As a ten-year-old at summer camp I watched Neil Armstrong push-off the ladder of the Lunar Excursion Module, step onto the surface of the moon and declare “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Oops! Armstrong left out the definite article. He was supposed to say “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” His truncated version doesn’t make any sense. Never mind. In fact, Armstrong’s gaffe provides an important lesson for those of us who equip ourselves with a firearm for self-defense . . .
Armstrong spent tens of thousands of hours training for his moon mission, running through every possibly scenario dozens of times. He was mentally, physically and psychologically prepared for the big moment. Including the words he uttered immediately after the big moment itself.
How many times did Armstrong rehearse his “One small step” spiel,” heard by billions of people in every corner of planet Earth (not to mention the astronaut’s employers)? Plenty. Neither NASA or Neil were known for improvising their PR utterances or leaving anything to chance.
So what happened? Why the flubbed line? Adrenalin rush? Maybe. When you’re in the midst of a fight, flight or freeze moment the part of your brain that controls your speech doesn’t get the highest priority. Then again, maybe not.
According to Wikipedia, “during the Apollo 11 launch, Armstrong’s heart reached a top rate of 110 beats per minute.” I do 140 on the elliptical. But then Neil Armstrong had been around the block a few times by the time NASA strapped a Saturn V to his ass.
During the Korean War, the Naval aviator flew 78 missions in various aircraft (e.g., Grumman F9F-2 above). During his career as a Air Force test pilot Armstrong’s ability to deal with the unknown was severely tested; he logged seven flights in the “Holy Shit this thing actually flies?” X-15 experimental aircraft. Excitable boy? Not our Neil.
Perhaps Armstrong blew his line because he was distracted.
There were plenty of variables to occupy his thoughts. Armstrong was boldly going and all that; NASA wondered if the LEM would sink into the moon’s surface and disappear. On a personal level, Armstrong may have worried that man’s first step on the moon would be followed by man’s first fall on the moon.
“That’s one small step for a man—crap!”
Actually, that’s the last thing squeaky clean Neil Armstrong would have said. And anyway, does the fact that the first man on the moon said the “wrong” thing at one of the most crucial moments in human history make that much of a difference? Not really. After all, result!
Same goes for armed self-defense. It’s a results-driven process.
I’m a firm believer in training, training and more training (as long as it’s the right kind of training). But I also believe the chances are excellent that any civilian involved in a defensive gun use (DGU) will screw up something. If it’s you you’ll be spending years going over your “performance” trying to think of ways you could have done it better.
And you’ll find mistakes, too. They won’t be heard or seen by billions of people around the world (one hopes) but that won’t make it any better. Like Armstrong, you’ll know you blew it. Well, some of it. But not the important bit: surviving.
No one knew if the Apollo 11 astronauts would survive their mission. Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin might have died on the launch pad like Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Or blown up before reaching orbit. Or missed the moon, flew into space and starved to death/taken a suicide pill. Or missed the Earth upon return and faced the same fate.
Just getting to the moon, landing, having a stroll, taking off and getting back safely was a major accomplishment. The accomplishment. The style of it? Not so much. The exact words Armstrong said the moment he put foot to moon are interesting but ultimately irrelevant.
In the same way, surviving a lethal threat is the accomplishment, not how you do it. If it happens to me I will make mistakes. I’ll spend a lot of time wondering how I could have performed better. But I’ll be alive to do it. At least in theory.
This Armstrong-inspired realization that’s allowed me to ease up (a bit) on the question that’s been vexing me lately: which caliber in which gun for everyday carry?
Ralph’s penning a comparo between the [Joe Matafome’s] Glock G36 and the Springfield XD-S. As the official photographer for this battle of the compact .45s (click here for the snaps) I’ve been sneaking in a little side-by-side shooting time. And I’m confused.
The G36 doesn’t conceal as well as the XD-S but it’s got one more round than the XD-S which is far more accurate during slow fire but not during rapid fire when my groups spread like this girl I once knew (everyone knew) which means I could probably just just slow down and nail it but I probably wouldn’t do that in a DGU would I so maybe the G36 is better.
Then again if the G36 is the way to go, why not holster my old everyday carry gun the G30SF which conceals only slightly more prominently yet holds the maximum rounds I can carry when I go into Massachusetts (10 + 1), which is why I want a .45 in the first place rather than my Caracal C 9mm which conceals like a boa in the jungle, shoots like a dream AND offers 15 + 1 capacity but violates MA’s high cap mag ban?
Of course, I could carry the Caracal C with a ten-round mag (on order) and switch to the 15-round mag for RI, provided I knew I wasn’t going to MA ’cause just carrying the 15-round magazine is a felony in The Bay State, unless you’re traveling through rather than to Massachusetts, in which case the ammo must be locked and stored separately from the firearm which also must be locked and secured in the trunk or the farthest position away from the driver in an SUV.
So do I carry a highly concealable handgun with “just” ten rounds of perfectly point-able nine millimeter ammo that can be upgraded to 15 rounds most of the time or do I schlep a print-‘o-matic pistol with six, seven or 10 rounds of more potent .45 that can’t be upgraded to a higher capacity eva?
WWNAD? What Would Neil Armstrong Do?
Neil may have been your standard OCD engineering astronaut type but he flew over 200 different types of aircraft during his life—without dying. So I reckon Neil Armstrong would say shot placement counts more than round count or caliber size. He’d train on all the guns until he was proficient, measure his results, pick and pack the winner and train some more.
And if that didn’t work out—say I chose the Caracal nine for MA and couldn’t get the job done in 11 rounds (plus another 11 in my pocket)—Neil would probably shrug his shoulders, smile, pat me on the back and say “Son, in case you didn’t notice, we’re both dead. You did your best but it’s game over.”
To which I’d reply: “That was one small gun for a man, one giant gun for the preservation of mankind.” If I could remember my line.