Friday, 29 June 2007
The Zoli Kronos shotgun has bucked the Italian trend in no uncertain terms.
Looking for a clay-shooting gun that's a bit out of the ordinary? Then the Zoli Kronos might be the one for you.
So, what's different - apart from a manufacturer whose name might not be as familiar as some?
In a nutshell, this is the cheapest gun available with a drop-out trigger mechanism, but there is more to it than that.
Who makes it?
Antonio Zoli SpA, at a modern factory in Italy's most famous gun-making area, the Gardone Valley, just outside the city of Brescia. There have been Zolis making guns in the valley since before 1500, but the modern company was founded in 1945.
An early speciality was replicas of historic muzzle-loaders, and another claim to fame is the manufacture of rifle/shotgun combinations. They also make double-barrelled and bolt-action rifles, but quality shotguns have always been on the menu.
Now, with a third generation of the Antonio Zoli family in charge, the factory produces fine guns, with modern engineering techniques and computer controlled machine tools taking over, but not completely replacing traditional craftsmanship.
The guns are not that well-known in the UK because of a slightly erratic importing history, but that problem is now a thing of the past.
How adaptable is it?
There are two versions, a sporter and a trap gun. The sporter could be used for skeet as well, but it is a bit heavy for most field shooting - except on an occasional basis. Could be OK in a static situation, like a pigeon hide. The trap version suits all trap disciplines, but virtually nothing else.
How does it work?
On the face of things, this is a typical Italian-designed gun, with a compact, low-profile action and with the barrels hinged on stub pins. It is in the detail things start to get interesting.
The action itself is a strong, steel forging designed in the English Boss over-under tradition, and locking is with a two-pronged bolt which engages with bites in the rear end of the chambers aligned with the centre line of the bottom barrel. There is also a bottom lug below the rear of the chambers which engages with a recess in the action floor. This arrangement ensures a very secure and mechanically efficient lock-up, quite the equal to the systems provided by other top Italian manufacturers such as Beretta and Perazzi.
Ejectors are of the spring-loaded design usually fitted to this style of gun, and are activated by rods running through the side-walls of the action.
A one-piece cocking lever is driven by a cam on the fore-end iron. The strikers run in sleeves to ensure a smooth forward movement, and the sleeves feature vent-holes to help get rid of any high-pressure gases that may escape should a primer become punctured at the moment of firing.
Considering the gun has a drop-out trigger group, Zoli engineers have kept the action commendably slim. With a broad action you get one of two problems: either thick wood at the head of the stock to accommodate the width, or, if a normal-width stock with a broad action cut-out is fitted, thin and possibly fragile wood.
Now for that drop-out trigger group. Unlike some, it doesn't just drop out with the simple movement of a button or catch, removal requires the slackening of a grub screw with a T-headed Allen key which is supplied with the gun. This means the mechanism cannot be dropped out accidentally, but it is also not a convenient procedure should you wish to remove the mechanism quickly for security reasons - say while the gun is left for a short period in a car, or unattended on a shooting ground.
However, it does mean the group can be very easily removed for maintenance and cleaning - in fact there is no reason why you shouldn't check it every few times you clean the gun. It also means for some shooters the replacement of a tired or broken mainspring could be a relatively simple DIY job. On most other guns such a procedure means the removal of the stock, and other work usually best left to gunsmiths.
The tumblers do not immediately rebound after firing, the firing pins being withdrawn from the fully-forward position by the locking bolt pressing the hammers back when the top lever is opened.
A recoil-driven inertia mechanism transfers the single trigger to the second barrel, and barrel selection is by a rocking switch in the safety thumbpiece, very similar in outward appearance to the mechanism used by Beretta.
The trigger is adjustable for reach, a small grub screw locking it in one of three positions.
The exterior of the action is finished in black, with all of the internal parts brightly polished.
- Constructed on the now-usual monobloc principle, with the two tubes sleeved into a one-piece forging which contains the bites for the locking mechanism.
- Material is chrome-moly steel.
- Thirty and 32-inch tubes are available on both the sporter and trap versions.
- Sporter is a multichoke with five tubes provided, while trap versions have fixed chokes of full and 3/4.
- The gun tested, a sporter - had ventilated top and side ribs, and a matted top rib tapering from 11mm at the breech to 10mm at the muzzle.
- Wood quality is generally good, with well-figured, tightly-grained walnut treated to a semi-oil finish.
- Pistol grip on the sporter tested was quite deep and full, with a very slight palm swell.
- Stock length on the sporter is 14.3/4in, with drops of 1.1/2 and 2in at heel and toe respectively.
- Some shooters may prefer a bit more drop at the heel - say an extra half inch - but, as with all guns, adjustments can be made.
- Standard sporter fore- end is of a beavertail design, but not in a broad, trap-shooting style.
The sporter weighs around 8lb, and the trap version - as is usual - is about 1/2lb heavier. These are good weights for guns which may be used to fire well over 100 cartridges in a day.
What the tester thought
Sporting Gun tested the sporter in early 2003. The gun was found to be well-made and finished, and the wood quality and trigger assembly were particularly admired. Handling, styling and value for money all got nine points out of 10, and the only niggle was that the sporter doesn't come with a fixed-choke option.
If you prefer a more 'traditional' feel to a sporter, then high-grade versions of the Browning B425 and the Miroku MK70 will be within your reach. For a more 'Italian' feel you might try a Beretta 682 Gold.
There are many variations available on the Zoli theme. You can discuss them with the importers, Stephen J. Fawcett, 7 Great John Street, Lancaster, LA1 1NQ, telephone 01524-32033.
Try the English-language pages on www.zoli.it
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