I thought some of you might be wondering. Who I am not is an expert on guns or gunsmithing. I am not a self-defense guru. I’m just some schmuck with a good few miles on the odometer that has had a life reflecting insatiable curiosity and poor impulse control. I’ve been around guns and the ‘gun culture’ pretty much all of my life, despite the fact that my parents did not allow guns in the house.
I grew up in 1960’s suburbia. There were acres and acres of woods and swamp nearby, and there were working farms within easy walking distance of my elementary school. At some point my friends started getting BB guns, and we spent a lot of time shooting them. A favorite game was to try and clip the stem of a dandelion at 10-15 feet with a BB. Shooting came easily to me- line up the sights and don’t move the gun when you pull the trigger. How hard was that?
We graduated to pellet guns, mostly Benjamin pump-up guns. When a friend developed an interest in taxidermy we shot birds for him to practice on, and occasionally a bunch of squirrels or rabbits would show up in a friend’s kitchen. Not my moms; I cannot even imagine how apocalyptic her reaction to this would have been! We caught frogs and let them go, caught crawdads and boiled them in coffees-cans over a fire and ate them. Suburban and rural overlapped a lot more then than they do now.
In high school the BB-gun wars started. We wore protective clothing, goggles, thick leather gloves and boots. Heavy doubled-flaps of canvas protected our faces, and we had rules for how different BB-guns were used. Two pumps for pneumatics, three if you were loading three BBs to use them as a ‘shotgun.’ We’d meet, get geared up and pick teams then run around in the woods shooting each other. It was a fore-runner of Paintball, and not really much more dangerous. When semi-auto CO2 pistols were introduced that took some of the fun out of it. Then someone got a freon-powered BB machine-gun with an absurdly high rate of fire and that was the end of the BB-gun wars.
After school my best buddy, Tim Bacus and I would get a 2-liter of orange soda and a big candy bar and sit for hours reading his dad’s old American Rifleman magazines. We would shoot his bow in the back yard or experiment with making tiny rockets out of aluminum tubing. His .22 rifle and the M1 Carbine he got from his dad were objects of endless fascination but we were careful as hell with them. We experimented with duct-taped-potato silencers (which work surprisingly well for one shot) in his mom’s backyard, but we exercised safety- knowing our backstop and handling the weapon as if it was always loaded.
After High School Tim and I both joined the army, where I learned a lot more about firearms than I expected to, and we’ll just draw the curtains of charity over that portion of my life. When I was stationed in Kansas I hunted Coyotes, prairie-chickens and Pheasant. I was on the battalion rifle team and I developed an interest in cap-and-ball revolvers. I had some nice ones, but by the mid-80’s I was kinda’ tired of messing with them and they slipped away one-by-one.
When I got our of the army I was never voluntarily unarmed as there was a not-insignificant chance that someone might take it into their heads to look me up and kill me. Never mind why, suffice it to say it was not an irrational fear.
Across the remainder of the 80’s I worked as a sheet-metal fabricator, a pizza-delivery driver, an ultrasound model, a tobacconist, a meat-carver at a restaurant, a bodyguard, private investigator and for a time as a small-town cop. I Â occasionally went deer or grouse hunting with friends. I was curious about all types of handguns and since I could generally only afford one or two at a time I swapped them a lot to try different things. I had one of the first Glock 17s to come into the country, and while I was impressed with it it wasn’t my style. I owned 1911s, Detonics Combatmaster .45s, Italian CZ75 clones, a variety of pocket pistols and revolvers including a Dan Wesson, Rossi, Astra, H&R, Ruger and S&Ws. I had a Walther PP, Â Manuhrin Â and Erma PPKs- a Walther P38, a Manuhrin P38K… I also loved SAA army clones and owned several, but weirdly never got an actual Colt of any kind. I was the first cop in the state to carry a compensated pistol on duty as far as I know, but eventually my department decided I should carry something more conventional so I obtained a Model 28 and carried that for a while before switching to a 1911a1.
During this period I became intensely interested in self-defense, use of a handgun as a martial art and studied everything I could about shootings, self-defense theory and doctrine and terminal ballistics. I shot IPSC competition, practiced ‘Mini-Sniping’ with my friends and even shot some bullseye and NRA Action Shooting matches.
When my first wife and I moved to NYC we agreed to leave the firearms behind, so I found new homes for my Remington Nylon 77 rifle, a Grendel P10, my S&W model 36 and Astra Jovino Terminator .44 magnum snubby. I was embarrassed to own that Astra; a .44 magnum snubby is just… well, dumb, but I got it for an excellent price and it was a sweet shooter.
