RFM Zeus Luxus Side by Side
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- Last updated: 19/03/2021
RFM has been making shotguns in Italy since 1957 and is a new name for me. The brand is distributed here in Britain by The Sportsman Gun Centre. They import the premium side-by-side version of the Zeus, which is available in either a standard Boxlock design or side plate actioned version. We had the boxlock version with scroll engraving and highgrade wood in 20-gauge that retails for £1699.99. You can order either version in .410, 12, 20 or 28-gauge and prices range from £1399.99 for the Boxlock or £1699.99 for the additional side plate version. You also have a barrel length choice of either 28” (on test) or 30”.
It is nice to try a sideby- side for a change and it proved a lot of fun, plus I have been hankering after a small calibre version for rough shooting around the woods.
The woodwork is what catches the eye first, as it really is very nicely proportioned and presented to the shooter, coming up a treat and handling instinctively well. The pistol grip formula combined to the slim forend profile is very sensible as it combines better handling/ control of the stock yet still has that vintage look.
To release the forend, an inset polished and serrated push button at the tip of the forend is depressed and it disengages very neatly to allow the barrels to be removed. It has a slim depth but reasonably wide girth so the fingers can rest on the wood and not too much on the barrels, to blemish or burn them!
Everything is very tight, showing the RFM is well made and put together with plenty of life in it for thousands of rounds before it gets loose. There is also some well-cut checkering that looks great and does grip the hand well as it is supposed to do, not all shotguns do.
The rear section of the stock has a length of pull (LOP) of 14.75” which works well, giving a snug fit in the shoulder. The comb is sufficiently high so as not to tilt the head and I particularly like the pistol grip arrangement, as although a straight stock is more traditional looking, the pistol grip is much nicer to shoot with, in my view. It gives a better trigger pull or length of pull for the fingers and a more relaxed grip of the stock. It also tends to orientate the stock for me, to really get the head nestled down for correct eye alignment down the rib and a natural swing.
There is no palm swell but it is a generous size with good panels of cut checkering to each. The very dark walnut of the butt stock is particularly nice, with a well-oiled finish and some good figuring and colour all over it. You can see that with use and oiling this walnut will start to show a lovely warm depth of colour. As with most Italian shotguns of a certain level or price, the chosen walnut is just that bit better than similarly priced guns. There is a simple, solid black rubber recoil pad to finish the stock off.
The barrels are deep traditional blued with lovely overall shine and depth to the blacking. They have fixed chokes on this model, showing a marked 4-star right barrel that equates to ¼ choke and three stars left for a ½ choke, which is a sensible pair of choke sizes for a sporting side-byside 20-gauge. You could opt for the 30” barrels but personally I would go for the shorter 28”. In fact, a short 26” version would be nice for our type of rough shooting around the squirrel drays and for rabbits.
You have an 8mm serrated top rib with a single gold bead at the muzzle end that is very visible. The rib is slim enough as not to obscure the game as you sight it. The barrels are very well struck off, with a solid and uniform central rib joining the two barrels. Automatic select ejectors are well-timed and brisk, they ejected all the brands of ammo tested.
The barrels internally are very well polished and have a 3” chamber with a good amount of metal around the chamber walls for strength. There is a jewelled finish to the underside of the barrels that match the jewelled action internal faces too.
The Boxlock design has a very good fit and finish, plus jewelled internal surfaces. This model shows the additional side plates for added appeal and more surface area for engraving. You have a traditional locking bar at the bottom of the action that locks the lumps very securely, actually, quite a tight fit to assemble the RFM initially. This is a good thing as it means the RFM is built to last. The forward lump protrudes into the bottom of the action face for a very good solid lock-up of the action. The exterior has a lovely old-fashioned coned surface which is adorned by some very nice ornate and not over the top engraving.
This consists of scrolls and acanthus leaves to the action sides, bottom, trigger guard as well as the escutcheons and top lever, plus each side of the safety tang. It is well cut with detail enhanced by blackened recessed areas to accentuate the design.
The top opening lever is scalloped to both sides and checkered to aid grip. As the action is opened the safety is automatically set. This is a non-inertia system, so each pull of the trigger drops a hammer on each chamber, the right first then the left. Open choke to tighter choke.
The silvered safety catch has a convenient hump that allows the thumb to take it off and make the RFM ready to fire. The brightly polished steel trigger is thin and sits in a well-curved trigger guard with plenty of room for manoeuvre.
My son really liked the RFM as it was very well proportioned, lightweight but handled and swung very credibly. We spent quite a bit of time just walking the woods after squirrels and opportune vermin. The RFM 20-gauge was perfect, some of the subsonic loads were ideal in this scenario, close range, opened right barrel choke of ¼ and excellent patterns for instant humane kills. The pistol grip stock design certainly contributes to good handling and also helps restrain recoil from some of the stiffer 28- gram copper pellet loads.
A really nice cartridge to use was the Eley VIP Game holding 30-grams of #6 shot. It gave a slightly high pattern formation above the front bead and excellent concentric, evenly spaced patterns on ½ choke. On the 30” pattern board we had a total of 207 hits, with 88 inner and 119 outers. There were no holes for vermin to get through either.
The 28-gram, fibre wadded Eley Zenith with #6 shot, kick a bit more but not unduly and the patterns are equally good and tight too. 231 total pellets hit at 30 yards with a swarm of 137 pellets within the inner circle and the remaining 94 around the circumference. Hard-hitting too, and worth the extra money per cartridge fired.
The Lyalvale Supreme Competition are a lighter load for noise-sensitive areas. We like this 21-gram cartridge with #7.5 shot and fibre wad, as it is quiet, has minimal recoil and achieves excellent patterns for closerange work on fast squirrels in trees. The ½ choke at 30 yards produced a total of 183 pellet strikes of which 108 hit the outer 30” and the remaining 75 clustered in the circle area, with very dense even placement.
Good price, very well made, robust yet elegant and producing very good patterns down range. If you are after a good Italian made side-byside, especially in the smaller calibres, then the RFM Zeus Luxus would certainly fit the bill.