"I want a gun."
Ahhh, the moment I've been waiting for. Don't screw this up.
She said it nonchalantly, as we were watching television. Normally, she understands that important conversations are to wait until commercial break, and that she should never, ever interrupt "Longmire." Or "The Walking Dead." Or "Justified." Or "Burn Notice." Or any game involving a ball, unless it's soccer, in which case she is welcomed to interrupt as often as possible, for as long as possible. I'm pretty sure that's in the marriage vows somewhere.
But I digress. We were talking about my girlfriend, and wanting her first gun. This is not a conversation one approaches lightly.
"Okay," I replied, carefully keeping my tone neutral, "for plinking or self-defense? Rifle, shotgun or pistol?"
"Pistol," she said firmly. "I want to be able to protect myself."
Careful now, Kelly. One mustn't discourage the nascent sheepdog. She needs the perfect challenge to motivate her. Now, to find just the right goad…
"You have me to protect you," I told her bluntly. "You're not ready to carry a handgun."
There. That oughta do it.
"I've seen you shoot. I'd really feel safer if I had a gun of my own."
You already have one, honey. You just don't know it yet.
Since we first began dating, I had carefully planted the seeds; little trips to the gun range, casual comments dropped here and there. I knew that once I got her out of the anti-gun Eastern seaboard state where she was born and raised and into Louisiana, her inner self-reliant American would blossom. So, unbeknownst to her, I had purchased for her an lightweight .38 snubby revolver with pink grips.
Because, you know, female.
Now, I rarely agree with anything told me by the pimply-faced kid behind the gun counter at the big box store, but clearly I had found the rare one that actually knew something about guns, as he wholeheartedly endorsed my selection of a first gun for my sweetheart. Now, all I had to do was let her think it was her idea to choose them. And truthfully, I was so ecstatic to see that she finally wanted a gun of her own, I was willing to overlook her disparagement of my shooting skills.
Besides, the sun cast a really bad glare that day. I couldn't pick up the sights. And my trigger finger was bruised and swollen from being pinched in an ambulance stretcher. And she kept asking silly questions, distracting me. Anyone would have shot poorly under those conditions.
So, with my protégé in tow, I loaded my range bag and a few gun cases into the truck, and we trekked down to the gun club for my sweetheart's introduction to shooting. With our minds usually occupied by weightier topics like terminal ballistics and baseball stats, guys don't typically have a memory for trivial things like anniversaries and birthdays, but the day you teach your girlfriend to shoot is one that will be forever etched into your memory.
I mean, it's right up there with other important dates, like John Moses Browning's birthday, or the opening day of deer season.
Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking. You're thinking, "Kelly, there's no quicker way to sour your girl on guns than by mixing relationship dynamics with firearms instruction. Hire a professional."
You can relax. I've got this. I am a professional. I've been teaching esoteric topics and complex psycho-motor skills for 20 years. Just not, you know, with guns. Besides, I'm male. I'm pretty sure providing firearms instruction for my mate is encoded in my DNA somewhere, right alongside fighting off saber-toothed tigers, hunting mastodons for food, opening pickle jars and killing spiders.
So, after a thorough discussion of Col. Cooper's Four Rules of Gun Safety and some rudimentary instruction on stance, grip, sight picture and trigger press, I let her fire a few magazines through my Ruger .22/45. To my great pleasure, she was able to keep all rounds in a 10-inch circle at 5 yards.
"So," I said, gesturing grandly to the array of handguns laid out on the table behind the firing line, "ready to try something a little bigger?"
"Um, I guess so. Which one should I start with?"
Perfect. She's already seeking my guidance.
"Why don't you try that little .38 snubby over there with the cute pink grips? It's a popular choice for beginning female shooters. Simply, easy to operate. Nice gun."
Uh oh, she looks dubious.
"Tell you what," I said quickly, before she could object. "Why don't I run a cylinder through it for you, just to demonstrate how it operates and let you get used to the noise?"
"Perfect," she smiled. "I'd like that."
So, with studied nonchalance, I returned to the firing line, aimed, and squeezed off a round.
Wow, that's pretty snappy for a little .38. Ugh, threw a flier there, too. Okay, concentrate, and try another round. Concentrate on your front sights, and…
Crap. Another flier.
I gamely squeezed off another three rounds, marked my target and tried to hide my grimace at the pain in my hand. Stepping aside, I proudly displayed my group, which could only charitably be described as Minute-of-Bad-Guy.
""There," I seem to recall saying. "Just like that."
She quirked one eyebrow at the target, and said, "Group seems a little big. Is your trigger finger still hurting? That was months ago."
Whoa there, sister. Do I detect judgment in your tone? Who's the firearms expert here, me or you?
"It's acceptable combat accuracy," I said defensively. "You have to make some tradeoffs for concealability and weight. Shorter sight radius is one of those tradeoffs."
"You were grimacing while you were shooting. Does it kick that bad?"
"I was concentrating."
"You were grimacing."
"The recoil was brisk, but manageable, okay?" I snapped. "But fine, you don't like the .38. Try the Ruger LCP here. The .380's a smaller cartridge, less recoil. A little marginal for personal defense, but it's better than carrying no gun at all."
Again with the cocked eyebrow. Who does this chick think she is, Julie Golob?
By way of reply, she hefted my Rock Island government-length 1911, and lovingly caressed it. "You said this one has basically the same controls as the little one I shot already?"
"Yeah, but it's a lot bigger gun. The .45 ACP is not a gun for wimps. I'd suggest you–"
"Still, I'd like to try it," she said, tempering her interruption with an angelic smile.
Ah, heck. Who can resist a pretty face like that? Let her try it, and when it scares the heck out of her, you can gently steer her to the LCP.
Silently, I waved her to the line, supervised her loading a magazine and racking the slide…and then watched as my girlfriend shot a tighter group than I had. A much tighter group.
And then she proceeded to do the same with my custom, Officer's model 1911.
And my Glock G17.
And my Smith and Wesson M&P9.
Crap, this did not go at all like I planned. Okay, time for damage control. You can still salvage a little of your masculinity from this.
"Fine shooting, honey!" I beamed. "You're one of the better students I've ever taught to shoot. You could easily become proficient with any weapon here. Including, um, these expert's weapons, like this Ruger LCP or the .38 snubby. They're guns that reward a talented shooter like yourself."
"You really like them that much?" she asked dubiously.
"I do," I replied firmly. "Fine guns, both of them."
"Then you keep them," she decided, slipping my custom 1911 into her purse. "After all, they're expert's weapons, like you said. I better stick to something easy, like this .45, until I get more practice."
So that's how I came to carry a lightweight .38 snubby with pink grips. It's in like-new condition, less than a box of ammo shot through it. I'll trade it for a used Glock 19. Anybody interested?