Voices of Experience

We run into fellow firearm enthusiasts from time to time, and we can often learn from them.

posted on March 7, 2024
silhouette of man with rifle

I have spent my entire adult life making my living, one way or another, with firearms. And you can bet that, along the way, I have crossed paths with some extremely interesting folks. Here are three that come readily to mind.

Mr. Gibbs was an old-time Texas deputy sheriff. He wore pointed-toe boots, starched-and-pressed khaki pants and a white shirt with his badge pinned above the left pocket. Gibbs was a pretty good talker and could generally convince folks to cooperate. When that didn’t work, his right fist took care of things. But, there was a time when neither one was getting the job done.

As a young deputy during the Great Depression, Gibbs performed his law enforcement duties while carrying a Colt Pocket Auto chambered in .380 ACP in his pants pocket. While certainly a nice gun, it was not what one would expect a peace officer to be carrying. The gun was on loan from a relative, and Gibbs carried it because he couldn’t afford a duty gun, much less a belt or holster.

Then came the night when all of the local deputies were out looking for a huge hobo who had been breaking into homes and terrorizing the neighborhood. As luck would have it, Mr. Gibbs was all alone when he found the criminal. Words did not work, and soon the fight was on, with Gibbs getting the worst end of it. Down on the ground with the vagrant on top of him, the deputy realized he was about to lose consciousness, so he used the little Colt for what it was made for. It took every cartridge in the magazine before the desired result was reached. Gibbs spent several days in the hospital, healing up and considering his options.

When I knew Mr. Gibbs, he carried a 4-inch, fixed-sight Smith & Wesson Model 1926 .44 Spl. revolver in pristine condition. He said he was too old to take another beating like that one. And, yes, I tried to buy that .44. I also tried to trade for it. And, no, I didn’t get it done.

Down in the Texas Hill Country was a mom-and-pop grocery store/beer joint near where I used to hunt deer. The couple were really nice and the old gentleman was one of those who always wore bib overalls (or overhauls, as we used to call them). A friendly old fellow, I’d never seen him with a gun.

On one of my visits, a local deputy told me about the big armed-robbery attempt at the little store. It seems three city punks thought it would be child’s play to get control of the old couple and knock over the store. When the deputies arrived, they found all three robbers standing out in the parking lot with their hands up—in just their underwear in 30-degree weather. The arrest was without incident because those crooks were looking for some relief.

I asked the old gentleman about it and how he had gotten control of those bad boys. He just grinned and reached under the bib of his overalls, pulling out a .45 Colt semi-automatic. You see, before putting on his overalls in the morning, the old fellow would strap a belt and holster around his waist with the holstered gun slightly in front of his right hip bone. The bib overalls made about the perfect concealment garment for a Hill Country businessman.

One of the ranchers in the county where I was sheriff was extremely interesting. This fellow was very intelligent, but he looked and dressed like Gabby Hayes, Roy Rogers’ old movie sidekick. Although a lot of the ranchers kept a pistol handy, I had never seen this particular gentleman with one. His family collected vintage Winchester rifles, and his preferred armament was a Model 1894 carbine in .25-35 Win. Far from a vintage piece, this carbine’s stock showed scars from mesquite thorns while being carried in a saddle scabbard and there was absolutely no blue on it anywhere. However, I also noticed that the carbine was clean, well-oiled and showed no signs of rust or pitting.

One day, when the crew was rounding up a herd, the rancher and a helper were getting the pens ready to receive the cattle. Hearing a yell, the rancher looked up to see his helper backing up and trying to get away from an obviously rabid fox. The rancher snaked his Winchester off the seat of the truck. The helper fell on his back. The rabid fox jumped to attack the helper. And, the rancher was able to blast the fox before it could bite, ending that threat. That same rancher helped me with several manhunts over the years, and I was always glad to have him and that Winchester along.

Guns are a lot like raincoats. You don’t need one every day but, when you do, they sure are handy.


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