(Jeremy S. for TTAG)
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By a TTAG Alumnus

At the outbreak of the Los Angeles riots of 1992, many of director John Milius’ more liberal friends called him in a panic. They knew he owned an arsenal of guns of all descriptions, and they begged him to lend them just one. “Sorry,” he said. “I’m using them.”

Milius isn’t just the writer and director of ‘Dirty Harry’ and its first sequel, or the original ‘Red Dawn’ (wolverines!) or two ‘Conan’ films, or the screenwriter for ‘Apocalypse Now.’ He’s also the real-life inspiration for ‘The Big Lebowski’s’ Walter Sobchak as well as lifelong friends with his film-school buddies Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. He also served on the Board of Directors of the NRA.

In recent weeks, at least in one small regard, I’ve begun to feel like John Milius.

Among my colleagues and friends, I don’t hide the fact that I own guns and enjoy shooting. Fellow criminal defense attorneys frequently come to me with technical questions about guns and their usage, and they occasionally ask for guidance in how to work with the ballistics and firearms experts that they retain in their cases.

A few of my lawyer friends are fellow shooters, many more are polite non-shooters, and some are openly hostile to the very idea of a citizenry with access to firearms at all.

As the pandemic has worsened, and even as I sweated through my own miserable infection and recovery, I’ve taken calls from friendly non-shooters, formerly hostile anti-gunners, and even a few foreign nationals living abroad who have all decided that they (suddenly) think the Second Amendment is a really good thing. And those who don’t have it and wish they did.

A colleague with military experience, but little firearms knowledge (grunts would call him a POG) wanted to know which handgun to buy now. He wanted to buy “a 9mm” and he was irritated to learn that my state has no cash-and-carry handgun sales unless the purchaser already has a CCW permit.

I dodged the ‘which-handgun-is-the-best’ question, and told him his best same-day purchase option would be a 12 gauge pump shotgun with a short legal-length barrel. Modern sporting rifles and semi-auto pistol caliber carbines were not on the immediate menu, because my state also imposes a waiting list for “assault rifles.”

He thanked me for the advice and dutifully drove from store to store to find himself a pump shotgun.

And then he ignored that advice and bought the only shotgun still on the shelf. It wasn’t a tactical shotgun. It was a long-barreled hunting shotgun for which the store, already picked mostly clean, had no buckshot or slugs in stock. Good Samaritan that I am, I put a few boxes of 00 buckshot on my porch for him to pick up, and told him to wash his hands after touching the boxes.

00 buck buckshot ammunition shotgun

I had to maintain strict contagion control, even before it was the law, because I’ve been recovering from the coronavirus for nearly two weeks. The only thing I wanted to give my colleague (other than the advice he had ignored) was the juicy ballistic goodness of standard-velocity 00 buck.

Another old friend soon called me from Switzerland asking for gun advice. He’s a multiple-passport foreign national, a banking consultant living in a stunning three-story home in the east hills of Zurich.

He had never expressed the slightest interest in guns in the four decades of our friendship. My interest in shooting, in fact, had always been a slightly comical American anachronism to my European friend.

He had grown up behind the Iron Curtain and in the tightly-governed states of Northern Europe, not hunting in the mountains of the American West as I had. He didn’t disapprove of my hobby or my gun collection, but it was utterly foreign to his European mindset.

Not any longer. My knowledge of firearms (buttressed by my back catalog of TTAG gun reviews) instead had become a survival asset.

Courtesy SIG SAUER
Courtesy SIG SAUER

Living in Switzerland, he wanted to buy a 9mm SIG for himself and a smaller one for his wife. I had to talk him away from the P210 Legend, despite its incredible accuracy and reliability, because of its limited magazine size and complicated manual of arms. And because even a Swiss banker (particularly one whose business has suddenly dried up in the pandemic recession) needs to think very hard before spending nearly $5,000 to buy two pistols.

He liked the SIG P320, and so do I. But his subsequent research found some real oddities in Swiss gun laws that informed our search.

It’s very hard for non-Swiss to possess firearms in Switzerland, but my friend’s Swiss passport luckily makes that a non-issue. He also discovered that he cannot buy my Surefire weapon light/laser without a tedious and expensive special permit; laser sights are strengstens verboten in der Schweiz.

He could, however, buy a suppressor at a gun store with no more hassle than a wave of his credit card. And according to my friend, weapon-mounted flashlights are illegal in neighboring Germany…but not lasers.

European gun laws. Go figure.

My friend was about to put his money down on a P320 Compact for his wife and a P320 full-size for himself. He liked that they could both share the 17-round full-size magazines, but his purchase was put on hold when he learned something important.

If you lawfully own a ‘regulated’ firearm — their term for guns in use by the Swiss military — the Swiss government will provide you with free access to shooting ranges and free ammunition to practice with.

In a city where a latte and chocolate confection from Confiserie Sprüngli will set you back the equivalent of $25, free ammunition and range membership is nothing to sneeze at. Even for Swiss banking consultants.

Sadly, my friend told me that the P320 is not a regulated firearm, so it doesn’t qualify for the Swiss ‘free range ammo for life’ perk. The outstanding P226 is on the list, but alas it’s too large for his wife’s hands.

Thus, rather absurdly, instead of two Swiss-made SIG SAUERs he’ll probably end up buying two Austrian GLOCKs instead. No intelligent shooter should be unhappy with a GLOCK 17 and a G19, but still….

European gun laws. Go figure.

