It's a bold move by Breda to create a new over-and-under game gun in a crowded market. Matt Clark tests the Zenith L to see if it cuts the mustard
The new Breda Zenith L is set up to be a game gun. As such, it has a solid sighting rib that tapers from 11mm to 7mm, as well as a solid joining rib.
The action has restrained foliate engraving and is polished, with parts of it being brushed steel. I liked the brush steel, which reminded me of the metal bracelets on some expensive watches, but I wasn’t a fan of the engraving. To me, it’s something or nothing. If you are going to engrave, go to town. I preferred the deco-style engraving on the clay-buster Zenith. However, this is personal opinion and I know many of you will disagree with me. What I do applaud is the lack of flying pheasants on the action. It’s so easy to get those wrong.
The details on the Zenith L
With grade three, oil-finished, well-figured walnut, the Zenith L I had on test looked more expensive than the sub-£3,000 price bracket. The schnabel-tip fore-end will offend some but it filled the leading hand nicely and gave good control. The steeply raked full pistol grip had quite a large radius and right-handed palm swell. This is more usual on a clay gun and some game shooters won’t like it, preferring the elegant game stocks typical on Italian guns. I shoot Brownings and Mirokus so was quite at home with the fuller pistol grip. It gave more control of the gun. A custom-made stock will cost you around £300 extra.
I tested the gun with fixed choke 32in barrels that importer Viking Arms says would be ideal on high pheasants. I noted that the gun was only chambered to 2¾in and so would not accept 3in magnum cartridges. This seemed slightly odd for a high pheasant gun. Andy Norris, Viking’s UK sales manager, explained that in reality few game shooters used magnum cartridges, so Breda thought it an unnecessary expense to chamber the gun to 3in.
Future-proofed for steel
The chrome-lined barrels on the Zenith L are future-proofed for steel and Andy tells me that even with full choke steel shot can still be used. This is because of the unusually long, conical profile of the chokes. The bores of the barrels are relatively tight, which is better for fibre-wads, and there is a choice of 30in or 32in barrels. The chokes on the gun I tested were full in both barrels but they can be bored for whatever choke you prefer.
The trigger-plate action is like that on many Italian guns and is made entirely by Breda. Captive coil spring assemblies power the tumblers and it is an inertia-driven action, so initially heavy load cartridges will be needed to cycle the action until the gun is worn in. I used 28g loads and it cycled those perfectly; to be honest, you wouldn’t really be using loads lighter than that in the field.
Like its Italian counterparts, the Zenith L has a low-profile action but the gape opened fully so a cartridge could be fitted easily in the bottom barrel. Ideal on a busy peg.
The lock-up of this gun was solid, using conical U-shaped locking bolts rather like the Beretta 690. The gun closes with a solid feel indicative of quality engineering.
On the back strap you will find the selector toggle and safety catch, which moves with positivity – again, indicative of quality.
The single selective trigger can be adjusted for reach and is on a sprung ball-bearing rack, so it can be moved by increments. A gunsmith could adjust the pull weight, however, the factory-set trigger felt just fine to me.
Wear and tear
Although this gun is unlikely to experience the same amount of use as its clay-busting stablemate, the life of the gun can be extended because anything that wears out can be easily replaced. Even better, you don’t have to be a gunsmith to do this. Parts of the barrel lumps can be swapped using an Allen key. Even the trunnions and hingepins are interchangeable as well as the ejectors. This means the gun should last many years and offers real, practical, value for money.
That’s the thing about the Zenith L – it’s a gun that is practical and great value for money. Breda has been spent money where it matters, rather than on fancy decoration and ostentation, but the gun still looks classy. However, the proof of a gun is always in how well it performs, no matter how good it looks or how competitive the price.
This gun was tested on some simulated game targets at E J Churchill. The first station offered two long crossers. Even with full chokes I managed to hit both targets’ centre pattern. I found the gun came to the shoulder nicely. With length of pull at 15in the gun was a good fit for me and the comb the right height. I wasn’t so lucky with the next pair, missing one, although I found that the gun swung nicely. I feared it might be a bit barrel heavy because the balance point is just beyond the hingepin, but when the gun was in the shoulder it felt just right.
It weighs around 7½lb and is average weight for a driven shooting or high bird gun. There are many heavier guns with 32in barrels but, for me, the weight was ideal. Perceived recoil was well managed and it was comfortable to shoot, feeling solid in the shoulder and easy to move on target. Some may find the trigger pulls a bit heavy but I liked the way they were set up. The trigger broke crisply and predictably, and gave the impression of a finely engineered gun.
As a driven game gun, the Zenith L ticks all the boxes. It’s got attractive wood, adequate engraving – if a little underwhelming – the build quality seems to be excellent and it shoots nicely. Add to this easily replaceable moving parts and a reasonable price tag and you have a winner.
Breda might be more used to making semi-autos but the Italian company has shown that it knows a thing or two about over-and-unders with the Zenith L. It has been ambitious in making a good-looking gun with easily replaceable wearing parts, all for under £3,000. In this price bracket it is competing against the big boys, such as Browning and Beretta, when it comes to the game-shooting category of shotguns, but it holds its own among them. I would say dare to be different and try one of these.
- Available in 12-bore only
- Low-profile action
- Fixed chokes
- Adjustable trigger
- 2¾in chambers
- Easily replaceable parts
- Long forcing cones
- Imported by Viking Arms
Breda Zenith L in detail
Gun tested: £2,665
Barrels: 30in and 32in (tested)
Stock: Grade 3 with 15in in oiled stock as standard.
A basic custom-made stock costs from £300
Rib: Solid 11mm tapered to 7mm
Should last many years and offers real, practical, value for money.