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Joined: Jan 2015
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Im the sort who when catches a spark of interest in something, usually digs into it rather deeply until some other interest comes along. This winter my current affair has become SxS shotguns. Specifically, European made. Ive learned a lot these last few months that have allowed me to narrow my focus on what Im most drawn to. At present, scaled 16 ga., sidelock, English style straight stock doubles have my heart. I discovered the well-made, typically undervalued Czech BRNO ZP models to be a great working gun, with all the technical attributes of Best Gun doubles such as chopper-lump bbls, scaled side lock actions that incorporate disc set strikers, gas escape valves, coil main springs, and hand fitted components with tight tolerances. Balance, point and swing are wonderful for my fit. Yet, they leave something to be desired in terms of eye appeal. I want something with more artistry as well as build quality, but I dont want to break the bank to get it.

I have always heard how Spanish doubles can satisfy all the technical and artisanal goals and be had at very reasonable prices relative to some other makers producing equivalent quality guns. The catch here of course is equivalent quality. Apparently the standards in Spain through the years have been all over the board depending on a given maker. Thats not unique to Spain, but it poses the challenge of requiring one to pay attention to the details of where and when a Spanish gun came from in trying to evaluate its market value.

So, all this to ask, whats the deal with Union Armera (UA) vs Grulla Armas? I keep seeing guns that were made by UA and marketed as Grulla. Yes I understand that UA was a consortium of 5 makers and started before WWII, and that they did a diverse business of building all grades of guns. They transitioned from the company name of UA to the company name of Grulla Armas sometime in the 80s. So I guess when people say a UA is a Grulla that is why. Yet, Grulla Armas has undergone a significant change in operations toward the type and quality of guns they build compared to those they built in their first decade of operation under that name, and certainly compared to the guns built overall by UA. Grulla Armas of today is focused on Best Gun builds only. The initial workmanship and thus cost of this grade gun is far more than the average UA ever was. Thus my ponderings have brought me to conclude how the heck can I tell if any UA is comparable to the Grulla? Engravings aside, where does one draw a line and say this UA or older Grulla is, or, is not built to the standards of todays Best Gun Grulla? I still have a lot to learnany insight you good folks would send my way would be well appreciated.

Last edited by hspruill; 03/14/15 11:39 AM.
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Permit me to pose some points to ponder.

Regarding your comment, Apparently the standards in Spain through the years have been all over the board depending on a given maker., that has the cart before the horse. Up until into the 1980s just about all the Spanish gun makers would make a gun to every price point at which there was a market. Across the board price points produces all over the board guns, from low price point working mens guns to highly embellished guns priced at a level only the landed gentry could afford.

Concerning UA and Grulla, the sign of the crane (a grulla) was the trademark of UA and people referred to a UA gun as Grulla. So UA changed the name of the company to Grulla. This was during the 1980s, when the Spanish gun makers were under severe economic pressure, with Victor Sarasqueta actually failing. The surviving shotgun makers did what they usually did during hard times; they dropped the bottom price point guns and raised the prices on the models they continued to make. The name change from UA to Grulla happened at the same time and some folks see a connection between the name change and the dropping of low end guns at Grulla. Maybe so, but the name change happened overnight but the reduction in models offered by (the newly renamed Grulla) happened slowly over the next decade.

This sentence, Grulla Armas of today is focused on Best Gun builds only. Is incorrect. Grulla still builds guns across a range of price points. Id also suggest abandoning the term best gun. This is a marketing term with no generally, much less universally, accepted quantifiable definition.

All of the makers build a well-made, reliable, and durable gun at the base price point. More money wont get you a more reliable or durable gun. What more money (i.e. higher price points) will get you is more decoration. Initially that may just be removal of tool marks from internal parts, or an engine turned water table. More money means more and better engraving, a wider choice in the kind of ribs (or locks) available, one or more spare barrels, H&H assisted openers, and/or a fitted case. And so on until we hit the top price point.

Not too long ago a gentleman shared a very high price point Pedro Gorosabel here:

http://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=390179&page=1

100% engraving coverage, engraving is medium to deep relief, has an assisted opener, and is just exquisite. Thats what more money buys :-)

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Well he has spoken! No such thing as Best guns. I'm sure this will be news to James Purdey, H&H etc. The only difference between a Purdey and shall we say "other guns" is just engraving, different ribs, removal of tool marks etc. And after all the price you pay for a Purdey won't get you a more reliable or durable gun.

