3K do have some competition parts on them right out of the box, but let’s be honest, they need to have some work performed on them to make them run properly. While the Stoeger M3000 series is going to be your cheapest route, you can have a modified Affinity that runs great for less than $1K, leaving you with enough cash left over for a standard pistol compared to the cost of a race ready Benelli M2.