My lovely bride called out the gun bloggers to share their testimony. I suppose that makes it my turn now. In the relatively short time since I became a gunny, I’ve really taken it on in ways that few others ever do.
When I was growing up, there were a few guns in the house but only a few. My mom’s .22 rifle which I learned later to be a Steven’s Favorite Takedown, and my dad’s Ruger .22 pistol and semi-automatic 12-gauge which I later learned was a Remington M11. I can think of a couple occasions as a kid going out to the farm with my parents and brother to plink at a plastic Pepsi bottle with the .22 pistol, and once even got to fire Dad’s shotgun. As a child I longed for more recreational shooting, but that just doesn’t seem to be one of the important things to my parents. One gun of theirs in particular caught my attention. It was Grandpa’s Smith & Wesson .44 Special – a pre-model 24. I remember as a teenager being allowed to handle it on a couple of occasions. I didn’t even know what ‘double action’ was, but the lockwork in that fine revolver intrigued me. The gun had a 6.5-inch barrel and the bluing was about 99% perfect with just a tiny bit of wear at the muzzle from the leather holster it was stored in for as long as I could remember. That’s the one I wanted to shoot. That was the gun that I wanted to have.
When Jennifer and I got married, it was kind of an understood thing that I would eventually buy ‘a’ gun when finances allowed (right, just one). For many years, we lived paycheck to paycheck and struggled to cover our barest expenses, so gun ownership was completely out of the question. We dropped out of college in our second year so we could get married, buy a house, and raise a family. Employment opportunities were limited for our educational level and we were far too proud to accept any kind of state handout that we were certainly eligible to receive except for first time home buyers’ assistance. No food stamps though, and no WIC. We worked hard and sought new opportunities and eventually we both found ourselves making decent money – not good but decent enough. For several years we worked through the debt that we had accumulated when we were dirt poor. We bought a newer car than we’d ever had before. We continued to live within our means and stayed in the little house that has continued to shrink as our son grows bigger and bigger. Finally we were in a place in life where we could think about some of the finer things.
In October of 2007 I posted about the death of Jennifer’s granddad. I still can’t believe it’s been that long. It seems like just yesterday that he’d make some off-color joke, but never in front of the ladies. I really wish that I had been able to get to know him better. Living through that experience, watching him progressively weaken, in and out of hospitals, and then to hospice; it all brought back the memories of my own grandpa’s final stint with bowel cancer. I was about thirteen when my grandpa passed away. He had fought that cancer for several years. I’m still not sure why he didn’t teach me to shoot a gun when I was younger. While Jennifer’s granddad was in hospice, I got to talking to my brother on several occasions. Watching someone in death’s door reminds us of mortality. My parents are close to sixty. I know that we’ve got many wonderful years to come with them, but there will come a time that we have to bury them and divide up their estate.
My brother and I discussed this and started talking about what of their stuff we’d each want to have. This was not at all in a circling vulture sort of way. Far from it actually. I’ve seen families fight over the crap that gets left to them. The junk left over in the end causes irrational emotional reactions for the survivors. It can tear families apart. I discussed inheritance with my bro with the knowledge that we were discussing it decades in advance, and to set up reasonable expectations so we could avoid the fights. He wanted the grandfather clock. Fine. I wanted Grandpa’s revolver. No. Wait. He wanted that. But, I wanted it. Crap. That’s okay. It’s only stuff. At the end of the day, it is just stuff. Money was pretty good for me at the time. There’s an easy solution here. And, I’ll take Grandpa’s custom built K98-based .244.
I started researching Smith & Wesson revolvers. I learned about the model 24 and the mighty 29. I pretty well decided that if I didn’t get Grandpa’s gun I wanted a brand new one. And, if I was going to get a blue, 6.5-inch N-frame with a .44-caliber bore, I may as well get one that will shoot Magnum loads, right? As we discussed it, Jennifer and I agreed that when we brought a gun into the house, all three of us had better be able to act safely around it – including our son. I had been told by very trusted sources that I needed to visit H&H Gunrange if I wanted to learn about guns. Jennifer and I went down to H&H just to scope it out at first. As she said in her post, we were expecting something seedy. I imagined low light and dusty corners. Bearded and tattooed shady characters wearing worn flannel. An eye patch here and there. I have no idea where this image came from, but it was clearly unfounded. H&H is an extremely inviting place in every way. It is clean, bright, and well-organized. The cafe at the range makes a mean onion burger and the staff is friendly and helpful. We didn’t actually shoot anything that day. I just wanted to see what it was like, and Jennifer didn’t feel like jumping in with both feet on that trip.
