The firearms market has seen huge developments in recent years thanks to the development of new ammunition forms. And just as the breech-loading shotguns ultimately contributed to the substantial decline in muzzle-loading gun, will these new innovations do the same to the over-and-unders used widely at clay grounds around the world today.
We are, of course, talking about the foam bullets that have been popularised by the Nerf gun phenomenon. The original Nerf Blaster is the market leader today, but the manufacturer Hasbro has seen a number of imitators, much in the same way that Browning shotguns were by Miroku, Winchester and others following the success of its full-width hinge pin locking system in 1925.
The firearm we are testing today is no doubt building on the success of the Nerf Blaster idea, but the Chinese-made Zuru guns have looked at opening up the range even further. The model we are testing is the X-Shot Excel Scope.
There is no doubt that fans of foam bullet shooting will love the blue and yellow motif that the X-Shot uses to contrast between the working elements of the gun – primarily the breech and pump-action forend – and the barrel and stock. It is, however, tipped at the muzzle with an orange choke that is interchangeable but we would advise taking it to a gunsmith should you wish to make changes as the process is complex. The action features the combined XC logo that we have come to associate with Zuru’s leading Sporting model.
The stock is removable, but true clay traditionalists will prefer to keep it in place rather than opting for a pistol-like gun mount. However, the fact that it can be taken off so easily hints at a custom-stock option from Zuru in the future.
The gun is topped with a scope, which is also removable for the purists among us. It also doesn’t feature any lenses and honestly seems quite pointless, however, the scope mounting system is good and keeps everything secure no matter what level of recoil your ammunition produces.
Taking the X-Shot out to Folliroaps Shooting Ground, the action cycled any ammunition we loaded. The gun was sold with some blue and yellow bullets that matched its own colourways, and it certainly looked the part when breaking open the barrel and loading a single shot in. The Zuru bullets fared well, but we also tested it with Pound Shop ammunition, and even some top-of-the-range Nerf blasters. It performed using all, but the Nerf ammunition showed its quality.
Opening the gun to reveal the breech is simple, just a case of pulling down on the barrel, and while the pump-action requires a stiff pull to make the gun live, that should ease slightly with continued use. The trigger pull was light and easy for beginners to get used to quickly.
Honestly, it’s performance on some of the testing crossers and high driven clays was sub-par. The Zuru often didn’t have the distance to cope with some of the more difficult targets, even with the Nerf ammunition, and the single shot capacity was problematic on pairs. It is a shame really, because up until this point, the X-Shot Excel was a really promising package, and for only £9.99 it was proving to be great value.
I don’t think the foam bullet revolution is quite ready to surpass the score-building quality you get from a standard over-and-under shotgun, but I can imagine similar thoughts were shared when muzzle-loaders switched out their long-barrelled flintlocks for side-by-sides. The Nerf gun has its place for now, but who knows how many of them, or Zuru, or other manufacturers will populate major clay shooting competitions in years to come.