Is a shapely figure enough to draw more than just the eye? Alex Flint investigates the curves of one of Zoli's latest offerings
The Zoli Pernice 20 bore will make an inarguable case for the heart as well as the head, combining great handling with eye-catching looks. That’s what I believe Zoli hopes.
Excellent flowing lines
It certainly is a pretty thing to behold, thanks to a lovely round body and excellent flowing lines from the butt all the way through to the rounded push-button fore-end and solid top rib. Given the working parts of the gun are built on a trigger plate, as on all Zoli guns, the action body is kept impressively shallow and has been given a strikingly round shape.
This emphasis on natural curves is carried right through the gun, with the back of the action body being deeply scalloped, flowing into a Prince of Wales-style semi-pistol grip. There is barely a straight line to be found, save for the borders around the chequering, and all this is doubtless improved thanks to the gun’s 20 bore frame.
Most striking is the engraving – full of detail and covering virtually every part of the action body. A special design created by famed engraving studio Bottega Incisioni sees great swathes of Acanthus flowing over the entirety of the action, wrapping around the gun with seemingly no beginning or end.
While applied by machine, Zoli is keen to point out that all Pernice guns have their engraving finished entirely by hand, and while this certainly rings true upon close inspection, it also gives rise to a little disappointment.
- The engraving is sadly quite shallow, and the shading applied to give the overall picture more contrast is – at least on our test gun – at times ineffective in creating the desired illusion of depth.
- The wood used on the gun is also a little lacking, featuring some good figuring in the stock and excellent tight, straight grain through the hand, but having a rather pale overall finish.
- Looking at official photographs from Zoli, one suspects both of these issues would be resolved if the buyer chooses to opt for the Ambassador-grade finish, a premium option available for an extra £800 which gives a different engraving design, higher quality wood and greater hand shaping of the rounded body. You even get hand finishing of the chequering on the Churchill-style top rib.
No matter the grade of finish one opts for, the Pernice can only be had in 20 or 28 bore, with .410 also an option but using the 28 bore frame. This is an interesting decision, following the increasing trend towards flexible, smaller bore game guns, which doubtless has aesthetic benefits but also helps maintain the purity of the shooting experience.
Barrels are available in 28”, 29½” and 32” lengths, all with multichokes, with our test gun with 28” barrels weighing in at just under 6lbs 4oz.
The balance of the gun is excellent, and the Pernice is a pleasure in use with the crisp trigger pulls being worthy of note.
The only downside is the metallic noise the gun produces when closed.
While I found the Pernice pleasant to look at and good to shoot, I am not convinced it really does anything differently enough make it stand out. It has a lovely shape to it and the engraving is fulsome, but it hasn’t quite stuck in my mind the way other guns do. Similarly, it was good fun to shoot, though only really in the way small bore guns are.
Rizzini aims to challenge the big names, but even though it starts from £3,895, will the Rizzini RB EM's price…
I first got my hands on this delightful custom Beretta in the April 2015 issue of Shooting Gazette. On first look the differences are…
- Engineering: 8/10 Zoli’s well-designed trigger plate action is put to fine use.
- Handling: 8/10 Very pleasant – fine balance and movement and excellent trigger pulls.
- Looks & finishing: 7/10 Very nice to look at casually with particularly fine lines, but wood and engraving don’t stand up to closer inspection on the standard model.
- Reliability & customer service: 9/10 Zoli guns are reliable and UK importers Edgar Brothers will ensure you are looked after if you experience problems.
- Value: 7/10 Some challenging competition in this price bracket, but will interest those looking for something a little out of the ordinary.
- Overall: 39/50
View from the gun shop
Zoli guns are very strong and reliable thanks to the action, trigger plate and monobloc all being milled from single blocks of steel.
Like most Italian guns the barrels are totally silver soldered to the ribs along their length, ensuring strength and longevity of the gun but making any potential barrel repairs slightly trickier.
The profile of the gun is quite handsome as you would hope for a small bore, round action gun, with a nicely swept back Prince of Wales style-grip really complementing the lines of the gun.
Wood to metal fit and overall finish is very good, and the fine design of the engraving is quite eye-catching – I particularly like the stippling effect used on the fences.
Although the wood has a good grain and certainly looks to be quite strong, its finish is a little disappointing considering the price. That being said, the chequering is very fine and has been extremely well executed.
Really, the problem this gun has is its price; you could forgive much were it not for the fact that at almost £7,000 it is putting itself amongst some pretty serious competition.
For example, a Beretta 687 EELL is available from £6,625 as a 20 bore, or for a more direct contrast the round body Rizzini RB EM Deluxe with upgraded wood and hand finished engraving can be had at £4,595.
In the field
- In common with virtually all smaller bore guns I have shot, the Pernice was a lot of fun to use. Out in the field it tackled fast-moving targets with ease, and recoil was very well controlled.
- Of particular note is the sight plain the gun gives you, with the tapered Churchill-style rib giving an excellent view and aiding in target acquisition, particularly on fast-crossing birds.
- Mounting was consistently good and trigger pulls nice and crisp without being sharp.
- Ejection was very strong and the gun opened to a good gape every time, even in the heat of the action.
- Overall the Pernice was a pleasure to shoot and didn’t let me down, but didn’t quite leave me fizzing with excitement as the very best guns would do.
Didn't leave me fizzing with excitement