The first time I had heard of Zenith Firearms was at SHOT Show 2017. I walked to their booth at Range Day and saw a great variety of pistols, shotguns, and roller-delayed blowback firearms ready to be shot. I was not sure what they were all about so I got to shooting and talking.
The first person I spoke to at the Zenith booth happened to be one of their gunsmiths, and he quickly guided me through their lineup of high quality firearms. There were a great many pistols that they were looking forward to having me shoot. The ammo they were lending with most firearms there was their own ZQI ammunition. Like all the firearms at the booth, their ammo is made in Turkey.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ZENITH FIREARMS
Zenith Firearms is an all American company that got started with a simple idea. There are high quality firearms out there in the International market that we were not looking into and taking advantage of. Their goal was, and is, to bring in high quality firearms at an affordable price and with extra goodies that satisfies the American gun market. Nowadays all the firearms in their extensive and diverse inventory comes from Turkish firearm manufacturers. Zenith imports a variety of firearms from such companies as Tisas, Tedna, MKE and Girsan.
In light of the recent popularity of Canik firearms, also made in Turkey, I would think people would respect the dedication and pride that Turkey takes in getting their designs right and producing top quality firearms designed for use by professionals around the world.
I personally would find it to be a compliment that companies like Girsan have such a great interest in the designs like the Beretta 92F, the 1911, and the S&W M&P. Imagine all the work it took for Girsan to guarantee the designs pass the rigorous testing required for the firearms to even be considered for service by the Turkish Ministry of Defense. The testing is nothing short of NATO testing, which seems to be a standard for most European countries that are considering a firearm for their LE/military. Most of the firearms produced by Girsan are designed specifically for service in the Turkish Defense Forces.
Why would you buy firearms made in Turkey? Are they not just a bunch of copies and rip-offs of already reliable and awesome firearms? Well, from my observations, that is somewhat true but it is not quite the case. It is true that most of the pistols and rifles are licensed out to Turkey for production. Some of the firearms made by Girsan are reverse-engineered to suit their needs, while companies like Tisas and Tedna specialize in making more recreational firearms like 1911s and shotguns for hunting. MKE is different from these other Turkish manufacturers, and they operate by a whole different standard.
WHO IS MKE?
MKE is a direct manufacturer of military arms for the Ministry of Defense, but they also manufacture firearms specifically to fill foreign orders. Things like tank guns, mortars, rockets, explosives, ammunition, and a wide variety of small and heavy arms are just a few things that MKE produces. Here in America, Zenith is importing a large quantity of high quality roller-delayed blowback firearms from MKE. So what is the story here?
To be brief, MKE was one of the first licensed manufacturers for H&K during the Cold War. During this time, there was an arms race and the big names like FN and H&K were setting up manufacturing facilities in various countries in order to fill orders and support NATO allies with arms. H&K directly oversaw the production of their firearms in Turkey, which were made on H&K tooling and made to exact H&K specifications. Basically, this means that MP5 and G3 rifles made in Turkey are exactly the same guns as the ones made in Germany. The only difference is the were made in a different country. Today, MKE is continuously becoming inundated with orders for their H&K firearms and several of their other designs. They still produce 100% H&K firearms and export them to several countries, and the orders just keep coming in.
Just to be clear and beat the dead horse, the H&K firearms produced by MKE are not some kind of clone or reverse-engineered design. Every roller delayed blowback firearm produced by MKE is a completely authentic H&K firearm. This means that when you buy a roller delayed blowback firearm from Zenith, you are not getting some rip off H&K design that will not live up to H&K quality. You are getting a genuine H&K, made in facilities designed specifically to produce H&K firearms to the exact same specifications as the ones made in Germany. Same metal, heat treating, finish, everything. These are H&K firearms made in an H&K plant that takes up residence in Turkey. Okay, hope that got the point across.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
The firearms Zenith is bringing into the US are high quality and are all cleanly manufactured, rugged, and durable. Just looking at them, I was thinking these firearms were going to carry a hefty price tag. Boy was I wrong. Due to the fact that the American Dollar has a significant value in Turkey, you the buyer can bring home a NATO spec pistol for under $400 and an H&K MP5/G3/G33 for under $2000. And on top of that, they come with a few goodies.
