Zoli Standard Game - test & review

gun test zoli

gun test zoli - Credit: Archant

Are you looking for a gun that will cross over into both pigeon shooting and game shooting? Mike Yardley believes that Zoli’s Standard Game 20-bore shotgun could be just the ticket!

gun test zoli

gun test zoli - Credit: Archant


We Like: The Value; The Balance; The stock shapes

We don't like: It would be mean to knock at this price, but the engraving and wood figure could be better.

gun test zoli

gun test zoli - Credit: Archant


Make/model: Zoli Standard Game

Action: detachable trigger lock

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Bore: 20

Barrels: 30''

Chamber: 3'' (76mm)

Chokes: Multi

Weight: 7 pounds approx.

RRP.: £2,638, special offer price £1,500

gun test zoli

gun test zoli - Credit: Archant


This gun test began, like many for this magazine, over a cup of tea in my friend Neville Chapman's gunshop at Marks Tey in Essex.

"The game season is coming up, pigeons are in full swing after the general license nonsense, anything that might fit the bill for both?" I asked. "I've just the gun, Michael... a nice little Zoli 20-bore, and it's on special offer - yours for just 1,500 quid!" No hint of irony, just Neville's usual inimitable grin! The gun, meantime, turned out to be a Zoli Standard Game (RRP £2,638) with 30" barrels, a tapered 10-5mm sighting rib, and, surprisingly at the price, a drop-lock.

Zoli is a long-established Italian firm whose products are imported by Edgar Bros. They are perhaps best known for their Z gun and have a significant following in clay circles. Looking at our test specimen, this hits the scales at a near ideal 7lb, has a single trigger, 3" magnum chambers, and a neat trigger lock mechanism secured by an Allen key through a hole in the rear of the trigger guard. The Zoli comes with four multi-chokes and has longer than average forcing cones in its well-blacked and nicely put together monobloc barrels. The tapered sighting rib appealed to me especially.

The stock was better than the average with a not too tightly radiused and well-proportioned pistol grip (without palm swell). The stock spec includes good comb shapes too (not too bulbous), and a pleasantly rounded fore-end (my favourite pattern, especially when relatively slim as is the case here). The design is excellent, although the grain of the stock wood is a little plain (not quite plank). Presentation and finish tick the boxes, however.

The stock is matt oiled. Chequering is neatly done by laser. At just under 15", the length of pull is on the money for the average modern man. There might have been a little more length to heel (there is not much difference between the measurement to centre and the measurement to heel/bump, which can cause slipping in recoil). And, the drop was a little low at 2¼" to the rear (13/8" to the front). 21/8" or 2" would be my call for a shelf measurement with 1½" to the front. The vented recoil pad was adequate but would not be my choice (I would go for a solid pad). There is the usual slight cast for a right-hander.

Aesthetically, the gun is quite plain and the engraving a little basic. I liked the engine turning to the sides of the monobloc. The game scenes on the action walls did not really do it for me - although they are inoffensive. I thought the whole thing might have been better set off with a real or erzatz colour case hardened action. The form of the little Zoli is generally very good, though, and its handling characteristics A1. It hit the scales at a smidgen over 7lb and balances very slightly forward of the hinge pin. It feels solid and well put together.

Mounting the gun inspires confidence too. This mid-weight gun feels steady and the stock shapes are comfortable, promoting good purchase and control. It would be hard to better the fore-end, grip or comb. The tapered sighting rib presents a really good picture to the eye, and the metal bead at the muzzles always gets my thumbs up on a game gun. Another good point was a bore dimension that was not too tight (16mm) - again my preference in a 20.

Meantime, a 30" barrelled 20-bore over-and-under is nearly always a good call these days - such guns typically offer excellent dynamic qualities as well as good value for money when mass-produced. I often advise friends and clients to buy such guns. They may be used for game or recreational clays, no matter your age or gender. They offer very similar handling characteristics - arguably slightly better - to the English 12-bore side-by-side guns of the Golden Era. They are not too heavy as many modern guns are becoming. Most of all, they are fun to use and practical for clay, pigeon and game shooting.

gun test zoli

gun test zoli - Credit: Archant


The action of the Zoli is not quite the mid-price norm. There is a single, central cocking bar reminiscent of a Fabarm or Perazzi - my preference to the twin bars often seen on Italian guns. Bolting looks especially sound with two projections from the lower part of the monobloc that locate in corresponding recesses in the action face (again reminding of a Perazzi, but there are no draws and wedges mid-action here). The bifurcated barrel lumps rest on the usual stud pins.

The Zoli is also notable for its detachable trigger lock which carries most of the works including hammers, springs, and inertia block for the single trigger mechanism. This process is a little fiddly as is often the case with drop locks. Resorting to the instruction book... you need to uncock the gun with snap caps and pull the trigger once. Engage the safety. Then, remove the safe pushing forward (this manoeuvre simulates recoil effect on inertia block). Pull the trigger again. Engage safety again. You may now use the T-bar Allen key to remove retaining screw of the lock mechanism. Pull it out. Phew!

Shooting Impressions.

I took the gun to my local ground, Fennes, and started the test in the usual place, stand 2 on the Skeet layout. The low bird there is my datum/starting point for all gun testing (every gun that appears in these pages starts it's shooting test there). The little Zoli evaporated the close targets in style, but, moving on, I did miss a couple of the longer crossers and could not quite work out why until I looked at the chokes and the barrel selector. I was shooting an especially tight constriction full choke in the first barrel. I didn't bother changing chokes, but selected three-quarters as first barrel and went on happily to shoot 95% plus. The stock was a little low for me, and lifting my head to compensate, caused the odd miss over the top. Overall, though, an excellent well made gun for the money. Meanwhile, my advice is shop at Neville's - the tea is free!

My thanks to Lyalvale Express for supplying the 20 bore cartridges used in this test.