Many readers will be aware that the AYA No.1, a shotgun I reviewed in 2007, is their top-of-the-range gun, built in Spain but finished in the UK.
It’s a case of taking the slogan “English in all but name” to the limit of its meaning.
This kind of bi-national production should be no surprise as AYA-barrelled actions in the white have been sought after for many years as the basis of new builds, some bearing British names, very much in the way the Birmingham trade used to supply parts for London guns.
But the problem with producing a gun like the AYA No.1 is the extra time and cost involved, which means a more expensive gun.
Now it seems that AYA and ASI (the longterm importers) have come up with a more affordable option, the No.2 de Luxe.
At first glance, the No.2 de Luxe has all the appearance of the No.1, with delightful walnut and stunning decoration.
It is an undeniably good-looking gun and I suspect that even the most ardent over-under enthusiast could not fail to be impressed by such a stylish side-by-side, which, apart from the name, could be mistaken for an English gun.
There are detail differences: the sprung-front trigger is a feature the Continentals are fond of and, if one wanted to be ultra-picky, the drop points (at the end of the lock panels) are cut a bit bolder than they might be in London.
That sort of mild criticism is rather unfair, but the tendency is to judge it against best home-market standards, which is, in an odd way, a compliment.
Having made that point, it is worth looking at the gun in detail. The wood-to-metal fit is excellent, even in those areas that rarely see the light of day.
Some of the fine balance is achieved by carefully removing wood from the inside of the stock. And the oil finishing has a pleasing lustre with not a trace of any unfilled grain.
Shaping and dimensions of the stock are of the greatest importance and here this AYA scores very well.
The drop across the stock on this gun is a full 1.1⁄2in to 2.1⁄2in, with a reasonable amount of cast and toe-out all factors that contribute towards the basic fit.
Length of pull from the front trigger to the middle of the butt is a smidgen under 15in, but one has to remember that, when ordering a No.2 de Luxe, it will be a bespoke fit to suit the customer.
Comfort in use is, in part, obtained by the subtle shaping of the face of the stock (next to the cheek) and the taper on the comb ? all of which appeared to be carried out just right, but actual testing would tell if this was so.
An essential part of any good quality gun is the decoration: it is what we have come to expect.
This on the No.2 de Luxe is laser cut, and in those areas where it is not present, such as the edges and insides of the lockplates, there is colour case hardening ? indicative of the sort of attention to detail one has become used to with top-of-the-range AYAs.
The main decoration, which extends around the whole action body and lockplates, is a bold foliate pattern which may not be to everyone?s taste, but is undeniably striking.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
Otherwise everything is very much business as usual, or to put it another way, a good dose of tradition.
The lockwork is struck up cleanly, with nice crisp edges to the component parts.
In all other respects it is a conventional bar-action sidelock with intercepting (safety) sears, the whole assembly held together with five screw pins.
This is a style of lock that is usually regarded as the most desirable.
Ejectors are of the Southgate type, long acknowledged as one of the simplest and most reliable systems.
The ejector springs and kickers are therefore housed in the fore-end, which is a finely shaped piece of work and less bulky than many Continental guns.
An Anson pushrod fore-end catch, rolled edge to the trigger-guard, silver oval in the stock, crisp-cut chequering and diamond shaped hand to the stock ? the list goes on, almost a double dose of tradition.
The action is very traditional ? as one would expect from this type of gun.
The lock style is regarded as highly desirable and the ejectors are of the Southgate type.
At 6lb this is certainly a light enough gun, sensibly chambered for 2.3⁄4in (70mm) cartridges. The actual point of balance is right at the front edge of the cross pin (where the barrel hinges), meaning handling is potentially very fast.
This is aided by the lightweight; however, the 28in barrels give good pointability and impart a degree of steadiness that provides a reassuring feel.
Whether carried in a gunslip or broken empty over the arm, this slim gun is no burden at all and a good bet for the walking Gun.
Around the hedges on the way to the testing field, looking for the occasional pheasant or waiting expectantly while the dogs fussed around the bushes hoping for a rabbit, the No.2 felt like an extension of oneself.
I was itching to try it for real but it did not happen.
At the pattern plate a variety of cartridges were used, the main diet consisting of Eley Hi-Flyer 28g loads, Lyalvale Express 25g loads and Gamebore Pure Gold 30g loads.
The last I expected to be a bit snappy in this light gun, but the combination of this cartridge and a good-fitting gun was remarkably pleasant to shoot.
Everything functioned as it should, with good trigger pulls, positive ejection and a short-throw safety button that is a delight to use.
Patterns with any cartridge and combination of choke ranged from very acceptable to good, with a tendency to throw the centre of the pattern just slightly high to point of aim.
So, is it a mere imitation No.1?
Far from it the No.2 de Luxe has its own character and style, which I think will become appreciated as a worthy addition to the AYA range.
Most certainly English in all but name. A genuine lightweight game gun that is a delight to handle and shoot.
It incorporates all the features one expects on a good quality sidelock. This is the type of gun that is likely to appeal to the real enthusiast who is also a good, competent Shot.
Like any thoroughbred, the owner has to rise to the occasion and fully appreciate it, and really be able to use it to its best advantage.