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