I have carried some form of firearm for 50 years both on and off duty as a trooper and a citizen. With the notable exception of a sojourn in Vietnam I can count the times that I have shot at another human being on one hand, one finger, actually, and my business was seeking out folks who would harm another human being and putting a stop to their designs. Firearms, in one form or another have relegated me to the cadre of half deaf old uncles and grandpas who can’t hear much without the the marvel of todays electronic hearing devices. I have earned the right to comment on today’s arming of our citizenry in unprecedented numbers. This writing is not about the politics or constitutionality of carrying a firearm, rather the common sense approach to do so comfortably.
To the shooters out there, now is the time to grab a cup of coffee and hear me out as I am going to challenge todays fascination with little, bitty handguns in untrained hands. Yes, there is a such thing as too little, kind of like the difference between a lady finger fire cracker and the old M-80 of years past, equivalent to a quarter stick of dynamite. The truth my friends lies somewhere between Dirty Harry and the back up, pocket derringer of Doc Holliday. The fascination with micro pistols is placing a lot of horse power in hands that cannot handle it comfortably or safely. Here we go.
Not too many years ago, your choices fell along the lines of a very reliable revolver, usually in the 30 caliber range or a full sized pistol in the 1911 class of firearms, heavy pistols in the .45 caliber realm. When I started on the Patrol, we carried a very reliable and beautiful old revolver that was pleasant to shoot. We graduated to heavier revolvers in the magnum range and finally into the new polymer pistols that are the rage today. Ammunition was no where as sophisticated as it is today, velocities were adequate but not excessive. Smart troopers carried a handful of solid nosed ammo to dispatch the luckless cow or deer that had been struck and mortally injured. We enjoyed our range days, as the revolver was ergonomically designed and your hands were wrapped around walnut grips that were somehow comforting to the touch. I have yet to see a trooper who could not be taught the mastery of handling those handguns by folks like our legendary Roy Bergman, a shooter of national acclaim. Today, mom runs down to the gun store and buys her polymer pistol based on the single consideration of size. Never mind that every time she touches off a round, she closes her eyes, has little idea where the bullet is going and grips what little handle she is holding with the tenacity of a catfish eating a perch. The shooting experience is not pleasant and her practice sessions are therefore limited.
Polymer pistols are here to stay. They are light, affordable and can be configured in sizes that are easily concealable. In untrained hands, the smallest of these pocket cannons, with today’s high pressure loads, are simply not fun to shoot. The new shooter will squeeze a magazine or two off, and proclaim themselves combat ready. That is not in the best interest of the shooter or those around them. They are not combat ready, which dear readers, is why they want to carry a pistol in the first place.
I am not narrowing this consideration to women. I know ladies that are masterful hand gunners and men who cannot hit a barn door. That is a human thing. Personally, after three hand surgeries, I do not, at all, enjoy the snappy nature of micro pistols. For me, a mid sized pistol, still concealable, but entirely manageable is the ideal self defense carry pistol. There are many folks my age who still have the strength and dexterity to handle a small pistol with skill and dispatch……there are many who do not. What is my point?
When you go forth, arm and train a new shooter or a shooter with compromised hands, please place enough pistol in their hands to enjoy the experience. These handguns are out there and easily obtainable. In today’s market, there is a handgun and caliber that is appropriate for nearly every shooter. Shooting should be enjoyable and involve more than 8 rounds and a purse/pocket stash for the life of the firearm. You should become intimate with your carry choice, how to reload, clear stoppages, clean and finally shoot the damned thing. Hand gunning, like most anything in America today, involves compromise. Harry’s magnum is too much for today’s new shooter and Holiday’s derringer is too little. Err to bigger and you’ll thank me later.
Where do you and yours fit in the shooting paradigm? The controlled explosion that occurs at arm’s length should be manageable, fun, safe and effective. A death grip on a card deck sized pistol with a hot load in it is none of these things in the vast majority of shooters hands.
Have a great week.
4 thoughts on “Plain Talk About Handguns………”
You struck a cord Steve. I agree with all that you said. I fell in love with the Model 66 S&W, my first duty weapon. Roy Bergman fine-tuned it as I was on the troop pistol team. It was the best shooter I ever carried. The 686 was too heavy and wore into my hip. They issued Beretta .380s to the narcs—a fine weapon much too big and fancy for a UC working rural Missouri. None of the guys carried them. Later we were issued Walther PPKs, another great weapon, easy to conceal, but it required extensive, ongoing training to be safe. We could carry what we chose within reason and with standard range training and certification. I finally settled on a Model 65 S&W, which has a smooth rear sight that would not catch in my waistband. I could carry it securely without a holster, which fit the role we played. I loved knowing it was there and knowing the .357 rounds would be enough if things went south.
As a civilian, I carry a Sig Sauer P938 or a S&W Model 36, (a retired Patrol weapon). The former is an excellent pistol and tolerable to shoot, the latter not so much fun but excellent for high-stress situations.
When I trained narcs the question always came up about what to carry. Some guys carried underpowered concealables, some nothing, and some (like Gary Wilson) big with a back-up, which was also big. My advice was to carry something big and believable if it was detected rather than too small and hard to get to. Terry Mills accidentally shot himself with a concealable he dropped and still carries the slug in his leg.
Like I said, you hit a cord. Good piece.
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Thank you Alan. The commercial ranges around town are great places to watch the micro explosion destroy new and compromised shooters. I can practically guarantee they won’t return. I appreciate your commentary.
Sound advice Steve. A lot of thought and ongoing training is a MUST for anyone who inntends to carry. And unfortunately, like you said, many will never achieve the skill level (and mind set) necessary to carry because they will be turned off due to a bad beginning. Couple that with the individual you pointed out who buys a gun and ammo that is not a fit, fires off a couple rounds, and proclaims they are good to go ….. it’s a recipe for disaster. Thanks for addressing this with your expertise.
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Thanks for commenting Dan. Handgunning is an acquired skill, and I see poor preparation and the wrong equipment at our ranges virtually every time I go.