A few weeks later, we returned to H&H on January 1, 2008. My eyes were on a brand-new S&W M29. I wanted to shoot a similar example to make sure it wasn’t too much gun for me. I rented a 629 at the range counter and put two boxes of ammo through it except for the couple of rounds that Jennifer shot. I was in love. Yes, I went from a couple short .22 plinking sessions as a child to Dirty Harry and loved every minute of it. After our range session, we returned to the sales floor. A staff member pulled a 6.5-inch barreled M29 out of a display case for me to put my hands on. It was beautiful. The price seemed quite fair from what I had seen in my research over the last couple of months. I said I wanted it. Then, the salesman asked if I wanted this one or the one with the hand engraving on it. I said, “Let’s take a look at this engraved gun.” He led me to another room and pulled out another M29, but this one had hand engraving from the Smith & Wesson custom shop. My brother, who had tagged along pointed out that the engraved one would make a better heirloom presentation. It was only a couple hundred dollars more – still in the range that I planned on spending. So, I bought it. And, no. It did not cost nearly that much at the time. That gun is my baby. She’ll never see holster wear. She sees a regular diet of lead and gets cleaned regularly. It all went downhill from there. Everyone in my life suddenly caught the bug.
Nearly immediately afterwards, Jennifer bought herself a S&W 627PC. It was less than six months after that first range session that I had my concealed carry permit and had purchased a smaller revolver to carry – a S&W 586L-Comp. That was around the time that I started dabbling in holster making. That gun purchase happened in April. In August I bought a twin of the little 586 to carry as a Detroit reload. Our son learned to shoot along with us. The two of us have been to pistol training and shotgun training, we have gone through the NRA training to become RSOs. The three of us attended an Appleseed shoot together. I’ve dabbled in a little amateur gunsmithing, and continued making holsters. After making a few holsters, I started getting good at it and made some innovations not previously seen in the industry. It was starting to become a profit bearing hobby instead of just me trying to get a holster that I liked.
In January of 2010, I lost my formal employment due to a struggling economy. In February, I took on a 90-day consulting contract with a local small manufacturing plant. They said that if it was a good fit they would hire me on permanently with benefits and a raise. About half way through my contract, I was counting down the remainder of those 90 days. It was a poor fit. I told Jennifer that I felt like I should do the holsters full-time. We discussed the possibility of starving for two years while I attempted to set up the new business. We agreed that this would be a better option than any other opportunity that we could foresee. When I had about two weeks until I was again unemployed, I purchased my first industrial sewing machine with a loan that we took out against a CD that we purchased with the contents of our savings. (This weekend, I’ll be picking up my third, or fourth industrial sewing machine, depending on how you look at it.) The holsters are getting better every day and they are garnering more and more attention all the time. I believe I sold myself short on that two-year benchmark, or at least underestimated the people who would wish to see me succeed. (And, the links given are by no meas an exhaustive list.) By two years, I should be doing really well for myself at the rate I’m going.
At this point, guns are my life. I live and breath guns. All day every day I have my hands and mind on guns as the core of my self-employment. The only person I’ve seen run a pump-action shotgun as fast and accurately as me is my wife. Every time we shoot together, I feel closer to her. My son has stepped up his personal responsibility since he learned the rifle. He needs that release – that quiet time where nothing exists but him, his gun, and his target. He won a medal in a precision air rifle competition. Jennifer and I intend to continue with our training and possibly become instructors one day. We’ve mused about opening a training academy of our own. Each of us has come from a gunny bloodline that somehow got lost in the last generation. Now, we’re reclaiming that legacy and making up for a lot of lost time. Since our son was almost nine when we started this trip down the rabbit hole, he has done a lot of growing up with and around guns. He’s shot .17 pellets, .22lr (rifle, pistol, and revolver) 9mm, .38 Spl, .410, and 20-gauge so far. He’s wanting to get good at shooting the 20-gauge so he can break some clays with us. The three of us still intend to get our Hunter Safety Ed together so we can bring food home with our guns. Jennifer and I have poured ourselves into other hobbies before that eventually fizzled out. I don’t see this one going anywhere. We are way too immersed and have been running strong with it for way too long for it to be yet another passing hobby.
So, that’s my story. If you’re still reading, thank you.