In the first of a new series Mike George delves into the annals of history to reveal some old guns that are still doing the business today. He starts with the AYA No. 1
AYA is based in the Basque Country of Northern Spain – an area that has been producing guns for hundreds of years. It makes many different guns – side-by-sides and over-and-unders, but the most common on the second-hand market are known by numbers – the No.1, No.2, No.3 and No.4. The numbers 1 and 2 are sidelocks, and the 3 and 4 are boxlocks. There’s also a gun called the Yeoman, which was the cheapest of all the models and will always be a favourite of mine because it was recommended as a good buy for a newcomer in the very first issue of Sporting Gun in 1977.
AYA No. 1 shotgun
The AYA boxlocks are made to the basic Anson & Deeley design, while the sidelocks owe a lot to the Holland & Holland formula. All are long-lived, and hold their prices well. But the gun we are going to concentrate on today is the No.1. New prices vary, but a really good second-hand example can cost up to £11,000, and at least one new gun currently advertised is priced at £15,750. However, there are many buyer-defined refinements that can considerably increase the price.
Nowadays there are some beautiful over-and-unders as well as side-by-sides available from AYA. There are far too many to list here, but you can see them all if you go to Aya Fine Guns.
But, back to the No.1, and what’s so special about it. Well, it’s as close to an English sidelock as you are going to get without spending a fortune. It balances perfectly, and swings and points beautifully. And, in the English tradition for a game gun, it weighs around 6lb 12oz, while the average weight of an over-and-under game gun is over 7¼lb.
Apart from that, what’s so typically English about it? Firstly, it has a straight-hand stock, which AYA has given some lovely, flowing lines. It also has a “splinter” fore-end – and I’m often amazed at how some Continental manufactures opt for out-of-place beavertail fore-ends to their side-by-sides.
The gun is, of course, a fixed-choke, and the barrels on the gun illustrated are constructed on the chopper-lump principle, rather than on today’s more common monobloc system. Chopper lump means that each tube and half of the lump is forged from one single piece of steel, and the two tubes, together with their half lumps, are then soldered together. The rib is of typical concave game style, and it terminates in a small brass bead foresight.
- Forged steel action with double locking mechanism and gas vents.
- Hardened steel intercepting safety sears.
- Gold-washed internal lock parts.
- Gold-lined cocking indicators.
- Double trigger with hinged front trigger (optional selective or non-selective trigger).
- Chopper lump chrome nickel steel barrels.
- Concave rib.
- Straight hand, finely chequered oil-finished highly figured walnut stock.
- Hand engraved with fine rose and scroll engraving.
- Initial oval.
- Automatic safety.
- Available with colour hardened, old silver or white finish.
- 12, 16, 20, 28 & .410 bore.
- 28in barrels, with other barrel lengths to order.
- Approximate weight in 12 bore 6¾lbs.
Shotguns: AYA No.2 de luxe 20-bore shotgun: We test this more affordable version of AYA's No.1 lightweight sidelock.
When I edited the very first issue of Sporting Gun, back in 1977, I asked Fred Buller of Chubbs of Edgeware, then one of…
More on AYA
AYA currently makes 12 different sidelock side-by-sides, as well as a range of over-and-unders. It also makes double rifles.
Historically, and in the present day, AYA’s best over-and-unders have been built on the same general principles as the German-made Merkel. The two guns are so alike in outward appearance that many shooters believed that both guns were made in the same factory.
This is not true: the Merkel is, and always has been, made in the city of Suhl, in former East Germany, while AYA guns have always been made in the Basque country.