The Spanish firm has collaborated with two British companies on a project to recreate a 1920s style London sidelock. The result is the AYA English game-gun. Michael Yardley is intrigued
The AYA English game-gun is the product of a collaboration between Sportarm of Dorchester, ASI of Snape, and AYA the Spanish manufacturer. First impressions of this “English” game-gun are of a well-presented, traditionally specified, 61⁄2lb side-by-side made rather striking because of its fine rose-and-scroll engraving.
AYA ENGLISH GAME-GUN
There is more to the project than cosmetics, however. Kevin Phillips of Sportarm notes: “The reason for doing this was to recreate a Twenties-style London sidelock. People who shoot ‘golden age’ guns often find it hard to match the handling characteristics with those recently made. In considering replacement or addition, they seek something that has similar balance and the benefit of modern proofing and sensible price. ”
Sportarm looked particularly at the Holland & Holland Royal Brevis during the research phase of the project. Rights to AYA’s lightweight model were acquired. “The aim was to replicate the English feel in a first-quality product that could be on sale under £15,000 that would be ultra-reliable,” says Phillips. “The AYA English game-gun comes with a labelled toe-under leather motor case with protecting canvas and leather outer cover all within a price of £12,995.”
The new AYA English game-gun is available both as a 12-bore (as tested) and a 20-bore. It has double triggers (the front articulated) and 28in fixed-choke (quarter and half) chopper-lump barrels fitted with a concave rib and traditional metal bead. Chambers are 23⁄4in (70mm). Bore diameters are 18.5mm (730 thou – typical of golden age English guns). Forcing cones are of mid length and the barrels bear the latest CIP fleurs-de-lis, steel-shot-compatible proof marks. The barrels are well presented, competently struck up with neat flats and ejector work. Wall thickness is a minimum of 28 thou, directly comparable with between-the-wars London best.
The AYA English game-gun’s quick-detachable lock action is mechanically similar to that of a Holland & Holland Royal but with disc-set strikers fitted. The shapes are pleasing with good fences and a beaded belly. The test gun had a Purdey-type button safety but the intention is for production guns – this gun was a prototype made for the CLA Game Fair – to have a Holland & Holland ramp. It is interesting to note that when copying English guns the Spanish maker typically tends to favour the simpler mechanics of Holland & Holland but the aesthetics of Purdey. As well as a Holland-style action, it employs associated Southgate ejector work, which is simpler and more easily regulated than others.
The stock on the Sportarm AYA English game-gun was good. The straight grip is elegant and different to most AYAs as it is of diamond pattern (as seen in many Hollands) rather than the usual oval. The comb profile is refined with an elegant taper. The measurements on the test gun were 15in for length to centre, with no extra at heel and almost 1⁄2in at toe. This omission of a “bump” may be explained by similar omission on many Continental guns (an easily rectified deficiency). Drop was 13⁄8in at comb and 21⁄8in at heel (good, but my ideal shelf measurement on a side-by-side would be 11⁄2in and 2in). The traditional oil finish was well done and the 24-line-per-inch, hand-cut chequering was neatly executed.
AYA ENGLISH GAME-GUN: TECHNICAL DATA
The AYA English game-gun is built with a streamlined bar action. The main springs are positioned forward on the lock plates necessitating a recess each side of the action bar to accommodate them. The quick-detachable locks are well made, incorporating intercepting safety sears. Key parts such as tumblers and sears are made from drawn steel rather than the lost-wax casting method popular with some makers because parts come out nearer final shape, though needing to be hardened, which may create brittleness by bringing carbon to the surface. The gun also boasts the latest, wire-cut mainsprings. These offer a better and smoother strike. When compressed fully, there is no touching of the leaves (if this should happen, the spring functions from the contact point forward only).
AYA ENGLISH GAME-GUN: SHOOTING IMPRESSIONS
I shot Sportarm’s AYA English game-gun beginning on the predicable targets of a skeet range. All the birds initially thrown were broken but I was aware of a little recoil with 28g loads. There was also a tendency for the butt to slip at the shoulder – almost certainly a consequence of the short heel dimension that Sportarm has now rectified. I found the diamond grip superior to the standard AYA oval. This lightweight gun was lively and succeeded in mimicking the handling characteristics of a between-the-wars game-gun, thus meeting its designers’ intention. Everything worked well. Aesthetically, I consider the gun to be more attractive than many Spanish imports. Functionally, not everyone likes the heavier, longer guns that are my preference.
For someone used to a between-the-wars London best this will feel familiar, and you don’t need to worry about how much you use it or whether it will cope with modern cartridges.
AYA price: £12,995 including VAT
Where to buy the AYA English game-gun: www.sportarm.com
Call: 01305 268001