Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pistol, Handgun, Firearm or Weapon – what the heck is it???

My first exposure to handguns was with Uncle Ted and “the 22”. “The 22” was a late 1940’s Colt Woodsman. Our target was usually an array of tin cans in the sandy soil that surrounded his hand-made log cabin on a small lake in Michigan. There was little talk of safety and handling of “the 22”, yet his manor, respect and purpose in his handling of it loudly said that respect was due “the 22” and if it didn’t receive it, my shooting days would be over. I would guess my age to be twelve-ish at the time. Now, 50 years later, “the .22” has found a revered space in my safe and it reminds me of a man I loved and a skill he shared with me.

My father died when I was quite young, so I credit my mom with my first exposure to the world of the shotgun through an old bolt-action 410. She would hurry home from work in late fall in Michigan, we would drive to a 20 acre woodlot we owned and get in an hour or so of rabbit and squirrel hunting before dark. In preparation for pheasant season my mom acted as the thrower - pitching pop cans down range to teach me whatever she thought she was teaching me. Looking back, it is as funny to me as it seems to be to read off the screen, yet it was done in love – she was determined the loss of my father would not interfere with my being exposed to hunting.

Years moved on and 6-months after Tet I enlisted in the Air Force, July 1968. With the primary destination for many members of all branches of the services being Vietnam, all troops, regardless of their designated military skill, received some level of weapons training. And, for me, there is was – the conversion was made from “the 22” or “the 410” to “your weapon”. And thus it has remained for me – a pistol, handgun, firearm – are condensed to “a weapon”, and all that implies.

What does the word “weapon” actually mean? Webster’s on-line defines it as:

1: something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy

2: a means of contending against another

This definition certainly fit the new skill set I was learning on the weapons range – I was learning to kill people. I’m not sure that is anything that actually can be taught. You can be de-sensitized to your resistance to pressing the trigger, your mind can be tricked into seeing a silhouette as a human and being conditioned to engage this threat. And yet, at that final moment, everyone has to learn that final lesson on their own. For the soldier – hesitation is death. For the civilian confronting the armed intruder – hesitation is death. Whether pistol, handgun or firearm – what you have in your hand in those instances are weapons. Your knowledge, skill and willingness to employ them in your own defense determine whether you meet the next sunrise with your family or with your Maker – the choice is yours.

So where does this bring us in looking at today’s training culture. There seems to be two general training communities – the NRA Community, and everyone else. Let me start with some thoughts on the NRA Community.

I am a member of this community. It is strictly oriented towards the civilian side of our society. From the “Eddie Eagle” to “Firearms Safety in the Home” to “Personal Protection Outside of the Home” the market and the audience are strictly civilian in nature. During training classes with Training Counselors to gain certification for various courses, one of the things stressed is the elimination of the word “weapon” from the trainer’s vocabulary. I understand the PC nature of this change – heaven knows our rights to bear arms is hammered enough without the NRA providing “weapons” training, so I get it. And I fully implement their desires when I teach their courses. In most settings, I suspect this insistence on PC vocabulary has little detrimental effect. Basic handgun, rifle and shotgun courses work fine either way as do all the firearm safety courses. My only resistance is when we switch to the Personal Protection courses; I believe these would benefit from a change in emphasis with the use of the word weapon rather than firearm. I say this with the full knowledge this will never happen, nor do I intend to push the issue with the NRA.

“Geezz Bill – you’re really being picky, it’s just a word for Pete’s sake!!!”

OK, so let’s look at the other training community – those that are dedicated to building your skills in using your weapon to defend yourself, your family and your friends. One of my future posts will be on “Warrior Mindset” – that state of mind where you are willing to engage a threat and damage that threat up to and including killing that threat to defend yourself. As I stated early, this is an unnatural thing for a human to do. Contrary to the MSM, those of us who carry weapons, those of us who have engaged in combat do not do so out of blood-lust, but out of necessity. If you would interview soldiers, police officer or individuals who carry – not a single one would have any problem going their entire lives without bringing their weapon to bear on another human being.

When I teach my Defensive Pistol classes, it is my clear intention to make sure the folks know they are stepping into a new world of responsibility and duty. They have chosen to become responsible for their own defense, to be responsible to protect their families and friends. The have realized that at 2AM as intruders crash through their doors that the police will be minutes late to protect them. That when they grab their weapon, maintain a firm grip, focus on the front sight, put in on the center mass of the intruder and press the trigger two to three times, they are using a WEAPON to defend themselves and their families and that tremendous physical damage will be done to the intruder.

In today’s litigious society I do not want my students to ever doubt what they are doing in their training or what kind of skill set they are learning – and neither should you. You are learning to use a weapon capable of deadly force that you are willing to employ if you, your family or friends are placed in mortal danger.

A lot of words to say: it’s a damn weapon – don’t beat round the bush. Accept it, embrace it, learn it – and pray with all your heart you never have to use it.


  1. “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
    ― G.K. Chesterton

    Sums up why I carry a gun. I have two small children who are always with me, as well as a husband I love very much, and I will have no problem if someone threatens them or me. Can't say I won't have nightmares about it, but won't hesitate should the worst happen.

  2. Several years ago my son received a Colt Woodsman from his Uncle. about a challenge to clean. Took me a while to find a manual...

    I love your argument is a weapon. When I carry my S&W I am always conscious that I am carrying potential death for someone. That's a huge responsibility, one I always want to be aware of.

  3. HH - I suspect most CCW holders would place family first, it's certainly at the top of my list. It is just stunning to me how many "sheeple" there are in today's world, we have gone so very far down the road of being dependent on the "government" for our personal protection. As for your handle and site name, I have been a Huxley fan for years although I confess it's been decades since I have read his work.

    LCB: The Colt Woodsman is such an elegant weapon - from an era of a little more artistic flare rather than some of the weapons turned out today. And it is an absolute bear to clean, I agree.

    You willingness to carry with a sense of responsibility is exactly why I teach my Defensive Pistol classes from a "weapons" point of view. In the day of 4-hour carry classes, I pray that each and every student of mine carries with the same seriousness that you do. Thanks for stopping by, hope to hear from you again.

  4. I so enjoyed reading your words. My Mom, as well, was the one who taught me to shoot. She was the Deputy Sheriff before they adopted my brother and I quite late in life.

    Responsibility is core to what we stand for. Add in proficiency and dependability of weapon and it's a force to be reckoned with.

  5. Hi Brigid, thanks for stopping by. Hardly a day goes by without my thinking of my mom - you'd think you'd eventually outgrow that - she's been gone for nearly 20 years. And yet, every once in awhile the thought comes: "I really have to give mom a call and see how she's doin'." Funny.

    I feel hopeful for the future when I see folks in my classes that have come to realize THEY are responsible for their own personal defense and they are willing to learn a set of skills to do just that. None have been arrogant, no John Waynes or Rambos, just moms and dads or grandmas and grandpas that have come to realize our society is fraying a bit around the edges and they need to do something. It is both satisfying to see this realization and disquieting at the same time.