Sunday, June 12, 2011

How I became a gunnie.....

For what it's worth, I do read a lot of other blogs, but rarely comment on them. If I say something, I like to take my time considering what exactly I want to say and what my point is.
While perusing some other blogs, an interesting question came up here, asking how any of us bloggers became gun enthusiasts. A lot of other bloggers have participated, and I figured I might do the same. I don't like to jump on the coattails of other bloggers, nor do I like to opine about subjects that many other bloggers have already written about at length. I'm not a widely-read blogger, and I'm not one to steal content or ideas from others. However, I thought this topic was fairly interesting, and instead of being rude and leaving my response in someone else's comment section, I figured I would bring my response over to my little humble space on the internets.



To start, I will say that I was not raised in a household that loved guns, but we understood the necessity of such things. I grew up in the country in east Texas, where a trip to the grocery store was a weekly thing and meant a good 30 minute drive into town or a one hour one-way drive to a slightly larger town that had a mainstream "chain grocery store". Given that we lived deep enough in the piney woods, we had to have a gun around. We had a variety of critters around, from cottonmouth and copperhead snakes, to bobcats, skunks, wild dogs, opossums, you name it. We needed something to protect ourselves from nature, as well as oddball people with ill intent. We had drunk people wreck their cars out there and come banging on our door demanding help, we had people come out and nose around on our land with no regard for property lines, and so on. We also needed a way to put down sick or injured animals; a lot of people would dump their dogs and cats out there, and we oftentimes took them in. Over time, a pet might get old enough or sick enough that we couldn't do anything for them, and we had to put them down ourselves. Either way, we had an easily defined need that anybody (even a dyed-in-the-wool anti-gun liberal) could see. With that said, for the longest time, we only had one gun in our house, an old Marlin/Glenfield .22 rifle my dad had bought in the early 60's at the local Sears & Roebuck.
( I still have this rifle, and I can attest that it has no serial number from the factory, and I always thought that odd.)

My mom didn't like guns at all. She had a bad experience with them as a small child in regards to a loved one, and that stuck with her. She believes in the 2nd Amendment, and believes that we all have the right to own what we desire, but she doesn't want one around her if she can help it. My dad, on the other hand, though he doesn't have a deep desire to own one, understands that they are a necessity for a free society. He had enough exposure to our dear government over the years to know that at some point or another, our government will need reigning in, or at least the continual threat of same. He did not teach me to shoot elected officials or anything like that, moreover he taught me love and respect of God, country, and self. One day when I was five years old, he told me to meet him on the north side of our pasture, and to bring some safety glasses from the tool shed. I went out back and waited, and shortly thereafter he appeared with HIS GUN. Now, at five years old, I already had been instilled a healthy respect of firearms. I knew if I so much as touched his rifle without permission, my butt would glow red longer than Chernobyl ever would. I understood that if he had HIS GUN in his hands, it meant something was very wrong with the world and danger was present.
My dad came to me and explained to me a variation of the four rules, he showed me how to clear the chamber of the rifle, how to safely load it, (it is a tube-fed rifle, which always struck me as very unsafe to load with regard to the four rules), and he then explained to me that I, as a man, would at one time or another, have to place my safety and livelihood on the line  in order to protect others. He told me that it was my duty as a citizen of the great state of Texas, my duty as an American citizen, and part of the reason for my existence. My dad told me that it was my job to protect the family in his stead (he went on business trips with fair regularity), and that one day I would have a family of my own that would need protecting. He also told me of our countries' founding, and of the importance of private possession of firearms in regard to keeping us a free country. I was told of the quote attributed to Isoroku Yamamoto, that "You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass."
We spoke for about an hour all the while he instructed me on how to safely handle a rifle and how to aim it at different distances. After the instruction, I saw he had set up a bunch of steel beer cans about 50 yards downrange. He handed me an ancient box of .22 long rifle and a box of .22 short, both from the now-long-defunct Montgomery Wards. I took a deep breath and took the rifle out of his hands. A strange feeling passed over me, and I never forgot it, although it was many years later before I understood what that feeling was and what was happening between he and I. We spent a good couple hours out there, knocking over steel beer cans with the .22 short and poking holes in them with the .22 long rifle. I never forgot that, even though that's been almost 30 years ago. I learned something that day, and it stuck with me.
Fast forward to my eighth birthday, and my dad had bought me a daisy Red Rider BB gun. He hadn't bothered to consult my mother, and he stayed in the doghouse for a good month after that. I took that BB gun from him with a simultaneous feeling of pride and humility. I was honored to be given such a gift. I saved allowances to buy boxes of BB's for that poor thing, and honestly I can't begin to tell you how many times that gun was fired. That November, an uncle of mine came down for Thanksgiving, and he heard I had gotten a BB gun. He asked me to come outside with it later and he'd show me a thing or two. Boy, did he ever. That uncle of mine was the first person to actually teach me sharpshooting, and it started that day with him teaching me to shoot his Camel cigarette butts off of a tree limb at different distances. Prior to that, I just found chunks of cardboard to use as targets. After that day, I saved Christmas money and many allowances so I could buy a CO2 powered pellet pistol. (This was back in the day when you as a young man (read: 9 or 10) could walk into WalMart, pick a pellet gun off the shelf, and pay for it yourself. There weren't any age limits on those, or even pocket knives. I bought quite a few of those as well.) I took my new .177 Daisy pellet revolver and literally wore it out. I shot it so many times that it finally wouldn't pierce CO2 cartridges. I waited until after Christmas when decorations were on sale, and I would buy tree ornaments (the glass ball ones) and hang them from tree branches and see how far back I could get and still reliably hit them.

