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AYA vs English guns


PeterHenry
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So, I have recently purchased an AYA no.2 (1 of a pair) and am part way through purchasing the second gun. They are lightly used examples from the early 1980s and with one exception, I have shot the AYA all year. I shoot well with it, and as far as I can tell - it very much fits with the description of being as good a gun as a decent Birmingham or provincial sidelock.

My problem lies in also owning a couple of examples of the 'real thing' - a London side lock none ejector and a very fine Scottish boxlock ejector. 

Now - obviously I am spoiled for choice, and while the AYA is not as finely finished in the detail as the two aforementioned guns, it is certainly better finished, or at least on par with some of the Birmingham boxlocks I own.

So - my question (if possible to answer) for those in the know, or whose who have experience - in the round, what is the better gun? Or perhaps more precisely - how do AYA no.2's measure up against a decent / sound Birmingham gun?

 

Edited by PeterHenry
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The AyA will have chopper lump barrels which are considered a superior method of construction to either a dovetail lump or the method used by BSA on their proprietory boxlocks of the interwar period. Why because the barrels can be made light and yet strong in the breech area for less weight than if made to equal strength by the other methods.

A decent sound Birmingham gun sidelock (and in the case of sidelock ejectors that in many cases will be a Webley & Scott with someone else's name on it. Indeed many William Evans guns between the wars were made by Webley & Scott) will be old. Quality is quality but age most be factored in.

Age can mean worn or "loose" ejectors and it can mean that those pristine bores are in fact fine bored formerly pitted bores make to look pristine again. So there's not a question of which gun is better but which gun is sounder and less worn and/or "fettled" to within an inch of its life..especially when checkering is recut through the hand.

Your AyA you say shoots well and I'd guess unlike many "Brit" guns has 70mm chambers. It will also have probably better life left in the barrel walls than does any "Brit" sidelock ejector that you could get for the same money. Having said that if you do hanker after buying and using a "Brit" gun I'd do it now rather than later. Everything has a time.

Edited by enfieldspares
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This question is one I have been asked many times and the answer is -It all depends -.

OK I take the points raised above that AyA like many companies went through a bad patch when the guns were not as well built or finished as they might have been .There was an ongoing problem with sidelock strikers that was resolves 10/12 years ago and yes there are common problems with all AyA's that come down to they way they are made , but should not be any problem if the gun is well maintained . 

That said I maintain that they were a better gun than several other Spanish guns although some were better finished , Arazabagalaga , were notorious for uneven and having thin barrel walls .

So yes you have to pick your guns ,look for ones that have as much original finish as possible and show the least signs of wear .

Comparing to a London or Birmingham made gun is difficult , age , maker , amount of use the gun has had will all be factors and is difficult to tell .Generally if looking at middle range guns and second grade sidelocks  , say Evans or Cogswell for example , you may find a good original gun that has had little use . There are also an awful lot of spiffed old knackers .

As much as it hurts to say it in latter years I found that I was recommending people  who wanted a side by side for moderate to heavy shooting , to seriously consider a new or recent  AyA No2 , which if well looked after should give many years of service , having seen AyA's built in the early 60's still in regular use and in very good condition .

The one advantage the AyA has over many British guns  is the 70mm chamber , some say they are heavy and do not handle as well as a " classic English gun , which may be true but how many people have actually handled a brand new British built gun to compare ? 

So yes in general AyA's are not as " nice" as their British counter parts .They are not as well made or finished as the equivalent British gun would have been in its day and yes I would own and use one were I a shooter and of course you can get most parts , springs etc should you need them cheaply .

 

 

 

 

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I had an AYA #4 for many years and hankered after a finer-finished gun. 

This resulted in buying a 1976 Gunmark Merlin by Vicenzo Bernardelli. Double triggers, 27" barrels straight hand stock, and lightweight. 

Some Italian guns seem to be better finished, the barrels are better struck-off, there's engine turning on the action etc etc..

Whilst my gun could do with the barrels rebluing I really like it. 

I also have a Beretta 626E in the cabinet, which being single-trigger and pistol grip stock is not quite how I would choose, but again is much better finished than the AYA I had before. This gun is my Dad's though, and he's shooting with me on Saturday.  

So, I'd say don't overlook the Italian offerings if you want a reliable modern gun, which is better finished than an AYA #2 or #4. 

I haven't handled an AYA #1 and perhaps that would be a different proposition! 

 

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Perhaps someone can tell me when ?

AYA suffered from inflation etc, like a lot of companies in 70's /80's, and formed into a Co-op.  The quality during this period wasn't the same as the earlier guns.

Can any one give me details of numbers, or names of guns made in the poor period ?

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10 minutes ago, cardigun said:

Perhaps someone can tell me when ?

AYA suffered from inflation etc, like a lot of companies in 70's /80's, and formed into a Co-op.  The quality during this period wasn't the same as the earlier guns.

