AyA No 4 Deluxe in 20 bore
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
In this test we are putting an AyA No 4 ‘best quality’ boxlock ejector 20 bore under the spotlight. The gun was brought to my attention by Edward King of ASI (the AyA importers) some time ago when we were chatting at a show and he noted his particular affection for this model, and produced what looked like a very attractive little gun. It has a price tag of around £2,000. It is not cheap, but one must put this into context by noting that the very cheapest English boxlock made today is going to set you back well over £15,000 as an absolute minimum.
The basic specification of the test gun is that it has 28" barrels (well, 28.125”), double triggers and a straight hand stock made from a beautifully figured piece of timber. It weighs in at something just under 6 pounds (a good, practical, weight for a modern 20). The action is inspired by the famous
Anson and Deeley design (first introduced in the 1870's by Westley Richards for whom Mr Anson and Mr Deeley worked). It has the usual AyA features – a replaceable hinge pin, disc set striker and an articulated front trigger.
First impressions are positive in nearly all departments. Not only is the timber excellent (and we are all suckers for good wood), the scalloped action is attractive and profusely covered with decent scroll. The blacking is competent too, wood to metal fit is good, as is the colour case hardening. The straight hand grip, moreover, is especially well formed and notable because of its diamond style form (much like a Holland & Holland). I have always liked this pattern of grip – to me it seems more secure in the hand than more oval designs.
Let’s cut to the chase now and put the AyA on the Gunmart test bench.
Sticking to our normal routine, we will look at the barrels in detail first. They are 28” long as noted – a near ideal length for a 20 bore side by side (though, I also like 29” tubes). They are made like all AyA guns on the chopper lump principle where barrel tube and lump are created from a single forging (two of which are brought together to form the completed set of barrels). The gun bears Spanish proof marks for the 2.75" (70mm) cartridge and is proofed at 1370 BAR.
The bore diameter is marked at 15.8 in both barrels. This is pretty standard, but my modern preference would be for something a little wider. My impression in all the gun testing that I do is that the more open bores are a little softer to shoot. Internal finish of the barrels is good. The tubes were straighter than some I have seen out of Spain. Average wall thickness is about 35 thou and striking up externally was first class too. The sighting rib is of the traditional concave, game, pattern. I did notice a little residue on one side where it had been joined to the barrels. The boxlock action on the test gun is very familiar, save for the scallops to its rear. This decorative feature was quite pleasing to the eye, but I think it might have been improved. The engineering of the action was excellent.
There are twin triggers, disc set strikers as noted (which may, of course, be removed from the action face to allow for easy replacement of the striker and return spring), and a replaceable hingepin. AyA guns have a solid reputation in my book. It is rare to see them come off the face of the action prematurely (unlike the old solid pin, thin hooked, Webley 700). The trigger pulls were crisp and clean breaking at about 3.5 lbs and 4lbs.
This was fine, and an articulated front trigger is always a nice touch, my only criticism concerns the trigger blades which of were of reasonable size and shape (they might have been a fraction slimmer) but which appear to have been made from castings. I have no objection to this – casting is used by many makers these days – provided the rough spots are removed.
The great virtue of the Anson and Deeley as adopted in this gun is its simplicity. The lock work literally fits into the box of the action without any need for lock plates (as on a hammer gun or sidelock). You may be interested to learn that in its early form the A&D action used Westley Richards own Doll's Head as a top bolting mechanism, but that has long since been replaced in a thousand clones by Purdey's famous 'Double Bite'. As mentioned previously, the genius of this action design is in its simplicity.
Anything else about the action on the test gun? Well, I liked the shape and action of the top lever. The same may be said of the Purdey button-style safety – always my favourite on a foreign side by side because its action is more positive with cold fingers. I have no significant mechanical criticisms of the action, on the aesthetic front, however, my opinion is that the flat walls of this No. 4 might have been improved with a bit of extra shaping. The wood work on our AyA is very well finished in traditional manner. The oil finish and chequering both get a thumb’s up (with traditional oil). The
figure as noted was really splendid (if they all look like this there will not be many disappointed owners). I also thought the slim straight grip excellent. By having a slight ridge, one is able to grip the gun more securely. The comb was well shaped too, and the forend was deep enough to be practical and equipped with the usual AyA Anson inspired button release. The stock measured
15" for length (from middle of trigger to middle of butt sole). This is an excellent dimension for a double trigger, 20 bore, off the shelf gun, but there was no extra length to heel (where one would normally expect an extra .125” or .25”). This had the effect of making the gun feel less secure in the shoulder than might otherwise be the case. The toe measurement was standard (plus 3/8” on
the length of pull). There was very slight cast for a right-hander. Drop dimensions were a little low. I measured 2.5” at heel, but would have preferred 2”. This might easily be corrected. Generally, workmanship, materials, and form of the stock were very good.
The AyA was shot at the Braintree Shooting Ground in Essex (Clayhouse Ltd.) I stuck to simulated game birds with special emphasis on the towers. We always tell it as it is in these pages. I did not shoot the gun well to begin with. It transpired that the only shells in my car were subsonic loads. I couldn’t hit much with them! When I went to normal Express game loads the picture changed pretty dramatically. First I had forgotten that these light weight, fairly short-barrelled guns need more apparent lead than my old 32” clunker. And, one has to keep pushing. Quick to start, quick to stop. I had compounded my troubles with the sub-sonics at the beginning. Once I began to extend the forward allowance the little AyA performed well. I also discovered later at the pattern plates, that the light original loads appeared to shoot higher than the more potent stuff.
Anyway, the bottom line is that this AyA is a well made and attractive little gun. It may be made to the client’s dimensions and might be made up into a nice pair if anyone was so inclined. The box-lock, moreover, is a gun that tends to be passed over today (probably because one can make more profit from a sidelock). It is encouraging to see a firm still producing a better quality model boxlock. The gun is not cheap, but it offers value for money and something pleasantly different.
My thanks to Edward King of ASI for supplying the gun, and to Lyalvale (Express) for the cartridges used in this test.