por Michael McIntosh
When I was a young man I lusted, among other things, for a Matador model gun by Aguirre y Aranzabal. It was a handsome piece, perhaps not quite as lissome as a London-style sidelock (or as some of the other things I was lusting after at the time), but it was well-made and well-finished—and it was a side-by-side, a form that fascinated me beyond words.
I eventually owned one and liked it immensely. But that was in the days when I was determined to own at least one specimen of every gun ever built, operating on a budget that demanded the frequent exchange of hardware and minimal amounts of cash, so it finally went away in trade for something else. Even so, the memory of a good Spanish gun remained.
In the early 1990s, after Terry Wieland let the rest of us know how good Spanish guns really were, I had Aguirre y Aranzabal build a gun to my specifications, a Nº 2 sidelock ejector made in the image of an English gun I owned at the time. As my reasoning went, the AYA would serve as a traveling version of the London gun that I could in no way afford to replace. Now, almost fifteen years later, there aren’t many London guns you could offer to trade even-up that would tempt me to part with my AYA Nº 2.
It has accompanied me on at least 14 shooting trips to Europe, five or six to South America, traveled with me from Alaska to Mexico, and from Minnesota to the pinewoods of the South, and has digested about 80,000 cartridges. All with a single hiccup: A striker broke while I was shooting doves in Argentina. A striker can break in any gun. I had a new one made along with a set of spares, just in case. Now I don’t have a clue where the spare ones are, because I see no indication that I’ll ever need them.
What I do see, and feel, each time I pick up my AYA is the most faithful, reliable, and by now familiar gun I’ve ever owned. I’d know it blindfolded or in the dark. It is an extension of my hands and my will to shoot—not to mention that sweet old yearning to own an AYA, which in the end proved to be one of the few young lusts that could truly stand the test of time.