Mark Stone reacquaints himself with the Z-Sport, a gun that’s brought Zoli international success...
While every top gunmaker offers a selection of shotguns specifically designed for each of the various disciplines, there’s always one particular model that’ll bring them the recognition they seek, and that’s their sporters. In the hands of a competent shooter there isn’t a clay target event the sporting 12 gauge can’t take on. Any decent sporting clay layout incorporates going away birds, driven birds, crossers, “rabbits”, and a method of throwing a clay in every direction, so if a top end sporting 12 gauge can take them on and hit them then what better all-rounder is there?
The Z-Sport action is based on the familiar top quality boxlock design.
And so we come to Zoli’s Z-Sport, a gun that embodies the ability to direct its muzzles towards all the aforementioned clay targets and see them all shatter on a regular basis providing the shooter is up to the job. Here could well be the 12 gauge you’ve been looking for, a competition shotgun that apart from minimal but very tasteful ornamentation is there to do a job, that job being to gather in as many trophies and titles as you can find events.
Complete with a fitted travelling case, the instant you see the Z-Sport it’s obvious that this is a no frills competition gun. Good, strong straight-grained oiled walnut forms the big sporter stock and elegant London-style Anson-latch fore-end. Fit and finish are excellent. A thin soft rubber recoil pad completes the butt, while neat panels of checkering have been cut into the open radius grip and fore-end, the only addition being a deep machined, ‘Z’ embossed medallion let into the grip’s pommel.
o make it comfortable for extended shooting sessions, the stock is slightly larger proportioned than usual, and very nicely profiled.
The 32”, 3” chambered, gloss black monobloc barrels are well struck, with an almost imperceptible flare over the last three inches allowing for the extended choke tubes. And once again these hint at this Zoli’s purpose, the set of six chokes comprise Skeet 1 and 2, Improved Cylinder, Light Modified, Modified and Improved Modified, all of them forming the muzzle restrictions most competitive sporting shooters prefer.
The grip features a sensibly sized palm swell that should suit the hands of the majority of shooters.
The trigger blade can be adjusted fore and aft over 1/2” to suit the individual shooter.
The Boss-style derived boxlock, inertia driven action is typical of Zoli. Two large cut-outs either side of the standing breech allow the extensions either side of the bottom chamber to roll into place and then lock out, securely holding the gun closed. Externally, the burnished silver finish gives the Z-Sport an elegant look while ensuring glare is kept to a minimum. A gold inlaid ‘Z’ is the only form of embellishment. Above, stippling covers sections of the metalwork while a silver matte finish extends over the short throw top-lever, the only other addition to the top tang being the hatched manual safety and barrel selector. The location and design of this ensures that it falls easily beneath your thumb when you’re ready to switch the order in which the barrels fire.
A feature of all Zoli shotguns is the detachable trigger mechanism, removed in seconds by following the instructions supplied. Should on the remotest chance a firing pin or coil spring break they can be replaced in minutes by either a gunsmith or by the shooter once he’s been shown the correct procedure. And to ensure you have the spares at hand, a small case is supplied with the gun, containing two spare firing pins and springs, along with the appropriate hex key that locates into the small keyhole to the rear of the oversized trigger guard.
Follow the instruction book and the trigger mechanism can be detached in seconds.
BIG IS BEST
Anyone who’s ever handled a top end competition 12-gauge will immediately feel fully conversant with this Zoli. Like all shotguns of this type the Z-Sport is a big gun – reason being it’s designed for sustained shooting – the 9lbs weight and the balance point directly beneath the hinges are all there for a reason.
Most competitions are set out over a hundred targets that will be shot on average over a two hour period, the weight and equilibrium of the Z-Sport meaning not only does the gun eliminate most of the potential felt recoil, its handling and physical characteristics work with the shooter allowing him to repeat the exact same shouldering time and again, while the feel and reaction of this Zoli never alters. In other words, the gun’s design encourages consistency, something shooters of all levels should constantly strive for.
