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By Paul McCain

What can Latin teach you about guns? Quite a lot, and it only takes a few words. Non multa sed multum is an old Latin phrase that means, literally, “not many, but much,” or loosely translated: “Better to have less, but learn it well.” Along those lines, my mind has changed quite a lot about guns and shooting. When I jumped into guns and shooting with both feet a number of years ago, I found myself buying new firearms at an alarming rate (particularly so for my wife as she saw what it did to our bank account). Not only did I never meet a gun I didn’t like, I hardly met one I wouldn’t take home with me and tuck into my gun safe. Oh, look, I’ve got to have that one! Oh, wait, and that one and that one and that one. I want them all! . . .

Soon I outgrew my first gun safe and had to add another. And then the new safe was growing too small. Before I knew it I was up to over fifty firearms and more seemed to be appearing all the time. What were they doing together in those dark safes? I’d sit and admire them, take them out and shoot them now and then, clean them, etc. I didn’t have just one of various types, I had multiple copies of the same gun. There is nothing at all wrong with collecting firearms this way, but for me, I realized I was missing something.

I began to realize I wasn’t actually spending real quality time with any of them in particular. I was into the “many” but not the “much.” I spent so much time buying new firearms, shooting them a few times and moving on to something else I wasn’t spending the time to really learn any of them. I was becoming the firearms equivalent of the Jack of all trades, but master of none.

That old Latin phrase began to loom large in my mind and I realized I was actually doing myself a grave disservice. I was treating guns more as collector’s pieces and less as tools. It was as if I was collecting every type of hammer I could find, but not spending much time actually using them to drive nails. For good reason, an oft-repeated axiom in the gun community is: “Beware the man who shoots one gun, for he probably shoots it very well.”

What really helped me rethink all this was when I began to get some professional training at Asymmetric Solutions in Farmington, Missouri. There my shooting interests and, hopefully, my skill level, have been taken to a whole new level and I have found myself being more interested in using a few firearms as well as I possibly can rather than aggregating firearms. Now I want to spend as much time as I can learning how to shoot the firearms I own and master them.

I have been spending a lot more time drilling and learning and refining my skills, using only a couple handguns, a couple rifles and my shotgun. I’m no longer as interested in buying a lot of firearms and storing them. Instead, I’m more interested in ever-improving my draw, grip, trigger and sight picture with my handgun. At this point my favorite handgun is the GLOCK 34 with the Daniel Defense M4 V1 as my go-to rifle.

It has come as quite a revelation to have the chance to engage in high-level training where the focus is on “not many, but much” when it comes to guns. Firearms have, for me, no longer become an end in themselves, but merely a means to the end: proficient use of a firearm and training to be prepared to use it well should, God forbid, that need arise.

The constant drilling and training has brought its own set of challenges that continue to stretch my skill sets to the breaking point. And when I reach that point, I know what my next goal is. For example, I can draw and put several shots in a fairly tight group at 12 feet at a respectable speed. But how about doing that while moving? How about drawing and turning 180 degrees and doing that? How about moving quickly left and right? How about moving toward cover, reloading, dealing with malfunctions? How do those groups look now? Not so good. And there’s where my next personal challenge is set. Add a bit of stress and difficulty and the fundamentals begin to suffer. So that’s where the training needs to go from here.

I think there is a lot of wisdom in learning one or two firearms extremely well rather than jumping from platform to platform. I know it’s not an either/or situation and many people will, and in fact are, master users of a few firearms while also having fun filling their gun safe. But, maybe we can all learn something from those old Romans: non multa, sed multum. Better to use less, well, than to have more, and not master it.

Paul McCain runs the VDMA Videos YouTube channel.

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42 Responses to Gun Lessons From a Dead Language

  1. We are all shooters with different material abilities to exercise our hobby.As much as I would like to shoot twice a week,it ain’t gonna happen on my current salary.There are folks by contrast who own 500+ guns and have the resources to shoot each of then more often then I can my two.On the flip side of that coin,there are family men and women who have kids to feed and bills to pay.Those folks shouldnt feel marginalized because they can only afford to shoot once every six months.

