Nothing focuses your powers of observation more than being around firearms. When there’s a deadly weapon or forty in a room with multiple strangers milling around, you tend to get pretty good at sizing people up. Fast. The second I saw the unnamed firearms training dude, he made me nervous. For one thing, his bulging biceps indicated more than a passing familiarity with weight-lifting. While I appreciate the dedication needed to attain muscular “guns,” and I understand that morphing your upper body into a bench rest has its advantages, combat shooting requires a certain amount of flexibility. Both physically and mentally. And then the unnamed firearms training dude began to talk to me about, well, something . . .

His spoke like he moved: in jagged, aggressive bursts. His speech pattern allowed no space for external input or, God forbid, argument. His smile was like a brick wall. He dispensed “advice” in the same way that an Army drill instructor makes “recommendations.”

Now I could just say he was an asshole and be done with it. But I know the breed better than that. Hyperactive firearms training dudes are genuinely nice people. Their bravado is based on experience and study; they know their shit. They’re excellent marksmen. If they tend to dominate students and get into pissing contests with colleagues, they’ve earned that right. They take as good as they get.

But they’re irresponsible gun owners.

As I mentioned above, they’re too busy putting out information to take any in. They’re aware of their surroundings but they’re not alert. Not to go all Zen on you, but here’s a koan that makes the point . . .

A young boy wanted to study with a Zen master. The master invited him to tea. The boy told the master why he wanted to study Zen, what he knew, what he didn’t know, what he wanted to know, how he would approach the task of being a student and so on.

The master listened and poured the tea. He continued pouring the tea until it spilled out of the cup and onto the table and onto the floor. The boy stopped.

“Why did you do that master?”

“You are like this tea cup; you are so full of your own thoughts you have no room for any more.”

Like that. Only worse, because HE’S GOT A GUN.

The funny thing is, the unnamed firearms training dude went out of his way to show me how safe he was with his gun. He ejected the magazine. He stuck his finger in the empty magazine slot. He racked the slide a dozen times in rapid succession (and I mean rapid). He looked in the empty chamber. He aimed the gun in a safe direction, and then dry fired the weapon.

And then he handed me the gun.

Great! Only during this testosterone-fueled demo, he pointed the barrel at his left forearm. Sorry, but The Rule is inviolable: never point a gun at something you’re not prepared to destroy.

How many people have been shot by empty guns? Loads. In fact, someone blew off their finger tip at a local range just the other week. Oops!

But more than that, and that really is enough, the unnamed firearms training dude was moving too fast. Maybe he can think that fast. I doubt it. Besides, if all you know is one speed, what happens when the pace of events slows down? You can over-think a situation, or rush in when a more deliberate approach is required.

Bottom line: a responsible gun owner is cautious. He’s not a braggart. He does not “play the dozens” about firearms. He uses no more energy than he needs, in case he needs more.

It’s not just those who don’t know how that teach. But knowledge and experience doesn’t necessarily make a gun guy (or gal) a good teachers’. When it comes to firearms trainers, choose one. Don’t just sign up for a course and take what you’re given. If you like the cut of his or her jib, set sail. Otherwise, don’t.

As the Patek Phillipe people say, choose once, but choose wisely.

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