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.