Thursday, April 18, 2013

And The Journey Begins...

In the opening paragraph of the introduction to David Kenik's must-read book on armed self-defense titled, "Armed Response," he states:

"Carrying a gun takes commitment - a lot of commitment.  You need to learn about firearms; learn to shoot; understand and practice gun safety; learn tactics; comprehend legal issues; practice ; clean and store the gun; adjust how you dress; and perhaps even change your lifestyle and attitude.  Beyond those issues, the study of self defense also encompasses responsibility, mindset, awareness, control, dominance and discipline.  If done right, its not an avocation to be taken lightly."

As a novice gun owner, reading this paragraph brought home the subtleties of being a greenhorn... who carries.  One of the reasons I'm writing the New Gunner Journal is too give those like minded, newbie concealed carry / gun owners a place to touch base with, to hear what another novice is going thru, to realize there are others out there just like them who starts this lifestyle with doubts and fears.

My Son gave me my first go-round of gun safety.  Never put your finger in the trigger-well until you are ready to shoot.  Always point the gun in a safe direction and never at anything you don't intend to destroy.  Any gun that you pick up, you are responsible for checking to see if its loaded - even if the person who just handed it to you demonstrated that it was empty.  Never sweep anyone with a gun, even when its unloaded. When cleaning your gun, take the ammo and magazines out of the room to a safe place for storage.  There are more safety insights, but the bottom line is... you do these steps each and every time you handle a gun.  No excuses.  And why?  Because if you make each one of these points of safety a habit, if you do them each and every time, then you make yourself and those around you safe from negligent harm.

When I received my first gun - a Walther P22Q - a friend of mine, ex-military, told me the best thing I could do was to get some snap caps (fake ammo used for practicing reloading, ejecting, dry firing, stove pipes and such) and handle the gun every day to become not only practiced with how it worked, but to build a comfort zone with the gun.  He couldn't have been more spot on.

Every day I would carefully take the unloaded gun out, check to see that it was unloaded, load snap caps into a mag, load the pistol and practice holding the gun with my finger along the slide, finally settling upon the ejector port as a comfortable rest for my index finger.  I practiced loading and unloading, working the safety, dropping the mag, ejecting the snap caps, clearing stovepipes, tapping and racking and firing (dry) and keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times.

As I worked with the little Walther on a daily basis, I began to understand the irrational fears I had about guns in general.  The more I used it, the more familiar I became with it the more practiced my habits, the less fear I felt.  The less anxiety.  I wasn't emboldened, but I was gaining confidence that I wouldn't slip up... at least as long as I continued to practice good safety habits.

As kids we pick up our six-shooters, rip them out of the holster and start banging away at unseen bandits.  Our fingers naturally went to the trigger as soon as we picked up our Colt Widowmakers, ready for the next gunslinger to ride into town.

And now, as I began to work with my gun, I realized how ingrained it was to have my finger go right to the trigger.  When I first did it without thinking, I felt the blood rush from my face as I realized how badly that small mistake could affect myself, my loved ones and passersby.  Of course the gun wasn't loaded, but the realization of what I had just done hit home like a bat to the stomach - it takes your breath away.

I immediately knew that this was an accident that just could not happen.  Ever.  I began a regimen of not only all those things I described doing on a daily basis, but now included picking up and setting the gun down 50-60-70 times a session.  Over and over and over until my finger went naturally to the ejector port.  Until it felt like that's where it belonged all along.  Until if felt like it never would feel comfortable anywhere else, ever again.

I haven't made that mistake again.

Now I keep a loaded 45 acp 1911 in a safe that no one can get to but me.  But even with those safety habits ingrained and even as I continue to train with them, opening that safe and wrapping my hand around my pistol, I still realize that my full attention must be on the matter at hand.

And this is where we start.  This is the beginning of the journey.