    While there’s nothing wrong with consolidating to a singular firearm for all purposes-I’ve done so myself after years of fruitless horse trading- we need to recognize that some folks do own basements filled with guns and have the means to effectively shoot every last one of them.Someday,that guy will be me.

    • That’s why I stick to shotgun mostly. I would dare say almost anybody on no matter how tight a income can afford a box of clays and some #8 or 6 shot every other week or so. I think skeet is great for reaction time, it’s also a riot to do. And the great thing is that there are a lot of places you can do it. Backyards gun ranges middle of a field. It may not be the most ideal type of scenario for tactical training but it at least keeps you familiar with your gun without breaking the bank. Besides shotties rule.

      • I used to jump from one platform to another when it comes to guns. Getting bored with what I had in the safe and buying or trading for new ones, although I did shoot the ones I had at any given time a lot. Now that I’ve picked up shooting IDPA, I’m shooting less but feel like I’m learning more at every match than I used to after 500 rds at a range.

      • Don’t you mean trap shooting? Skeet pretty much requires a full layout and two target houses at your favorite shooting club.

      • Unfortunately for me, the closest place I can shoot my 12 gauge is nearly an hours’ drive (in good traffic), is inside, and between range rental, ammo, and gas, would cost me $50-$75 to put a box downrange. Going out and shooting a round of clay anything is twice as difficult.
        So, it’s pretty much only pistol for me most of the time.

    • As I make clear in my article, there is nothing wrong with collecting and even better if you actually can shoot them all regularly. But I think it begs the question: Are they actually MASTERING them? I would find that hard to believe. Do they really have the time, let’s not even talk about money, to shoot each and ever firearm they own to the point that they have developed the muscle memory required to operate each of their firearm on pure instinct?

      I’d have to say that is highly unlikely.

      Of course, when I do hit the PowerBall lottery at some point in the future, I’m building a huge house complete with a massive underground gun vault of at least 10,000 square feet, and a separate ammo bunker, a 30,000 square foot shooting range, and enough property to comfortably take 2,500 meter rifle shots.

      : )

      • Paul, I had this revelation a little bit ago and I’m glad you wrote an article on it. I’m new to guns (have owned them for about 2 years now but only really shot regularly for the last 6 months), and your words really rang true with me. Only recently have I mentally slowed down, and from that process grown a lot in terms of my shooting – and actually hitting what I’m aiming at!

        • Want to make sure I’m understanding what you are saying … you are through your “gun frenzy” phase and now able better to concentrate on improving your shooting skills?

      • Yes – Through the “gun frenzy” (although I only accumulated 5 in during the phase) and into the “slow down and enjoy the ride” phase.

        I made every mistake in getting into shooting – I had shot a couple of rifles with friends in my teens, and a couple of years later decided that building an AR from an 80% receiver would be a gentle “first foray” into firearms. I ended up not even firing the thing for a year (no gun club), and then promptly bought a walther P1 (because “it looked cool”). I developed a nasty flinch, couldn’t hit shit, and was wasting ammo every time I went to the range. “PFF! Obviously the gun is terrible!” – too bad my wife was a crack shot with the first time she ever shot a gun.

        Eventually I decided on a new pistol – tristar T120. Great gun, can actually hit things with it, and finally I got a 22 (beretta neos). With the 22 I feel like I’ve finally achieved “gun zen” – I took my time zeroing the thing to dead-nuts accurate, and range trips are not blast-o-ramas anymore but more a series of carefully timed firings (with infinitely more satisfying results).

      • I’m with Paul on this one, but not in a bromancy kind of way though.

        I’m “proficient” with all of my firearms in that I can nail the target every time. That being said, I haven’t taken the time with my newer purchases to really get good. By good, in my world, that means I can hit the 10 ring consistently at varying distances.

  2. If you want metric driven improvement in your arms handling, the best way is to start competing.

    It won’t teach you anything ‘tactical’, but it will push the limits of your fundamentals.

