ZRODelta (pronounced “Zee-ro Delta”), along with U.S. Optics, put on a media event to showcase some of their products. The event took place at the Champion Ranch, Brady Lodge nearly smack dab in the middle of Texas (the boast having the geographical center of Texas). It included a number of executives from ZRODelta as well as U.S. Optics, as well as media from several outlets.
At the event, we had the opportunity to learn a lot about both of the companies, their vision, and some of their future plans, directly from the mouths of the executives. Some media events are “horse and pony” shows, where you are bedazzled and sent away doe-eyed and enamored with the products, but you only could put a few dozen rounds down range and/or spend insufficient time with the products in a very controlled environment. This event was a bit different.
It took place the day after the 2018 NRA Annual meetings in Dallas, and everyone, including the staff of ZRODelta, U.S. Optics, and this writer were already pre-exhausted. The ranch was as much about downtime as it was about product familiarization. The equipment we ran was the same equipment that was on the floor at the show (with firing pins replaced, of course), and were all prerelease items—not yet in full production. Another purpose of the event was to gain feedback about the products in a relatively controlled setting.
The first day kicked off with a pretty standard “meet and greet” with the top level people in the company. Products were demo’ed with much more detail than we were able to see at NRA, to include the Z9 modular pistol (formerly the “Genesis”), the “Zulu” rifle (basically a well-done AR-15 in .223), and some new optics from the U.S. Optics line. ZRODelta also brought out their new AR platform “Venator” line.
After the intro, we went out to a pistol berm to run a number of the Z9 pistols that had been assembled in a few different configurations. The pistols ran pretty well, though a few of us experienced a couple of issues, specifically around the magazine release and a problem with one that would occasionally not go into battery. I do want to reiterate that these were not production ready models and the way ZRODelta handled it gave a little bit of more insight into the company dynamics. I’ve been at events where the products have issues (pre-release and not) and the company “disappears” the offending item and replaces it with another until you have a good working version, or you have some “expert” come over and explain that it is your poor fundamentals making the gun fail.
ZRODelta went into investigation mode and used the malfunctions as a point to fix and improve the product, even going so far as to bring out a slow-motion camera to record the problems for analysis. Anyone that has been remotely related to product development engineering knows that things work well in the lab, but the real polish comes after getting the products into as many different hands as possible. So the base fact that ZRODelta’s staff took a proactive interest in investigating the problem rather than just trying to put on a show demonstrated to me a level of professionalism and commitment to the product. Yes, we were a crew of “beta testers/guinea pigs,” but when your group contains shooters like Iain Harrison (of Top Shot and Recoil fame), you can be reasonably sure you are getting some quality feedback.
Another point that is good to see with a company is how they handle stresses when things don’t go to plan and when they may not know they are being watched. The original plan was to do pistols in the morning, eat lunch, then head out to the long range area to run the optics and rifles. Toward the end of lunch, staff went out to zero the rifles, and I tagged along to observe and potentially get some more photos. They performed the zeroing to great effect (these rifles are tack drivers). However, someone noticed that the scopes were not tightened on the rail. Out of the six rifles, all but one was easily zeroed even with the scopes not tightened down.
They could have just tightened them down and called it good, and honestly, I don’t think any of us would have been the wiser, and any variability we could have corrected down range. Instead, and even though it slightly impacted the timeline, Pat Harrigan (one of the principles of ZRODelta) required staff to tighten everything up and re-zero. Honestly, if it had been me, I might have tightened them down and adjusted on course. The commitment to not cutting corners was impressive to me. It is the little details that show the character of a company.
That evening we had a chance to play with a prototype product which I think many of us agreed was one of the most fun items to shoot (and no, I was not able to smuggle one home)–the “Sub-ZRO” 9mm carbine. I am not a Pistol Caliber Carbine freak like some of the other staff at TFB (ahem, Pete), but the Sub-ZRO was just crazy fun. It was light, easy to manage, and just let me dump rounds as fast as I could, ringing steel with every hit. Except for the stupid 4th plate. These are supposed to be available later this year, fingers crossed. Clint mentioned that there might be a 10mm and .45ACP version available around SHOT next year.
The second day we were left to our own devices with no set schedule. This format allowed us to experience their products under our own direction, and to set up the situations under which we wanted to test the product. I also used it as a chance to reshoot some photos as I made the rookie mistake of not checking the white balance on my camera the first day.
I spent most of my time shooting the Venator with Chris Tran (IG: @christranfiveoh) and Sean Utley (IG: @sean_utley). The Venator rifle has two platform variants with two caliber choices–AR10 and AR15. The AR10 platform will be offered in .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor (which are both becoming pretty standard offerings). The AR15 platform departs a bit and brings in a couple of “exotics”: 6.5 Grendel and .224 Valkyrie. The big claim is that the rifles all ship with a ½ MOA guarantee. Let that sink in for a minute. An AR Platform with a ½ MOA guarantee. You usually trade accuracy for reliability. Clint Walker claimed that not only are they going to hit that accuracy claim, but they will have a high degree of reliability AND also come in at a reasonable weight. I can verify that the rifles we demo’ed were disgustingly accurate out to the 1200 yard mark, and I know we collectively ran somewhere north of 500 rounds of at least the Creedmoor.
This also brings up another fun test of the ZRODelta product line–the scope mount. There was a claim of a true return to zero, after un-mounting from the rail. This claim was verified under all of our watchful eyes, with a rifle dialed in at 1200 yards, scope removed, scope placed back on gun and mount finger tightened, and reconfirming shots. The range had a TargetVision system so we could see all watch the rounds impact the target–no hazy confirmations through spotting scopes.
The ZRODelta/U.S. Optic Media Event is one of the most productive events I have attended. The event was not scripted, and it didn’t feel like we were being forced to choke on the product. In fact the opposite—we were allowed to grab a product and explore at our leisure. All of the ZRODelta and U.S. Optics staff were approachable and available to answer questions. This event is a format that other companies should adopt as there is a much better ability to get hands-on with products—it was honestly a little more productive of an environment than we typically get with products when they are sent out to us.
Guns.com did an excellent video overview of the event:
In the next few months, we should be getting review samples of each of the ZRODelta firearms and scopes from U.S. Optics and will be doing a more detailed deep dive on each of them. I received a scope mount and bipod at the event which I will be putting to the test later this month. I would definitely like to take the Venator AR-10 variants head-to-head with my RISE Armament 1121XR variants.
You can learn more about ZRODelta on their website: https://zrodelta.com/About/
You can learn more about U.S. Optics at their website: https://www.usoptics.com/usoptics/
ZRODelta put us up in the Champion’s Ranch, meals included, along with some schwag.