Exclusive to The Zelman Partisans
by William Lehman
Various friends and family have come to me over the years to ask questions such as “What type of pistol should I buy? Should I have a shotgun in the house?” and variations on this theme.
Seems some folks think I know a bit about the subject. Well, after carrying a firearm for more than 35 years, much of it for pay, I suppose they’re right. I was a cop for eight years, and in the military for 20. I’ve owned my fair share of weapons, and though my ankles and knees are not up to copping any more, I stay in the loop. I have drawn a weapon in the line of duty – both police and military – and to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never shot anyone.
Many of the following words of advice are not original to me; some of them are paraphrases of such greats as Col. Jeff Cooper; many of these words are distilled wisdom I’ve picked up from guys that REALY know something.
So, you want to join the members of that most unique society — those who are willing to take personal responsibility for their safety? OK, here are the rules:
First rule: You need to answer the following question: will you actually be willing and able to shoot someone in the head or heart, and watch them die before your eyes, maybe while wiping the blood off your face? (Most gunfights happen at a distance of less than 10 feet.) If the answer is “no,” you shouldn’t carry.
A firearm is not a magical talisman you whip out of your pants or purse, speak the magic words, “I have a gun,” and make evil disappear. You’re going to have to be willing to USE it.
Now, in most instances, merely brandishing a firearm is sufficient to make the bad guy suddenly realize he had an appointment across town that he’s now half an hour late for. But bad-guys are animals, and like animals, they can smell a bluff. If you go waving that Tacticool SIG with the laser sights, extended mag loaded with .45 ACP rounds, sporting the trigger job, flashlight, and bayonet in his face expecting to scare him, but without actually being willing to use it, and you may have just given them a high-dollar present with a lot of stupid baubles on it…
Oh, and probably your life, because after taking your firearm away, he will likely kill you. Of course, he would have probably killed you even if you weren’t armed, but at least you wouldn’t have added to his arsenal.
I understand that some folks are just mentally incapable of taking a life. OK, if you can’t, you can’t. Stay with someone who can, or understand that you take a very small, but existing risk of being robbed, raped, and then killed.
If you would rather be a martyr to the cause of non-violence than a survivor who has to report what happened to the police, and maybe live through a trial for daring to defend yourself, cool. Stop reading now, the rest of this is not for you.
Did the peaceniks leave yet?
I don’t understand that sort of mind set, but I know people, even people about whom I care about very much, who have that outlook. I view these folks the same way I look at those who suffer from a self-inflicted, incurable illness and are doomed to die of it. It’s unfortunate, but ultimately the decision was theirs.
The rest of this essay is for those of who have decided it’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by six.
Second rule: All guns are loaded. Always. Unless you personally checked it, know its condition, and have not let it out of your hand since that time, it’s loaded and there’s one under the hammer.
A while ago, I had an accidental discharge with a gun I always kept loaded. I knew it was loaded, but what I did not know is that my roommate had taken it to the range, and reloaded it afterward with all six rounds, meaning that the round under the hammer was live. When I handled it, my thumb slipped off the hammer and I had an accidental discharge, because I did not properly check my firearm. Best advice is to never assume. Never.
Third rule: Never put your finger in the trigger guard until you have your sights on the target.
Fourth rule: never cover anything with your muzzle that you are not willing to destroy.
These are common sense rules we have all likely heard before, but they bear repeating. Again and again.
Fifth rule: Carry the biggest caliber that you can comfortably control. If the best you can control is a 9mm, I’ll tell you what ammunition will be effective, because only a very few, brands and types of 9mm ammo are effective man stoppers. And if you can’t handle the recoil of a 9mm, start working out, because anything less than a 9mm, while effective under the proper circumstances, will be difficult to use effectively to stop an oncoming threat.
Imagine hitting a moving target the size of an eyeball, while scared out of your gourd, and trying to stay alive. If you can hit a man in the eye, or the bridge of the nose, or the throat, while he’s trying to stick, shoot, or bludgeon you to death, you don’t need to read this, because you’re an assassin.
That said, the prudent pistolero does not get in a gunfight with a caliber that doesn’t begin with a “.4” (.40 S&W, .45 ACP, and .45 LC, .45 GAP, .44, .41. or the two exceptions to the rule: the .357 and the 10mm).
Sixth rule: Try different pistols before you buy one. Shoot a lot, and shoot many different types. Shoot with friends. Try out their firearms. Most gunnies don’t need an excuse to go out and shoot. After you shoot a lot, you’ll find something that fits your hand and that you can shoot comfortably. Buy one just like it. Spend the money to buy a GOOD weapon; you’ll have it for life.
Guns can be heirlooms. Buy a decent handgun, give it a modicum of care, and you will hand it down to your kids, and they will hand it down to their kids, and so on, and so forth. This tool will maintain value better than almost anything other than maybe gold, so buy a good one and take care of it.
Finally: Never plan to get into a gun fight. Pistols are like fire extinguishers. They are there for emergencies. Why would you go anywhere with the expectation of trouble? If you’re expecting trouble, you might want to bring more firepower than just a pistol. Long guns, shotguns, and armed friends should accompany you if you are really expecting problems.
Remember the only fair fight is the one you win. Chivalry is for competitions. In war — whether nationally declared or street — when your life is on the line, giving the bad guy an even chance is a good way to end up dead. And unlike reenactments, movies, or video games, when you’re dead, you’re dead. Your kids get to squabble over your inheritance, and I have to go to your funeral.
I hate funerals, except for those of my enemies.
William Lehman is a retired Navy, medically retired police officer, who currently works for the Navy as a civilian and writes the John Fisher Chronicles — an urban fantasy series based in the pacific Northwest.
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