Outdoors/Adventure

There is an appropriate firearm and use for every situation

Steve Meyer demonstrates a shot through the pocket of a vest

Christine’s reaction didn’t rise to the level one expects when you say, “hold my beer,” and a moment later, you are thrashing around on the ground, or maybe dead.

“I really liked that vest,” Christine deadpanned. She knows me too well, I thought.

Have to get some new material, I thought.

In the 1980s, when my inner child whispered to me that, wouldn’t it be great to make a living doing gun stuff, I intensified my learning curve, delving into every aspect of the shooting arena. Self-defense and “practical” pistol shooting had taken the U.S. by storm, and much of my focus was learning the skills needed to teach others.

When teaching folks about using pistols for self-defense, a major aspect of the training is how to avoid situations that result in violence in the first place. John Farnam was a well-known gun guy in those days, and perhaps his way of saying it was best. “Don’t go to stupid places, don’t hang out with stupid people, and don’t do stupid things.”

The enormous responsibility that comes with carrying a gun, the reality that every bullet you send down range has your name on it and that you are responsible for it, became a mantra spewed out by most firearms instructors. As a civilian, I took it seriously and practiced Farnam’s way of avoiding problems with fervor.

When my path took the turn into the law enforcement business that carried me through to retirement, the option of following Farnam’s dictum wasn’t possible.

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The nature of law enforcement requires that one must go to stupid places, must hang out with stupid people, and, yes, sometimes must do stupid things. I never had so much fun.

Throughout my career, I carried one version or another of John Browning’s magnificent creation, the 1911 Colt .45. Constant carry of the big pistols created issues with sciatica and nerves that became uncomfortable.

After retirement, I got lazy. For awhile I continued to carry a .45 at all times. Eventually, as I realized I no longer had to go to stupid places, hang out with stupid people, or do stupid things, I relaxed a bit and only carried when I thought it might be necessary.

“Oh please,” some might say, “how much work can it be to stick a lightweight Colt Commander in a holster to carry around?” A lot. The carry is a small part of it. If one is going to be good, in other words, win, each time the gun is put on, a series of dry practice draws are made. That is the only way to stay sharp and fast enough to resolve a situation from a concealed holster. It is a lot of work.

I figured that staying away from places and people insulated me, and so for awhile I didn’t feel too bad about leaving the .45 home. But, now it seems impossible to avoid the three stupids entirely. They are everywhere you go, and like drunk drivers, you cannot predict when one might come up on the sidewalk and run you down, or a random stranger step into a crowded place and start shooting.

What drove me to find a different way came from guilt. If something like that happened, and I found myself unable to respond effectively, well, it would be tough to live with that knowledge.

Most Americans, at least those with some honor about themselves, believe in fairness, which has translated into “fair” gunfights. Cinema and dime store novels have romanticized the Western gunfight to the degree that folks believe grown men would stand with 10 paces between them and draw their pistols in a fight to the death. That happened, but rarely. Gunfights often came from ambush, or multiple cowards against a lone individual. Even more common was the hideout gun.

Is there anything more satisfying than a cowboy drawing his Colt Peacemaker and having it out with a bad guy on Main Street of Dodge City? We love that stuff, but it doesn’t represent reality.

More often, gunfights were in smoke-filled bars, across gambling tables, and the guns were derringers or small revolvers secreted in a vest or coat pocket. A rather effective means of defense it seems.

There are a lot of pocket-sized revolvers out there these days

Years ago, a group of shooters I hung out with would try about anything to improve their defensive use of firearms. One day one of them showed up at the range and set up a target. He then faced the target a couple of feet away with his hands in his pockets.

“Watch this,” he said to a few of us standing there.

Expecting to see him sweep his jacket back and draw a .45, we were all a bit taken aback when he shot through the pocket of his jacket with the snub-nosed .38 he had hidden there. We ruined a bunch of old jackets practicing that option until we were convinced that, in a pinch, it would solve some problems.

That memory drove me to revisiting that option. Maybe there was a decent way to be armed without returning to the intensity of constant practice, and pinched nerves from carrying concealed for so many years.

While few, some new things in the gun world are bearable to me. One of them is the prolific options for lightweight, snub-nosed revolvers, with bobbed or shrouded hammers.

It may seem obvious, but the safety factor of carrying a pistol in a pocket without a holster to prevent unwanted visits to the trigger, demands the use of a double-action revolver with a shrouded or bobbed hammer that eliminates the accident cocking of the pistol.

Generally speaking, the revolver is about as reliable a weapon as one can use. I would not expect to shoot the gun through the pocket unless the situation was so perilous it demanded it. If it is used from the pocket, recent trials have shown that sharp-edged cylinders will pick up cloth inside the pocket and stop the gun. So dry practice to find out is necessary.

Obviously, the revolver would be removed from the pocket in all but point-blank situations, but this is much easier when you are starting with an established grip inside the pocket.

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Not a recommendation, but rather, an option to consider if you feel like me, and if you have access to a competent firearms instructor who can show you how this might work for you. All things involving firearms must be approached with caution and knowledge, there is no room for error and thus, one must be willing to dedicate time to becoming proficient in a firearm and a method chosen.

Situations out of the ordinary may be uncomfortable, and particularly with firearms one must choose caution. Most are not as accustomed to the antics of the enthusiast as Christine when the shot blows the insulation and whatnot out of the clothing involved.

“I really liked that vest,” indeed.

Steve Meyer | Alaska outdoors

Steve Meyer of Kenai is longtime Alaskan and an avid shooter. He writes every other week about guns and Alaska hunting.

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