It would be hard to better this nicely-proportioned Spanish over-and-under, says Michael Yardley. However, excellence comes at a price…
Over-and-unders are nothing new to AyA, but the AyA Legend De Luxe 20-bore is something different and they are to be congratulated, says Michael Yardley. It would be hard to better, but this quality does come at a price…
For more from AyA, read our review of the AYA Premium 20-bore.
AYA LEGEND DE LUXE 20-BORE
This month’s test gun is a 20-bore AyA (Aguirre y Aranzabal) Legend De Luxe over-and-under imported into the UK by ASI of Snape (who also bring in Rizzini guns from Italy and EGE shotguns from Turkey). Weighing in at 6lb 11oz, the Legend has 30in barrels with 3in chambers (fleur-de-lys superior steel proof) and a tapered and ventilated top rib. The single trigger is selective and there are multichokes. The wood – well-figured Turkish walnut – is finished with hand-rubbed oil and hand-cut chequering. There is an open radius pistol grip and a rounded fore-end. First impressions are of a carefully conceived, well-presented game gun.
AyA is best known for its side-by-sides, especially its Holland & Holland sidelock clone No 1 and 2 models. In years past, its budget Yeoman side-by-sides and No 4 boxlock ejector were also popular and did much to establish the brand in Britain.
Over-and-unders are nothing new to AyA. The Yeoman range included a stack barrel and the Coral was a rather more elaborate offering. It had a deep action, prominent barrel shoulders and bold action engraving. With its demi-lump barrels (with under barrel lumps) and cross-bolting it was essentially a copy of a Merkel – a clunker aesthetically but notable for its particularly solid build quality.
This new AyA over-and-under is something different. It has a nicely proportioned, shallow and rounded-action bar, monobloc barrels and Perazzi-like bolting to the rear. The action body is decorated, tastefully, with medium scrollwork cut by hand – not by laser or other modern mechanical process. There is full coverage and the attractive engraving is ‘inked’ in typical Spanish style to highlight it against the silver finish of the action. The overall effect is pleasing – enough decoration to set the gun apart with its good wood as a deluxe model but not so much as to make it look gaudy. The engraving style suits it, too. My only decorative quibble was the Phillips screws that attach the buttplate to the rear of the stock.
I asked Edward King, managing director of ASI, how this model, rather different to most of AyA’s recent output, came to be created: “With the Legend De Luxe, AyA are pitching into the market of hand-built, over-and under guns and are trying to appeal to those who already have an affinity for their brand – which has a very loyal following – but might like to change over to a modern, steel-proved over-and-under. It is offered both with and without multi-chokes in 12- or 20-bore and is made to measure at no extra cost. The delivery time is about six months.”
Is a 20-bore over-and-under the way to go now? The 30in 20-bore over-and-under is a great alternative to a traditional side-by-side 12. It is my observation that most, including those conditioned to a traditional side-by-side, will shoot as well or better with one. The advent of steel shot may, however, incline some towards the 12 because of the greater ammunition choice.
The problem with 12-bore over-and-unders, especially if they are mass produced, is that they tend to be quite heavy. Most verge on 8lb with some 9lb-plus long-barrelled behemoths now presented as game or ‘high bird’ guns. The typical 12-bore over-and-under is rarely less than 7¾lb now. For most, this is a bit too much.
I will go out a limb and state, regardless of being 12 or 20, side-by-side or stack barrelled, that the ideal all-round game gun for normal work should not weigh substantially more than 7½lb (my ideal for a 30in 12-bore over-and-under). Around 7lb, however, is a comfortable and practical weight for a 30in 12-bore side-by-side or a 30in 20-bore over-and-under.
This AyA has an interesting action design. Spanish makers have copied many systems in the past – notably cloning Merkels and Perazzis. This gun has elements of Perazzi, Woodward and Boss. There is trunnion hinging to the front as has become near universal. To the rear there is Perazzi/Kemen-style bolting as noted but without the Boss-style draws and wedges to the sides (which both Perazzi and Kemen adopt). At the bottom rear of the monobloc on either side are extensions, which dovetail into slots in the breach face. The bolt comes down on top of these and locks the barrels down.
There is a single, substantial, central cocking bar much like a Perazzi (many Italian guns have twin rods). The spring-loaded ejector-work is neat and typical of many Continental over-and-unders in that the ejector springs are always under tension. It is a proven arrangement and less prone to breakage. The single-trigger mechanism is recoil operated.
I am a fan of 30in 20-bores and use them a lot. I am particularly fond of low profile over-and-unders of the type tested. Cutting to the chase, the Legend shot well. The weight and slightly forward balance were good. It felt solid in the hands – a hand-built thing rather than the product of a production line. There was a little more recoil than expected but not to the degree that it was unpleasant (my hunch would be that it related to headspacing).
The stock ticked nearly all boxes. The grip shape was excellent – not over radiused and offering good depth. The hand was anchored efficiently, improving muzzle and recoil control. The wrist was not forced into a cocked position. I also liked the rounded fore-end. Comb shapes were good, too, but the comb itself, which is pleasantly tapered, was slightly offset left. So, although the gun has a bit of right-hand cast at heel and toe, it came up slightly left. Overall verdict? ASI is to be congratulated for the specification of the Legend De Luxe – it would be hard to better – but this is reflected in the pricing.
AYA LEGEND DE LUXE 20-BORE
♦ RRP £10,600
♦ Imported by ASI Ltd
♦ Alliance House, Snape, Saxmundham IP17 1SW
♦ Tel: 01728 688555