What a Handgun Means to Me

by Paul Trout

I distinctly remember the day or rather, the night that I discovered I was an adult. I was 16 years old and had awoken in the middle of the night, soaked in sweat, and terrified. Whatever rumblings from my id haunted my dreams that night, I don’t remember. What has stuck with me, however, is the realization I made, lying in the dark, trying to shut down the adrenaline, and beat back the edge of terror. I was all alone. There was no one I could turn to for aid or comfort. If a real physical danger were present, I would have to face it by myself.

After that night, I spent years building the other skills necessary to travel the grand adventures of life. Occasionally, I’d think about that particular night, and run a mental checklist against my preparedness for physical danger: conditioning – check; alertness – check; combat skills – check; determination to not go easily – check.

As I grew older and paid more attention to the world around me, I noticed an increase in violent crimes that weren’t isolated in the “bad” areas around me. It was about a week after I learned my wife was pregnant that I realized if I was accosted in a dark parking lot while carrying an infant, the hand-to-hand skills I had depended on weren’t going to cut it. I had essentially lost the capability for complete self-determination.

I bought a handgun (too much gun for a beginner, but I still own that .44 magnum – complete with its three-inch barrel), and started to shoot regularly. A box of ammunition per month for a year led me to being able to put six shots in a paper plate at seven yards. A .22 automatic and about 3000 rounds taught me about consistent grip and stance. However, it took professional instruction for me to combine stance, sight alignment, trigger control, and grip into effective fire with true defensive handguns. Somewhere along the way, I re-acquired my self-determination.

I should point out the self-determination didn’t come from the handgun. It crawled when I made the decision to carry an effective combat tool every day; walked the day I got my concealed carry permit; strode when I qualified at the end of my first professionally taught class, and ran, exultant, through my core the day I walked out of my house with a loaded pistol on my hip, and the skills in my muscles, reflexes, and brain.

I have been a gun owner for 9 years. I carry a handgun every day. I have learned to use both rifles and shotguns with some proficiency, but a handgun is always with me wherever I am. As the most convenient of the firearms, the handgun is most likely to be what you have to depend on when/if you’re selected for center stage. Proficiency – required if you’re going to carry a handgun for anything other than ballast – gained under the watchful eye and demanding attention of world-class gunmen.

Once you gain that proficiency – when the holster, pistol and magazine ride naturally and comfortably; when you can accurately place and call your shots; and perhaps, most importantly, decide when not to take the shot that is just out of reach. At that point, the handgun stops being a convenient tool, and becomes a symbol of your dedication to skill at arms – a part of you that continually evolves into what and who you are.

Ignatius Piazza
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