Do you remember the first time you legally carried a gun?
It may have been the day your permit arrived. Or, if you live in a place where you don’t need a permit, it may have been that fateful day you decided, “It’s time.”
I remember. It started a couple weeks earlier. I walked into the Brown County Sheriff’s Department in Aberdeen, South Dakota and filled out the paperwork required to obtain a concealed carry permit. Before long that permit arrived in the mail and I found myself standing there looking over a cheap foreign-made knockoff of the Browning Hi-Power. Why on earth I had chosen a full-sized gun as my first carry piece is beyond me. But I shoved that pistol into a cheap nylon holster, threw on a jacket as a cover garment, and headed out to my truck to drive to work.
It was 1993 and I was the epitome of the “noob.” It took me about an hour to realize carrying a gun was not what I expected. I think I thought the world would change, doors would fly open, and I would be bathed in golden light. None of that was true. All I could think about was the weight on my belt, the gun banging into the arms of my chair and digging into my side. I kept worrying about whether or not people were looking at me. Did they notice that I was carrying a gun? Did they care? Did I need to keep the thing “perfectly” concealed? By the end of the first day I knew two things: 1.) lighter gun. 2.) more training. I resolved to get both as quickly as I could.
Training proved to be the bigger of the two problems for a guy living in rural South Dakota trying to make ends meet on a newspaper reporter’s salary. And it was 1993: the Internet was in its infancy and I had access to very little good information about training. I did find a group of like-minded handgunners in the area and we worked on basic marksmanship and a few skills, but I really took a liking to pistol shooting when I attended their first “combat” match. I don’t know if it was an officially sanctioned IDPA match or not (in fact, I’m pretty sure it was not), but I started learning about elementary tactics.
After a few weeks, I bought a Charter Arms Bulldog. Yep, that thing was five rounds of .44 Special punishment in a sweet little pocket holster. The punishment was, of course, directed to my gun hand and wrist. And no matter what I tried, I could not get that revolver to shoot to point of aim. I was ALWAYS about 6 inches left at 15 yards. Only years later, when I was the editor of Patrick Sweeney’s book Gunsmithing Pistols and Revolvers, did I learn that a good gunsmith could have helped put that gun on target with a vise, a frame clamp, and some brute strength. But again, I am drifting off the point.
I started carrying much the way many people start carrying: we have some idea that there is a need. We also want to exercise our God-given rights. Only later do we come to the realization that we need training and experience to ensure we are acting responsibly.
So, I have been headed this direction pretty much my entire adult life. I always knew what was important, but it took me 20 years of effort to suddenly land the job that best fits my unique abilities.
I think about concealed carry all the time and I truly believe if you’re carrying a gun and not thinking about it, you’re doing it wrong.