This deluxe version of a popular side-by-side handled and shot well. Mike Yardley is impressed by its looks, performance and value for money
This month we are testing an interesting deluxe version of a popular sporting gun – the AyA No 2. I came across this model recently when looking for a new gun for a friend. The No 2 has an excellent reputation for reliability and this enhanced model looks particularly good at first glance. I thought it worthy of a full test.
The gun provided by the importers, ASI of Snape, has 30in barrels and weighs in at a near ideal (for a 20-bore side-by-side) 6 1/4 lb. It follows the usual AyA sidelock pattern, so is much influenced in form and mechanics by a Holland Royal. The test gun is not an assisted opener like most modern Royals (although it can be ordered as one at additional cost). The wood is upgraded to No 1 AyA standard with straight grain through the grip and good figure to the butt.
Overall, first impressions are excellent. The form, style and finish tick all boxes. The No 2 comes to shoulder well with a slightly forward balance (about an inch forward of the hinge pin). If I was to quibble, I might say it was a little barrel heavy, but this could be balanced out with a bit of extra lead in the butt. For my hand, the grip was a bit thin as well (but as this is a bespoke gun you may specify it as you want).
The aesthetics, meantime, are exceptional. Barrel black and oil finish are particularly well done with neat hand chequering on the grip and splinter fore-end. The deep scroll engraving on the square bar action (there is a rounded option) is pleasing (as is the action body itself, which has good proportions and beaded edges to its belly). The engraving is applied by laser and hand finished, making it look less flat.
The No 2 de Luxe appeared about 20 years ago, after the No 1 version, which was first offered in the mid 1990s. ASI has played a major role in developing it. Edward King of ASI notes: “It seemed sensible to create something for those who were happy with the reliability and serviceability of the No 2 but were looking for a gun with a higher standard of embellishment and finish without going to the greater expense of a fully hand finished No 1.”
Remarkably, AyA has produced more than 100,000 No 2s in a total production of more than 600,000 guns. The No 2 is mechanically identical to the No 1, save for its barrel steel. The barrel steel of a No 2 is Bellota EC4 (the equivalent of our EN8). No 1 barrel steel is Bellota URKO-035, which has a higher chrome content. This does not seem to have much practical consequence, however, as No 2s seem particularly long lived. The actions in both guns, moreover, are made from the same forgings of the same steel, only the barrels – which are chopper lump in both cases – vary in their material.
The barrels of the test gun are 1,370 BAR fleurs-de-lys proofed for steel and well presented in all departments. Both top and bottom ribs are attached using high temp silver solder (as has been the case for many years with AyAs). There is a 3mm white metal bead at the muzzles. Chokes are fixed at 1/4 and half (you can order tighter if you don’t want to use steel). Chamber forcing cones are quite short (but may be specified longer). On the bottom of the front barrel lump there is a keep pin for the extractor screw – a nice touch, but it makes it more difficult to remove the extractors for cleaning.
The test gun has a well-conceived, straight-hand stock, as discussed. The fore-end is attached by means of an Anson-style fastener, as is typical of AyAs. Standard dimensions, as tested, were 15in for length of pull, 1 1/2 in for drop at comb and 2⅛in at heel with a ⅛in cast-off at heel.
The action of the No 2 is built on a square bar from a machined forging. It is clearly Holland & Holland inspired, save for disc-set strikers. The seven-pin sidelocks are quick detachable by means of the usual extended side ‘nails’ (screws). The barrels pivot on a replaceable centre pin. Cocking ‘dogs’ (levers) about 3in long are depressed by the drop of the barrels and lift the tumblers and compress the main springs (V form). A Holland-style gun cocks on opening, a Purdey on closing. Unlike some Spanish guns, AyAs use V-springs for the sears and leaf springs for the interceptors, not coil, which are cheaper. As mentioned, high temp silver solder attaches bottom and top ribs (on some earlier AyAs, soft solder was used on the top rib). Also worthy of mention: AyAs once had fragile firing pins but the girth has been increased, eliminating one of the few issues in an otherwise well-sorted and long-proven design.
I shot the No 2 de Luxe at Fennes Shooting Grounds in Essex. The AyA immediately scored on the aesthetic front, other shooters notingit was a “nice-looking gun”. Beauty is as beauty does, however, and we should not forget practicalities. Happily, the No 2 performed. It was lively in the hands and pointed nicely with the 30in barrels. Recoil was not excessive and it shot well. I did note a lack of purchase with the relatively thin straight grip making corrections difficult on some birds, which were wind effected. There was also a little vibration coming through the hand. If I ordered one in 20-bore, and the gun appeals in this gauge, I might go for a semi-pistol grip. This was a well-presented and attractive gun nevertheless. It represents good value and there is the chance to specify it exactly as one wants.