The Italian firm’s new offering could make a useful high-bird gun, says Michael Yardley, with steel-shot proofing to future-proof it, too
The new Breda 12-bore Zenith L is well-made and offers value for money, finds Michael Yardley. It could make a useful high-bird gun – and is future-proof with steel-shot proofing.
For more gun reviews from The Field, the FAIR Iside 20-bore offers much bang for the buck.
BREDA 12-BORE ZENITH L
This 32in-barrelled Breda 12-bore Zenith L game gun is imported by Viking Arms of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. It has a single, selective trigger and tight, unusually long, fixed chokes. Chambers are 2¾in (70mm). The gun is proofed for steel shot – with the fleur-de-lys superior steel proof mark – in spite of the significant muzzle constrictions (40 and 41 thousands [thou] of an inch). A multichoked version is also available. The importers believe, however, that this long-barrelled, fixed-choke model might make a useful tool for high birds. The specification certainly suggests that it is a possibility.
First impressions of the Zenith are good in nearly all departments. It weighs in at just over 7½lb – near ideal, in my opinion, for this type of gun and notably lighter than some ‘Long Toms’. It comes to the face and shoulder well (with certain qualifications, addressed later). There is an amply proportioned butt to the rear with an unusually large grip. The fore-end is of a fairly slim schnabel pattern (I have seen rounded fore-ends on guns from the maker, too). Action aesthetics please with partial but pleasant scroll laser engraving to a well-styled and bright-polished action, of modern, but not too modernistic, form. The wood is well figured, well chequered by laser and nicely oiled. The general level of finish impresses, equal to or exceeding other makers at this price point.
Breda, meantime, is no new kid on the block. The firm is a long-established Italian gunmaker based in Val Trompia, Brescia. It is best known in the UK for its high-quality semi-autos. Breda was an early pioneer of the clever inertia recoil system with which Benelli has also had great success.
The over-and-under test gun has some unusual and welcome features. The sighting rib is a solid, 11mm to 7mm, taper design (joining ribs are also solid). The inertia operated single trigger has a blade that may be placed in seven positions. Internally, the well-presented barrels have long (75mm) forcing cones and even longer (100mm) chokes. The chokes are of an unusual long conic profile facilitating the use of steel shot. The bores are relatively tight, 18.4mm, which will be popular with those preferring fibre wads. Using my old, imperial, bore micrometer they measured .724 and .725 thou for internal diameter. So, quite tight as has become a modern fashion.
The Zenith has a large, tightly radiused grip, with a right-hand palm swell. The latter would not really be my call on a game gun – something more suited to trap shooting. The grip is rather large, too, again more clay than game. There is, however, enough wood present to allow for modification for those, like me, who prefer a medium thickness and not too tightly radiused grip on a game gun. As I have mentioned before, Italian stock shapes often seem over influenced by the national love of trap shooting.
Measurements on the Zenith were Continental, too. The comb drop forward was about 1⅜in and 2¼in to the rear, a little high and low respectively. I was able to lose the front sight on raising the gun to 45 degrees and applying normal cheek pressure. The length of pull on the well-figured stock was 15in – longer than the Italian norm and better for it. It was finished with a black, synthetic rubber pad (several lengths are available to adjust length). Balance was about an inch forward of the hinge pin, about right on a 32in gun (a hinge pin balance would normally be my preference with 30in tubes). The gun felt solid and comfortable when brought to shoulder.
The Zenith is built on a low-profile action with the usual bifurcated lumps and trunnion hinging. The action design incorporates some significant mechanical and stylistic innovation. I was not, however, quite sure about the swollen triangle look to the upper section of the monobloc when the gun opens. The engineering, however, looked sound and many may like the Zenith for just daring to be a bit different.
The Zenith presents an interesting new form of the trigger-plate concept with a substantial trigger-plate/chassis that locks into the forward section of the action bar. There is real innovation as well as influence from other makers. Both the conical locking bolts that emerge from the action face (part of a single U-form component behind) and the coil-spring assemblies that power the tumblers are reminiscent of Beretta 600 series guns. The bolts lock into bites either side of the bottom chamber much like a Beretta Silver Pigeon or 690. The upper section of the monobloc is shaped modernistically to accommodate them and offer additional strength – the sloping chamber walls on the upper section are especially thick to their rear. There are the usual replaceable stud pins for hinging as noted (again much like a Beretta or Perazzi). There is also a replaceable bearing surface to the rear locking lump (Breda calls it a ‘cross-draw’) of the monobloc barrels.
I shot the Zenith with Andy Norris of Viking Arms at the Fennes Shooting School in Essex. We had two guns available: the test gun and a 30in Zenith Sporter. The L shot well, though it was a bit stiff in use and the trigger pulls were heavy. Comparing the fixed choke 32in L to the multichoked Sporter was interesting. On balance I favoured the latter, but the longer-barrelled gun was still exceptionally good and smoked all the test targets, bar one second barrel, using Express Super Light 24gm and 28gm Power Blue cartridges. Felt recoil was relatively low. I had one glitch with the safety function in this pre-production gun. With some stock modification, the Breda would make an excellent high pheasant gun. The specially radiused chokes are steel shot compatible (but chambers are 2¾in not 3in). Nevertheless, an interesting, well-made new gun offering value for money.
BREDA 12-BORE ZENITH L
♦ RRP: £2,665
♦ Viking Arms, New York Mill, New York Industrial Estate, Summerbridge, Harrogate HG3 4BW
♦ 01423 780810