Exclusive: First Hands-On Review of the Revolutionary Zoli Bilanx

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Shotgun Life has been leading the charge in breaking the latest information about the new Zoli Bilanx. Now we take it to the next level. I recently relished the opportunity to shoot one of the first to arrive in the U.S. from Italy – allowing me to form several opinions and impressions.

 

What sets the Bilanx apart is its radical balancing system (Bilanx is Latin for balance). Most shotguns embed a balancing system in the stock and on the barrels. This typical approach can create a game of see-saw as shooters refine their adjustments.

By contrast, Zoli has chosen to put its primary balancing system inside the pistol grip – much closer a shotgun’s weighted center, hence the name Between the Hands Balancer (BHB) system. Not only is Zoli’s approach different, but it smacks of common sense. Think about it: Where else would you put a shotgun’s balancing system?

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Up to five 10 gram washer/weights can be added to the Bilanx grip area. Nick’s test gun balanced at the hinge with three weights. Champion Brad Kidd’s balanced his Bilanx with four 10 gram weights.

I’ve been banging away with the Zoli Bilanx a good bit – to see how I like it – to see how it handles. I do like the gun. Who wouldn’t? Maybe a non-competitive shooter who only wants a very lightweight for his grouse and woodcock passion would say the gun is too heavy for his work. For anyone who loves to shoot clay targets the Zoli Bilanx has to be (1) considered and (2) should be tried.

Let’s look at shooting rabbit targets first with this new Zoli Bilanx. I wouldn’t say the clay bouncing bunny is, or has been, my nemesis; but I have experienced some frustrating misses with this clay critter over the years. However, something magical has happened when I swing on one of these targets when I have the Zoli Bilanx in my hands. I’ve been taking the muzzle back within maybe 15 feet of the trap as my hold point – to work on a swing through technique. But I’ve also practiced sustain leading this crossing target. With either technique it doesn’t seem to matter. Just hold fairly low and my reload of 1-ounce, 7½ loads in a Federal Paper case – and a recommended load of Hodgdon’s Clays – and with the Zoli Bilanx I’m just not missing – and believe me I’ve missed plenty of bunnies over the years shooting other guns. I can’t for certain put my finger on the why of this success, but I’m guessing that the way I have the Zoli Bilanx set up it must come more alive in my hands than some other shotguns.

The Zoli Bilanx is not a lightweight. Geared to the clay target shooter, and I think specifically to the sporting clays enthusiast, my test gun with 32-inch barrels hefts 8 pounds 10 ounces. At least the way I have it set up – the gun does not feel that heavy. Well, let me rephrase that – while the gun probably feels like 8 pounds 10 ounces when first lifting it – this one doesn’t move like an over and under that heavy. The Bilanx moves quick – but not too quick – I think both are important traits.

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This photo of the Zoli Bilanx shows both the pistol grip weights and the barrel weights.

If you have read about the Zoli Bilanx you already you know the gun comes with up to 24 magnetic weights that can be placed between the barrels, under the fore-end – as well as five 10 gram weights that can be fit into the pistol grip. My test gun is set up so that it balances right at the hinge, and I know many of you prefer weight balance somewhere in front of the hinge. With the Bilanx you can set the gun up so that balance and weight end up being exactly what you want.

I set mine up with no magnetic weights under the fore-end – and three of the 10 gram washer/weights in the pistol grip. As mentioned this put the balance at the hinge. Getting back to rabbits – they can roll along hugging the ground – or they can bounce five and more feet in the air – or bounce somewhat less than that. With the rabbit target you never know. Now I did not shoot hundreds of rabbits to have something to write about for these few paragraphs, but I did see how easily the Bilanx moved “up” to take a bouncer – and “stayed steady” with a ground-hugger.

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Shown here are two magnetic weights added between the barrels – to fit under the fore-end. Zoli provides 24 of these magnetic barrel weights – so 12 can be fitted on each side.

 

Crossing shots! At the 5-Stand where I did a lot of my shooting with the Zoli Bilanx the left-to-right crosser was a fast zinger hugging a horizontal line maybe 15 yards off the ground, while the right to left crosser quartered away very slightly, all the while elevating in height to maybe 30 yards high - so it was slowing down. Thrown as a report or true pair each bird required a totally different lead – maybe five to six feet for the horizontal screamer, no more than two feet for the elevating bird. The latter could even be descending if the pair thrown was a true. How did the Bilanx handle this pair?

With a mounted gun this duo was easier, but shooting a low gun I didn’t find much difference in the difficulty – this perhaps due to the well-rounded recoil pad on the Zoli over and unders. These pads are not very thick, but there are no sharp pad edges that can contribute to hang ups on clothing. While on the “stock” subject it’s important to know that these Italian shotguns can be ordered with a wide variety of stock designs.

Like many of today’s competition shotguns the Zoli stocks are interchangeable. While different stocks with differing dimensions don’t have a lot to do with breaking those crossing shots – it is important to have a stock that’s ideal to your style of shooting – crossing shots or any others.

How did the Bilanx and I fare with the quartering shots? Maybe I started poorly because this Zoli Bilanx was swinging so well that I shot in front too many times – at least at the beginning. But as most all of you know the quartering shot does not require a lot of lead. I was also holding too far back toward the trap on these birds – again at the start. Because I had the muzzles too far back to begin with, the fast-swinging Zoli made it easier to get too far in front by trigger-pulling time. So I remembered a tip from Bill McGuire’s DVD for shooting quartering away birds – and moved the muzzles way out toward the break point. With such an approach muzzle movement became minimal. I could almost shoot straight at these quartering birds. The bit of momentum the short swing put into the Bilanx resulted in more consistent breaks.

Brad Kidd began shooting the Bilanx a few months ago, which was after he won the National Sporting Clays Championship in San Antonio last October with a Zoli Kronos. When I talked to him I asked what he liked about the new Bilanx. “I think the new mechanical trigger is a major advancement,” he said. “It’s easy to adjust. It’s sharp and crisp – I think the best mechanical trigger I’ve ever used.

“Weight balancing systems are typically in the back of the gun, but with the Bilanx weight system in the pistol grip I find improved feel. I don’t notice added weight. I do usually feel added heft in other shotguns when that weight is behind in the back of the stock. I also think a bit of weight at the pistol grip improves control. I use four or five of the grip washer/weights provided, but I don’t find it necessary to add the magnetic weights under the fore-end – as my Bilanx balances at the hinge without those weights. I do shoot 32-inch barrels – so a little more out-front weight there – my Rhino chokes have just a tad more out-front weight, and I think my beveled fore-end might weigh just slightly more than most Bilanx fore-ends. I shoot a slightly longer stock – 15½ inches.

So there you have the run down on shooting the new Zoli Bilanx and why shooting this one turns into a positive experience.

Nick Sisley has been writing about the outdoors full time for over 41 years. He has authored eight books and thousands of magazine articles, is a Level I NSCA, NSSA, and NRA Certified Shotgun Instructor, and has traveled worldwide in search of story material, usually with a shotgun. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

Previous Shotgun Life stories about the Zoli Bilanx

First Peek: Factory Specs for the New Zoli Bilanx

Details Revealed on Zoli’s New Z-Supersport

 

Useful Resources:

The Zoli North American web wite

Nick Sisley

Nick Sisley welcomes your emails at nicksisley@hotmail.com. Sisley has been writing full time for 43 years, his thousands of articles appearing in many, many magazines. He’s the author of eight books, is an NSCA, NSSA and NRA Shotgun Instructor and a pilot with many ratings.