AYA No. 2 De Luxe

Vic Harker tries out the exciting new sidelock side-by-side from AYA, and is impressed with what he finds.

When I received a sample of AYA's new No. 2 De Luxe sidelock I had expected a 12-bore but instead got a 20. I have to confess I am not a 20-bore enthusiast, and though they certainly have their place, while I am still capable of carrying a gun weighing between 6 1/2 and 7lb in every kind of circumstance, I will stick to a 12-bore with its superior ballistics. Regardless of the claims of modern 20-bore devotees, some of whom shoot guns with very long barrels, presumably to make them handle like the heavier 12-bore, the fact remains they will not kill game at the same distances as a 12. Nevertheless I have to admit that those who insist on a 20-bore in the classic English style, could hardly do better in terms of both quality and value for money than this new addition to the AYA range. 

Everyone is familiar with AYA guns and how Andrew and Peter King the founders of ASI, the British importers since the 1950s, worked with Aguirre & Aranzabal to produce a range of side-by-side guns to meet the demands of the British game shooter. I am sure they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and the AYA gun in both sidelock and boxlock form became the benchmark by which similar guns imported by other British companies were judged. Examining the No. 2 De Luxe, it is easy to see why - there is a rightness and integrity about it that is immediately apparent. 

I look at lots of modern guns and inevitably many of them are of the volume production kind that, while in some cases are huge value for money, the vast majority do not have the crispness of fi t and fi nish that only artisan work can produce. I have no doubt that AYA's production has been modernised as has been the case with even the most illustrious London gunmakers, but like the best examples of what amounts to a hybrid production of modern technology and old fashioned craftsmanship, the former only enhances the latter and doesn't compromise it. 

As with all AYA sidelocks the No. 2 De Luxe has rebounding locks with intercepting sears very similar to the Holland & Holland patent. Sophisticated yet robust and easily repaired by any good gunsmith. Likewise, with the ejectors AYA employ the Southgate principle which is time proven and by far the most reliable. 

As regards decoration, the No. 2's locks are engraved with an Acanthus leaf design which is brushed bright and is both attractive and yet suitably discreet. The stock confi guration incorporates a straight grip and is nicely proportioned - my only criticism being there was a little too much toe for me and I would have liked to have seen a more prominent bump or heel which I fi nd helps locate the butt comfortably in the shoulder. 

As with every aspect of this gun, the swamped concave rib mirrors that of the English game gun and the barrels were exceptionally well struck off and suitably light. 

I habitually shoot with guns much heavier than this AYA, but at 6lb 5oz it's not the lightest 20-bore, and the weight was nicely distributed between the hands. If a gun feels right it inspires confidence and it handled some driven pairs well. 

On the high tower at Ian Coley's Shooting School however, I had to give the targets more thought than I usually do to connect. Mostly it was a matter of adjusting to a different set of dynamics and letting instinct take over, and the more I shot this AYA the more I enjoyed using it. Added to which, the appearance and feel of the traditional English side-by-side gun always seduces me in the end and remembering an advertising slogan ASI once used, this AYA really is closest to the English ideal. 

Cost: £7,850 (inc VAT) www.a-s-i.co.uk 

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