Guns in the City

I’ve been shooting at least twice a week for three months, and I’ve tried at least twenty different handguns. I have found two that I like and can shoot with accuracy. They are both quite large and not really suitable for concealed carry. They, too, are beautifully precise weapons, like the P.38. However, the P.38 is too valuable to shoot, and has been retired to virtual museum status.

I like the Heckler and Koch .40 caliber USP Compact. It, too, was made in Germany. It is so well designed it kicks very little, which helps keeping the second shot of a double tap on target. It has a space-age composite frame, and is very light. This model is one of the pistols authorized for use by Homeland Security officers.

The other is the Springfield .45 caliber 1911 basic model. That’s a copy of the original standard U.S. Army sidearm of World War II that my father carried. It was designed by the famous American gun designer, John Browning, and except for some non-essential refinement, has barely changed since its introduction ninety-five years ago. It shoots like a dream, and is very accurate. The 1911 has improved a lot since WWII, when they just wanted to stamp out millions of them as fast as possible and weren’t as particular about tolerances as their German counterparts at Walther.

I haven’t yet reconciled myself to buying a smaller gun to carry all the time, although everyone in the shooting world I’ve talked to does carry and has encouraged me to do it. “Force yourself to do it for a while,” one instructor told me. “Soon you’ll feel naked if you go out without it.” So far, I don’t mind being naked. I don’t feel like me if I’m carrying a gun.

I’m also not sure I feel much like me as I wander Cabela’s store in Rogers. U2’s Desire plays on the store PA while I browse the different kinds of handgun ammunition. The 9 mm target round is sleek, tapered, and oddly beautiful. The same sized “personal protection” round is hollow point—designed to expand on impact to do maximum damage. It even looks angry. Some rounds are “explosive” and designed to shatter on impact. They supposedly won’t go through a wall, so your loved ones in the next room are safe. They will also inflict maximum damage on human flesh. A target round would go right through a body, and probably the wall behind it, and could kill someone in the next room … or the next house. The explosive bullets cost almost two dollars each. A target round is eleven cents. I buy ten boxes of the target rounds and one small package of the explosive ones. Para bellum, I think.

I heard a guy on the radio the other day talking about teaching children to hunt. Aside from the usual exhortations about firearm safety, he said something that I guess I’ve always known. Hunting, he said, teaches you what a firearm does. You learn that a living being can be torn to shreds, will bleed and cry out in pain, and will die. And that you and your firearm were the cause of that. I know what it’s like to kill animals. The first time you hear a wounded rabbit scream is the day you might stop hunting. It was for me, thirty-seven years ago.

Do I feel different since I’ve started blowing holes in targets again? Nielsen is absolutely right about the satisfaction you get when you do something well. And the regimentation of the training fulfills some inner longing for simple answers to tough questions. As someone once described military training to me, the point is not to teach a soldier how to shoot, the point is to teach a soldier to kill.

Could I shoot someone who attacked me or my family? I hope I never find out. How could I shoot someone who attacked me or my family? I’m learning.

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