Breda Zenith Sporter and Evolution glasses reviewed

James Marchington breaks out of lockdown with a double test of the Breda Zenith Sporter, and Evolution prescription shooting glasses.

You won’t need me to tell you that lockdown was a long time without pulling the trigger. My first opportunity to get out and smash some clays came at the splendid EJ Churchill ground, where I’d arranged to try out the new Breda Zenith Sporter in the company of Andy Norris from the gun’s importers, Viking Arms. It was a chance to kill several birds with one stone.

I was keen to check out the improvements that the EJ Churchill team had been working on throughout lockdown at their already excellent ground. I also wanted to try shooting with the Evolution glasses from Sunglasses for Sport. Denzil Lee from the company had kindly sent me a set to try, complete with lenses made to my prescription – but then lockdown kicked in before I got a chance to use them for their intended purpose.

It’s always fun to visit EJ Churchill and catch up with the team there. I always bump into someone I’ve been meaning to see for ages. In fact if I could, I think I would set up my office under the umbrellas on the patio there – I can think of no better place for a magazine editorial office to be based. There’s even good coffee to be had just a few paces away!

Anyway, there was a serious purpose to this visit, so down to business! Andy talked me through the features of the new gun. Breda is based in Brescia, at the heart of Italy’s gunmaking region, and has been making sporting shotguns since shortly after the Second World War.

Andy Norris from Viking shoots a driven pair with the 32in barrelled Zenith L game model

The company has become better known for its semi-auto shotguns, but the new Zenith is an over-and-under – and a rather good looking one at that.

This one, a purpose made Sporting clays model, was launched at the British Shooting Show in March this year, with a retail price of £2,400. The basic specifications are what you’d expect in a Sporter, with 30 or 32 inch barrels with a ventilated tapered top rib, ventilated side ribs, five Maxi 90 extended chokes, 70mm (2¾ in) chambers, adjustable position trigger and a 14¾ inch stock with a modest palm swell.

The safety catch is non-automatic and has an inset switch, similar to that on a Beretta, to select which barrel will fire first. The bores are chrome lined and steel shot proofed.

The barrels hinge on side trunnions and are locked shut by two circular bolts that emerge from the breech face to engage into a hole each side of the upper chamber, just above the ejectors.

At first glance this might look a lot like the Beretta system, but it is Breda’s unique design, and results in a very low profile action with clean internal lines. It appears well engineered, and any parts subject to wear have been designed to be easily replaced if it’s ever needed. 

Externally the action has raised sections on each side, reminiscent of a sideplate shape, set off by angular art deco style engraving of parallel lines, and an inset gold coloured lozenge with the Breda name.

The Zenith L has a silver polished action with floral engraving

The gun is available with this action in black or silver colour; the one we were testing at Churchill’s was the black finish, with 30in barrels, and I must admit it looked rather smart: traditional but with a modern, purposeful twist.

Andy had also brought the ‘game’ model, the Zenith L, in a 32in version with fixed chokes and a silver action. Created with high pheasants in mind, he felt it might be a good choice for Fitasc Sporting.

Well, enough of all the specs, what really matters is how it shoots, and after months of dry mounting I was keen to make some noise. We filled up a bag with EJ Churchill’s house cartridge, the Hellfire Pro, loaded by Gamebore with 28g of 7½ shot and a fibre wad, and headed out to the first stand.

The ground is always immaculate, but Rob Fenwick and his team have taken advantage of lockdown to make all sorts of renovations and improvements, and it’s looking superb. Everywhere you look there are little additions – smart paths for easier walking, clear signage, Claymate systems on all the stands so you can caddy yourself around, and much more.

I shot the Zenith Sporter first and was pleased to get straight back into the swing, smashing a pair of battues with no trouble at all. Admittedly they were slow and not too demanding, so as not to demoralise the customers too early on the course, but it proved that the gun was shooting where I was looking, and that I hadn’t completely forgotten what to do!

We moved onto to the next stand, where I missed a couple of driven targets off the high tower before I reminded myself of the lead that was required, and then played around smashing them earlier or later, just to add a bit of variety – we were only trying the gun out, after all, we weren’t shooting a competition.

