We Shoot the Zoli Columbus at the Whittington Center

When Chris Batha told me at the 2009 Safari Club Convention that Zoli made great guns, I knew I should spend quality time with Paolo Zoli and Steve Lamboy, the company’s general manager in the U.S. One thing led to another and a few weeks ago Steve sent me a new 20-bore Columbus from the Italian gunmaker.

 Fate’s whim brought me to Trinidad, Colorado to give a lecture to the Southern Colorado Bar Association. Since I was in the neighborhood, I figured I’d give the Columbus a good test at the NRA Whittington Center, just south of Raton, New Mexico on Interstate 25 and off Highway 64.

Steve Williams, manager of the Whittington shotgun programs, welcomed me, my wife, Nancy, and my colleague, Christopher Gregory, instructing us to have ‘fun’ and to watch out for rattlesnakes. We’d do both, I assured him.

Significantly for the shotgunner, the Whittington Center offers on its 34,000 acres skeet, trap, sporting clays and five-stand formats. Soon Steve will add a FITASC program to the mix. My own Rocky Mountain Vintagers side-by-side club will be shooting sporting clays there in a few weeks. Visit the Whittington Center if you have a chance. “People think it’s in the middle of nowhere,” Steve says, “but it’s actually in the middle of everywhere.” The Center deserves our support. (www.nrawc.org)


Zoli recently introduced the Columbus series of game guns to complement its vast array of target and elite game models. Steve Lamboy described the Columbus as the first reasonably affordable Boss action over/under hunting shotgun boasting a removable trigger mechanism.


The Zoli Columbus


The Boss styled system, according to the encyclopedic and Purdey-trained Dale Tate, is one of the strongest actions ever designed. The brilliant John Roberston obtained the original Boss patents in 1909, with input from his foreman, Bob Henderson. The strength of the Boss system derives from the bites that protrude from each side of the chamber, halfway up the lower barrel that lock with two-pronged bolts in the face of the action

As with the Columbus, the bolting system is additionally strengthened by four large lugs on the bottom of the monobloc chamber, two on each side, that mate into the flat of the receiver. “It’s a first-class system,” Tate says, “and is very strong.” It is simple, effective and reliable.

The Columbus is built to the same demanding standards of Zoli’s highly acclaimed Z series competition guns. All guns are machined from solid forged frames. The barrels are silver soldered and fitted with Zoli’s famed precision and regulation. They are over bored and, according to the Zoli catalog, measured 0.623 inches. My test gun had 28-inch barrels.

The trigger mechanism is titanium treated and is fully adjustable. The single trigger blade adjusts for three positions to accommodate gloves or other needs for a longer or shorter reach. Ejectors are of the spring-loaded design usually fitted to this style of gun, and are activated by rods running through the side-walls of the action.


The Zoli titanium-treated trigger mechanism.


The trigger mechanism is removed in seconds using a wrench, supplied with the gun, making cleaning and repairing easy tasks. The mechanism doesn’t just drop out with the simple movement of a button or catch but requires loosening a grub screw with the supplied T-headed Allen key. The virtue is that the mechanism is unlikely to drop out accidentally.

The top rib and side rib are ventilated. The concave top rib boasts a beautifully crafted cross hatch pattern and was aesthetically tapered. It had middle and front beads. The gun came with five chokes that fit flush with the muzzle.

A one-piece cocking lever is driven by a cam on the fore-end iron. The strikers run in sleeves to ensure a smooth forward movement, and the sleeves feature vent holes to help get rid of any high-pressure gases that may escape should a primer become punctured at the moment of firing.

Given the Boss design, the gun has a narrow frame, slender forend and light weight. My gun weighed a few ounces over six pounds. The stock is hand-rubbed, oil-finished, Turkish walnut and is of better quality than most in the price range. The borders were perfectly symmetrical, consistent and aesthetic. The checkering, which I suspect was laser cut, was flawless, with crisp sharp angles and points. I didn’t count them but based on experience they were at least 28 lines to the inch.

The wood was a hint ‘proud’ fore and aft of the action, but minimally so. The gun is described as having a Prince of Wales grip and I won’t quibble with the name. The pistol grip has a flat bottom and a large radius designed for hunting, which made handling easy and comfortable to hold for long periods of time in a ready position.

I particularly liked the predominantly blue case coloring finish, which I found delightfully understated. Each side of the receiver features gold embossed ducks and a pheasant in flight adorns the underside of the action. All were tastefully done with an enviable degree of surface detail and harmoniously scaled to the action size. I find that many such presentations on other guns are slightly garish and are disproportionate to the gun frame.


We fired a case of shells on the sporting clays course, where sometimes focusing on the target competed with gazing at dozens of majestic pronghorn antelope and whitetail deer—this is, after all, where the deer and the antelope play.

The gun was well balanced, moved effortlessly and had sufficient forward weight to maintain momentum. We broke a lot of targets. The action was stiff but it closed with a confidence-building ‘thunk’ and when it opened the ejectors threw both shells a proper distance where they landed proximate to each other.

The Columbus is offered with either a color case hardened finish or French gray finish, available in Standard, Extra and Gold Models. Standard guns come with a molded hard case with tools for disassembly of the stock and for removing the chokes and the trigger mechanism. The Columbus is available in 12, 20 and 28 gauge as well as a 20/28 gauge combination set. Prices start at $3,850.00.

The name might not yet be a household word for shotgunners, but be advised that Antonio Zoli SpA is a sophisticated highly computerized factory. Although the modern company was founded in 1945, the Zoli family has been making fine guns in Gardone Val Trompia since before 1500. The Columbus is worth investigation by any serious shotgunner.

For more information, please visit:

Antonio Zoli North America
3603 East Ridge Run
Canandaigua, N.Y. 14424
US: 585-394-1271
fax: 585-394-1909
Italy: 39-030-891-2161

Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado whose practice emphasizes estate planning. He lectures nationally to bar associations on the ethics of rhetoric as a legal competence and a litigation skill. He also presents to private companies and civic groups on the use of rhetoric as a management skill. As a freelance writer he has been published in many of the finest shooting and hunting magazines, including Double Gun Journal, Shooting Sportsman, Safari Magazine and Sporting Classics. He is pleased to have written many of the most comprehensive articles on the Beretta family and its fine firearms.



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