Mike Morton gets his hands on the Zbroia Hortitsia, an Eastern European sporter that swaps the regular turn-bolt or sidelever action in favour of a fast-firing straight-pull
Maker: Zbroia, Ukraine
Test gun supplied by: Sure Shot Airguns (www.sureshot-airguns.co.uk)
Models: Hortitsia 330/180, Hortitsia 450/220 (on test)
Price: 330/180, £559; 450/220, £589
Type: Pre-charged pneumatic
Calibre: .177 (on test) and .22
Loading: 12-shot magazine .177, 10-shot magazine .22
Overall length: 330/180, 89cm; 450/220, 101cm
Barrell length: 330/180, 33cm; 450/220, 45cm
Weight: 330/180, 3kg; 450/220, 3.1kg
Sights: Telescopic only (Picatinny rail)
Length of pull: 35.5cm
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Trigger Weight: 1lb 11oz
Safety: Manual, resettable
Zbroia is a manufacturer from Kharkov in Ukraine that’s been producing some very accomplished air rifles – including the subject of this review, the Hortitsia. We took a look at another gun from Zbroia in Airgun Shooter 101 – a bullpup called the Kozak – but the Hortitsia is not just a Kozak that’s been rehoused in a rifle stock: it’s a different gun altogether with a very different cocking mechanism, which we’ll look at it detail later.
The Zbroia Hortitsia comes in two versions: the 330/180 and the 450/220, which is the one seen here. The company’s designation refers to the barrel length in millimetres followed by the cylinder capacity in cubic centimetres, with the longer model costing an extra £30 at £589, but delivering a higher shot count of 160 in .177 and 200 in .22. I haven’t handled the shorter model, but the 450/220 was a delight to hold, weighing in at 3.1kg and having a centre of balance just forward of the trigger guard with the scope mounted.
The finish of both the metalwork and the stock is functional and workmanlike, with absolutely no chequering on the stock, presumably to save money. But it would be wrong to brand the Hortitsia a ‘plain Jane’: there’s a simple elegance to this rifle that is backed up by its performance in the field. You can choose two types of finish on the wooden stock: the standard brown seen here, or grey, both types being made from ash. At the moment, the stock is available as a right-hand version only.
Whichever stock you go for will feature a non-adjustable butt pad that is nevertheless grippy, and a non-adjustable cheekpiece that is nevertheless quite high. The cheekpiece is of the raised-profile Monte Carlo type, and features a high comb with a rollover that I found very comfortable to use.
The cheekpiece’s comb naturally slotted under my right cheekbone, keeping the rifle locked in place while in the aim, while the rollover prevented it from digging in and becoming uncomfortable during extended shooting sessions.
The forend is quite long, and ends in a pronounced lip that’s known as a Schnabel tip. This was originally used on shorter stocks to stop the leading hand from slipping off the forend and onto the barrel, but there’s no danger of that happening here. In more recent times, the Schnabel tip has become more of an aesthetic embellishment, which many traditionalists will appreciate seeing on the classically simple Hortitsia.
The scope rail is Picatinny-style, meaning you’ll need the correct type of mounts. Some shooters believe the military-derived Picatinny rail to be clunky and inelegant on an air rifle, but the slotted system makes mounting a scope a cinch. I elected to fit a little Discovery VT-2 3-12×44 scope, which I felt was a perfect match for a hunting rifle like the Hortitsia. While the focus of this review is on the rifle, not the scope, I was very impressed by the optical clarity of this relatively low-priced £139.99 telly.
The long 220cc air cylinder, which features a manometer at the front, has a working pressure of 300 bar and is tested to 495 bar – but I’m always a bit uncomfortable filling a rifle to anything above 230 bar, and stuck to an even more conservative 220 bar for my testing. Filling comes courtesy of a push-fit probe, and two are supplied with the rifle. One has a thread that can be screwed onto a regular air hose, while the other has a Foster fitting that can be used with a quick-change coupler – this is great if you already have, or think you might end up with, more than one PCP.
As previously mentioned, the Hortitsia has a straight-pull action, but what does that really mean? With a conventional turn-bolt action, the bolt handle is rotated upwards, drawn to the rear, pushed forwards and then rotated downwards. But with a straight-pull action, the bolt can be cycled back and forth without the need to rotate the cocking handle, reducing the number of individual movements from four to two. With conventional firearms, the aim of the straight-pull system is to increase the rate of fire, and it’s exactly the same with the Hortitsia.
