Some advice on buying a second-hand AYA shotgun
AYA makes some of the most impressive and best-value shotguns you are likely to get your hands on, says Charles Smith-Jones
Price as reviewed: £200
Why choose a second-hand AYA shotgun?
Are you looking for a quality side-by-side shotgun? Perhaps you might want it specifically for driven or walked-up shooting, or for general pottering or all-round use. Or perhaps it may be simply that you prefer the more traditional look, handling and overall feel compared with an over-and-under. Ideally, you would like a Best gun, and from a London gunmaker, but there is just one small but significant snag: your pockets aren’t deep enough. There is no need to despair though, as there is a shotgun marque offering all the qualities of superb build standards and exacting craftsmanship while not carrying the price tag of a bespoke London gun. Look no further than AYA, a Spanish gunmaker which has been a firm favourite among British shooters since its products started to appear here over 60 years ago. A second-hand AYA is always worth considering and this is why. (Read more on second-hand guns.)
The story of the AYA in this country started in 1958 when British brothers Andrew and Peter King were on holiday in Barcelona. They were impressed by the quality of Spanish guns on offer and set up their own company called Anglo Spanish Imports to sell affordable but high-quality shotguns. Their search for suppliers led them to Aguirre y Aranzabal, a gunmaking company in the Basque country. The King brothers were impressed by the company’s willingness to learn what British shooters wanted. From the moment the first imported AYAs started to appear they became a firm favourite and their popularity soared. Even today the name is synonymous with uncompromising quality at prices to fit most pockets.
AYA shotgun models are generally defined by their numbers. The AYA No 1 sidelock has always been the flagship of the range, modelled closely on the Holland & Holland design and with Purdey-type double underlugs, detachable locks, and articulated front trigger and chopper lump barrels. A good second-hand example is likely to cost upwards of £2,000. Read the AYA No 1 – the best gun I never had.
The AYA No 2 is also a sidelock and costs less, while mechanically identical to the No 1, and probably represents the ultimate in ‘affordable’ sidelocks. Whatever the case, it’s important to remember that you are still paying a fraction of the price that a similar English gun might demand. A new No 1 in Exhibition grade walnut would cost you in the region of £15,400 today, while a No 2 in standard grade might be £5,700.
The AYA No 3 and AYA No 4 are boxlocks with Anson & Deeley-type actions and built to resemble a Westley Richards gun. The No 3 is a non-ejector, and there is also a simpler version known as the Yeoman (which should not be confused with an over-and-under of the same name). AYA no longer makes non-ejectors, but the No 4 is still in production. Both represent a robust, durable and easy to service design, and you would not feel out of place on a driven day with either.
So it’s worth looking out for a second-hand AYA. A new AYA No 4/53 might retail for around £8,222, but an older used example could only set you back a few hundred pounds. The non-ejector Yeomans are very much cheaper if somewhat more utilitarian, but for anyone on a strict budget they offer a rugged option for general use.
There are yet more second-hand AYA models, and all can come in varying grades of wood and levels of decorative engraving. Most are available in 12, 16, 20, 28-bore and .410, barrel lengths can also vary, and a great many guns have also been produced to bespoke customer requirements.
AYA is still producing an impressive range of new guns, and if you are feeling particularly flush you might be tempted by the top-of-the-line Anniversary, the original version of which was presented to Peter King by Agustin Aranzabal to mark the beginning of their business relationship.
It’s a mouth-watering hammer model built along the lines of an original live pigeon gun with special quality walnut furniture and stunning scroll engraving with gold inlays. The only catch is that the price tag is over £50,000.
AYA produces over-and-unders as well, and very fine guns they are too. You may even come across a Coral, considered by many to be the best handling of the range. The Coral is so similar to a Merkel that it can be difficult to accept that it has not come out of the latter’s German factory, but this is certainly not the case and the similarities are purely coincidental as no parts are interchangeable.
An AYA for everyone
There is an AYA for everyone, and the second-hand AYA market offers plenty of choice if you look around. Even the shopper on a limited budget is likely to find one within their price range.
Whatever AYA model that you decide upon, you will be getting a well-built, thoroughly reliable and, in many cases, truly beautiful example of the gunmaker’s art.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.