Zbroia air rifles

Wait for it . . .

Nathan Besh had his patience tested when buying air rifles from Ukraine

If you want to help improve a country, one of the best things you can do is directly bolster its economy by buying locally produced goods or providing micro-loans and finance direct to local businesses. This is one of the best ways to ensure long-term prosperity and it’s how I started my journey importing three Zbroia air rifles from Ukraine. After several discussions with their export team I decided to go ahead. That was February 23, 2022 and the very next day Vladimir Putin changed things forever.

A bit of history

The story of the Zbroia Company begins in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the city of Kharkiv when a team of enthusiasts came together to import goods for outdoor activities and hunting. During the next 10 years the business constantly expanded and in 2011 development and production of Zbroia rifles commenced.

Kharkiv is the second-largest city in Ukraine, home to some of the most prestigious education facilities with more than 20 research institutions as well as significant manufacturing facilities from machine-building and electro-technology through to instrument-making, all of which generates an incredible pool of talent. Zbroia fitted out its workshops with top-quality CNC machines from Germany and Japan and built its own in-house woodworking, metalworking and electroplating facilities.

The first domestic PCP rifle made was the Kozak (named after the ancient warriors and defenders of Ukraine), a compact bullpup design allowing for a large air cylinder and long barrel. This facilitates a significant number of high-powered shots in a compact package with excellent balance, perfect for hunting. The second design was a classic in the Hortitsia (the island where the Kozaks lived) with traditional Monte Carlo stock.

Zbroia then started working with the National Biathlon Federation of Ukraine and collaborated with athletes on their Olympic team, the result being the first domestically-made PCP for biathlons. This provided a low-cost solution for training, providing high reliability in the harshest of conditions with a rifle which fully complies with all international biathlon requirements.

In 2016 the Zbroia Company launched its export business with products now sold in more than 20 countries in Europe, North and South America, South Africa, the Persian Gulf, south-east Asia and New Zealand, while their Biathlon model is used for training athletes in Greenland, Sweden, USA, Latvia, Hungary and Slovakia. Throughout 2022 and 2023 the Zbroia team continued to work in the face of regular shelling and bombardment from Russian forces, with priceless support from other countries as well as everyday customers. The staff know their work is important with products expected and appreciated the world over.

Import process

This is a long and arduous affair but if you want something unique it can be done. While the initial cost of a firearm from overseas may seem inexpensive, it’s not uncommon for those costs to double or triple once it’s reaches you – and expect at least six months from order to taking possession. The first step is to check if the firearms comply with local requirements. Depending on classification there may be size restrictions and/or features which are forbidden and it’s up to the importer to verify and accept the risks if they don’t make it through Customs.

The next step is paperwork as the seller may require approvals to verify you can receive the firearm in this country. This may be an international import certificate from the Australian Department of Defence or your home state’s import form (for example a NSW B709). This will vary depending on the country you’re buying from.

At this stage your firearms are ready for shipping and need to be paid for – another challenge. If you mention the word ‘firearms’ to a foreign currency exchange service expect plenty of questions and refusals, due to most insurance companies having a blanket ‘no arms dealing’ type of policy regardless of approvals from the Australian Department of Defence, it’s simply a ‘no firearms’ policy. When you find a currency exchange that’s willing, you can then expect average conversion rates and more paperwork.

Once paid they’ll then have to be sent via special shipping services familiar with firearms and the required approvals and paperwork. Speak to any shipping company and you’ll find costs have risen astronomically since the end of 2019 (what used to be less than $1/kg is now more than $10/kg). When they land in Australia there’ll be additional fees for clearing and processing. GST is also added which will be on the price of the goods and expensive shipping. At this point the cost will be about 70-80 per cent of the final end price and at least twice the initial purchase fee.

Then the firearms will arrive in Australia and you may take a few calls from people you’ve never spoken to before, especially when importing firearms from a country which has just suffered a major invasion. Once here they’ll ‘vanish’ into quite a few black holes and there’s very little tracking or updates as they progress through these final steps.

The guns will undergo compliance and safety testing to confirm they meet all Australian firearms regulations and will then be released to your dealer who’ll register them in your state. If you’re handling something which has never been imported before expect delays, as they have to classify it and there’s nothing to go on as the brand and/or model may not be in their system, so a lot of extra work will be required.