Fast forward to my 14th year on this ball of dirt. I had elected to take an FFA class, and in that class we covered a lot of hunting topics, and I also got my hunters education certificate. I found while in that class that I wanted to try bird hunting. One afternoon while at the airport, working on my dad's old Piper Tripacer (yes, we owned an airplane, and we did all of our own maintenance.), and he asked me about my classes. I told him about wanting to go bird hunting with a friend (September was dove season there in east Texas, and I had been invited by a friend to go dove hunting with him and his dad that next weekend). I expected him to frown and ignore my request, as he wasn't a fan of hunting. Instead, he gave me the O.K., and said he would convince my mom that it was okay. I went that following weekend, and never looked back. I didn't hit a darn thing, but I had fun. I went home and told my parents about it, and though my mom lost all color in her face, she was glad I had a safe, fun time.
My dad, on the other hand, started planning something.
Two weeks later, my dad told me to hop in the truck and we'd go for a ride. Usually, that meant we were going to run to the beer store (my town was dry, closest wet town was 30 minutes away), but once we got in the truck, he asked me where a man could go to buy a shotgun. The only place I could think of off hand was a little pawn shop two towns over that regularly advertised in our local nickel-and-dime newspaper. That seemed good enough for him, so off we went.
I assumed he was going to buy himself a shotgun and let me borrow it on occasion.
I was wrong.
We got in the pawn shop an hour later, and when we went to the counter, my dad looked down at me and said, "Son, pick one."
I must have handled every shotty in the store at least twice before settling on an old Revelation (By Western Auto Parts Company!) 12 gauge pump shotgun. I saw it sitting on a back shelf, covered in dust. The salesman tried to talk me out of buying the old pump, but I was in love.
100 bucks later, she was mine. Or, should I say, she would be mine come Christmas morning.
I will admit to sneaking a peak at it twice during the two or three months between then and Christmas when my dad was out of town on business.
Christmas morning that year was like no other ever. My mom even bought me some shooting glasses and two boxes of shells to show her love and support of my new hobby.

Over the years, I picked up a number of other guns, from a Lorcin .25 to my first "deer rifle" an ex-girlfriends dad sold me, a Nazi-stamped K98 that had been professionally re-chambered in .308, an SKS that had been sporterized given to me in trade for doing some welding on a friend's truck, and a handful of others. I kept the shotgun throughout all of the years, everything else came and went.

