Don't be put off by the low price of this 30in 12-bore, says Roger Glover, as he tests a well-designed over-and-under that costs less than £600
ATA is a Turkish company that grew from one man’s abilities and skills, with its first over-and-under shotgun being produced in 1973. The company has been better known in recent years for its semi-automatic shotguns, so I was quite taken aback when I took delivery of this new ATA model from the Sportsman Gun Centre. The problems that had always put me off Turkish guns have gone. When compared to basic models from other manufacturers (barring name association), you have to accept that this model is made to a thoroughly good standard. Then, when you take into account the price, you ask yourself how ATA Arms can produce its SP Silver 12-bore for less than £600.
Need to know
Manufacturer ATA Arms, Turkey
UK distributor Sportsman Gun Centre, tel 01392 354854
Model SP Silver
Barrels 30in steel-shot proofed, multichoke (26in and 28in available)
Rib 8mm file-cut ventilated
Length of pull 14 ¾in
Weight 7lb 10¾oz
Features Multichokes, single selective trigger, auto safety, ejectors
The action of the SP Silver is of a very similar style and design to a well-known Italian maker’s products. Whether this was planned or due to a licence deal is unproven, but you need to look beyond that to decide if this gun does cut it.
The plain action is certainly robust in construction, having good sectional thickness all round. It has replaceable trunnions and two cocking rods in the floor of the action.
Barrel latching is via two tapered bolts either side of the top barrel, which is a tried-and-tested form of lock-up. The only hint of decoration is a small scroll cast into the pad of the top-lever.
High standards of external finish are easily attained, but the proof of the pudding is generally in the places you can’t see. Inexpensive guns tend to be made from poor-quality materials, with little thought given to design, component quality or finish. I had expected the ATA to be a let-down internally, but this was not the case. I found nothing of poor quality whatsoever. Every single component looks to have been thought through and care taken with its manufacture.
Never mind pleasantly surprised — I was astonished. The design of the action is rather conventional, but that indicates proven methods with nothing to cause problems.
Displaying clear Birmingham proof marks, the 30in tubes are slender and that generally cannot be achieved unless top-quality materials are used. There is considerable flare at the muzzles to allow for the 50mm-long choke tubes, which is reflected in an extreme tapering of the side ribs towards the muzzles.
The gun comes equipped with five choke tubes from cylinder through to full. The key for this is a flat plate that is universally cut for 12-, 20- and 28-bore. While not as complex as some, this does engage well with the choke and offers excellent purchase to extract the tubes.
The solid side ribs run from the muzzles back to the tip of the fore-end, which lessens the weight of what would otherwise become slightly heavy for a game or field gun. The top rib is parallel at 8mm wide, ventilated along its length, and nicely file cut. It is very true and straight in the sighting picture.
There is a hidden hint of fancy in that the sides of the monobloc and ejectors are engine-turned and give a little glint of sparkly reflected light when you open the gun.
Unfortunately, the trigger leaves room for a little improvement. Once you have pulled to the breaking point it goes reasonably crisply, but it is getting there that is the problem. It is a heavy trigger at 6lb 4oz, and there is a creeping, crunchy feel going through the large amount of take-up. Some people may accept this, but I couldn’t help but notice it and therefore must make note of it.
The automatic safety catch is much better in action, though, both for releasing it and for crossing over for barrel selection. Both directions are smooth and easy. The top-lever-to-safety-catch distance is rather close should you need to reset it, though that could easily be addressed with a minor redesign of the button.
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While this may be a budget-priced gun, the stock doesn’t look like a budget version in the slightest. In fact, it is rather attractive. Though it does carry a dark stain in the finish, the wood is genuine enough and while not the strongest of grain patterns, it does possess cross fiddle pretty well throughout. Several people were taken in by it when taking a look around the gun, as it does look like something much further up the price range.
The stock holds good proportions at 14 ¾in length of pull and 2 3/16in drop at the heel. The pistol grip is not quite a handful, but not too slim either. However, it does flare at its base, which gives the lower part of the hand something nice and chunky to hold. The maker’s name is on the action sides, with logos set in the chequer panel of the fore-end. This, to me, looks a little odd and cheap, but it is a matter of personal taste.
There has always been a market for budget-priced guns, and usually they look and feel like budget models, but that is not the case with the ATA SP range. This model may have a low price, but the execution is definitely not budget. It looks and feels like a gun a few pegs up from baseline and is pleasantly eye-catching with it. I would like to see one after a couple of years’ use to assess its longevity, but this is a review of a new gun, not a used model. Having had a good in-depth inspection of the ATA Arms SP Silver 12-bore, I think this gun is well made and would be perfectly durable.
Superb for the money