This attractive, deluxe Italian Sporter – which has some notable mechanical features – surprised in its shooting qualities, as Michael Yardley reports
Michael Yardley is impressed by the Zoli Ambassador EL. The deluxe Italian Sporter is well-proportioned and finished at first glance, and surprises with its shooting qualities.
For more gun reviews, read Michael Yardley’s review of the latest model of Browning’s popular shotgun, Browning 525 Crown 12-bore.
ZOLI AMBASSADOR EL
This month’s test gun is a 29½in barrelled Zoli Ambassador EL over-and-under brought in by Edgar Bros of Macclesfield. It weighs just under 8lb. The EL, as tested, is designated a Sporter but might be useful for high birding, too (a dedicated game gun is available). It is a deluxe model in the extensive Zoli range, sitting above the plain black actioned Kronos and below the SL, which is fully hand engraved (the EL mixes laser and hand work on the decorative front).
First impressions are of a well-proportioned and finished gun, pleasantly engraved, with lustrous blacking and well-figured stock wood. The latter is complemented by a good oil finish and nicely cut chequering. The scroll and game scene engraved action has attractively sculptured fences and some rounding of the action body. I would be happy with scroll embellishment alone, but the game scenes here do not offend (I liked the little woodcock on the belly of the action).
On the action front, the EL has a detachable trigger-lock (like the Kronos and SL). This neatly presented unit is quite narrow, a definite plus. Less wood needs to be removed in a potentially weak part of the stock to accommodate it. One needs an Allen key to take the trigger assembly out – a system that is not quite as convenient as a release lever or catch but has its own merits with regard to security. The single-trigger is adjustable for length of pull. (Getting the trigger lock out of the gun is a relatively straightforward procedure, getting it back in is a little fiddly. I did not have any instructions to hand but eventually determined through trial and error that one of the hammers needed to be cocked.)
Zoli makes much of its silver-soldered monobloc barrels, which are specially bored and equipped with extended titanium multi-chokes (flush fitting ones are an option). Chambers are 3in and chokes and bores are steel-shot friendly. Titanium choking reduces muzzle weight and contributes to a nice balance between the hands without pronounced forward droop. The gun has a particularly good ventilated and tapered (11mm to 7mm) top rib, which appears to have been hand cross-hatched on its top surface. The bead is the usual red plastic rod in a small retaining cage. I am not especially fond of the pattern – easily replaced – because I have found them to be delicate. Joining ribs are vented.
The action of the gun, and the monobloc, are made from forgings that are then CNC machined and, in the case, at least, of the action body, spark eroded, too. The engineering of the gun is sound in all departments, however, the barrel presentation and action bolting impressed especially. The level of fine fit and finish bearing witness to the 40 hours of hand work that Zoli notes goes into each gun. This long-established firm, one of the oldest in Italy, pioneered the computer-controlled production of replica blackpowder weapons (primarily made for the US market and now ceased) but has also maintained traditional bench skills, which are critical in manufacturing (and especially regulating and finishing) better shotguns.
The stock of the test EL was of Sporter form, as noted, and comfortable to mount with a fullish comb. My preference would have been to have no palm swell. The one present did not anchor my grip quite firmly enough with a slight tendency to push it forward. The rounded fore-end, on the other hand, was ergonomically efficient and attractive.
Between the hands, the gun felt stable and controllable. The standard stock dimensions were good. The length of pull was 147/8in – ideal. Drop was just over 1¼in at the nose of the comb, and a surprising (and welcome) 2in at heel. I might be tempted to taper the comb slightly and lower the nose to 13/8in.
The EL has some notable mechanical features. Bifurcated lumps accommodate studs for hinging in the usual manner. There is, however, a single, central cocking bar, as seen in a Perazzi or Kemen (good, and preferable to the twin bars or rods often seen in less expensive Italian guns). There are no draws and wedges mid action but a deeper than average bolt gives added strength to the action lock-up. Projections on the underside of the monobloc, moreover, locate into the action floor as the gun is closed and provide extra security. The slim trigger-lock is a sensible feature, as noted, allowing for a stronger grip section. Key parts of the trigger-lock are titanium nitrate coated (easily mistaken for matt gold plating). Coil springs power the hammers. Firing pins are bushed for improved directional stability. Zoli barrels are bored in a way the company is reluctant to disclose precisely but is said to result in ballistic advantage. Bores are quite wide at 18.6mm and forcing cones are not especially long but look unusually smooth. The barrels are straight (never to be assumed).
The Zoli surprised in its qualities. The grip was quite big and tightly radiused but the excellent rounded fore-end provided good purchase and enhanced muzzle control. The tapered sighting rib was excellent. The gun was steady in use. The weight was about right for this sort of gun. I allowed a companion to try it on the Fennes Shooting ground skeet layout and he commented on the lack of felt recoil. The only significant criticism was that the second trigger pull was a little light and this led to a couple of misses as trigger pressure was built up engaging the longer, Station 4 crossers. This could be regulated easily. Overall, the Zoli impressed as a comfortable and forgiving gun to use. There is a lot of competition but the EL is worth serious consideration, all the more as many custom options are available. It is a little different from the pack – and better for it.
ZOLI AMBASSADOR EL
♦ RRP: £11,000
♦ Edgar Bros, 5 Heather Close, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 0LR
♦ 01625 613177