If you are lucky enough to be looking for a new gun for the coming season?s shooting then you will probably be bewildered by the sheer range of choice available to you.
Whether you?re looking for an over-under or side-by-side, second hand or brand new, English or continental, £5,000 can get you an awful lot of shotgun.
As ever, the best advice I can give is to go and see your local gun dealer, ask as many questions as you can and try as many guns as you can.
The type of shooting you will predominantly be taking on throughout the season should dictate the type and specifications of the gun you buy.
If, for example, you will mainly be walking-up hedges then no matter how appealing a 12 bore over-under with 32? barrels looks, it is not the right one for you.
Similarly, though a gun?s appearance is an important factor in your decision to purchase, especially at this price point, you must not let a gun’s looks be the deciding factor, no matter how fine the engraving or how well figured the stock.
Of course, we all hope that our latest gleaming shooting tool will be the subject of discussion amongst our fellow guns, but ultimately you will be judged on the quality of your shooting, not how shiny your gun is.
Gun fit is essential
Once you have made your purchase, make sure you go and get the gun properly fitted. If you have never had your measurements taken, then book a session at a shooting school and get it done now.
Remember it is quite possible your body shape will change over time and this can have a dramatic impact on gun fit, so if you haven?t had it done for a few years then now might be the time.
Having a gun altered to your measurements can make an enormous difference to your enjoyment and success when shooting.
Technique before cartridges
A question I am asked every season is which cartridges and chokes to select for a particular gun.
This really is down to personal preference, though getting it right can certainly make it more likely you will get consistently clean kills.
However, I always say the wrong choke and the wrong cartridge aimed at the perfect place will be successful, and the right cartridge and the right choke aimed at the wrong place never will.
If, after your careful purchase, meticulous alterations and cartridge selections you can?t hit a thing, don?t blame it on the gun.
Don?t be so proud as to be unable to admit the failing is yours – get down to a shooting school and ask for some help.
Not only will it make you happier, it will mean your new investment won?t go to waste.
AYA Number Two shotgun
This excellent gun from Spanish maker AYA is essentially a copy of the nine pin Holland & Holland Royal sidelock shotgun.
It is available in 12, 16, 20, 28 and .410 bores, and also in round body form for a small premium.
I have selected a 16-bore version of this gun, following the increasing trend for using smaller bore guns.
Most buyers seem to be going for 20-bores, ignoring the wonderful balance and proportions of the 16-bore.
Not only do 16-bore guns deserve much more attention, it suits the AYA Number Two beautifully.
All AYAs come with 28″ barrels with 2¾” chambers, choked to quarter and half as standard, which I feel is plenty.
I would suggest improved and quarter choke would make the gun more versatile for most shooters.
You can specify various other barrel lengths, though this will cost an extra £427.
The gun features Holland & Holland-style hand detachable locks and fine rose & scroll engraving gives it a delightful understated appearance, particularly in conjunction with a colour hardened finish.
They come with well-figured straight hand 15″ walnut stocks with a slight ¼” cast and splinter push-rod fore-ends.
I think a price of just over £5,000 represents remarkable value for a gun of this quality.
Arrieta Crown shotgun
Like AYA, Arrieta is one of the best Spanish gunmakers around, producing consistently well-made and reliable side-by-side guns which sell extremely well.
The backing of GMK, who also distribute Beretta guns in the UK, should help assuage any fears of the unknown.
The firm produce a number of guns, ranging from the affordable Viscount (£2,455), right through to the expensive hand-finished 802 (£12,135).
The round action Crown falls in the middle of the range and offers tremendous value for money.
Available in 12, 16, 20, 28 and .410 bore, all come with 28″ barrels as standard, choked to quarter and half and with 2¾” chambers.
The 12-bore selected here comes in at just under 6lbs 9oz, though a 16-bore is also available at the same price point, weighing in at 6lbs 6oz.
Being a round-action gun, the weight is nicely balanced between the hands and gives delightful feel.
The action is based on the Holland & Holland nine pin design, working in conjunction with the excellent Southgate ejector system housed in the fore-end.
This is a very pretty gun, featuring bold scrollwork engraving, colour hardened finish and well-figured wood.
They come with double triggers and straighthand grip as standard, but a single non-selective trigger and pistol grip stock can be specified.
If you want a smaller bore you will have to pay a little extra, with the 20, 28 and .410 bores coming in at £4,360.
This Arrieta is a well built, reliable and desirable gun which presents excellent value for money.
Rizzini Round Body EL
My final selection is a new gun from Rizzini, which I spotted on the ASI stand at the CLA Game Fair.
The Italian maker produces a wide range of shotguns, and on this evidence they are sure to become extremely popular.
I particularly liked the lines and feel of their Round Body EL model.
As the name would suggest, this gun comes with a very elegant rounded action, covered with fine scroll acanthus engraving.
It is available in 12, 16 and 20-bore, but those wanting a 28-bore variant of the gun will have to pay £5,931 for a version specifically built on a smaller frame.
The gun comes with 28″ and 30″ barrels as standard, but you can specify a set of 32″ barrels for £253, which would make the 20-bore variant a very portable small bore gun perfect for high birds.
Fitting longer barrels to any gun will alter its weight and balance, but this gun remains very pointable and consistent.
The finishing is striking, the walnut stock comparing well with any gun on the market.
There is a rounded semi-pistol grip as standard, and the gun can be had with a coin or colour hardened finish.
Although the price of this gun is over our budget, you should give these guns a look.
They are exceptional at this price, and I am sure you would not regret buying one.