April 19, 2022
By Layne Simpson
Franchi introduced the Momentum bolt-action rifle in 2018, and it is still in production. A modified version called the Momentum Elite came along earlier this year, and it was available initially in .223 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. The 6.5 PRC, .300 Win. Mag. and .350 Legend were added in 2021.
Also new is the Momentum Varmint Elite with a heavy barrel in .22-250, .223 Rem. and .224 Valkyrie. Respective rifling twist rates for barrels in those calibers are 1:12, 1:9 and 1:7. When given the opportunity to wring out one of the new varmint rifles, I wished it would be in the .224 Valkyrie because I had not shot a bolt-action rifle chambered for that cartridge. My wish was granted.
Cylindrical in shape, the Varmint Elite receiver is 1.350 inches in diameter and 8.625 inches long. Its roof has the same contour as the Remington Model 700 receiver, and a Picatinny rail is attached at the factory.
Unlike the so-called “modern” recoil-lug configuration of some rifles introduced over the past few years, this one is old-school with a southward-pointing lug measuring a hefty 1. 290 inches wide, 0.285 inch long and 0.405 inch thick. A separate part, the lug is held captive between a shoulder on the barrel and the front of the receiver. Not exactly what Paul Mauser had in mind, but I am sure he would approve. Fit between the recoil lug and its mortise in the stock is precise.
The bolt has a spring-loaded, plunger ejector and a Sako-style extractor. Three locking lugs, oriented on 120-degree centers, are formed by machining metal from the forward end of an oversize body measuring 0.865 inch in diameter. This reduces production cost by eliminating the broaching of raceways in the receiver for locking lugs that protrude beyond the outer surface of the bolt body.
As a rule, this type of bolt travels to and fro in the receiver a bit more smoothly and with less binding than some two-lug bolts. Shorter bolt lift also speeds up cycling a tad or two. Reducing bolt rotation to 60 degrees lessens the likelihood of handle interference with a low-mounted scope. As the bolt is rotated to full lockup, its lugs engage shoulders machined inside the steel receiver.
In the event of propellant gas flow-back around the body of the bolt due to a blown primer or ruptured case, the bolt shroud is shaped to deflect gases away from the face of the shooter.
In some three-lug actions, the amount of force required to rotate the bolt to full firing pin compression is increased considerably when compared to a two-lug design, but those clever engineers at the Brescia, Italy, factory managed to keep bolt lift about the same as for the Remington Model 700 action. Regardless of the rifle or the number of locking lugs, a light coat of grease on the cocking cam surface of the bolt body helps.
Depressing a latch on the left side of the receiver allows the bolt to be completely withdrawn. A 1/16-inch pin punch is used to disassemble it for cleaning, although the owner’s manual accompanying the rifle warns against separating the firing pin and its spring.
The Franchi online catalog indicates that the trigger has a pull weight adjustment range of two to four pounds, but according to the owner’s manual, trigger adjustment should be done only by the manufacturer or by an authorized dealer. The rifle arrived with an average pull weight of 2.7 pounds and a variation of four ounces, which was good enough for me. The pull was crisp and smooth with no detectable creep, and while there was overtravel, it was not enough to matter in the field.
A two-position, trigger-blocking safety positioned beside the receiver tang operates smoothly, and when engaged, it does not block bolt rotation. This allows the chamber to be loaded and unloaded with the safety engaged.
The hammer-forged, chrome-moly barrel is screwed into the receiver. It’s supposed to be 24 inches long, but the actual length of the one tested is 24.75 inches—not including the 30-port radial muzzle brake. This is good because the longer the better on a varmint rifle. In fact, a 26-inch barrel would receive no complaint from me, and the barrel of my Remington 40X in .220 Swift is a very nice 28 inches long. Respective diameters at the receiver and muzzle of the Franchi barrel are 1.070 inches and 0.870 inch. Five shallow but rather wide spiraled cooling flutes extend over about 12 inches of the barrel. Like other metal on the rifle, it has a Cerakote finish in Midnight Bronze.
Two polymer magazines of single-stack design come with the rifle. The short version has a capacity billing of four rounds of .224 Valkyrie, but the one I received held only three rounds. It protrudes a half-inch below the bottom of the rifle. The other magazine is two inches longer, and it held the specified seven rounds.
I found both magazines to be a bit difficult to load to full capacity. For what it’s worth, I load the magazine of a bolt-action varmint rifle when calling coyotes and hunting feral hogs, but when blasting away in a busy prairie dog town, I seldom use the magazine. Not all rifles like to be single-loaded, but the Varmint Elite does. Simply toss a cartridge through the ejection port and slam the bolt home.
With the bolt closed, a push on a release button inside the trigger guard prompts an empty magazine to leap into the hand. Magazine removal with the bolt retracted requires a light tug. Pressing on a tab at the rear of the magazine allows the floorplate to be removed for interior cleaning.
Due to an interior magazine length of 2.335 inches, there is a bit of room for seating out bullets in handloads, should doing so be needed for best accuracy.
The barreled action rests in a poly-propylene stock described by Franchi as Evolved Ergonom-X, and it was designed specifically for varmint shooting. Everything considered—including appearance, stock to metal fit, overall quality and attention to detail—it is several levels above most injection-molded stocks I have examined. As a bonus, its Sitka Optifade Subalpine finish is flawlessly applied and not likely to be spotted by an incoming coyote.
The beavertail fore-end with its slightly rounded bottom surface is 2.5 inches wide and has molded-in checkering. The barrel free-floats and interior girder-shaped reinforcing in the barrel channel minimizes deflection when exterior pressure is applied to the bottom and sides of the fore-end.
In addition to flush-fit metal sockets for push button-style, quick-detach sling swivels at front and rear, a receptacle for an included post for a Harris bipod is located at the front of the stock. It’s accessed by removing the filler plate.
Removing the polymer trigger guard allows the front of the grip to be removed and switched to other styles, although a Franchi rep told us grip insert replacements won’t be available until next year. The medium-height polymer cheek rest can be detached for switching to rests that are a bit lower or a bit higher. Length of pull with the TSA recoil pad that comes on the rifle is 14 inches. Thicker and thinner TSA pads are available from ShopFranchi.com, but like grip inserts, cheek pads are not yet available—although Franchi indicates these should be out soon.
Fresh from its factory box, the Elite Varmint weighed nine pounds, three ounces. Using Talley 30mm Tactical rings to attach a Burris Signature HD 5-25x50mm scope took its pasture poodle popping heft to 10 pounds, 13.5 ounces. The rifle departs the factory with an accuracy promise of less than an inch at 100 yards for three shots, but since it is a varmint rifle and varmint rifles are often subjected to longer strings of consecutive shots, I fired five-shot groups.
Franchi Momentum Elite Varmint Specifications
- Type: Three-lug bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: .223 Rem., .22-250, .224 Valkyrie (tested)
- Capacity: 4- and 7-round detachable magazines
- Barrel: 24.5 in., hammer-forged chrome-moly, 1:7 twist
- Overall Length: 46.25 in.
- Weight: 9 lb., 3 oz.
- Stock: Injection-molded synthetic, Sitka Optifade Subalpine finish
- Sights: None; Picatinny rail
- Trigger: Adjustable, 2.7 lb. pull (measured, as received)
- Safety: Two-position
- Price: $999
- Manufacturer: Franchi, FranchiUSA.com