They call us the Banger Brothers. You know, after that God-awful Susan Sarandon movie. When that flick came out, some wiseacre decided we needed a nickname, and nicknames have a way of sticking around.
Bob came from a broken home and grew up with nothing. He was always hanging around our house and when my dad moved him into the spare room. Nobody at his place even noticed.
Bob is the smartest guy I know and he is fiercely loyal. He is truly a badass, and if the world ever crashes and burns, there is nobody I trust more to watch my six. But he is hurting, you know. Fragile in a way I can’t really describe and he won’t admit. To the world he looks dialed in—big, tough and intimidating. But, in his head he is still that little kid his parents didn’t want.
That’s the problem. Inside he still feels like the bullied, poor kid from school. When some jerk runs their mouth and starts mocking those who are less fortunate, he takes it personally. In high school, Bob was intimidated and unable to deal with bullies. Today he can kick ass, but he won’t.
Instead, he takes it personally, sucks up the hurt and too often gets quiet. One internet squabble and he may brood for days. I bust his chops about it sometimes, but nobody else better do that or they will deal with me, and I am not as nice a guy as Bob.
So anyway, that’s us; the Banger Brothers. We’re not actually brothers, you see. The Banger part is because we have always been into shooting guns—even way before high school with our dads and throughout our lives since.
We kind of like the name now and I had shooting shirts made up that say “Banger Brothers.” The first time we wore them, there were snickers behind us at the match check-in. That upset Bob and trust me, at a match, never upset Bob. He attacked the stages like he hated them personally. He turned his anger into focus and cleaned house, not just winning first place, but crushing second place so hard, he made the runner-up cry. Nobody laughs at our shirts now. At least not where we can hear them.
I pulled into Bob’s driveway and his wife opened the door before I could knock. She just rolled her eyes and flicked her head to the gun room. When I walked in, Bob’s face was red and blotchy and his pistol was in pieces on the table.
“Aw hell, not again,” I said. “We don’t have time for this today.”
“I know,” Bob snapped back, using hostility to hide his embarrassment.
“So what happened?”
“I was up early, so I logged into that shooting forum. Pretty soon they were piling on again because I mentioned I sometimes shoot a Hi-Point.”
A little background: Bob bought a Hi-Point handgun back when he was so broke he couldn’t afford to pay attention. It got him through the lean years, and he has had a soft spot for those inexpensive pistols ever since. He gets upset when some keyboard commando starts spouting off and arguing with him. He knows he shouldn’t, but it’s his weakness. He needs those fools to understand. When they don’t, it triggers his “issues.” Taking guns apart is his “therapy.”
“Bob,” I said, feeling in my mind that we have been over this too many times to count. “You are the best hobby gunsmith I know and you can make those Hi-Points sing. How many have you had now?”
He doesn’t answer, instead keeping his head down and his eyes on the table.
“Doesn’t matter,” I say, knowing that he makes them available to folks who want to shoot, but don’t have enough money to get started.
I know that even now, with a little money in the bank, he is still that broke kid who couldn’t afford a big-name pistol. When people get to acting all superior, he feels he has to defend all the broke kids starting out today. Then he gets depressed and starts taking things apart. I would like to kick him in the head and say, “suck it up, Buttercup,” but he has seen me through some bad times, too; that’s what friends do.
“You took second place at the regionals last month with that same Hi-Point you have scattered around the bench. In fact, weren’t you planning on proving some point by using it for the class today?”
“I wouldn’t wish second place on my worst enemy,” Bob said with a smile starting to sneak through his gloom.
“Yeah, dude, I know. But, let me remind you it would have been third place if Jim Wilson hadn’t jammed the hell out of his Glock on stage three.”
Handing him a 1911 from his open safe, I say, “Come on, we don’t have time. Use this gun and let’s go.”
Still sulking, he grabbed his bags and slouched to my truck like the teenager he will always be.
It’s several hours’ drive to the class, and I am holding to my misbegotten belief that speed limits are just a suggestion. Some awful country song comes on the radio, so our talk turns from pistol cartridges to first aid. Bob’s eyes cloud up and he gets that “look” again.
Bob is the guy you want around if you get shot. He has a little corpsman’s kit in his go bag and the skills to back it up. He won’t talk about it, but he did two tours as a medic in the sandbox, and a lot of guys owe their lives to his lifesaving skills. He can stop the bleeding, and if he has to, he can stitch you back together with dexterity rivalling that of a big-name Hollywood plastic surgeon.
“I was at the range the other day and another guy noticed my go bag,” Bob said. “We started talking about how important it is to be prepared at all times. This other dude was listening in and wandered over. First thing he asks is what kind of tourniquet I carry. That kind of tipped me off you know, but I took it out of my bag and showed him anyway. It’s the same one I used a bunch of times overseas. This turd starts bad-mouthing the thing, telling me it’s nowhere near as good as his. I didn’t want a scene, so to be polite I asked him what he uses. He spits out some big-name, expensive model promoted all over the net by some loudmouth trainer. When I asked to see it, he said he left it at home.”
