AYA No.1 Sideplate shotgun: The range of options available really is extensive. A customer can choose from four or five different bore sizes, barrel length, double or single trigger, rib shape, and chamber length.
He can pick different stock and fore-end styles and also choose to have his gun made with a self opening action if the fancy takes him.
For the left-handers among us, AYA will also make a completely left handed opening gun – and there are very few gunmakers out there who still offer this low-demand option.
The gun I’ve picked for this month’s test is a 20-bore with just a touch or two of special finish.
The most striking thing is the wood quality on this particular model. The stocker has chosen a superb piece of eye-catching walnut with lots of figure and contrast to it, and he has shaped it in much the style of a best London gun – in particular the Holland and Holland.
The straight hand stock for instance has been formed into a diamond cross section in much the same way as the H&H style of doing things.
In fact I don’t think there’s any doubt at all this Spanish gun has drawn most of its inspiration from the mechanics of the Holland guns. It’s a pretty close copy in many respects.
For this gun the makers have chosen to stock it with a 15in length to centre and given it an 1/8in right hand cast. The drops at comb and heel are 40mm and 60mm respectively, which are well within the standard window of dimensions that will suit most shooters.
That said, if you’re going to buy one of these hand-made guns you might as well have the stock made to measure when you place your order.
Chequer pattern is in a classic traditional style, finely executed with hand cut diamonds. The pattern on the splinter fore-end compliments that on the stock. Overall finish of the woodwork is very good and it has been treated to a traditional oil finish.
The barrels are made from a different type of steel to that used in the rest of the AYA range with a chromium content that makes it a little tougher than the others.
However the barrels have not been chrome lined, so there can be no short cuts when cleaning.
Barrels on the test gun are 27in long which is itself an option as standard 20-bore barrels from this maker are an inch longer. It has been chambered to take 2.3/4in (70mm) cartridges and subjected to standard Spanish Proof.
As Spain is a member of CIP the proofing level is acceptable in this country.
The chokes are 1/4 and 1/2 which is standard on a game gun and suited to most types of shooting.
The rib is concave, slightly sunken in the middle and finished with a small silver foresight.
Mechanically speaking the No.1 is a very straight forward uncomplicated gun. It is a bar action sidelock with the mainspring being located in front of the hammer.
The strikers are disc set for easy removal should it be needed and they are locked in place with a small screw that also acts as a gas vent to prevent pitting to the action face.
A nice feature of this gun is its hand detachable locks – all you have to do to remove them is unscrew the tab pin on the left hand lock. Once they’re out (and the job only takes a few seconds) you will instantly spot another feature of the No.1 – its gold plated lockwork.
All parts other than the springs have been treated in this way and, I have to say, the effect is very pleasing to the eye. True, the plating has been done largely for cosmetic reasons but there is a practical aspect in that as gold doesn’t rust it gives some worthwhile protection to the internal parts.
The workings of the lock work are fairly simple in that the hammer is powered via a swivel and vee mainspring. The sear, which is also powered by a vee spring, can be found behind the hammer and, if you look closely, you will also find an intercepting safe sear.
This useful feature lies beside the main sear and its purpose in life is to prevent the gun discharging if it is dropped, or jarred, by accident. It does this by catching the hammer should it escape the main sear.
The hammer and sears of the gun are held together by what is called the bridle. This is the brace-like part in the centre of the lock which on many guns is pierced as a decorative feature. On this particular No.1 the bridle has also been engraved.
This doesn’t have any purpose other than decoration but it does give the gun a nice touch and shows the craftsmen have been paying attention to detail.
The locks are cocked by limbs in either side of the action which protrude through the front of the action knuckle and are worked by the fore-end as the gun is opened. These cocking limbs also engage with the ejector work when the gun is fired.
Having been pushed up by the hammer firing forwards the tooth on the side of the limb positions itself just in front of the ejector kicker leg. When the gun opens the two parts make contact and this forces the assembly to rotate until it is kicked over by its own spring, hitting the extractor and so ejecting the fired cartridge.
The ejector mechanism is re-cocked as the gun is closed by an assistor which engages with a cam in the knuckle of the gun.
The action is colour hardened to give it a nice mottled finished and this contrasts well with the furniture of the gun i.e. top lever, fore-end iron and trigger guard, which have been blacked.
The hand cut engraving on the gun has been done to a very good standard and takes the form of fine rose and scroll in much the same style as you find on Purdey guns. Whoever did the engraving on this particular sample made a very
neat job of it.
At a glance the No.1 and the No.2 appear very similar but there are many features on the No.1 that set it apart, especially the shape of its action.
On the No.1 the action strap is nipped in at its end in the same way as an English gun and the line of the action has been carved to a greater extent.
But the differences don’t stop there.
The No.1’s cover plates are much larger over the cross pin, its trigger guard will usually have a rolled edge for decoration, and the fore-end furniture is also more ornate with a tip similar to an English gun with quite an ornate diamond in the centre.
This is a lovely gun to own. It’s pretty, well made and is elegant in both its handling and shooting.
It isn’t quite what an English gun would be, but at £6570 the asking price is less than the VAT bill you’d get on an English gun!
The No.1 is almost in a class of its own in this price bracket but competition does come in the shape of a handful of Italian guns – and also one or two Spanish gunmaking houses, including Arrieta.
Build quality: 9
Value for money: 8
For more information contact: ASI, Snape Maltings, Suffolk.
Telephone 01728 688555