Do I think that these Turkish pistols are the end all be all just because of the NATO spec qualities and the low prices, no way. These pistols do have a place, though. I find that they do make a good alternative option to the original designs which may go for $200-$300 extra and with less to offer. Regarding the roller-delayed blowback firearms, you are getting an H&K firearm ready for military service. These are weapons made to fill military contracts, and you get to enjoy them for yourself at a fraction of the usual H&K pricing, thanks to the fact that American currency still holds good value in Turkey.
Of course, when working in the world of imports, there are issues that can arise. An example of these issues happened to Zenith right after SHOT show 2017. They were expecting a pistol called the PX-9 by Tisas to enter the market by early March or April. Well, it ended up that Tisas cancelled it’s deal with Zenith and left them with a promise unfulfilled to the American consumer. I was particularly sad about that, because I was pretty committed to getting one since I did very well with the pistol at Range Day.
But little things like this are risks that Zenith is willing to take in order to fill the demand that the American market has. Clearly you can only do so much and bring in as much as the companies are willing to give you, but they are always trying to negotiate better deals. The firearms manufacturers have lately received big government contracts for the firearms Zenith is hoping and trying to import, which explains why they sometimes are out of various guns and parts. But be assured that they have not forgotten about you.
For me, I think these guns are great guns for training courses that need rental firearms that are inexpensive but rugged enough to shove thousands of rounds through in short notice, with little maintenance. The similar qualities that these firearms share with the original, and more expensive, designs would make for a great training tool. They would teach you proper firearms handling with features and a manual of arms not too far separated from other more familiar brands. When you are running a big range that lends out firearms to inexperienced and ill-equipped students, you need to know that the firearm is reliable. But also, I think the firearms should be easy to maintain and inexpensive to replace if the need should arise.
Recently, Zenith has been on the lookout for Police departments and military units that would be interested in working with them to fill orders for some of the roller-delayed blowback firearms. Zenith can fill orders for select fire models of these rifles and pistols if the purchasing organization requests it and is permitted. My recommendation to them is to search out and work with some local SWAT teams to see if they would be interested. This is something IWI did with their Tavor rifles. They have contracts with the local SWAT to provide firearms, which helps both the company and the Police departments.
Unlike many other firearm importers out there, Zenith has a crew of 6 people that have the specific task of providing custom services. They offer a specific custom carry package for their 1911’s which include custom work:
- 11 Degree target crowned barrel
- Action smoothed and tuned
- Beveled magazine well
- Custom ejection port
- Polished feed ramp and barrel throat
- Trigger stop installation
- Custom Duracoat® finish
- 3 Metalform magazines
- Full length guide rod
- Shock buffer
- Extended magazine release
- Extended magazine well and main spring housing
- Adjustable rear sight
- Fiber optic front sight
Personally, I think they should consider expanding this to a couple of packages for the MC-28. Currently they offer to do custom finishes, but not this type of gunsmithing work. But I would imagine that they could make something happen if you were to ask kindly with a cherry on top. I wonder if they would even be willing to do some work like this on their much loved and coveted roller-delayed blowback firearms.
All in all, I think Zenith firearms is an interesting company that offers alot to the American market. Their pistols and shotguns get a steady bit of business and respect, but lately people are learning about their roller-delayed blowback collection and the real story behind it. For this reason, Zenith is forced to shift their focus to expanding their inventory and filling the demands currently being placed on their roller-delayed blowback firearms. We shall see how well it goes in the future, but I have a feeling that the next couple of years are going to have many of the folks at Zenith working long and busy days.
If you should be interested in taking a gander at the options that Zenith provides, I would recommend you pick up the phone and talk to their staff. Much of the staff is former military and have vast experience in the firearms industry. They are passionate about their products and are happy to answer any questions, even if it means getting one of their gunsmiths on the line. They were kind and patient with me as I asked a huge variety of questions so I could learn more about their products. Definitely a great all around company to work with, if you ask me.
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