ATA SP Nickel
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- Last updated: 08/11/2023
Bruce Potts tests another very affordable shotgun from ATA; the SP Nickel
ATA shotguns are distributed by The Sportsman Gun Centre, and I have tested a few of them over the years. I have to say for such affordable shotguns, be that in an over-and-under or semi-automatic configuration, I have been impressed with the overall build quality, and especially the patterns produced downrange. This is the Nickel finished version of the popular SP range, which offers an over-and-under shotgun for less than £700. The SP (on test) comes in a Game configuration and there are many options, including black, laminate, sporter, game, deluxe hand engraved etc. So, a truly universal double.
All are available with ejectors, multi-choked steel-proofed barrels, good quality Turkish walnut, and a single selective trigger mechanism. They look very much like a Beretta design but at a cheaper price point.
You can choose between 28” or 30” barrels, and seeing as I like mine shorter, I opted for the former. Regardless, all barrels are chambered for 3” magnums, if you fancy that, and are steel proofed for steel shot up to half choke, as normal. The chokes are flush-fitting and there are five to choose from (F, IM, M, IC, and SK), so all bases are covered. They are easy to remove and clean with the provided choke key. The muzzles are slightly flared, so Beretta Mobil-type chokes can be fitted, giving shooters access to a host of aftermarket options, such as extended or custom.
The game-type rib shows a 10mm width and the customary serrated finish. Plus, there is only one sighting element, which is a red dayglo bead at the muzzle. Personally, I like a thinner rib and a single sight, as I find it easier to see game or clays around the rib or muzzle area and to track the target with both eyes open. There are eight vents to the top rib for some cooling effect, plus a solid mid-rib. The barrels are finished in a deep, rich, black bluing.
It is no secret that the barrels and action take inspiration from the Beretta 686. However, internally, there are many differences. The lock-up is very positive, with twin protruding locking lugs from the action face that wedge into the barrel mortises. These are tapered, so a certain amount of built-in self-wear and tightening is achieved from prolonged use. As such, the barrels swivel on steel inset pins in the action walls, at the front. Also, the whole design is low-profiled, which is why it handles and lines up in the aim so wonderfully. The action’s sides, as the gun’s name suggests, are Nickel finished, however, it is pretty well non-reflective, and I personally like the fact that there is no laser engraving adorned to pep up the appearance. Less is more in my view.
The top lever is blued and behind it, you will find the usual sliding barrel selector. Simply push it left to expose two dots (top barrel) and right for one dot (bottom barrel). This also combines as the safety catch, and this is an automatic version that is set to safe as the top lever is opened. The hammers work off a mechanical system, rather than inertia, so fire on both trigger pulls. I am not sure why, but I do prefer this system.
The trigger is a smooth, grooved unit that is gold washed. I measured the pull weight, and it came in at 4.85 lbs, which is not too bad really. ATA has also fitted a disconnector mechanism that prevents the trigger from releasing the hammer if the breech bolt is not closed correctly. This is a nice safety touch.
ATA grades the stock on this gun as 2.5 walnut, and I would say that was correct, but probably a little higher, as we all know Turkish walnut scales of quality are always a little lower, hence you as a customer get better quality, which is brilliant! The lightly rubbed oil finish has a practical and easily cleaned matte appearance, that can be nourished with oil.
When it comes to shotguns, handling is more important than looks, especially if you want to hit the intended target. This SP Nickel has a 10” forend with a belly to it, and it shows a typical palm-filling swell to the bottom section. As well as the large finger grooves at the top, you will also find some checkering and a laser-etched ATA logo. The release is unusual, but one that I like, as you can give it a good push at the forend’s tip, which makes separating the forend from the barrels a lot easier.
The butt section is equally well appointed, with a length of pull measuring 14.5”. The stock has a pretty straight comb and minimal cast, so it’s not bad from either shoulder, although left-handed versions are available.
For a ‘cheap’ over-and-under, this ATA really handles well, and shooters will appreciate the natural hold and handling of this model. For me, it just mounts the shoulder and aims along the rib every time it is mounted. There is no palm swell, but the pistol grip is generous and large, so any hand size achieves a good hold.
I fitted the 1/4 choke to the top barrel and 1/2 to the bottom, then shot some pattern boards at 30 yards with the 1/4 choke just for a change, as we usually use a 1/2 choke.
The handling was very Beretta-like (low-level action weight with a nice overall fit), with the 28” barrels balancing the gun in the hand, and although the length of pull was a bit short for me, I had perfect eye alignment down the rib. The action was stiff to open at first as the gun was new, however, it soon smoothed out during the test period. Also, the recoil was very manageable with all the rounds shot. Overall, it’s a reliable gun that performs, and you can shoot it without worrying about scratches due to its price. What more could you possibly want? Considering the price, I have always been impressed with how ATAs shoot on the pattern boards, given they produce even and dense patterns.
This SP Nickel was no exception. First up were Gamebore’s Black Gold rounds, which held 32-grams of No.5 shot and were very manageable in the ATA for recoil. Using the ¼ choke, we had a total of 166 pellet strikes at 30 yards, with 92 outer hits and 74 inner strikes. The pattern was very central and radiated out very evenly. This was a great start.
Next, we used Hull Imperial Game, a very consistent loading with 30-grams of No.6 shot size. We had a total of 234 pellet strikes on the 30” board, showing a slight left bias. This might have been because of me, but there were 145 outer hits and 89 in the central 15”.
Finally, the Eley Pigeon Select, which uses a load of 30-grams of No.6 shot, making it a direct comparison with the previous load. Here, we had 210 pellet strikes, with fewer inner strikes (59). These were well distributed, with the remaining 151 pellets around the circumference.
Look at it like this - for less than £700, you can get an over-and-under that has excellent handling and performs admirably, all at a fraction of the cost compared to its competitors. Yes, it does not have the build quality of the main competitors it emulates, but then again, it does not have the price, so you decide!