For many years Becky McKenzie used a Zoli in competition, so who better to test the latest Zoli Z-Sport MR?
The Zoli Z-Sport MR Mid Rib is what I would class as the Zoli Z-Sport step rib because this actually has a step-rib style of top rib.
Having shot a Zoli for many years, I pretty well know its range of guns inside out. For those who don’t, I suggest you try one because there’s something for everyone.
The brand starts with the Z-One, a pretty basic Zoli with standard fixed stock, but the walnut is of good quality. It also comes with flush chokes.
Then comes the Kronos. I feel this is an understated gun and many more should have been sold in the UK because it’s an excellent bit of kit.
Then there is the Z line-up: Z-Skeet, Z-Trap, Z-Sport. Zoli Z-Sport Mid Rib, which I am testing here, and Z-High Rib, which is available in Skeet and Sporting. Next is the Z-Extra. This is the Z-Sport range with extra engraving.
Running alongside these are the Z-XL Evo and Z-Bella, which are the ladies’ guns. Finally, there is the Z-Vintage. This is the one I wanted to get my hands on, with traditional colour case hardening and gold engraving.
Testing the Zoli Z Sport MR
On to the Zoli Z Sport MR. I had the 29.5in version. The gun I currently shoot has 32in barrels, so I was keen to see how I fared. Would my muscle memory of using longer barrels mean that I would swing the gun wildly when tracking a target? We went to Sporting Targets in Bedford, where the MR got a good workout on a wide range of clays.
The gun arrived in the normal blue Zoli ABS case. The barrels and stock were in the attractive blue Zoli socks. Putting the gun together and easing it into my shoulder in the shop, it felt somewhat heavy. I popped it on the scales and it weighed in at 8lb 4oz, 2oz lighter than my Perazzi.
The length of pull on this particular gun was 15in, which I believe is why it felt heavy for me. The stock being too long for me meant my arms were stretched out to hold the gun, plus I’d had a competition the previous weekend, so I was rather fatigued.
However, out on the range the Zoli was transformed. The mid rib or step rib, as it is sometimes known, gave a wonderful sight picture, higher than a flat rib, but nowhere near as high as a high-rib style shotgun. The Zoli Z-Sport MR had the black action, with a gold engraved Z on it. I do like this plain style action because it is understated and classy.
The barrels had an orange foresight and had extended titanium-coated chokes. Talking of chokes, you always get a good selection with the Zoli Z range. This one had Skeet, cylinder, light modified, modified and improved modified. Whatever choke is fitted, I have found that a Zoli always patterns exceptionally well.
The MR comes in 29.5 or 32in barrels, which are silver soldered for extra strength. Zoli was the first to introduce this technique into gunmaking in 1975. It has the effect of reducing the micro vibrations when shooting by 90% and ensures the longevity of the barrels, which are proofed for superior steel.
This gun is only available in 12-bore as it is designed purely for competition. It comes with some fine Turkish walnut and a fully adjustable comb. The Z range also has detachable trigger groups, which are titanium-coated, whereas the Kronos is just highly polished. Having a detachable trigger group means you can swap them out easily in a competition without breaking your flow. Other makers who use this technique are Perazzi and Beretta.
The trigger mechanism has self-lubricating springs, selective trigger and is inertia operated. The trigger position is also adjustable for length of pull, making shooting more comfortable for people with small hands.
Attacking the first few clays, I found the movement of the barrels smooth and accurate and the gun had low recoil. (Read more about recoil here.) Wondering how a quick direction change would feel with it, I tried a right to left crosser. Then a left to right quartering way. Smash! Smash! Thank you very much. The handling was great all round. The MR moves gracefully and quickly, without putting undue strain on the arms.
If you happen to pick up a Zoli Z-Sport MR and think it’s a bit of a heavy fella, I suggest that you go and shoot it before making a decision on it. Believe me, this is one nice handling banger.
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea having a mid rib, but I can highly recommend trying the Zoli Z-Sport MR over a lot of the competition. It was truly a pleasure to test this gun.
- Model Zoli Z-Sport MR
- Bore 12-bore
- Action Boss locking system
- Barrel Length 29.5, 32in
- Chokes extended titanium coated
- Rib mid rib (step rib)
- Forend rounded sporting style
- Weight 8lb 4oz
- Price £5,650
More on Zoli Z-Sport MR
- Extra interchangeable barrel sets available on request
- Action finished in silver or blued
- Wood is select Turkish walnut and is oil polished
- Detachable trigger unit
- Custom stock available on request
- Hand-finished engraving
Antonio Zoli is a company with a wealth of gunmaking history. It is based in Gardone Val Trompia, Brescia, alongside many of the other Italian brands of shotgun manufacturers. The first Antonio Zoli was born in 1905, his father Giuseppe built flintlocks in his shop in Magno, a small village located in the vicinity of Gardone, near the present company location.
Archives indicate that the Zoli family were making guns as early as 1490 in Magno, then reports from around 1845 state that Giovanni Zoli was a renowned flintlock maker. Just over 100 years on, in 1956, it was said to be the first company to build replicas of old muzzle loading guns. In the following decade came the manufacture of combination guns (guns with one rifled barrel and one smoothbore barrel) breaking the monopoly held by gunmakers in central Europe.
A few years later, over-and-under and side-by-side guns were added to the catalogue, as well as bolt-action rifles. At the beginning of the 1990s, Zoli decided to make a range of drilling guns called MG-92. This represented a new challenge, making Zoli compete with long-established, well-known manufacturers from eastern Europe. Today, Paolo Zoli runs the company. He is like family to me because Zoli sponsored me for more than seven years. Today’s range of Zolis are varied and can be custom-made to your specifications.
My history with Zoli started along the Olympic route – Olympic Skeet to be precise. Not the path I actually wanted to take, but after some pestering from various people, including coaches, I decided to give it a try. But with only two years leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, it was going to be a tall order.
Back in the day, I was shooting a proper old Krieghoff K80 and, for me, this was never going to make a good Skeet gun. So my hubby John and I set out to find an Olympic Skeet gun for me, and yes, we were on a bit of a budget.
Beretta was the first stop; it was the go-to brand. A nice gentleman from a shop recommended a 682 Gold E. “Hmm,” I thought, “a Sporter for Olympic Skeet?” It wasn’t quite what we wanted. Then he told us it was a two-year wait for a proper Olympic Skeet gun, so that was off the list.
Then we spoke to Chris Potter (of the eponymously named Tunbridge Wells gun shop). He was incredibly helpful. There was a Perazzi Olympic Skeet gun on its way to him and the order for it had been cancelled, so if we wanted it we could have it. John and I had never picked up a Perazzi, so we had to have a chat about this. When I got hold of it, well, I am the proud owner of a Perazzi MX2000S.
Anyway, another shooter I was chatting to mentioned Zoli. “Who is Zoli?” I asked. Back in the day there were not many around on the circuit, hence my ignorance. From what I determined, Zoli was worth a try as it fitted my budget and there was a large range of guns to choose from.
It turned out the Olympic route was not for me, but I did compete in the first ever International Clay Target Shooting Federation (ICTSF) World Skeet Championship held at Doveridge, Derbyshire, many years ago and got a lovely bronze medal.
It was truly a pleasure to test this gun.