This rifle, however, does have a locking latch which must be released by pushing it forwards with your thumb before the cocking handle can be pulled back. It may sound complicated, but is perfectly straightforward in practice.
When placing my right hand onto the cocking handle, I naturally found myself thumbing the locking latch forwards, after which it was a simple case of pulling the handle backwards and then pushing it forwards again. This sounds like three separate operations, but they can be done pretty much in one fluid motion. After firing a few magazines’ worth of pellets, muscle memory had kicked in and I was cycling the action in roughly half a second – it’s that fast.
Another benefit of the straight-pull system is the fact that the movement of the cocking handle is in line with the bore, unlike the turn-bolt system where the upwards and downwards movement of the bolt could throw you off aim, although this is admittedly unlikely to happen with an airgun.
The only minor drawback with the system on the Hortitsia is the proximity of your fingers to the nuts that secure the mounts to the Picatinny rail when you’re operating the cocking handle. Unlike the Allen bolts on dovetail mounts, which are typically partially recessed into the base of the mount, the nuts on Picatinny mounts are usually fairly chunky and stand proud. With the mounts secured from the right-hand side, which is my usual way of attaching scope mounts, I found myself skinning my knuckles when cycling the action. But with the mounts flipped round 180 degrees, the problem was solved.
Two magazines are supplied with the rifle; these are a rotary style, each with a capacity of 12 shots in .177 and 10 in .22. Pellets must be loaded the correct way round, and each magazine is clearly marked with a white dot on the side that faces the shooter, after which two O-rings running around the circumference of the magazine hold the pellets secure.
With the cocking handle pulled back, the magazine just clicks into place from the right-hand side of the magazine well. It’s held in place by two spring-loaded ball bearings. Give it a quick turn clockwise to index it to the bore, and you’re ready to shoot.
It can be all too easy to lose track of how many shots you’ve taken from magazines of this type, but Zbroia has solved this problem by placing a white dot on the action block, which can be aligned with a white dot on the edge of the magazine. When you see the dots line up again after you’ve taken a few shots, you know you’ve already fired your last.
The two-stage trigger is adjustable and broke at 1lb 11oz out of the box, which I was happy enough with. The first stage was short, but a bit mushy, while the more important second stage was reasonably predictable and crisp. Tinkering with the adjustments would probably be a worthwhile exercise.
The safety catch, as is common on many air rifles, is located within the trigger guard. It takes the form of a short brass lever capped with a ball that can be flicked to the rear with your trigger finger for ‘safe’ and forwards for ‘fire’. It can be applied or disengaged at any time, and has a definite and reassuring ‘click’. If you’re worried that the noise might spook your quarry, the catch can be slowly guided to ‘fire’ with your finger and thumb, making it near-silent in operation.
The 45cm floating barrel is in a shroud that keeps the rifle quiet, whether it’s being shot in the field or at an indoor range. There’s no provision to unscrew the end cap and add an additional moderator, but you wouldn’t really need to at sub-12ft-lb power levels.
With the rifle filled and the magazine loaded, it was time to put the Hortisia through its paces, using JSB-made Air Arms Diabolo Field pellets. Chronograph testing was carried out with weighed pellets all coming in at exactly 8.4 grains. A magazine’s worth yielded an average muzzle velocity of 786 feet per second, giving a muzzle energy of 11.37 foot pounds. There was a variation of 11 feet per second across the sample, which might sound high, but the results on paper told a different story. The Hortitsia is very much a straight shooter, proving that real-world results are always more meaningful than statistics.
Having started with Diabolo Fields, and getting some decent results, I worked my way through several other types before finding success with another JSB pellet – the Exact Express, which typically shoots better out of my springers than my PCPs. Zbroia guarantees its rifles to group within 20mm at 30 metres; I managed a 10.7mm centre-to-centre group at the slightly shorter 30 yards. Full marks to the Hortisia for accuracy – with the right pellet.
The Zbroia Hortisia is certainly a very capable hunter, but its straight-pull action makes it a contender for speedy target shooting disciplines such as breakable disc – and it’ll deliver a ton of fun on the plinking range as well.
Look & Feel: 8
Build Quality: 8
“Despite its clean, classical styling, the Zbroia Hortitsia is more about ergonomics than aesthetics, but that makes it a rifle that handles well, is easy to shoot and delivers good accuracy with the right pellets – and for the price, who could ask for more?”