Attention to detail in the planning and design result in a semi-automatic that is easy handle and offers something a little bit different, says Lewis Potter
ATA Arms is a Turkish manufacturer and, while new to the UK, the company has been in existence for some 60 years. The distributor is Ireland-based Wildhunter and a chain of retail outlets has been set up in the UK so that availability should not be a problem. The present range of imported ATA shotguns includes over-and-unders and semi-automatics with models suitable for both field and competition use. Stocks come in choices from black synthetic and camouflage to quite fancy walnut for which the Turkish arms industry is renowned.
The growth of arms imported from Turkey in recent years has been nothing short of amazing. The key factors in the sales success seem to come down to value for money and reliability. These are achieved in part by using modern manufacturing techniques and the philosophy of “starting with a clean sheet of paper” to adopt and, if necessary, adapt the best from other existing designs. It was going to be interesting to see if this ATA Venza followed these basic principles.
The case, a rather swish a air with large carrying handles and faux-suede exterior, accommodates the gun in two pieces. It is a semi-soft type and is something of an unexpected but welcome, almost luxury, item for a semi-auto.
Once assembled, the Venza is quite a large gun with a long fore-end, deep and wide receiver and hand-filling pistol grip. The Realtree Max 5 camouflage is neatly applied. While camouflage is not always to everyone’s taste, it serves its purpose and the advertising literature claims it is “popular for all hide shooters and hedge hunters alike”. Make of that what you wish!
At 7½lb on my scales, the 28in-barrelled Venza is lighter than its appearance would suggest and the length of pull, without the additional spacers, a modest 14 3/8in, which is fairly standard for a semi-auto. The line of the comb runs a bit higher than many over-and-unders. The soft, rubber-like inserts in the stock and fore-end proved to be both comfortable and practical as well as breaking up the camouflage finish to add a distinctive bit of style. That normally simple and overlooked item, the butt-pad, is quite a complex shape. This suggests that a lot of thought has gone into its design.
I have fairly big hands, but the Venza felt comfortable, and such are the dimensions of the fore-end that it sits on, rather than in, the leading hand. Balance is a little bit forward due in part to the aluminium alloy receiver and hollow butt. This, coupled with the length of gun out in front, aids good, smooth swing characteristics, which helps, of course, to get good results.
In spite of an overall length of 48in, the reasonable weight means target acquisition is quite quick. The maker claims the Venza system provides low recoil and smooth shooting, something to be established out on test.
Most of the functioning of this shotgun will be quite familiar to most users of semi-automatics. The trigger-lock safety sits in the rear of the trigger-guard. The only unusual aspect is that it is triangular in section rather than the more common cylindrical shape, but it is practical, and gives a precise feel.
The magazine capacity on this gun is 2 + 1 for both 3in and 2¾in cartridges and the bolt can be locked open manually by engaging the small arm that acts as a feed/stop (cut-o ) button. When locked open, the release is the button conveniently placed on the right-hand side of the receiver. Take-down, for carrying in the case or cleaning, is easily accomplished and for anyone in doubt the pictures in the instruction book are well laid-out and easy to understand, even if the translation of the text into English is somewhat quaint. As is very much the norm, five long screw-in flush chokes are provided, each one comprehensively marked-up with their suitability or otherwise for use with steel shot. This is useful with a shotgun that could be used for wildfowling.
This ATA Venza is a gas-operated semi-auto but with a sophisticated variation on a well-established theme. It uses what the maker describes as a gas-pressure control system (GPCS), a patented design that, from the user’s point of view, means combustion cases from more powerful cartridges are vented forward to the atmosphere via the ventilated magazine cap. This works due to a spring-loaded valve situated in front of the piston that operates the sleeve and single cocking bar linked to the bolt.
Cartridges with smaller loads operate in a conventional manner with just the piston driven back. With larger loads, such as magnums, the GPCS comes into operation. ATA claims that this accommodates anything from 24g to full mag loads, while at the same time producing smooth shooting by providing some control over recoil.
ATA Venza semi-auto on test
To check functioning, I used cartridges with shot loads ranging from 24g to 46g. These included Eley First, Lyalvale Express Supreme, Gamebore Clear Pigeon, Eley Alphamax Magnum and Lyalvale Express High Performance Steel. Even mixing the cartridges in an order such as 24g/46g/30g in 2¾ in (70mm) and 3in (76mm) lengths made no difference — they are fed, red and cycled without a hitch.
Felt recoil is always difficult to establish because a number of factors, not least the stock shape, come into play. However, I would say that the maker’s claim of smooth shooting is not far off the mark because, even with magnum loads and deliberate aim at the pattern sheet, this Venza was a comfortable gun to shoot.
I thought the cyclic rate on a fast firing test was a little more leisurely than some guns I have tested — again, this can be difficult to judge — but it is certainly more than fast enough for any circumstance you are ever likely to encounter. The gun came up and pointed nicely. For me, placing the foresight bead just on the bird (a little higher with steel shot) put the pattern nearly two-thirds above, one third below the pattern sheet horizontal centre line, which is normally a recipe for good results. Ejection of fired cases was well forward and the need for the long fore-end becomes obvious when you consider the hot gasses venting forwards with magnum loads.
In a corner of the market that is fairly well saturated with choice, ATA has come up with something that bit different