Breda Zenith L: A shotgun that concentrates on what matters
Bruce Potts tests a shotgun that concentrates on what matters; the Breda Zenith L. When I tested the Breda 930i semi- automatic recently, I was more than pleasantly surprised at the attention to detail, the robust but elegant nature, plus the fine handing that shotgun had.
This new over and under from Breda, the Zenith L is built with that Italian touch of class and build quality that seems to come so naturally to them from their base in Val Trompia, Brescia. This 30” model has 2 3⁄4” (70mm) chambers and is proofed for steel shot, with a fleur-de-lys superior steel proof mark. You have fixed chokes on this model with tight restrictions, plus long forcing cones and chromed lined bores. I really like the lovely grade 3 walnut stock, as its proportions really soak up recoil and handle superbly for a medium-weight over and
under game gun. Priced at £2700, you will find the Zenith L extremely well priced, putting similar marques to shame in this price range!
What have we got?
Let’s look at the great stock. It has had a lot of thought put into it with regards to getting not only a fine balance between handling, for ease of swing, but also obtaining a perfect eye alignment with the rib. The quality of walnut, grade 3 in this instance, is very befitting of this shotgun, as you have an overall deep honey colouration that sets off the lovely dark figuring that swirls about the butt stock and forend alike. The air of quality continues with the perfect oil rubbed finish, leaving a satin sheen over the entirety of the walnut. No doubt, in time, this will enhance into a warm glow.
Breda has opted for a long, 15.0” length of pull, which is perfect. It not only balances the longer barrels well but gives the correct support and eye alignment lacking in some short stocked guns that can feel a tad cramped.
I also like the elongated pistol grip which has a hand-filling gait to it, with a nice right-hand palm swell too. Left-handed versions of the Zenith are also available. There is plenty of room, even for the largest hand and the combination of the lower comb and slight cast was absolutely perfect for me. From any mounting in the shoulder and differing speeds, the Zenith mounted and aligned with my eye straight down the rib. The soft black rubber recoil pad is supportive and non-restrictive when mounting, plus the cut chequering is generous and actually works well. I also like the way the action side plates are mimicked to the frontal section of the stock, with raised platforms that add strength and look good.
The forend is similarly well- appointed, with a classic Schnabel profile and more trim lines. Again, there is good chequering to a large proportion of the surface area and a really good polished release lever to easily remove the forend from the barrels.
A closer look at the barrels
Talking of barrels, these Breda tubes are again of very high quality, with a superb deep black/bluing and polished finish, plus nicely struck-off ends. You have a choice of 30 or 32” lengths and there are no ventilated ribs to the top or midsection. The top rib tapers from 11mm to 7mm and is designed for better alignment, superior pointability and does not cover too much of the target either. Being solid ribs, Breda says it stops any ingress of water and potential rusting causing the ribs to lift. I have to say, it looks a lot better and I am always dubious how much cooling any vents actually achieve, a bit like flutes on a rifle barrel. The barrels are chambered for 2 3⁄4” cartridges, not 3”. I like this, as the internals of the barrels have had a lot of thought put into them. They are chrome lined for longevity and rust avoidance, plus, as already mentioned, are handy with steel shot. This is interesting, as the barrels have fixed chokes of 3⁄4 and full, whereas, on multi-choked guns, there is usually a limit of 1⁄2 choke for high-pressure steel shot. Breda has used long, gradual forcing cones of 75mm and even longer chokes of 100mm to avoid any issue in this respect, although, the bores are tight too and do favour fibre or paper wads.
Action wise, what a beauty! In my view, it shows a low key finish that exudes class. No over adornment
to make up for shortcomings, the Zenith L has a highly polished action face with raised side panels that are integral to the action body. They have small geometric engraving, whilst the top lever is left blued and the bottom of the action has 'Zenith L' engraved on it, along with some scroll work.
The low-profile action body utilises two conical locking bolts that emerge from the action face. They are actually a U bolt arrangement that moves forward through the breech face and locates precisely into corresponding holes in the chamber face when the action is closed. You have the usual bifurcated lumps and locking plate at the base of the action and the barrels pivot on replaceable studs. The ejectors were well-timed and brisk and the whole opening and closing of the Breda was like a Swiss watch - precise and secure.
The Zenith has a trigger plate locking into the action bar and uses coil-sprung hammers for longevity and increased striking force. This is an inertia system, so relies on the second barrel's recoil to set the hammer for the second shot. This is not my favourite system but there were no issues at all during the test. Interestingly, many of these parts are replaceable, which is a smart move and Breda. The manufacturer also uses what they call a 'cross draw system', whereby the bearing surface at the rear of the barrel locking lumps can be replaced when worn - nice touch.
As soon as you take the Zenith out of the gun bag, it just feels right. The gun balances perfectly just in front of the hinge pins with these 30” barrels and the very generous stock profile suited us both very nicely, meaning the Zenith was very comfortable to shoot with all the different loads. It just seems to naturally fly up into the hands and shoulder as it perfectly aligns. I don't often get that from a gun straight from the box without a bit of fiddling with cast etc.
As stated before, opening or closing the Zenith is very precise, being easy but not loose at all. Just a precision fit between barrels and action face. It’s reassuring too that the barrels and chamber areas have a good thickness of steel to them, although the triggers were a little heavy in use, but struck the primers very forcibly.
We tried some light, 21-gram Blue Diamonds and Hulls Comp X Fibre cartridges that all functioned without a hitch through the inertia mechanism. We also stepped up the loadings with the usual array of 28- gram and 32-gram loads, all of which seemed very mild in this stout Zenith.
With its steel shot proof status, we did not push the envelope but shot some Bio Ammo Blue 32oz #4 and
#5 cartridges as well as some Hull Steel Game, which is another high- performance steel loading, but for 2 3⁄4” chambered guns. There were no issues with loading or stuck cases and looking down the barrels there was also very little evidence of pellet marks through those long elongated forcing cones and chokes, which is all good.
Without any pattern boards (still on backorder), we tackled flighting pigeons and squirrels that were using the foliage-free tree branches as runways. The Breda pointed and swung effortlessly and these non-lead loads with the tight chokes were very humane!
No bones about it, Breda are not only an excellent semi-automatic manufacturer but their Zenith line of shotguns is a real winner too. By keeping differing models to a minimum, the company has been able to concentrate on what matters to their customers, and that is correct design, reliability and longevity, all wrapped up in a shotgun with great handling characteristics. With the Breda Zenith, you do not have any fancy decoration masking shoddy workmanship, you have classic, clean lines and a gun built for all sporting or game situations that is just that little bit different than the opposition. I really want to test this Zenith on some pattern boards next time, to see how those chokes perform - I bet it's good!