Bruce Potts is impressed with an Italian rifle, scope and moderator package that takes the guesswork out of choosing a combination.
We Brits can be a bit blinkered when it comes to choosing rifles that we perceive to be the norm for us — we tend to go for the same old models, styles and manufacturers. There are a lot of very good makes, especially on the Continent, that are popular there but not here. Edgar Brothers is redressing the balance by importing the range of Zoli Antonio firearms.
This Zoli Model Taiga is offered as a combination package that incorporates a Leica ERi scope and new MaccTecc sound moderator, all for only £2,638.
With this set-up, it makes the choice of a first stalking rifle a cinch — just add ammo and you are ready to go!
Action/bolt and barrel assembly
First you notice the lovely, deep and rich traditional bluing that adorns the barrel and action with a bright polished bolt. Some may say a matt finish is more stalker-friendly, but it suits this rifle. It’s a large action, easily accommodating the 6.5x55mm cartridge. At 8.5in the rounded receiver profile is drilled and tapped for scope bases. Edgar Brothers sent down a one-piece Picatinny rail that complemented the action and I fitted a set of Millet scope rings included in the combo deal.
The bolt is 0.701in outside diameter (OD) and has twin locking lugs. These are not the norm, and closer inspection shows that, if viewed from the front, they have a butterfly-wing profile. This gives the locking surface more bearing and thus a stronger lock-up, which is a nice feature.
The extractor is a single claw and ejection is via a strong plunger set into the bolt face. And the right-hand lug has a “kicker” or spur on its lower edge that acts as a bolt guide to stop binding — another nice feature of the Zoli that’s not evident at first glance. This makes the bolt action very smooth and reliable. The barrel is short on this model at 21.5in, giving the overall length a scant 42.25in.
It is threaded at 0.5in UNF with a thread protector with a 0.638 OD muzzle. The entire barrel is free floated to aid accuracy and the MaccTecc sound moderator fits a treat and adds very little weight.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The trigger is pretty standard, with a single-stage pull of 3.0lb weight, zero creep and a crisp let-off. A set trigger option is available if you desire.
The safety is very interesting and another Zoli feature. A small lever is sited in the right of the bolt shroud, with a knurled leading edge. When the Taiga is cocked, it can be safely de-cocked by pressing this lever. It pops out the rear section of the bolt shroud that disengages the trigger-sear and locks the bolt down. Just before firing push in the bolt shroud and you are ready to shoot — simple but a little noisy.
The magazine has a capacity of three rounds in this calibre and has a metal construction, but with a plastic base all fitting into a one-piece anodised aluminium floorplate.
Best factory loads were the Norma 120-gr B tips, at 1.25in three-shot groups at 100 yards
The stock is another knock-out piece. The quality of walnut is superb, with a striking grain pattern and vivid colour, all with a rubbed oiled finish. It has a pretty normal sporter style, with raised cheekpiece and cut chequering, with no additional contrasting caps to the pistol grip or fore-end, which I like. Though it has sling swivel studs, the recoil pad is a slim plastic offering, which really needs to be rubber to complete what is otherwise an excellent stock.
Accuracy and targets
I fitted the Leica ERi 2.5-10x42mm scope via the Millet mounts supplied and the new MaccTecc sound moderator, and it was still a lightweight fast-handling rifle. The Leica was very good optically and the MaccTecc, despite its small size, was surprisingly quiet on the large 6.5x55mm case. Accuracy and velocity-wise, I was a bit worried about the short 21.5in barrel, but there were no problems.
Best factory loads were the Norma 120-gr B Tips, at 2,634 fps and 1,849 ft/lb and 1.25in three-shot groups at 100 yards.
The Hornady SSTs were hot on the Norma’s heels accuracy-wise and the 140-gr bullet yielded a healthy 2,536 fps for 2,000 ft/lb.
Best reloads were a toss-up between the Hornady 129-gr Interlocks, the Sierra 120-gr Soft Points or the Hornady SSTs. All group around the 1.0in mark at 100 yards. So depending on the bullet type you desire, either of these would be a good choice.
Another surprise from the shooting world, this is a great rifle and even better combination/package. Will it catch on here? I hope so, as the Zoli is a very well-made rifle.
Coupled with the Leica ERi scope and MaccTecc moderator, the Taiga combo is a highly capable rifle that shoots remarkably well.
The price is good, considering the sum of all the parts, and the Taiga would be a great rifle for someone who wants to take the guesswork out of choosing a rifle, scope and sound moderator combination.