Fast forward to ten years ago. I always had my shotgun at the ready, and would go shooting with friends on occasion, but never really got into the whole "gun rights" thing. I knew gun control was bull, but I had no idea what, if anything, the "assault weapons ban" was. I heard of it, figured it was stupid because if nothing else, it was gun control of some kind. Shoot, the first time I saw an AR 15, I immediately assumed it was a full auto M16 machine gun, and I also assumed that machine guns were illegal, and couldn't figure out why I kept seeing them at a few gun shops. I started hearing about co-workers in other departments who taught a "concealed-handgun-license" class, and several of the people in that department had their CHL's. I just shrugged and figured that if it was the opposite of gun control, it must be good. I never bothered looking any further into it. I never knew that there was not a waiting period for buying a gun, or that you didn't need a permit just to own a handgun in Texas.

A few years later, I got into a relationship with a girl who had a very abusive ex-husband who was still stalking her. I hated to be away at work since that meant she was unprotected, and she was continually nervous about it. One day while driving home from a side job, I stopped off at a gun shop some friends of mine had gone to and bought guns from previously. Just on a whim, I went in and started looking at handguns, and saw some signs for that CHL thing. I went home with a lot of conflicting thoughts in my head and some decisions I knew I had to make. You see, my girlfriend (now wife) wasn't anti-gun, but she had been raised to be terrified of them, and she wouldn't touch my shotgun if her life depended on it. I was concerned about possible confrontations while she and I were around town running errands or even in our own front yard, so a handgun seemed a reasonable thing to buy and a CHL seemed to be a good thing to look in to. I also figured that if I got a reasonably sized handgun, I might be able to get the girlfriend to learn how to shoot it.
A week later, I walked in to that same gun shop and bought my first legally purchased handgun, a Bersa Thunder .380. (By legally purchased, I mean that all previous handguns had been private sales.) I also signed up for my CHL class that weekend, then went straight to work to take that Saturday off of work so I could attend the concealed handgun class.
Not long after that, a friend of mine approached me with a Springfield XD in .357 sig at a good price and asked me to help him sell it. A couple weeks later, I owned it. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I could have more than one gun, and I could be happy about it. That was a big revelation to me.
I had had the Bersa for a couple months and had not shot it except to qualify at my CHL class, and was sitting around bored one Friday and thought, why not go shooting? I called an old friend of mine and his wife, and they drove down from Dallas and met up with my girlfriend and I and we headed to Ralph's Range in Tom Bean, Texas. (Ralph's was basically a guy's several-acre backyard with a huge berm. 3 bucks to shoot as much as you want of whatever you can bring. Unfortunately, it is closed now).
This was everybody's first time to shoot a handgun (other than me), so although excited, we were all nervous as hell. We arrived and between the four of us, we went through six boxes of .380 and had a BLAST. The bug had bitten me. My girlfriend, meek and mild, took to that Bersa .380 like a duck to water. We started going to a local range just about every weekend from there on out. I started pigeon-holing money and buying guns as I could afford them, and it didn't take long until I had nine or ten guns of my own. Well, not including the Bersa, because by then my girlfriend had taken it in as her own. I don't think I put 50 rounds through that gun after that day at Ralph's Range because my girlfriend got so possessive of it. As the years went by, the threat of her ex dwindled ( I wonder why?? Hmm), my girlfriend and her son became safe, proficient shooters, each with guns of their own, and we all three have taken numerous other people shooting and given numerous firearm safety lessons.
Now, years later, my collection has grown (as has my wife and stepson's) to several dozen guns I've bought and traded for, and now I've taken to building guns. It took me several years to become the obsessed gunny that I now am, and somewhere along the line I found the gun blog community. That probably contributed more than anything else, but I'll probably post on that later. For now, this post is waaaay too long, and the hour groweth late.
I will say that that warm day in east Texas, almost 30 years ago, I didn't just learn something, I didn't just shoot an old Glenfield .22....
I took part in a tradition, a movement, a way of life, that never left me. Having my dad hand me that old .22 changed something inside me, and I've gone out of my way to hand it down to my stepson and my son as well.

What about you?
What's your story?

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