A cross between a technical Sporter and a classic game gun makes Lewis Potter sit up and take notice
Zoli is a make of shotgun that crops up from time to time, but is not as well known in the UK as perhaps it ought to be. Having said that, it has sold reasonably well but now, with the might of the importer Edgar Brothers behind it, I predict we will hear more of this maker.
The present Zoli company was formed in 1947, though it is claimed that the Zoli family had connections with the Italian firearms industry stretching back to the 16th century. Whatever the history, this company has become known for upmarket products and an ability to do its own thing, rather than following a well-established safe pattern of gun design. Of course, one over-and-under shotgun will almost always follow the same basic external appearance as any other of this type, with the exception of styling and decorative features — it is the internal construction and attention to detail that often make the real difference.
Zoli Game Standard
The Zoli Game DTG AS SST EJ MC, to give it its full description, is described as a hybrid between a technical Sporter and a classic game gun. My interpretation of that is a gun suitable for all seasons; one for the shooter who enjoys clay, game and roughshooting but wants to stick to one gun. There is a lot to be said for that because, while most of us like different guns and the ability to swap and change, the adage “beware the man with one gun” is as true today as it ever was.
Practice and familiarity with a gun that almost evolves into a companion piece, rather than just a tool, is a big part of the road to shooting success.
First impressions can be summed up in one word: conservative, because there is nothing really extravagant about the styling of this gun. It does have a 10mm top rib at the breech, but this tapers to a bare 5mm at the muzzle and is fitted with a traditional brass bead. The trigger is fairly broad and more akin to a competition gun but I find a wide, well-curved trigger a benefit on any shotgun. Looking down across the barrels it is obvious that the action body is a substantial piece of work, indicative of a strong design.
The rest of the construction owes more in general to game gun styling than the competition circuit. While the fore-end is perhaps a bit longer than found on a dedicated game gun, it is a pleasing shape with refined chequering panels. The curve of the pistol grip is a good compromise between that of a Sporter and a game gun, giving plenty of depth and grip without the chunkiness so often associated with a competition gun. The stock has a reasonable amount of cast, a suitably slim comb and only the ventilated butt pad hints at this gun’s dual-purpose role.
With the 29½in barrels (740mm) this Zoli Game Standard 20-bore balanced almost right on the hinge point of the action; if this was an ultra-light gun that could make the handling a little “frisky” but as the Zoli weighs just a fraction under 7lb it results in a fast but smooth-handling shotgun.
The technical side of things is where this Zoli Game Standard differs from many of the competitors. Not at all obvious until one reads the instruction manual (yes, I know we chaps aren’t supposed to read the instructions, but sometimes it can actually be useful), is the detachable trigger mechanism. The trigger-plate carrying the compact lock work, which includes not just the trigger but springs, hammers, sears and inertia block, is a very neat and mechanically tidy piece of work, removed with the aid of a 2.5mm hexagon tee-wrench supplied as part of the accessories.
This 20-bore arrived with a set of four chokes and, joy of joys, not only does the manual give the American descriptions such as “improved”, “modified” and so on, but also the original British equivalents, such as “three-quarter” and “half-choke”. The range supplied covered full, three- quarter, half and quarter-choke.
One thing I did note was the unusually large, one might say robust, cutouts in the choke tubes to accept the key — this is a good idea for the day a choke tube proves a bit stiff to release.
Apart from the fine chequering on the woodwork, decoration fairly well covers the highly polished action body. This comprises partridges and duck on a raised form of bolster and a pheasant on the bottom of the action body, all surrounded by scrollwork. By way of contrast, the barrels and trigger-guard are a glossy black while the top-lever and safety button/ barrel selector have more of a black matt silk finish. The overall impression is that of reasonably restrained styling.
Zoli Game Standard on test
A tightly tolerance gun where all the parts fit together nicely and work well is always a pleasure to use and this Zoli Game Standard was no exception. Trigger-pulls were delightful, breaking crisply at just over 3½lb while the ejection of spent cases proved adequate without being dramatic.
It helped that the gun fitted me quite well, with a pull length of a generous 143⁄4in so that when I put it up on target, it shot to point of aim. Everything worked as it should; barrel selection did not have a “dead spot” and the auto-safe snicked off and on effortlessly.
Cartridges on test included Eley VIP, Gamebore Pure Gold, Lyalvale Express Special 20 and Hull Cartridge ProTwenty as a clay-busting load. With the larger loads such as the Eley VIP with its 28g shot.
In the past I have been inclined to overlook Zoli's products but in the future, I shall certainly take more notice.