by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

A history of airguns

Today’s report is the completion of a guest blog from reader Paul that began last Friday. He is telling us about his Stiga Zenit — an airgun not many have heard of.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

This report covers:

  • Firing behavior
  • Power
  • Accuracy
  • Wrapping it up

Okay, Paul, finish what you started.

On Friday I showed you the basic construction of my Swedish Stiga Zenit pistol that closely copies the EM GE Zenit made in Germany. Today we will look at its performance.

When the cocking lever is first pulled upwards the spring loaded barrel will also tilt up about 15 degrees; this makes it simple to inspect or clean the barrel from the rear and also serves as a sort of “safe mode”. Swinging the lever through its arc completes the cocking action and requires about fifteen pounds of effort.

Zenit partially open
The Zenit action can be partially opened without compressing the mainspring. An anti-beartrap mechanism blocks the trigger when the cocking strap from this point.

The cocking motion is very smooth until the last part of the stroke as the rear of the piston slides over the sear. Due to the geometry of the linkage once the lever is past vertical the cocking effort remains constant. Once the pistol is cocked, a pellet can be placed in the breech. While the barrel moves freely with the action open it is locked solidly in place when the lever is swung back down.

Zenit fully open
The Zenit action fully opened. A small spring tilts the barrel for easy loading.

Firing behavior
Since the Zenit has a fairly small diameter piston and short stroke it is not a powerful pistol. In fact its performance is about identical to that of the Browning Buck Mark. The firing behavior is very mild; there is no vibration from the spring and the noise level is very low. It is backyard and apartment friendly. Unfortunately the trigger pull is heavy enough to upset your aim if you do not use good technique, but this is plinker and not a target pistol.

Power
When I first shot my Zenit it was obvious the mainspring was worn out, so a new one was installed. The pistol should be shooting at its best. As it turned out this Zenit is the most pellet-picky airgun I own. Every RWS pellet I tried performed poorly – velocities were about 100 fps slower than expected and the accuracy was poor. The best overall speed and accuracy came from using the Air Arms Falcon, Winchester Lead Free, and H&N Excite plinking pellets. The bore seems to be on the tight side and some pellets would not even move when the pistol was fired.

Pellet……………………..Weight……….Velocity…….Energy
Cros. Prem. Lite………………7.9………….336………..2.0
H&N FTT…….………………..8.6…………..340……..…2.2
H&N Finale Match……………7.4…………..320………..1.7
H&N Excite……………………7.1…………..349………..1.9
H&N Spitzkigel………………..8.6…………..316………..1.9
Air Arms Falcon………………7.3…………..379………..2.3
JSB Exact……………………..8.4…………..312………..1.8
JSB Predator………………….8.1…………..330………..2.0
Winchester lead free…………4.2…………..436………..1.8

Accuracy
Getting the best accuracy from the Zenit takes some work. Make that a lot of work! Shooting off a rest causes the pellets to hit about six inches below the point of aim at 10 meters and the groups are terrible. Using a two-handed grip causes vertical stringing. The best groups came from holding the pistol in my right hand and just using the open palm of my left hand to steady the hold. A heavy trigger and a lack of muzzle heaviness makes it difficult to not wiggle the pistol during shooting. I am not a very good shot with a pistol, and I am sure that a better marksman could improve on the groups below.

Zenit Falcon group 10 meters
Five Falcon 7.33 grain pellets made this 1.24-inch group at 10 meters.

Zenit Winchester MVP group
The Winchester lead free pellets gave a very similar group of 1.21 inches.

Zenit Finale Match group 10 meters
Best accuracy at 10 meters was with H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets at 1.02 inches.

Zenit Finale Match group 5 meters
At 5 meters I was able to get this nice, 0.75-inch group with the Falcon 7.33 grain pellets.

Wrapping it up
The Stiga Zenit is an interesting air pistol that you don’t run into every day. It is well made and fun to shoot as long as you don’t try to get tiny groups. Paper punching with the Zenit can be frustrating due to the hold sensitivity, heavy trigger, and lack of any muzzle heaviness. Feral soda cans and their ilk, on the other hand, are the perfect targets for the Zenit.