Can any one give me details of numbers, or names of guns made in the poor perioIt

It is often alleged that some of the companies who joined the "co-op" may have produced inferior quality guns. However, I have yet to see or hear any definitive evidence or proof that AYA were themselves producing inferior quality products at this time, either with materials or finish. Regards

Edited by benbobailey
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All comprehensive and thoughtful answers thank you.

I'm quite partial to the finish on the AYA no.2 - its not workman like by any means - but likewise not so fine as to be concerned with being damaged or to put me off using it in bad weather. In a way, the honesty of the gun is appealing - from the house (roll) engraving to the fact that its a copy of an English action, in an English style, but not trying to pass itself off as English with an English name on the rib.

I like how its become a well thought of gun in its own right at the end of the day.

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1 hour ago, cardigun said:

Can any one give me details of numbers, or names of guns made in the poor period ?

The DIARM period began (at least officially) 14th December 1984 (date of formation) but the first guns produced were stated to have been 1986.  I think it was formally finished circa 31st December 1988, and an independent AyA was operating again in 1989.

Serial numbers (for AyA) for the periods are listed here  http://www.shotguns.se/html/aya_serial_numbers.html

As to whether the DIARM period was a "poor period", I can't really say.  Some people do claim that, others say it was more complex than that ......

Edited by JohnfromUK
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8 hours ago, Gunman said:

This question is one I have been asked many times and the answer is -It all depends -.

OK I take the points raised above that AyA like many companies went through a bad patch when the guns were not as well built or finished as they might have been .There was an ongoing problem with sidelock strikers that was resolves 10/12 years ago and yes there are common problems with all AyA's that come down to they way they are made , but should not be any problem if the gun is well maintained . 

That said I maintain that they were a better gun than several other Spanish guns although some were better finished , Arazabagalaga , were notorious for uneven and having thin barrel walls .

So yes you have to pick your guns ,look for ones that have as much original finish as possible and show the least signs of wear .

Comparing to a London or Birmingham made gun is difficult , age , maker , amount of use the gun has had will all be factors and is difficult to tell .Generally if looking at middle range guns and second grade sidelocks  , say Evans or Cogswell for example , you may find a good original gun that has had little use . There are also an awful lot of spiffed old knackers .

As much as it hurts to say it in latter years I found that I was recommending people  who wanted a side by side for moderate to heavy shooting , to seriously consider a new or recent  AyA No2 , which if well looked after should give many years of service , having seen AyA's built in the early 60's still in regular use and in very good condition .

The one advantage the AyA has over many British guns  is the 70mm chamber , some say they are heavy and do not handle as well as a " classic English gun , which may be true but how many people have actually handled a brand new British built gun to compare ? 

So yes in general AyA's are not as " nice" as their British counter parts .They are not as well made or finished as the equivalent British gun would have been in its day and yes I would own and use one were I a shooter and of course you can get most parts , springs etc should you need them cheaply .

 

 

 

 

I'm fascinated to read this view of Arazabagalaga, I had always considered them the very best of Spanish gunmakers and would have bought one over an AYA. This is mainly from my reading rather than direct experience though as I've only ever looked at one in an auction room. 

 

 

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1 minute ago, theshootist said:

I'm fascinated to read this view of Arazabagalaga, I had always considered them the very best of Spanish gunmakers and would have bought one over an AYA. This is mainly from my reading rather than direct experience though as I've only ever looked at one in an auction room. 

 

 

Many Spanish makers made guns from quite cheap and basic to pretty high end.  Arrietta made some nice high end guns and made guns for UK 'names', and AyAs Senior model and Ignacio Ugartechea's Model 1040 were top of the range models from those companies based on the Beesley/Purdey self opening action, but both also made lower level models (albeit still soundly made) like the AyA Yeoman.

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19 minutes ago, theshootist said:

I'm fascinated to read this view of Arazabagalaga, I had always considered them the very best of Spanish gunmakers and would have bought one over an AYA. This is mainly from my reading rather than direct experience though as I've only ever looked at one in an auction room. 

 

 

I thought exactly the same, in fact am talking to a dealer about one at the moment, may be time to re-think that one!

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1 hour ago, button said:

I thought exactly the same, in fact am talking to a dealer about one at the moment, may be time to re-think that one!

According to the book "Spanish Best" they are (or were, as they are no longer in business) fantastic. 

 

As for the OP's question, I would much rather have a good condition AYA than a suspect English sidelock. 

Edited by theshootist
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20 minutes ago, theshootist said:

According to the book "Spanish Best" they are (or were, as they are no longer in business) fantastic. 

 

As for the OP's question, I would much rather have a good condition AYA than a suspect English sidelock. 

It was Spanish Best that made me start the search for one! Great book

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All interesting reading guys you sure know your stuff. But to twist this slightly ( don’t think I will drag it too far off topic) 

the other plus point for the aya is that they are still going and still producing guns and therefore off the shelf parts ? 
I am sure there are items out of stock. But compared to an English gun where you may be making something from scratch if this is costly it may be past economical sense !

just thought I would throw that one in as your best English side lock ejector  is no good if it’s broken beyond repair due to parts not being available!

regards Agriv8 

 

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1 minute ago, Agriv8 said:

the other plus point for the aya is that they are still going and still producing guns and therefore off the shelf parts ?