Contrasting metal finishes and fine detailing immediately establish the Zoli as a quality gun.
As regards the Z-Sport on test, the overall length of the gun, including the protrusion of the extended chokes, was 50-1/8” with a barrel length of 32-1/4”. Drops at comb and heel are 15/16” and 1 15/16” which together give the shooter a slightly wider margin of error when mounting “gun down” on fast FITASC targets or similar. The view of the target along the 7-10mm tapered vented top rib, even if miss-mounted, is still sufficiently correct to achieve the right muzzle/target picture. Length of pull as I had the gun set was 14-1/4” although this can be varied either way by around 1/2” while still retaining the remarkably consistent 5lbs 1oz trigger weight.
The monobloc barrels sleeve into 3” chambers – note the strong and sturdy ejectors
Hooking the Z-Sport up to my Arrow Laser Shot confirmed my initial impressions that the gun would shoot slightly high for my own style. That said, by pushing my head down ever so slightly the Z-Sport became flat in attitude, a handling feature I personally look for in anything other than a trap gun.
The Z-Sport’s barrel selection system is an inertia driven design.
But while the Z-Sport has been designed to shoot at the highest levels of competition it certainly doesn’t preclude the gun from performing at its utmost around a local 50-birder. Screwing Skeet 1 and Skeet 2 chokes into the muzzles and loading up with my favourite 28 gram Eley VIP Sporting fibrewads, the Zoli was on the mark from the off, instantly highlighting its championship winning pedigree. Head hard down on the comb, the Zoli broke clays out of the sky with ease, even a pair of almost impossible left to right crossers breaking at the extremity of their travel. The fact that one shot eliminated them both was confirmation of the quality of the choke’s patterning, and that with good quality cartridges, wider restrictions are all you actually need.
The overall size and weight of the Z-Sport ensures that while the gun easily changes direction it does so in a controlled manner, the attitude of the gun encourages fluidity and control of movement – a trait confirmed as the gun performed with equal balance and excellent results when shot over an additional couple of rounds of skeet. Never once was the Z-Sport tiring to use, every part of the gun was efficient from the shattering of the clays to the ease of opening. The fact that the ejectors were timed to allow the empties to be caught and thrown in the nearby bin is a nice touch, and the gun handles and moves equally well when open, waiting to be loaded.
The long, extended choke tubes throw a well defined, uniform pattern.
If this were my Z-Sport my only modification would be to have the comb lowered by about 1/16”. But given this Zoli’s purpose in life along with the hefty price tag, it’s the type of competition gun that I and anyone else considering buying one would have tailored to their physical needs. For me the gun as tested could be altered in a matter of hours in the hands of a qualified stockmaker or gunsmith, but others may require a little more. But whether the Z-Sport is correct straight out of the box or needs some detailing, its doesn’t alter the fact that this Zoli was designed to be a winner and a gun that will grow alongside the person shooting it.
One argument you won’t hear from me is that $8600 isn’t an insignificant sum of money to invest in a shotgun. However, it’s well worth considering the cost of the Z-Sport in context with its immediate competition. Priced around $4000 less than the latest detachable trigger model of another well known Italian gunmaker, the Z-Sport is already proven, is a more comfortable gun to shoot and compete with, and more importantly, it feels like it was designed for the average human to hold. A brand that has achieved great success overseas, Zoli is now beginning to gain its rightful place within the New Zealand shooting fraternity.
An excellent all rounder, Zoli’s Z-Sport will reward shooters of all levels.
Similarly, it’s also safe to say that for the shooter looking for a high end competition 12-gauge that can be fully customised should they so wish, and that’s more than capable of turning its muzzles towards any clay target, Zoli’s Z-Sport has to be a serious contender. An excellent piece of kit as tested, for those wondering about the various barrel lengths and other options please contact Steve Boyd at The MaiMai Supplies Ltd.