That Old Familiar Feeling

Familiarity breeds competence, not contempt.

posted on February 27, 2024
Sheriff Jim Wilson

As a young man, I used to wonder why so many gunmen still preferred to carry the Colt single-action revolver. Frank Hamer, General George Patton and a whole bunch of lesser-known shootists relied on the old Colt for years after, in my humble opinion, better guns were available.

And of course, the classic example is the 1911 semi-automatic ... over 100 years old and still being relied upon by savvy gun-toters. Now, don’t get me wrong, both of those guns are iconic American handguns and I’d be a fool to knock their history and their service. But why? Aren’t we building better guns today?

Of course, time and experience gave me the answer. We tend to stick to guns that we shoot well, especially when those same guns have gotten us out of a tight spot or two. When your life has been on the line, it’s hard to quit winners.

Elmer Keith and Jeff Cooper both admonished folks to live with their guns. In my view, that means to carry, handle and shoot a particular gun until its management becomes second nature. In a bad situation our focus will be on the threat and trying to figure out what to do about it. It helps to be armed with a gun that we know so well that looking at it and thinking about it is completely unnecessary. And that ability comes with living with the gun.

All of that is far more important than what kind of gun a person chooses to carry, as long as it is a gun of decent quality. I not only need to be adept in shooting the gun, I need to know what malfunctions are common with that gun and have experience dealing with them. It would also be important to know the safety issues of that type of gun and how to avoid these problems. Can I field strip it for cleaning and maintenance? And what is the proper maintenance for my particular choice of defense gun?

When your front door crashes in at 2 in the morning, you need to be able to grab your defensive gun and take care of business. When that armed robber gets in your face, you don’t need to be thinking about how to run the gun in your hand, you need to be dealing with the threat. The decision to shoot should always be a conscious decision; managing the gun should be a subconscious function.

Such realizations and choices don’t happen overnight. They come from years of experience and the fact that a particular kind of defensive firearm just suits you. That’s what living with your gun really means.


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