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- Last updated: 15/12/2016
The Aguirre y Aranzabal (AyA) test gun came from the extensive stock of the West London Gun Room who have often helped us with our gun testing (and my particular thanks to Martin Chapman there). AyA guns are, of course, imported into the UK by ASI of Snape, Suffolk, a long established firm who have been bringing in Spanish made copies of English guns since the 1950s. The No. 1 sells at 11K. This is quite a considerable sum, the Euro did us no favour in the recent past either; it will be interesting to see if it’s fall is reflected in changes to retail gun prices, somehow, I rather doubt it, but it may prevent excessive price increases on Italian and Spanish guns looking more positively.
The AyA No.1 meantime is a well-known gun in the UK (the No.2 has a RRP of £5,290 and must now be one of the most popular game shooting side by sides in Britain). The history of the gun is that the King brothers went to Spain in the 50s and took amongst other English guns a Holland & Holland with them. They wanted AyA to copy it, which they did. The No.1 and 2 are mechanically the same gun and both are frankly inspired by the H&H original (although H&H guns do not usually have the disk set strikers, which are a feature of AyA). The test gun, moreover, is a self-opener working on the H&H spring plunger principle, with the mechanism in a tube beneath the barrels revealed when the forend is removed.
AyA Guns are available in 410, 28, 20, 16 and 12 bore. They are built on dedicated actions too. Our test gun is a 20 bore model with 28” barrels and a traditional concave rib. It is in form and proportion a classic English game gun (albeit one made in Spain). If I was to pick I would note that the engraving was a little ordinary in execution – though rose and scroll is one of my favourite patterns – and the colour case hardening was competent without being inspiring.
The shapes and proportions, as noted, are good. This 20 weighs something over 6 1/4 lbs with its longish 15” stock and 28” tubes. It comes to face and shoulder effortlessly and I liked the classic straight grip - usually the best pattern for a double trigger gun. A 15” stock is my ideal length for a 20, 1/8” longer than my preference for a heavier 12 conforming to the old gunfitters’ lore (which also had the stock of Big Bertha wildfowling guns made shorter).
As I have said before, it is a question of what feels right. Don’t think that you can take one set of dimensions and apply them to all your guns – it’s a myth. Long, heavy guns, by way of example, may not only want to be shorter, they may also need to be a little higher in the comb to compensate for the weight of the barrels.
The No.I balances very well, as one expects from a bench-made sidelock with hand struck barrels. The balance point is almost on the hinge pin as it should be in most (but not all) cases with a game gun. There is a nice sensation of mass between the hands, and the barrels are not too ponderous. I often play with the balance of my own guns. This can be done simply with over and unders by taking the pad off and introducing a little weight behind by some means (I often cut off the front section of a cartridge to get an extra ounce). With traditionally stocked side by sides one may drill a hole in the butt and pour molten lead in (though the proper gunmakers way is to mould the lead into a rod first, tap it in and cap it). A well balanced gun always feels good, and often lighter, even when you have made it a little heavier to get it to balance out.
Returning to our test gun. It has good dynamic qualities as well as very conventional spec. The chopper lump barrels have fixed chokes at quarter and half (ideal for this sort of gun). The AyA is chambered for 2 ¾” (70mm) cartridges and proofed in Spain at the high figure of 1370 BAR. The barrels were bored at 15.9 unless my memory fails me. The barrels are well presented as you would expect them to be and are well blacked too; AyA black, like that from Beretta and Browning, seems very long-lasting. Forcing cones are a bit short, as they usually are on Spanish side by sides. The sighting rib is of traditional concave pattern.
The action body of the No.1 (like the No.2) is based on a forging. It is of Holland & Holland mechanical type as discussed which is in essence an amalgam of all things good. It was introduced in its modern form in the 1890s (the Purdey Beesley sidelock of 1880 being the first really good hammerless guns of this type). The gun also has the excellent and simple Southgate ejector system which operates on the over centre principle. The locks, like all quality sidelocks, have intercepting safety sears. The internal work is good – no skimping here. This is a high grade gun.
The No. 1 is hand engraved and generally well finished with good machining and filing up. The form of the triggers (the front being articulated) was good, though I thought that they might have been a little slimmer. There are disc set strikers as one sees in most AyAs, and a Purdey style, ‘button’ safety, a very practical design when one has cold or wet hands. It is automatic in function as one needs on a game gun. The gold line cocking indicators on the tumbler axle look good too. Another bonus is that this gun has quick detachable locks, provided one is not tempted to remove them too often.
This AyA has upgraded wood but is a little light in colour. The stock is well designed and finished and quite slim in comb and grip. The splinter forend is not too small. There is a gold oval and the overall level of finish is good with competent chequering and a decent traditional oil finish. It is quite slim as noted – more refined than the Spanish average – and suits the gun well. As for the shelf measurements, I could not fault them at 1 ½” and 2 1/8” for drop, a little cast-off for a right-hander, and a good stock length. Dix points here.
The AyA No.1 scored in the shooting department. I shot with Martin Chapman of West London and we did not miss much (or anything) between us. We did not take the gun to the high tower but used it on 40 and 70 foot towers at the ground where it was crisp and intuitive in use – a good gun. We also managed to bag a considerable number of simulated partridges. Overall? A well conceived, good shooting gun, generally well presented, but getting pricey.
West London Shooting Schools shop may be contacted on 0208 845 1377 (website www.shootingschool.co.uk ).
PRICE: £11,000 including VAT
CONTACT: ASI 01728 688555, website at www.a-s-i.co.uk