I think that may now be only 'partly' correct (but happy to be corrected!)

  1. I don't believe they now make the lower priced models (such as Yeoman s/s) any more?
  2. I believe that parts are easily available, but many will need final 'fitting' by a gunsmith.  My No 1 is currently away having a new mainspring after one of the little claws on the end snapped where it goes onto the swivel (gun continued to work, but with one snapped, was obviously a bit on 'borrowed time').
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5 minutes ago, JohnfromUK said:

I think that may now be only 'partly' correct (but happy to be corrected!)

  1. I don't believe they now make the lower priced models (such as Yeoman s/s) any more?
  2. I believe that parts are easily available, but many will need final 'fitting' by a gunsmith.  My No 1 is currently away having a new mainspring after one of the little claws on the end snapped where it goes onto the swivel (gun continued to work, but with one snapped, was obviously a bit on 'borrowed time').

Good point re the fettling ! and one I should have made - to add the point that my gun man has been known to fettle aya parts for non aya guns ( when they are close  😀).

to be fair some repairs on my youngster 725 have also needed tweaking time !

Atb Agriv8

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1 hour ago, Agriv8 said:

All interesting reading guys you sure know your stuff. But to twist this slightly ( don’t think I will drag it too far off topic) 

the other plus point for the aya is that they are still going and still producing guns and therefore off the shelf parts ? 
I am sure there are items out of stock. But compared to an English gun where you may be making something from scratch if this is costly it may be past economical sense !

just thought I would throw that one in as your best English side lock ejector  is no good if it’s broken beyond repair due to parts not being available!

regards Agriv8 

 

I don’t think parts were ever available for best English guns, and most of the cheaper ones as well. Each gun was pretty well made individually. There was no production line. Even with a matched pair parts from No1 are unlikely to fit No2.
With stuff like AyA’s, where a range of guns were produced in quantity (but still ‘bench made’) roughed out parts were probably available but would all need finishing.

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1 minute ago, London Best said:

I don’t think parts were ever available for best English guns

Some of the 'best' could be ordered with things like spare springs and spare strikers that were made when the gun was made.  I think these were possibly to support guns destined for far flung parts of the empire!  You occasionally see 'striker pots' that would have contained the spare strikers for sale.  I think I have heard that some were also sometimes stored in a recess in the stock under the butt plate (in the days when steel but plates were common).

Westley Richards also offered (and I believe still offer) spare locks for drop lock guns. 

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Just now, London Best said:

All individually made for that gun.

Indeed - and supplied at the time the gun was originally made as part of the original order, so would have been made by the same craftsman from the same material etc.

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AyA parts were certainly up till I retired in 2016 , readily available for most of there range although not for some of the pre 19070's guns , due to changes in design to make component parts heavier /stronger , tumblers and ejector hammers a good example .

All the parts came  machined but needed to be fitted and finished , some required more fitting than others unlike mass produced Berettas or Miroku's

About the only part that needed no fitting were the box lock strikers .Even so it made repairs much cheaper and quicker ,an hours fitting rather than several hours making then fitting .

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I might be wrong, and this is only my limited experience, but I find the "classic" english guns to have a basic fit (out of the box, without any changes) that are *significantly* different from a more modern AYA. Basically the basic measurements seems to have a lot more height of comb, making it hard to find a "fitting" gun out of a rack. I tried many (and I own several) and they never fit "just so", I'm ALWAYS lower than the rib on them; of course I can still shoot them just fine with a bit of practice...

That's the difference when I took hold of my mid 80 AYA #1, it was /almost/ a perfect fit. While my previous "go to" SxS I had to put the top of the butt nearly halfway down my shoulder to shoot. Again, perfectly fine with a bit of practice, but anyway, that's my experience :-)

 

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What no one has yet said is that it costs as much to make a top lever spring for a London sidelock as it does for a Spanish sidelock. Cheap guns that are sound are good value be they English, Spanish, Japanese (SKB) or French or German. But if a replacement part has to be bespoke made that's a whole different set of mathematics. Having said that I've now two Manufrance 28E easy-opening boxlock ejectors and they are pretty much actually a machine made gun as was BSA's boxlock of the same period. Yet spares (in France) can still be found for many Manufrance guns. I remember in 1999 or so walking into Gastinne Renette's shop off the Champs d'Elysees and asking for an ejector spring for the first one I then had. The answer was an immediate "Bien sur Monsieur...16 ou 12?" (Absolutely Sir...sixteen bore or twelve bore?). And although Gastinne Renette is long gone it closed in 2002 just ten years short of its two hundredth anniversary of its founding in 1812 you can still get the springs today.

Edited by enfieldspares
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