Moving on down the hill we encountered a woodcock target, shot from a covered gateway. This one was a real test of gun fit and mounting, and once again I was pleased to get on them quickly with little need to adapt to the unfamiliar gun.

We crossed the track and finished off our bag of cartridges on Harry’s Stand, with four devilish targets at all different angles and speeds. Nothing impossible, but quite a test, especially when I challenged Andy on the buttons to “Surprise me then!”

The gun’s locking mechanism is similar to a Beretta, but it’s Breda’s unique design

As we walked back up the hill to the clubhouse, I thought back over our little shoot and realised that I’d hardly considered the gun at all. It had just done the job without fuss, coming nicely to the shoulder, swinging well and shooting to the point of aim.

The recoil from the reasonably crisp 28g shells hadn’t been intrusive. Basically I had just picked up the gun and shot; it mounted naturally, handled well and gave some satisfyingly positive kills. It opened and closed positively, ejected faultlessly, and had a reassuringly solid feel. 

Would I buy one? Well, at a price of £2,400 it faces strong competition; for that money you could buy a Beretta or Browning with a proven track record in clay shooting.

Then again, not everyone wants a Beretta or Browning, and if you’re looking beyond those then this Breda is a serious contender – a very competent claybuster that offers something a little different. If you get the chance, I’d recommend you give it a try.

Evolution shooting glasses

There are four lens tints in the set, and James used neutral grey

You may recall I’ve been searching for a suitable pair of shooting glasses that don’t break the bank. As a prescription spectacle wearer, I can’t just slap on a standard pair of plain lenses and go. Shooting glasses won’t fit over the top of my day-to-day varifocals to provide the higher grade protection you need for shooting

Varifocals aren’t great for shooting anyway, as you end up looking through the less than ideal side part of the lens. Plus I’d like to be able to use the various different tints available nowadays to help me see the targets more clearly against difficult backgrounds.

The obvious solution was shooting glasses with prescription inserts. I’ve tried a few, but they’ve never really worked satisfactorily for me. In theory they ought to be ideal, some designs even allowing you to swap the tinted outer lenses in front of the prescription pair – but somehow I could never achieve the clarity I needed to really shoot well.

I talked all this through with Denzil from Sunglasses for Sport. He really opened my eyes, if you’ll pardon the pun, to some of the technical problems that are involved. In a nutshell, the wrap-around style of typical shooting glasses provides good visibility and protection – but it also presents a challenge for prescription lenses, which are usually made to sit squarely in front of your eyes.

If those lenses are placed in a curved frame you end up looking through each lens at an angle. The result can give you a distorted picture, with trees and buildings appearing to warp and bend as you turn your head, rather like looking through a goldfish bowl.

His solution was his Evolution Hawk RX set, with an insert to my prescription but with the lenses modified to allow for the curve of the frame. This is a versatile set with one frame and prescription insert, and four clip-on lenses of different tints: neutral grey, purple, orange and yellow.

It all comes in a smart zippered semi-rigid case that slips easily into a range bag or large pocket. The set costs £49.95 from the website, not including the cost of prescription lenses.

I’ve tried the glasses for various outdoors activities, as well as driving, and found them very good. The tints are largely a matter of taste, but they offer a good range to cover most situations. I find myself coming back to the plain grey ones unless there’s a special reason to go for a colour, in which case it’s the purple I reach for first.

This was the first time I had been able to use them for shooting – and they worked a treat. The frames that hold the inserts didn’t intrude at all, and I had a good clear picture of the target throughout the shot, with no noticeable distortion.

The frames held the glasses firmly in place with no discomfort. I was using my Mercury electronic ear plugs, but I’m confident the glasses would still have been comfortable with muffs over the top.

With my eyes needing a more complicated prescription for everyday wear, I’m still tempted to go down the full prescription route, perhaps looking at the new range from Edwards Eyewear which you can read about elsewhere in this issue. But as a simple and cost-effective solution for shooting, the Evolution Hawk RX is certainly hard to beat.

More tests from Clay Shooting Magazine

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