The AYA No.2 28 bore - a small bore version of a classic - will bring a smile to any shooter's face, as Alex Flint discovers.
Spanish gunmaker Aguirre y Aranzabal (AYA) admits that “a true work of art does not simply appear out of thin air”. The more cynical amongst you might chuckle at this seemingly tacit admission that much of the output of its Eibar factory has been inspired by the work of craftsmen – particularly English craftsmen – who came before. This, however, is doing the company and all those who build its guns a great disservice. For as long as I have been involved in shooting, if you wanted a high-quality side-by-side at a price somewhat within the realms of reality, AYA really was the only place to go – and still is.
Founded in 1915 by Miguel Aguirre and Nicolas Aranzabal, it was the influence of Andrew and Peter King in the 1950s that saw the firm begin to make a real impact on the UK sporting gun market. Under their guidance, the Spanish firm began producing a range of guns based on a nine-pin Holland & Holland Royal sidelock and a Westley Richards boxlock featuring the Anson & Deeley action.
These models continue to be produced today, with the No.2 being probably the most affordable point of entry into the world of true sidelock side-by-side shotguns.
Fine construction and handling
So, our test gun in many ways might be considered the ‘standard’ AYA – though be careful you don’t allow the lack of ‘de Luxe’ in the name to lead you to believe this is somehow a lesser product; fine construction and handling are as much a hallmark of an AYA gun as the name engraved on the action.
Our test gun comes in slightly more unusual guise than you might expect to see on the shelves of your local gun shop, being a 28 bore gun with 29” barrels fixed at ½ and ¼ choke.
For your not insignificant financial outlay you get a true sidelock shotgun built on the Holland-style nine-pin action with a 15” stock. Like almost all AYA guns, the No.2 can be had with a round action (£450 extra), which is just one of a number of options to help you make the gun personal.
Classic game gun
Our test AYA looks every inch the classic game gun, with the small stature of a 28 bore looking beautifully proportioned next to the well-finished stock. This impression continues on closer inspection thanks to the likes of the hinged front trigger, carved teardrops and very fine chequering on the elegant straight-hand stock. Engraving is fulsome and has been well executed in a tight foliate scroll pattern and looks to have been hand finished.
Though the wood is not of the highest grade, it is nevertheless attractive with a strong, straight grain through the hand and a real feature made of a knot on each side of the stock.
The fore-end is enhanced by a pleasingly secure pushbutton release. Further touches demonstrating high-quality construction abound, such as a lovely rolled edge to the trigger guard and the extended trigger guard tang, which accentuates just how slim the stock is, being almost a third as wide as the straight-hand grip.
The gun is autosafe, as you would hope of a true game gun, with the safety catch itself featuring a well-designed oval shape that provides plenty of grip through its unusual engraving combination of concentric circles with a patch of chequering on the very top. The top lever is shown a similar level of attention, being engraved with a good, grippy chequering on one side and the acanthus scroll motif on the other. The slightly more open leaf shapes have the appearance of growing across the fences and top tang.
Engraving generally really is excellent and to my eye looks particularly good thanks to the colour case hardened finishing. This also helps the sparing use of gold inlays to add visual punch.
This style of finishing is particularly successful on the bottom of the action, where the variety and pattern of colours match the shape of the fine engraving beautifully. The darker colouring also complements the deep blueing of the trigger guard and extended trigger guard tang. Of course, by its nature, finishing of this type will look quite different from gun to gun.
In this specific configuration, the AYA probably has rather limited appeal, being a serious, small bore side-by-side game gun capable of taking on high birds. An everyday gun this is not.
However, as an indication of the quality of construction and finishing of AYA guns – or for those looking to challenge their sporting abilities – it is sure to draw admiring glances. With the de Luxe version costing almost £2,000 extra at £9,282 for higher-grade wood and engraving, those ruled more by head than heart would likely need look no further than the AYA No.2.
View from the gun shop
This is a lovely little gun and would be perfect for the sportsperson looking to push themselves. These small bore AYAs are properly scaled down and can take quite heavy loads; it will happily go up to 21gram cartridges and you could probably go higher should you so wish. I would argue, however, that 21gram cartridges are a sensible limit – given the small bore size, anything larger is likely to distort the pattern.
Despite being a 28 bore, it is not a lightweight model, so the recoil-absorbing characteristics should be quite good; even heavier-load cartridges should be dealt with easily. Given the long 29” barrels, it has the balance and handling characteristics of a much larger gun – be in no doubt, this is a serious gun. A novice or lady would likely find this quite challenging to shoot as it will not have the easy nature one normally expects of a small bore gun.
All new AYA guns have a number of options available when ordering, including three different styles of finishing in the form of colour hardening, ‘old silver’ and ‘white’. These are available at no extra cost, as are barrel lengths ranging from 25”-30”, specific chokes and magnum chambers. One can also order pistol or semi-pistol grip stocks at £915, selective (£2,645) or non-selective (£1,590) single triggers, a self-opening action (£2,760) or upgraded wood from £1,092. The guns may also be ordered as true left-handed items for a £2,315 premium, or as a pair for an additional 10 per cent.
Generally, very few English game guns have been made with longer barrels – especially in small bore form. And to give you a very approximate price comparison, ordering a gun like this from one of the top English makers today will likely cost you in the region of £80,000-£125,000. So it’s rather obvious to see the appeal of this charming piece of Spanish gunmaking. Bill Elderkin
The AYA No. 2 28 bore in the field
Handling this AYA is an interesting experience. As Bill Elderkin mentions, it is certainly a serious gun for experienced shots. The weight is clearly felt in the front hand, with the point of balance being forward of the hinge pin. This leads to intoxicating characteristics, since the gun moves with the swiftness one would expect of a small bore, but requires real considered effort to shoot in a consistent manner, rewarding a clear outward movement with the front hand for a clean and consistent mount.
Being a small bore gun, felt recoil when using standard or light loads is kept to a minimum. It must be said, however, that when using heavier loads you should expect recoil to increase. The same applies with muzzle flip. Generally, however, the AYA No. 2 is quite neutral, pleasurable and remains entirely predictable in the hand.
The gun feels very secure in use thanks to the excellent chequering and the superb shape of the straight-hand stock. The rolled edge to the trigger guard is particularly welcome, guiding the finger nicely to the well positioned double triggers.
The triggers have an excellent shallow shape and are very crisp to pull, with none of the wobble or sponginess associated with lesser-quality side-by-side guns.
Really, the trickiest hurdle to clamber over with this AYA is that of your own instincts. In spite of its excellent balance and relatively svelte 5lbs 13oz weight, this is not a gun that will respond well to being wafted around as if you are standing at the flurry on a late-spring charity clay day.
Treat the gun with respect, concentrate on a positive mount and a smooth swing, and it really comes into its own.
Engineering: 9/10 A truly classic design that has stood the test of time.
Handling: 8/10 Rewarding, yet distinctly challenging.
Looks & finishing: 8/10 Looks every inch the classic, traditional side-by-side game gun.
Reliability & customer service: 9/10 AYA shotguns are both reliable and easy to maintain and repair.
Value: 8/10 It is difficult to get a good quality true sidelock shotgun for much less.
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