After registration they can then be released so ensure you add a few weeks’ delay in each step of the process once landed. Tracking and updates may also be hard to find depending on where in the process they are, especially as prior to being registered in your name, technically they’re not ‘yours’ so it may be up to the dealer to assist with any enquiries.

It’s a long and tiresome process, however it’s absolutely possible to succeed if you have patience and set your expectations correctly. I had some invaluable support from Magnum Sports of NSW, though there are other Australian companies who specialise in importing firearms and can look after the whole process for you. Given my experience above, the advertised costs of these services seem very reasonable.

The rifles

I imported the Hortitsia, Biathlon and Kozak, all very different in application yet versatile and with some crossover between them. Zbroia offer all their rifles in .177 and .22 calibre with power from 7.5 to 44 joules with the Sapsan model also available in .30 calibre and up to 100 joules of power.

I ordered my three rifles in .22 calibre and .27 joules which would make an 18gr pellet travel at about 850fps, the sweet spot for ammunition selection and performance. Like most PCPs this power level can be adjusted through hammer spring tension, replacing the hammer spring or adjusting the internal pressure regulator (not frequently done). This power level gives me access to a wide variety of pellets from different brands and weights to ensure I achieve that perfect 850fps speed, the fastest you should typically run a diabolo-shaped pellet and maintain accuracy.

There is some parts commonality between the different models which helps manufacturing efficiency and keeps costs down, all three having internally regulated 300 bar air cylinders which are tested to 495 bar. The Hortitsia and Biathlon also share the same Fortner-style reloading system and magazines. More than 90 per cent of parts are manufactured in-house including trigger components and barrels, both made from weapon-grade steel with barrels having a 450mm (1/17”) twist. Stocks are made of ash and walnut from environmentally friendly sources and treated with Italian lacquer. Zbroia rifles can be ordered in numerous combinations of calibre, power levels, stock colour, barrel length and air tank capacity.


A classic and versatile sporting rifle well suited to either target shooting or pest control. The Monte Carlo stock allows for fast target acquisition and a great cheek weld with low or medium scope rings depending on your glass. I took the rifle out the box, verified the power setting was correct using JSB Exact Jumbo heavy 18.13gr pellets to achieve consistent 850fps over the chronograph, then mounted a Hawke Endurance 6-24 x 50 scope and bore-sighted it in.

I headed to Peninsular Firearm Academy at Terrey Hills and set up at 50m on a bench with a front bag for the rest and used their electronic targets. It took a few shots to get on target but once I did it was incredible (using electronic targets can be tricky as there’s nothing to actually aim at except a large black circle 15cm in diameter). The trigger was beautifully crisp and smooth and the hammer felt quite soft compared to other PCPs I’ve shot.

I was shooting consistent 10s non-stop and with the Fortner action, each follow-up shot was lightning fast. It was way easier and smoother than other straight-pull rifles I’ve used as the reload can be done with a single finger pull-back and push forward with the thumb, all while maintaining constant sight of the target and not having to take either hand off the stock. The accuracy was astounding and you’d certainly be competitive in smallbore with this rifle.


This model is based on the same platform as the Hortitsia, Fortner-style reload and magazines with the same barrel and slightly smaller capacity air tank. The difference is in the stock and sights. The former features multiple mounting points for straps as well as an adjustable cheek piece and butt plate, facilitating perfect adjustment for the shooter. While it does have a rail for mounting a scope, I went for the traditional Biathlon peep sights.

Being a true Biathlon rifle it can handle the snow as magazines have been revised with dual locking balls and are magnetically held in the stock, ensuring there’s no premature wear on rubber or silicone seals in harsh conditions. Shooting this one gave the same results as the Hortitsia, supreme accuracy and fast follow-up shots. As it complies with international standards, this would be a superb and affordable training rifle for any biathlon competitor.

Kozak FC

The Kozak Fully Compact is Zbroia’s bullpup offering, allowing a full-sized 550mm barrel and 290cc cylinder in a compact 810mm overall length, providing a beautifully balanced package that’s easy to carry in the field. The reloading mechanism is next to the magazine and not the trigger so reloads require you to take your hand away from the trigger, slower yet not unlike other bullpups.

The Picatinny rail is also quite close to the barrel so if using 40 or 50mm glass you’ll need at least medium-height rings in order to achieve a good cheek-weld. This would be the perfect varmint rifle being compact, beautifully weighted with solid power and shot count.

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