When I returned to Seattle to become a medieval knife and sword-maker (sans first wife) there was always a pistol or revolver of some kind around, but the consuming passion of my life was studying medieval swords and later how they were used. I ate drank and slept swords. When I wasn’t making them I was studying them or experimenting with them.
When wife number 2-and-forever came along it turned out she liked shooting, and she liked buying me presents so naturally the gun collection expanded. I had some nice SAAs of various kinds (again, no Colts) but had to give them up as time went by. I developed an interest in antique doubles and have some interesting examples. Eventually the standard Christmas and Birthday presents were firearms. I’ve done some deer hunting and have intended for some time to go after upland birds but never seem to get around to it…
In the last few years I’ve developed an interest in hobby-level gun-smithing, antique S&Ws and finally had a space to set up reloading. It’s sort of shocking how guns have accumulated over the years, and I keep finding new interests in firearms and gun-smithing. Reloading has opened up whole new vistas of ‘guns I don’t need’ because caliber is no longer a hang-up.
So that’s who I am, when it comes to guns at least. I think I’ve hit most of the high points, but there’s a lot that has slipped my mind or there wasn’t room for it in this post. Don’t worry, I’ll doubtless fill you in as time goes by…
Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 July 2017
Hang around people that carry concealed and you’ll hear this a lot. “If I draw my gun someone is getting shot.” There are a lot of variations on this theme but they all boil down to the same thing. This is not only a dangerous sentiment to express, it’s a dangerous mindset to have.Â Yes, you do need to be mentally prepared to shoot if you draw a gun on another person. But- and this doesn’t get said enough- you need to be prepared to not shoot as well.
Imagine you have had to shoot in self-defense and an adversarial prosecutor has taken the matter to trial. Suddenly there on the witness stand are four people you know, all testifying that you said this or some variation of it. This calls into question your intent- did you shoot because you needed to or because you decided that you would in advance?
Civilian self defense is a very different thing than law-enforcement. It’s not your job to control a situation; your role is responsive. A police officer may draw his gun as a tool to help control a situation, to dissuade a subject from violence or as a tool to help force compliance. It can be done as a response to a perceived threat; it can allow the officer time to evaluate the validity of the threat while being ready for a worst-case scenario. It can be drawn as a matter of prudence before entering a potentially dangerous situation like a building search.
An armed citizen should probably not do some or most of those things most of the time. If you need to search a building because you suspect there might be an intruder don’t. Call the police- it’s their job. There might be a burglar in your home? Don’t hunt them down. Call the police- it’s their job. You firearm is for self-defense in a worst case situation; it does not make you a police officer or entitle you to do their job.
There are specific things that you, as an armed civilian should not do, and the biggest mistake I see reported is drawing a firearm to control a situation or compel compliance. A firearm is not a magic wand. You feel a situation is getting out of hand, draw your weapon preemptively and the person refuses to comply- now what? You can’t just shoot them. Now you look like an idiot and more importantly you’ve damaged your credibility, which decreases your effectiveness at diffusing the situation. You’ve also opened the door to being charged with Brandishing a Weapon.
On the other hand a situation could arise where you draw your weapon under completely justified circumstances and don’t need to shoot. I’ve had this happen both as an off-duty law-enforcement officer and as a civilian. In both cases I could have gotten away with shooting in a legal sense, and in both cases it proved unnecessary. I’m just as glad I didn’t; if I’d had the mindset ‘If I draw I shoot’ things would have turned out much worse for everyone involved.
The standard for using your weapon- and I keep saying this because it is important- is that there is immediate danger of death or grave bodily harm to yourself on another innocent. In most situations that you, as a civilian, will encounter you should not draw your weapon until this circumstance exists. In other words when it appears that you will be justified in shooting someone. This doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can do at that point, however.
In a hyperstress situation you will do as you train, and mental preparation is an important part of that training. If you are constantly telling yourself that if the gun comes out you will shoot you will probably shoot when the gun comes out. In many, even most, civilian self-defense situations this is not inappropriate. You are probably being confronted by someone with the expressed or implied intent and capability to seriously harm or kill you at near-contact distance. You don’t have time to do anything but draw and fire. But if you do have time to evaluate the situation and scale your response appropriately it could save you a lot of trouble.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 July 17