By Mike Yardley
Tuesday, 05 August 2008
The Arrieta 28-bore side-by-side is a well made gun, but there is some room for improvement.
The Arrieta 28-bore sidelock side-by-side is built on a rounded Holland & Holland-style bar action.
The barrels are 28" long and the gun weighs in at 6lbs 3oz - an excellent weight for a modern side-by-side 28.
First aesthetic impressions are good, without being absolutely outstanding. The polished silver action was a little bright for my taste. My preference would have been for a colour case hardened frame, or, perhaps, a duller coin finish.
The round bar action is quite well proportioned. Being picky, however, I have always thought a round bar only really works on a best quality gun - one where there is the time to put the extra effort into the details of finish.
I was not especially fond of the screws with bleed holes in the action balls of the test gun, nor did I like the large lock plate retaining screw to the rear of the locks - the top edge of which was too close to the top line of the lock plate.
Every detail of finish has to be perfect to bring off a round bar gun, especially in a small bore.
The fairly tight scroll engraving is well done, however the coverage is a little sparse - rather like an old Holland Badminton. I was not quite sure about the very large rosettes at the knuckle, but they grew on me. The lock plates, and in particular the top of the action bar, could have done with a little more coverage.
The work around the fences is excellent, however. Blacking is good, and metal-to-metal and wood-to-metal fit are well up to standard.
The stock of the test gun shows good figure, but is quite light in colour. The proportions are good, as is the length at 15". This little gun really scores, though, when it is brought to face and shoulder.
It is excellent to mount - pointable and lively, but not too light. As regular readers will well know, I have a soft spot for 28s. I often use one for my game shooting, though this year I have moved to a 32" 20-bore.
I have proved to myself that a 28, when suitably loaded and choked, will take on just about any game shooting task.
There is no question that a 28 is suitable in experienced hands for early season use, walked-up grouse, partridge etc. But make no mistake, a 28 will knock pheasants down decisively as well - even the late season high birds of the West Country and Wales, provided one shoots within sensible limits.
Arrieta guns, and I have made a number of visits to the factory, are still made, predominantly, by old-style bench methods. I would venture that significantly more hand work goes into the average Arrieta, Garbi or Arrizabalaga these days than most of London's finest.
The CNC revolution has not quite established itself in Spain as it has in Italy and the UK.
Basque country manufacturers remain reluctant to invest the enormous amounts of capital required for computer controlled machinery when there are still plenty of time served, hardworking, craftsmen available.
One thing that strikes you when you visit the Spanish factories is the speed at which the artisans work, compared to their remaining British peers.
This is no criticism of the latter, just an observation that the Spanish craftsmen have managed to save their jobs by working faster than the modern gun trade norm. I suspect Spain today is much as Birmingham used to be.
If one had visited the gunmaking quarter 100 years ago, one would have found hundreds of workers beavering away at various tasks on guns of all grades in much the same way as the Spaniards do today.
All of this is not to say that there is no modern element to current Spanish gunmaking. I would guess, for example, that Arrieta locks are mainly machine made. But much more hand work goes into Spanish side-by-side guns than most others produced today.
Generally considered, the Arrieta is a well made gun with some integrity to it. The barrels are chopper lump, fixed choke, and well put together.
They bear Spanish marks for 2.3/4" (70mm) cartridges at 1370 BAR. There is, of course, no widely available option of 3" shells for the 28-bore yet. One might comment, meantime: who needs them?
I use 21, 24, and 25gram loads for practice and 28 (1 ounce) payload shells for game shooting.
They do the job delightfully well. The 28 has always been a sweet shooting gun, although I tend to stuff a little more shot into mine than traditionalists might advise.
The tubes on the test gun were reasonably straight - the Spanish have never been quite as good at barrel making as the Brits and Italians in my experience. One feature I really liked, though, was the flat, not too wide, filecut rib.
It was of the type sometimes referred to as a 'pigeon rib', but its form was subtle and it was well proportioned to the scale of this 28. It complimented the gun beautifully. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that it made this Arrieta into something quite special. It is one of the best ribs I have seen on a small bore side-by-side.
The mechanics of the Arrieta are familiar and well-proven.
The action is a Holland & Holland inspired bar action sidelock, which is combined, as in a Holland, with Southgate ejector work. Although I did not remove these locks, I have examined Arrieta locks many times.
They have always inspired confidence, and though essentially H&H in concept, they have their own clever interceptor mechanism utilising a small coil spring.
The ergonomics of the action were good too. The thumb piece of the toplever was a good size and well chequered.
The button style safety (more Purdey than Holland) is my favourite pattern, because it is easy to manipulate with cold, wet, or gloved hands. I have mentioned that aesthetically speaking I was not quite sure about the rosettes around the replaceable hinge pin.
I especially liked the carving at the fences of the gun, though, and the way in which breech face and barrels blend to together. There is a small shield of engraving at the breech end of the rib that looks most attractive.
The Arrieta gun has an English-style straight hand stock. The comb is well done, and the grip comfortable.
The length of pull 'off the shelf' was 15" - a good standard length for a 28 or 20, which I would usually advise fitting an 1/8" longer to the same client than the equivalent 12. The quality of wood was good, though the finish a little light, as noted.
Oiling and checkering were competently done.
The fore-end has an Anson style button fastener as is usually seen on Arrietas and AyAs. Dimensions of the stock (and one may order to one's needs) were 1.1/2 for drop at comb and 2.1/4" for drop at heel, which is little low, though I might also note that, all other things being equal, small bore guns have a tendency to shoot high.
The Arrieta was a little corker - very pleasing to shoot. I wish I had had more time to play with it, but my impression of its shooting qualities was very positive.
The handling and balance were first class. Recoil control was good. Though effortless to use, it was not too light, as many small bores used to be.
The overall weight of just over 6lbs and 28" barrels complimented each other well although I generally prefer a little more weight and 30" tubes on a 28-bore over-under.
The rib was truly excellent, and would certainly be my choice on any new 28 or 20-bore side-by-side. It is, roughly speaking, one-tenth the cost of a new English gun.
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