In making a return to the over-and-under market, AYA is taking on big competitors, but the quality of its new Legend impresses Mark Heath
I can remember in the 1970s as a youngster reading Shooting Times and scanning all the adverts for guns that I admired, from the significantly expensive handmade English guns to the more affordable offerings from Italy and Spain, together with slightly agricultural guns from the old Eastern bloc.
Among all the adverts, I can remember seeing the AYA Yeoman over-and-under, which looked well made and at a reasonable price. Looking at the trade index, there are a number for sale from that period starting at around £150, so the robust appearance seems to have been carried through in its longevity.
I cannot recall the AYA featuring in the competitive clayshooting. I think it was more likely to have seen use in driven game shoots of the time, where it probably would not be required to tackle the higher birds on offer on some of today’s sport. AYA ceased production of this model around 1988.
In the intervening years, AYA has built a reputation for its side-by-sides, from a plain No4 boxlock to the No1 deluxe based on the style of a Best English sidelock. My favourite would be a No1 or No2 round action or, if you’re really offering, a No56, which is a heavier side-by-side in the style of a live pigeon gun.
These guns have a reputation for reliability and the ability to take heavy use in a busy season in their stride. Their handling is excellent, especially if you take advantage of the made-to-measure option, which costs a little extra and is normally delivered within 12 months.
The AYA Legend De Luxe 20 bore – interesting
It’s quite interesting when we hear that AYA is dipping its toe back into the over-and-under market with the launch of the AYA Legend De Luxe 20 bore. However, it still makes a true sidelock over-and-under, mainly directed at the European market.
The new model comes in both 12-bore and 20-bore, with game and clay versions in both the standard and deluxe finishes.
A bit clunky but effective
The model we are testing is a 20-bore game version with 29 ½in multichoked barrels, fitted with a single selective trigger. The selector is very much like the Rizzini style with the switch-over button on top of the safety; it’s a bit clunky but effective.
My personal choice is the Browning style where the safety moves across; I find there is less chance of selecting the wrong barrel accidentally with this. It has almost a semi-round action, with acanthus hand engraving on a dark background. The stock on the AYA Legend De Luxe 20 bore had fine high grade wood and, though we are looking at a pre-production model, the finish and wood-to-metal fit is excellent and the stock finished with chequering.
The stock measurements came in at 14⅞in length of pull with an additional ⅛in at heel and ⅜in at toe. Drop measurements are a little high at 1¼in at comb, 1 ⅞in at heel, with ⅛in cast off at heel. However, I would strongly recommend that you take advantage of the custom stock service offered by AYA to ensure that your gun fits correctly.
A great-looking gun that doesn’t fit is not much use to anyone and will languish in the gun cabinet, unloved. I have fitted a number of AYAs for customers and the measurements come back exactly as ordered. A properly fitted gun is a pleasure to use rather than trying to convince yourself that it will be all right on the night with something straight off the shelf.
Stock options include semi-pistol grip as per the test gun, full pistol or straight hand stock. I personally see little point in this last option unless the gun were to be fitted with double triggers, thereby allowing the hand to slide back for the second trigger.
The overall weight of the AYA Legend De Luxe is 6lb 13oz so there’s no heavyweight 20-bore here. The clay version is a little heavier and adds around ¾lb. The barrels weigh 1,307g pretty much as expected; the version on test came with a solid mid-rib and ventilated and tapered top rib. Barrel lengths from 28in to 34in are available with a choice of multi or fixed choke.
Precise and accurate
I would probably opt to try the 32in barrels on the 12-bore and perhaps see if AYA would do some 31in barrels on a 20-bore, only because I tested a 20-bore with similar configuration last year and it was amazing to shoot. If you’re a fan of heavy cartridges the chambers are 3in magnum proofed so will swallow anything you dare to drop in, but if you are recoil sensitive my advice is shoot something that is comfortable and gives you confidence. A couple of extra grams of lead with some discomfort will not make the difference; your skill, ability and concentration will bring down the bird that gives you pleasure.
It’s been busy with families getting a lesson before shooting together so I managed to get out just before dark to finish the test.
Roddy Richmond-Watson, whose grandfather founded West London Shooting School in 1901, had a spare hour so we headed out with a variety of cartridges from 21g No8 to 30g No5 from three different manufacturers. For his shoot days, Roddy switches between a 28-bore over-and-under and a pair of Boss 12-gore side-by-sides that were inherited.
We headed to the 40ft tower for a quick warm-up then straight to the 80ft tower. I had put in half and three-quarter chokes before the test and they did the job regardless of the cartridge used with some great pattern quality. The AYA Legend De Luxe handles exceptionally well and was a pleasure to shoot, the trigger pulls are crisp and the ejectors efficient and well timed. We shot the final targets just after dusk and, even without thermal imaging, the Legend De Luxe remained precise and accurate.
This price bracket is fairly heavily populated and competitive, with offerings which include Perazzi MX12/20, Blaser Grand Luxe, Chapuis C40, Caesar Guerini Revenant and Browning B15. There’s a hefty decision to be made and much of it is down to shooting style and personal taste.