    Also, Many people who continually purchase new, or horse trade never learn the lesson that it’s the Indian, not the Arrow.

    • Well said. Competition may not create perfect tactics but it does induce a stress that encourage speed and accuracy. Much better practice for the real fight than paper lanes or plinking. If competition is run with combat effective techniques it can be golden practice for anyone wanting to improve their fighting skills.

  3. This pretty much describes my strategy. I’m into firearms for defense and 3-gun, so a large collection doesn’t even come into it; 2-4 pistols (still deciding), 2 rifles, 2 shotguns is probably all I’ll ever need. I may swap them out if I find things I like better, but I want few guns, and I want to be *very* good with them.

  4. We all go though the stage of buying several guys. I don’t have the resources to fill 2 safes but I have bought 12 guns in the last year. Part of that is when you first get started you don’t always make the best choices. Now I still want to buy more guns but every trip to the range includes me shotting my Glock 19. What I shot with it will vary some but at the pistol only range (That allows .22lr rifles) I shot my mp15-22 and Glock 19 every-time but my other guns rotate. When I go to the rifle range it is my IWI Tavor. Where as my ar15 has only been shot once. I think you have to get several guns to figurer out what you like best. With that said if the budget allows I will likely pick up new guns but unless I find one I fall in love with like my Glock 19 I will likely stick with my core guns with the rest just being range toys.

    Thanks
    Robert

    • The great news is that if/when you buy a firearm and shoot less than 500 rounds through it you can usually flip it for either a bit more than you paid or about the same amount you paid. That’s the great thing about firearms, they definitely do NOT plummet in value the minute you drive them off the lot, er, you know what I mean.

      • In other news, a fantastic walther P1 is available at a gun shop in Pawtucket RI!

        Perfect for home defense, plinking, and learning how much you really dislike walther P1’s!

  5. I think folks should do what they feel they can or want to do given their means and ability. No two people’s situations are identical, after all. As for myself I’m on a VERY tight budget. While I’d like to own a cellar full of various firearms, it’s not in the cards right now. So for now I have one, my CZ75B full-size 9mm. I don’t get out shooting as often as I’d like either (mostly due to lack of ammo) but that’s changing. So at least I’ll be able to go out and do that.

    My situation dictates that I get as good as I can with the limited supply that I’ve got.

      • Allow me to second that… just be aware (anyone reading this) that CZs come with a safety (allowing cocked-and-locked) OR a decocker (that is NOT a safety). If you tried one and hated it you might try the other variant.

      • Allow me to second that. CZs are awesome.

        For others who have tried them and perhaps not liked them, be aware some have safeties (allowing coc ked and locked) and others have decoc kers that are not safeties. If you hated the one you tried, I’d try the other variant too just to give CZ a fair shake.

  6. “Beware the man with one gun, for he probably knows how to use it.”

    – Jeff Cooper

    That may be more minimalist than most of us are willing to go but being proficient with a few guns is better than being average with all of them.

    I still have a huge stockpile of budget ammo. Lately I’ve come to appreciate more quality ammo. Shooting fewer rounds but concentrating on making them count more.

    • If it was “Beware the man with one type of gun, for he probably knows how to use it.”

      Guys who collect mostly AR, AK, SKS, FAL, etc. whatever – probably know how to use them like the back of their hand, even if they cannot get out and practice all that often.

    • I can tell you feel bad about not shooting more of your bulk ammo. I feel a need to reach out to you to help you out, brother. Ship all you want to me and I’ll make you feel a lot better about all the spare ammo going to waste.

  7. All well and good, Paul, but I’m getting a little tired of your infomercials for Systematic Pollutions or whatever company you’re fronting for.

  8. A good compromise would be the 80/20 rule.
    When I go to the range I spend 80% of my time with my carry gun and my bedside gun.
    Within those two I do another 80/20 with the Shield and XD40. Yes, KNOW much of he gun you will draw to save your life.
    The other 20 I run the AR, the 22’s, my wifes carry gun and what ever friends have brought along.

