H.L. Harris writes:
Lampasas is 60 miles north — and a world away — from Austin. It’s home to four gun shops — and not a single Starbucks. Before last week, I thought I lived in the best possible place to learn about firearms. I was wrong. I started my misadventure at Nocked & Loaded . . .
N&L houses a shooting range for bow and arrow and a courtyard in the back where customers can kick back and smoke a stogie. The gentleman who greeted me at the door was nice enough, and honest to a fault. He stated straight out that he knew nothing about guns. He pointed me in the direction of a salesman named Chris.
I waited twenty minutes or so for Chris to finish with another customer. As I explained that I’d come in to get my first gun, Chris got busy rolling his eyes. When I asked him about buying a GLOCK — recommended by a friend who said they never jam– Chris shut me down. “I never recommend a GLOCK to a woman,” he said. “In my experience, women can’t handle a GLOCK.”
“Is that so?” I replied, trying not to let him see my feminist feathers ruffle. “Why is that?”
Chris said he’d never come across a woman strong enough to rack a GLOCK’s slide. I asked him to show little old me how it’s done. He sighed and fetched a GLOCK from the showcase. Chris showed me where to place my hands so that I wouldn’t pinch myself or drop the gun. Without much effort, I racked the slide.
There was a beat of awkward silence between man and woman. I broke it by asking what kind of ammo I would need. After showing me a box of something-or-other, Chris lost interest. My “interview” was over.
I drove to two other gun shops. One was only open two hours a day. The other didn’t have its hours displayed on the door; a sign simply said ‘closed.’ I ended-up at J’s Gun Co.
‘J’s’ as it’s known locally, operates out of a tiny, windowless room inside an old office building. J told me that he opened his shop 21 years ago, after post-military boredom.
As we talked about my situation, J made fun of the idea of a woman carrying a concealed firearm. Where do you hide a gun under a skirt? While I happened to be wearing a skirt that day, I pointed out that women wear jeans and T-shirts, just like men. J was undeterred and unimpressed.
When I mentioned that I’m originally from Austin, J immediately pronounced me a liberal. In his world view, everyone in Austin is a liberal. And they’re all afraid of guns. All they want is a safe place where they can run and hide from an active shooter. Did I have a safe space?
My confusion must have been written all over my face. When I countered that not everyone who lives in Austin is liberal, J declared that all common sense had gone from “the younger folk.” I took that as my cue to leave and politely excused myself.
I was ready to give up. Macy, my partner in crime prevention, said he knew a guy who might help.
Johnny Chadwick is an Emergency Room nurse. He says he spent several years in Army intelligence, charged with finding, identifying and destroying enemy weapons. He “fell into” the medical world when his platoon was short a medic after an especially violent firefight. He agreed to meet me as long as I didn’t spout any “Lib-tard rubbish.”
“Which gun do you recommend I buy for personal defense?” I asked after we’d been introduced. “Revolver,” he replied.
He said a revolver’s a great starter gun because there’s no magazine to fuss with. They’re light, easily carried on a smaller-framed person. And some revolvers are snag-free or hammerless: the preferred model for women who carry in their purse. I asked if I could see one. Unfortunately, Johnny didn’t have one on hand. He’d brought an AK, AR-15, 12-gauge shotgun and a .40-caliber pistol.
Johnny told me that a shotgun was a great choice for home defense. It could inflict a great deal of damage at a short distance –ideal for my living room. A shotgun’s accuracy is better than a handgun at that distance, Johnny said. He racked the forend. “That’s Texan for GIT,” he announced.
Johnny showed me three different types of shotgun rounds: bird shot, buck shot and a slug. That’s how he loads his home defense shotgun, using the sequence to increase lethality with each shot. He showed me how the shells are loaded and unloaded, and how to hold the gun when firing and at rest.
We walked out to the bit of land Johnny uses to teach free classes for the Texas License to Carry. I was surprised how easy it was to shoot the shotgun. I fired it from the traditional shoulder position and tucked underneath my arm, Bonnie Parker-style. (Johnny explained that I might not always have the time to raise the gun all the way up to my shoulder in the heat of the moment.)
My first shot was from about 35 feet out. I hit the target dead center. I was so excited I asked to try again. I hit the target’s head square on. I loved the smell of the gunpowder that creeped out of the chamber when I racked the firearm, but passed on a chance to fire the slug. I was afraid of the recoil such a huge bullet might produce.
I left Johnny’s field of dreams feeling better-informed, and a lot less insulted and intimidated. While I’ve yet to settle on my first gun, I feel more ready to make that choice. More ready. But not ready. For that, I’ve got to travel to the liberaland to meet with the TTAG team (who were horrified by my experiences). Wish me luck!