Guess I'll just stick to those lower price point guns. Why waste all that money!



Gregory J. Westberg
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I think the point was the use of the term "best".

What is the definition of "best"? The one usually stated is that a "best" gun is one combining the best materials and manufacturing quality that a maker can muster. Well, maker A doing well below his "best" can outbuild by far maker B doing his utmost, so which gun would be "best", the one made by A or by B?

There is a more serious and quantifiable aspect. Bruce Owen, former Purdey production manager, wrote in Shooting Sportsman that since the advent of CNC machines they were forced to use modern and superior steel grades, not the old carbon steel, for actions. The old steels cannot stand the forces applied by thenew machines, he wrote.

SO the new generation Purdeys with this improved steel would be described as "bester" since the pre CNC models were "best"?

See the difficulties with this "best" label now?

Last edited by Shotgunlover; 03/14/15 05:24 PM.
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I've always enjoyed Hallowell's definition of a "best gun":

"Best Gun - A pretentious English term for a gun that must have several specific details. To qualify for the title, it must have a Sidelock action with Intercepting Sears, have Chopper Lump Barrels, be Stocked to the Fences and have its lumps concealed by its floorplate. While almost any respectable gunmaker can accomplish these requirements, the implication, of course, is that it is also built to the highest standard of quality. "

Morris L. Hallowell IV, "Illustrated Firearms Dictionary"
http://www.hallowellco.com/abbrevia.htm

Dewey Vicknair
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Thanks to all for your replies. Yes I understand that the grulla was the symbol used by UA, and consequently, UA guns were therefore termed "Grulla" in their day. I think this might add to some of the confusion I'm trying to clear out of my pea brain. As I said, I have much to learn yet, and expect that my limited pocket book, and exposure to all degrees of quality guns will hamper me much. Never the less, is there no difference than in how good were the materials used, and how well built are the UA guns vs the contemporary Grulla offerings? Taken the art work out of the equation that is.

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I have an older UA 20 gauge made in the 1940s and it is a very well made gun. I will avoid the "best" gun issue, but it is a bespoke sidelock finished with every bell and whistle that you could want other than a self-opener (which I personally don't view as a shortcoming) - chopperlump barrels (no top rib, too), 100% engraving coverage, articulated trigger, bushed strikers, gold plated lockparts, hidden third bite, jeweled finish, ejectors, cocking indicators, drop points, classy piece of walnut with first-rate inletting, stocked to the fences, fitted case. Interestingly, the locks bear an AYA stamp. It would cost 5-6x what I paid for it to have it made in Spain today.

The UA guns can be better deals because of the very question you raised.


Last edited by Doverham; 03/15/15 02:39 PM.

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If by well built you mean reliable and durable the answer is there is no difference between guns built by the company named UA or Grulla. Neither UA nor Grulla made the parts they used to assemble shotguns. Like almost all other makers at almost all other times, UA/Grulla bought/buys the parts and assemblies needed to assemble they shotguns that will have their name upon them. If there are differences in the materials used to make the parts AU used, from the materials used to make the parts Grulla uses, its because time has passed and the network of suppliers UA/Grulla buys from has changed the materials they use to make their wares.

Concerning whether the people of UA or Grulla did a better job of assembling those parts into shotguns, remember that while the company name changed the people did not.

Im getting the sense that you are new to Spanish shotguns, and are looking to make a first purchase. If thats the case my best advice, offered FWIW, is:

1) Ignore the names on the guns and just look at the gun and then buy the gun that best meets your needs, regardless of who made it. Youll pay less for the same gun.
2) Buy a used gun rather than a new gun, especially a gun made roughly during the period 1945 to 1975. That was the period that skilled hand labor was at its cheapest, and more of that skilled hand labor went into guns then than now does into guns at any similar price point. Youll get more gun for your money.

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Originally Posted By: Doverham

--- snip ---
Interestingly, the locks bear an AYA stamp.
--- snip ---


This is spot on to the subject of the network of parts suppliers all the gun makers depend on for the parts they need to make guns.

The original AyA (not the AyA of that name today) had its start as a supplier of parts to the gun makers, and initially made no shotguns itself. AyA specialized in complete locks, and later in barrels. Even after that earlier AyA began making guns under its own name it continued to make and sell parts for a major part of its revenue stream.

As I write this history is attempting to come full circle. Current day AyA, concerned with the status of the parts suppliers it relies upon for the parts it needs to make shotguns, has started to make its own barrels.

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