    In other words ,love your main squeeze but have a few affairs on the side

  9. After much collecting and much, much more shooting I’ve distilled what I need and contracted my collection considerably. Aside from a few sentimental or antique arms The general short list is:

    A concealed carry pistol
    A big bore revolver
    A .22 pistol
    A .22 rifle
    a duty sized pistol in serious caliber.
    A MSR
    A tactical shotgun
    A bird gun/hunting shotgun
    A major caliber long range rifle

    Of course others needs will vary but for me having a good example in good order of the above equates with a good collection.

    Some of the categories I’ve filled so well by now that I’m extremely unlikely to alter the gun that fills that niche. Others are filled by less than optimal examples of the class and will likely be upgraded at some point, relegating the previous occupant of that space as either a trader, or a ‘handy’ weapon (truck gun, shed gun, ect).

    Not everyone uses every tool in their garage. What is the mark of a good mechanic is having and choosing the right tool for the job, then using it well. Guns and shooters are much the same.

  10. FOUR YEARS of guidance counselor-induced Latin in high school, and I couldn’t read that. And they promised me it was absolutely essential!

    At least I also got two years of Spanish, which I’ve found infinitely more useful.

  11. Fastest way I’ve found to teach someone to shoot a rifle well? Give them a single-shot (bolt or falling block) .22LR with good iron sights (peep, aperture, etc).

    Fastest way I’ve found to retard someone’s progress in becoming good at shooting a rifle? Give them a semi-auto in anything.

  12. I have the “advantage” of being on a fairly limited budget, so I think hard about where I spend my gun money. I have a pair of good carry weapons, one small and one full size, a 10/22, a .243 Win “huntin’ rifle,” and a Mossy 500 pump shottie. I think I’ve basically got all the “classes” covered except the black rifle, and I have a pair of stripped lowers waiting to be built out. So that’s my next project.

    At some point I’d like to get into 3-gun, so I’m pretty sure there’s an autoloading shotgun on my horizon.

    • There should probably be a law that EVERYONE has to have a Ruger 10/22.

      It’s the perfect starter rifle, a great way to keep your skills up, and a great way to introduce others to shooting.

  13. I use to tell girlfriends and women folk that all my guns canoes and kayaks were like a set of golf clubs; each one for a different purpose. I learned never to open my safe in front of them, you could see new wardrobes and shoes twinkle in their eyes. I would only admit to gun knowledgeable friends that I have had all the guns one needs since I was 16. Only my Deer rifle has changed as a go to gun.
    The marlin 30-30 with the gold trigger is a safe Queen. Long since retired with a parade of others. Current but most likely last a Cooper 25-06. The 870 that my Uncle gave me for my 16th birthday is my shot gun of choice. The win 62 pump 22 is also a safe Queen but only because I got a Stainless steel copy for everyday use. Learning to reload was my downfall. I get a new gun spend hours shooting and reloading, working up the best load and then loading up a life time supply. Then it is time for a new gun.

  14. More semi-Latin: “Illegitimi non carborundum”. A mock-Latin aphorism meaning “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. Something to keep in mind when dealing with the Bloomberg lackeys in Congress and the media.

    I would also add a quote that is applicable to gun owning, from that famous Greek philosopher, Bob Dylan – from his deeply existential study “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”:

    When Ruthie says come see her
    In her honky-tonk lagoon
    Where I can watch her waltz for free
    ‘Neath her Panamanian moon
    And I say, “Aw come on now
    You know you know about my debutante”
    And she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need
    But I know what you want”
    Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
    To be stuck inside of Mobile
    With the Memphis blues again.

    It ain’t what you NEED when it comes to buying a gun – it’s what you WANT. (And can afford, of course.)

  15. Something ya haven’t addressed is that for the battle rifle nuts I might not be collecting just for myself. I might be buying for the WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD!!! One man lasts 2 seconds, 20 men can get some work done

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