A fresh set of eyes on a Spanish classic reveals a shotgun as good as it ever was. By Mark Heath.
I write this edging into the first week after the end of the season with reports from around the country that the final week proved as busy as the rest of the season with plenty of sport on offer.
I was thinking that with the season over this was going to be a quieter spell, but already there is a raft of gun-fits for clients ordering guns for next season.
Looking for something slightly different, I came across an elegant 28-bore AYA No.2. The 28-bore is not something we see arriving with clients very often, and although we have side-by-side and over-under 28-bore guns for use by clients, it is a calibre usually bypassed for teaching.
The reason for this is that over-under 28-bores are heavier than the 20-bore equivalents as they are based on the same action, but the 28-bore has heavier barrels because there is more metal due to the smaller bore.
They do have an advantage in that the recoil is very low due to the cartridge and the weight of the gun absorbing the push, but I tend to go for .410s or 20-bores for youngsters, depending on upper-body strength.
AYA’s history goes back to 1915, and the history of the company’s exposure to the UK market via the King brothers in the 1960s is well documented.
The guns are exceptionally well made and a favourite of mine to shoot when the opportunity arises. Looking at the test gun with a number of the instructors at the shooting school, none of us could recall an AYA with a broken stock (other than one which met its fate when reversed over by a Land Rover) or any major issues other than the occasional broken firing pin. Even when shot off the face by decades of heavy use and perhaps little care, they are easily resurrected by a competent gunsmith.
The No.2 was introduced in the late 1950s and thousands have been built since. It’s mechanically identical to the No.1 built on the Holland & Holland-style and AYA still makes the barrels using the chopper lump method, as do many best gunmakers.
In addition to the strength of this method, it also ensures the barrels can be made to converge at the same point of aim. It’s interesting to note that the steel used is specific to AYA.
The gun on test is a 28-bore AYA No.2 with colour-hardened action and 28in barrels, and weighs in at a delicate 5lb 15oz with ¼ and ½ choke. This one has double triggers but AYA can do a single trigger and left-opening option for those of you who are left-handed – the only other offering this is Watson Bros.
The stock measurements were standard AYA with 15in length of pull and an additional 1⁄8in at heel and 3⁄8in at toe. Drop measurements were 13⁄8in at comb and 2¼in at heel with 1⁄4in of cast. AYA can provide custom wood and from experience, the measurements come back from the factory spot on. Length of pull is especially important with the small bores as a little extra length will help keep you steady.
Perfect fit of the 28-bore AYA No.2
The overall appearance and finish of the gun is exceptional. Wood-to-metal fit was perfect on the test gun, with some nice figuring on the stock to add to the overall appearance of the gun.
A straight-hand stock works best in my opinion, with double triggers allowing the hand to move back slightly for the second trigger, but there are other options when you order from the factory.
The gun is fitted with auto-safe, the operation of which is typical AYA – as good as anything in the marketplace, including guns that are more expensive. There is also a removable hinge pin allowing for easy replacement – rest assured you will need to do a lot of shooting before that is needed.
One factor to consider when choosing the bore of your new shotgun might be the availability and variety of ammunition to suit your shooting. For the 12-bore and 20-bore user there is a wide range of ammunition for game and clays available, with 21gram to 32gram commonly in use for the 20-bore and a variety of significantly heavier loads for the 12-bore.
I thought I would have a quick look to see what was available for the 28-bore and was pleasantly surprised to find a wide choice – in fact significantly more choice than is available for the 16-bore, which is currently a popular calibre. For the 28-bore, I found nine loads between 14gram and 27gram, with 27gram loads from No.5 to No.9, which is more than enough options for most uses.
Scores for 28-bore AYA No.2
- Engineering: 10/10 This design has been around for a long time and has stood the test of time.
- Looks and finish: 10/10 Absolutely first class, wood to metal fit is perfect and a great looking classic side by side. The wood is attractive and well finished maybe not with figuring to make you swoon but we’ve yet to see one with a broken stock.
- Handling: 9/10 A real shocker here, I was expecting to suggest too light and too fast and ineffective, but a truly great and enjoyable gun to shoot. If are an occasional shooter you might want to practise a little more to be truly effective in its use. But for days where the birds are not stratospheric although they maybe challenging some great sport can be had.
- Value: 9/10 The full retail price is currently £8700, however there a couple of new examples for sale in the UK currently for just under £8000. I would however pay the extra for a custom stock after a proper fitting to ensure maximum effectiveness and comfort.
- Customer Service and reliability: 10/10 ASI is the UK sole importer of AYA and they have been around a long time. They have played a major part in the development of the brand for the UK market and provide excellent back up. Our experience of AYA guns is all positive, we have a number of old No 4’s at the shooting school in various calibres, there are very few visits to the gunsmith other than for the odd firing pin despite us putting thousands of cartridges through them in all weather conditions. The words bomb proof spring to mind.
In the field
Walking out to shoot the AYA I have to say I was a little sceptical as to whether the 28 bore would really be capable of any serious shooting. With some 14gram number No.7s we made a start at the 40ft tower and I was absolutely stunned with how the little gun performed, great handling and some stunning breaks with clays smoked. All very well on a small walk about day but will it do the job on something a bit more challenging onto the 80ft tower. Using both the 14gram No.7s and some 23gram No.6s I have to say the gun was an amazing to shoot, even with the trap positioned to shoot some wide birds it delivered some devastating breaks and was very controllable. You had to be a little bit careful not to overcook the straight high bird it was easy to miss in front, but that was soon rectified. My choice would be 30in barrels with standard ¼ and ½ choke, custom stock and round action just because I like the aesthetics. This would be a great gun for partridge and reasonable pheasants or better still a walked-up day.