“It’s a tourniquet, for crying out loud,” I say. “You put it on a limb to stop the bleeding when nothing else is working. How in the hell are some fancy graphics on the package going to make it better?”
I didn’t really expect an answer.
“I could tell the kid didn’t know crap,” Bob said. “But he had all the buzz words and a superior attitude. He gathered a crowd and spent the next 10 minutes telling them I had the wrong gear.”
“Did you knock him down a peg?” I asked, knowing he didn’t.
“Naw, what’s the point? I just packed my stuff and left.”
“So now you are going to mope about it and make me deal with it? Maybe I’ll knock you down a peg,” I said. “I am kinda sick of this crap. The last time we were in this truck you were all pissy because somebody at the same range made a remark about your 6.5 Creedmoor.”
“He asked me if I was going to grow a man-bun and wear skinny jeans,” Bob said, actually laughing a little. “Then he questioned my gender identity.
“When did that happen with the six-five? It’s the most successful long-range rifle cartridge in history. I guess that’s its sin—success. That’s clearly not allowed or appreciated in the U.S. today.”
“That loudmouth, of course, had a custom rifle in the latest ‘Oh Wow’ wildcat. He was snickering to his buddies about my off-the-shelf RPR when I ‘accidently’ dropped one of my 500-yard targets. My groups on that target were smaller than his were at 100 yards.”
“So then, on the way to the match the next day, why did you mope like a little girl who just lost her My Little Pony?”
“Dunno, just gotta be me, I guess.”
Then he grinned and I knew it had passed.
Today’s pistol class was sponsored by a gun manufacturer, and they sent a new pistol to be awarded to the top shooter, so we were expecting a good turnout.
We pulled into the parking lot and there was a cluster of people gathered a few yards away. Most of them were looking at their phones and wearing “tactical” gear; chest rigs, digital camo and “high-speed” boots. One even had a helmet. A few others were wearing “shoot-me-first” vests, and I knew they were probably IDPA shooters. We were wearing blue jeans, T-shirts and hiking boots, so when we got out of the truck we attracted attention.
They converged on us while we sorted our gear on the tailgate and I cringed when a timer fell out of my bag and bounced into the truck bed.
“You fellas competition shooters?” The guy with the helmet demanded to know.
I replied that we were.
“That crap will get you killed on the streets,” he said with a tone that implied he was talking to fools. “Besides, why don’t you just use a shot-timer app on your phone? They make free ones, you know.”
I wanted to ask him how many gunfights he’d been in, but I didn’t. It’s just too exhausting. Plus there’s Bob. I could already see his eyes start to glow and I knew what was coming.
One girl was wearing tailored 5.11 pants. There were a lot of shooting industry logos strategically placed on a very tight fitting “tactical” shirt. She was wearing a drop-style thigh holster filled with a tricked-out Glock Gen5 G17, while her belt was heavy with other tactical gear. She walked up to Bob acting kind of flirty, until he stuck his 1911 into a leather holster.
“Really?” she says. “You do understand this is a class on defensive pistol shooting, right? Who uses a 1911 anymore? A leather holster? OMG, 1980 just called and wants it back.” She is on a roll, and a reply is clearly not an expectation.
“Don’t you go on Facebook? Everybody knows that 1911s jam all the time,” She continues. “All they are good for is to get you killed on the streets.”
Then another tricked-out Tommy Tactical pipes up. “Why are you shooting a .45? It’s common knowledge that the 9 mm is more effective. Besides, you can’t get enough ammo in that .45 single-stack for a real gun fight. Anybody with any tactical expertise will have a double-stack 9 mm. That .45 will just get you killed on the streets.”
I watched Bob grit his teeth before he responded, “Well, if I were planning my defensive strategy around how many times I was going to miss, I guess I would agree with you.”
Tactical Tommy pumps up his chest and takes a step closer to Bob, invading his space. Most people intuitively know that’s a bad idea, so this guy is a special kind of stupid.
“All you old guys [Bob is 43] are stuck in your ways,” Tactical Tommy says. “Too stubborn to read the latest studies and too stupid to give up your antique pistols and cartridges.”
I am just laughing inside and wondering how these fools would be responding if he had shown up with the Hi-Point.
The instructor stepped onto the range and the girl grabbed Tactical Tommy by the arm to lead him away. One of the IDPA types starts to say something, but I cut him off and point to the range.
It can go either way now. Bob loves to talk guns, but when people start with the haughty, elitist attitude, he changes. He saw so much violence in the military he refuses to fight or argue. He might get in the truck and sulk or he might turn this into rage at the targets. Right now, the odds are 50-50.
When he grabs his bag and strides to the range, I know how it’s going to go. You see, there are two lessons these people need to learn.
Number one: It’s fine to have gear other than what the cool kids are using. It all works and as they say, it’s the Indian not the arrow. Some folks just can’t afford the gun of the week, and it’s bad form to disrespect their gear. Besides, that kind of talk upsets Bob.
Number two: Never upset Bob.
That first-place trophy and the pistol are going to ride home with Bob in my truck tonight.