?The logical alternative? has become the equivalent of a good Birmingham or provincial gun 50 years ago.
Its fundamental design is sound; it imitates the Holland & Holland Royal sidelock in most respects. The No. 2 succeeds because of its well-proven mechanics, good styling and competitive price, and it is not without character.
It may be considered a classic in its own right after decades of proven service to thousands of owners.
The No. 2 round body, which is available in 12 and 20-bore (as tested here), was introduced much more recently.
It is, essentially, the No. 2 that so many know and love with the sharp edges removed. Round-bar guns were, and are, most famously produced by Boss.
A rounded bar is a means of streamlining an otherwise conventional sidelock or boxlock and sometimes removing a little weight.
To dispel potential confusion, it is not a round-action gun (as built around a trigger-plate mechanism and bow mainsprings).
Making a round-bar gun is difficult, though; consequently I am not always fond of mid-market offerings (and I have seen some best guns which have not quite made the grade either).
They need first-class detailing and, in particular, correctly shaped lock plates, well-chosen engraving and good stocking.
The test AyA, a 20-bore on offer as old stock in the West London Gun Room at £4,170 (but with a new RRP of £5,325) is one tenth the price of a best London gun.
Can it succeed in round-bar form at that price? As far as the aesthetics are concerned the answer is yes.
This AyA is particularly svelte. The straightforward but pleasing scroll engraving and the colour-case hardening do not try to gild the lily.
The dry handling is good, too. The gun is quite light at 6lb 3oz, with 28in barrels. A 30in option is available and would be my preference, since longer barrels increase control in a small bore.
The fixed choke (quarter and half), chopper-lump barrels are reasonably true (you cannot get perfection at this price point). The striking-up and blacking are competent.
The traditional concave rib is well laid, though a flat pigeon-style rib would be an interesting option provided it were not too wide.
I liked the traditional metal bead at the muzzles, the Purdey style button on the auto-safety and the beaded edge on the trigger guard, too.
When mounting the gun, one is struck by its general handiness. The proportions of the oval-shaped straight-hand grip are reasonable, though I would prefer a Holland-style diamond grip as seen on some AyAs.
The butt and splinter fore-end are made from decent wood, and the oil finish and chequering are well up to AyA?s usual high standard. The fore-end has an Anson-style button fastener and is not too shallow.
Stock measurements are 15in for length of pull with 1/16in extra at heel (not quite enough – more bump at heel can make a gun feel more secure in the shoulder) and 1/2in more at toe (possibly a little too much for those with broader chests).
With regard to drop, there is 1.3/8in relative to the rib axis at the front of the comb and 2.1/4in at heel. Classic shelf dimensions are 1.1/2in and 2in, but these are not bad.
The seven-pin sidelock action is in essence a copy of the Holland, as noted. The leaf-spring locks are not quick-detachable.
They are equipped with intercepting safety sears. As with most AyAs, there are disc-set strikers, which allow for easy replacement of the firing pins and their return springs, and there is also a replaceable hinge-pin.
The ejector work is of the reliable Southgate (Holland) type, which works on an over-centre principle with a cam and V-spring for each extractor.
Both barrels are marked up at 15.8mm. I favour a wider bore (16mm or slightly above). A significant number of manufacturers are moving towards larger bores in 12s, but this trend does not appear to have affected the 20s yet (nor the even smaller gauges, where the effects are most noticeable).
The forcing cones on the test gun are quite short. I prefer something longer that smooths out the passage of the shot and wad down the barrel.
I shot the test gun with George Juer of West London?s Gun Room. I was not that enamoured by its shooting qualities but George really liked it and shot it well, too.
The same day, I was also able to use a new, square-bar AyA No. 2 20-bore of very similar dimension and weight to the test gun.
That was a real little corker; it was a delight to use and smashed all manner of simulated driven birds quite effortlessly.
There was a little more vibration when shooting the round-bar version. I suspect that most people will prefer its looks, however.
Both guns are well presented and made with integrity. But if I were to choose one or the other in 20-bore my vote would go with the square-bodied gun – function trumps form.
Meanwhile, one must admire AyA for continuing to produce good guns at prices that don?t make one wince; they are not cheap any more, but made-to-order models can still offer value.
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