This quality budget over-and-under shotgun may look like a Beretta, but does it perform like one? Matt Hunt is pleasantly surprised
Our verdict on the ATA SP 20-bore Steel
Industry disruptors in the gun trade are few. In the past century only a handful have successfully taken market share and established their brand. Those that have succeeded have not done so through technical innovation but by copying or even plagiarising an established product or design with similar quality at a reduced price.
Most notable among these companies is Spanish gunmaker AYA, whose range of boxlocks, sidelocks and even single-barrelled guns hit the UK market in 1958, offering an affordable alternative to British-made guns. Backed up by importer ASI, the gunmaker has to date sold upwards of 120,000 guns into the UK and established AYA as the biggest brand of side-by-sides in the UK.
So when a copy of one of the most successful over-and-under shotguns in the world is launched at one-third of the price of its contemporary, it’s time to take a serious look at it.
ATA Arms’s SP series of over-and-unders is a copy of Beretta’s 680 series in almost every detail except price. ATA, a family-owned Turkish gunmaker, was established in the 1950s and is now being run by the second generation. It bears the name of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a field marshal, statesman and founding father of the Turkish republic.
Working with the retailer and importer Sportsman Gun Centre for the past eight years, ATA has been a huge success. To quantify this there are currently more new ATAs for sale in the UK than Mirokus; ATA is positioned third in new gun sales in the UK after Beretta and Browning.
The simple reason for this is they are very good. I’m a great believer in the saying “you get what you pay for” and buying cheap tends to mean that compromises have to be made somewhere. However, on first impression the ATA SP 20 looks great. Its plain black action and matt-finished barrels work very well and the overall look is virtually indistinguishable from the Beretta 686 Onyx of the 1990s.
Woodwork can vary, but you never see one with poor wood and you can find some stunning examples even in the basic models with a bit of a search. Aesthetically, the only compromise is a slightly scruffy finish to the recoil pad and the fore-end’s unsightly ‘swollen belly’ shape.
Handling the gun, you cannot help comparing it with a Beretta. It’s fair to say that it doesn’t have the same feel; it is lighter and the difference in material quality becomes more obvious.
The gun opens with ease and the jointing has a solid and tight quality feel on the close. The machine jewelling on the bearing surfaces of the barrel breech is a nice touch.
Mechanically, the gun mirrors the 680 series Beretta with a trigger-plate action, monobloc barrels, spring ejectors and conical locking bolts. The trigger system is the only real difference; it’s a very straightforward and reliable mechanical trigger.
The barrel tubes and ribbing are good, though the quality difference is evident in the touch and feel of the gun. The top rib is parallel with a good machine finish, while the mid ribs are solid and of interesting design. It looks like they are one piece and profiled perfectly between the tubes, rather than fitted to the sides of the barrels. The result is an unconventional look at the muzzle, clearly designed to simplify the build of the barrels.
The barrels are proofed to 3in magnum steel and therefore capable of shooting even the heaviest of cartridges and high-performance steel. It is worth mentioning that the Turkish Proof House is member of CIP (the Commission Internationale Permanente), which ensures all small arms are proofed to the same regulations across its member states. So though price is reduced, you can be sure that strength and safety have not been compromised.
The machining of the stock is superb, with sensible measurements that will fit most straight from the box. Options on factory stock dimensions are soon to be available and a shorter stock for juniors will be a welcome addition in the coming months.
Need to know – ATA SP 20-bore Steel
- Make ATA Arms
- Model SP 20 Steel
- Calibre 20-bore
- Barrels 28in
- Chamber 3in (76mm)
- Chokes Mobil multichoke
- Rib Vented
- Grip Full pistol
- Weight 6lb 2oz
- Importer Sportsman Gun Centre
The ATA SP 20 doesn’t shoot like a Beretta, but it also doesn’t shoot like a budget gun and that is the whole point. Dress it up any way you like, but new budget over-and-unders, while they are good value, reliable and decent for beginner shooters, are never great to shoot. However, the SP 20 is a country mile ahead of its competitors when it comes to shooting.
It cocks conventionally through hinging the gun open rather than a finger-versus-metal battle with the top-lever, and the trigger is crisp; though it could be crisper, most would never notice.
The ejectors are timed superbly and operate without fault even when the gun is hot. The safety catch is precise, as is the barrel selector.
The gun is simply nice to have around. As you carry it, there are no sharp edges and you’re holding steel not ‘monkey metal’. It handles and balances well. When shooting more challenging targets, it does feel like you have to work for consistency more than with its Italian cousin, but overall it shoots superbly well.
The SP 20 is a gun to take pride in rather than to make excuses for. Just like the AYA, the ATA is going to be classless, sold to the many for many reasons, and it’s here to stay.
- Action/barrels 18/20 Good but you can feel it’s not a Beretta
- Handling 17/20 The gun handles and balances well
- Trigger 17/20 Straightforward, reliable and crisp
- Stock 18/20 Quality Turkish walnut
- Value 20/20 An excellent gun for the money
The overall look of the SP 20, with its full pistol grip, plain black action and matt-finished barrels, is almost indistinguishable from the Beretta 686 Onyx of the 1990s’’The barrels are well made and are proofed to handle heavy cartridges and high-performance steel’
Streets ahead of other budget guns