But I digress. Slightly. The real moral of the story is that crises drive changes in behavior, and the world’s current uncertainty has led many first-timers to conclude that they want to be able to protect themselves.

In guns as in religion, there are none so pious as the freshly converted. When a gun-agnostic — or especially an anti-gunner — decides that they need a firearm for self-protection, they practically jump into the river to baptize themselves. They come to us for advice. And when they want a gun, they want it yesterday.

If you choose to advise them, advise them carefully.

If you’ve got your own tales of suddenly-converted anti-gunners begging you for advice (or for guns), please share them with The Truth About Guns below.

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  1. I’ve had one friend ask to borrow a gun and another ask to buy a receiver for an AR he intends to build, without the tools or the know-how mind you. The first friend I sent to the local gun shop. The second I helped piece together all the parts he needed online to assemble an Aero Precision AR pistol in 5.56. I got my father to finally buy a firearm a few years ago. He just doesn’t like them, I wonder what happened, with over 20 years served, who knows. I’ll say this, the unused pistol market is going to be great next year!

    • Unfortunately the used gun market might be pretty good here in a couple months when broke people have to start pawning/selling some due to economic distress.

      Some gun guys have a ton of valuable firearms, but very little in the way of financial reserves. There are some guns you will never sell, but most of us could part with a few of we really had to.

      A few years ago, I sold some during a period of unemployment. Fortunately, the collection has since been rebuilt, as has the emergency fund.

      • Several years ago I sold a Winchester 9422 because it had just be laying around. Kinda been kicking myself ever since.

  2. Some responses for gun owners irritated by anti-gunners having an epiphany:

    “Aren’t you concerned that your gun is 17 times more likely to kill you than any intruder into your home?”

    “Aren’t you afraid that you will be a hothead in the first 10 days of the waiting period? Don’t you think that you should wait 15 or 20 days?”

    “You need two guns? Why does anyone need more than one gun? Why can’t you wait a month to buy a second gun?!”

    “Why do you need a gun that holds more than two rounds?”

    “Don’t tell me you’re looking at those evil fully semi-automatic black guns with the shoulder thingie that goes up!?”

    As liberals like to say: “Never let a crisis go to waste.” This is a wonderful opportunity to make liberals “eat their own cooking,” and let them learn a lesson – nice and hard.

    • At the risk of sounding overly harsh and or lacking the necessary understanding for the foibles of my fellow men, the following comes to mind. Let these suddenly “reformed” anti gunners feed on the stew they were previously so willing to shove off on others. Let them feed on their crap for breakfast lunch, dinner and the proverbial between meals snack too.

  3. I’ve already been asked to “loan” firearms by a couple people. I had to explain the legal facts of life and liability ramifications. I don’t feel sorry for them since they did not think ahead and prepare.

    My adult kids can’t afford much for firearms, but are all avid shooters, thanks to the old man making sure they had the right equipment and training before this all happened. Once the buying rush kicked in I divided up what I had been holding for just such a time as this and made a supply drop to each of them in case things get bad enough that it’s dangerous to drive across town. They probably won’t even need it, but it represents peace of mind (theirs and mine) to know they’ll be a hard target. When things straighten out, time to restock.

    • Don’t have kids myself, and my brother is sort of “meh” on guns. Some of his adult children have an intense interest, though. I made sure they were set up with appropriate home defense carbines a few years ago, and they have had ample time (and interest) to practice and become proficient with the AR15 platform.

      Another friend is one of those fussbudget engineer types who has to spec everything to the max, and then ends up with some unusable, ridiculous firearm, usually focused on some arcane competition. He’s been bending my ear lately about how he needs to convert one of his custom AR-15s to a more usable configuration, and build up another short barrel PDW. Of course, he wants only the finest custom parts. My advice was that for home defense, he should just buy an appropriate 5.56 upper from PSA, slap it on the lower of choice, and call it good. This guy is one of those hopeless sorts who’ll debate the intricacies forever and never make a decision. If he was subject to an armed home invasion, he’d likely die, ’cause he wouldn’t be able to decide which gun and ammo combination to shoot the invaders with.

      • When I bought my first AR-15 three years ago I got a S&W M&P Sporter II. It is still bone stock, a good quality home defense rifle that did not break the bank, but with greater than basic features. It shoots well out to 100 meters, which is further than most self defense needs.

    • Nicely put. At home with my bride and me are our three grown kids. They get defensive weaponry, my local siblings will have to fend for themselves. At some point we have to say I told you so. We didn’t do anything they couldn’t have done. We went to the range, they went to Aruba. Sorry, you’re on your own.

  4. Don’t have any ‘conversion stories’ but what I have discovered is a fairly large number of friends/aquaintences I’m around on a regular basis own and carry guns. People seem to be more open about it lately.

    One night at practice with the worship team (our church now live streams services so we’re still carrying on), I saw a Kimber micro 9 peeking out of our drummers stuff and, jokingly, made the comment that “I now feel threatened and uncomfortable knowing he was carrying a dangerous item like that!”. He laughed saying “you’re probably the most comfortable one here with guns” and through the ensuing conversation it turns out that of the 8-10 people there at least 4 of us were carrying. I’ve known these people for years and just didn’t realize so many carried.

    Though I live in a very ‘gun friendly’ state, carrying has always had a kind of ‘dont ask, don’t tell’ sort of taboo-ness to it. I’ve noticed people becoming much more open about it lately and to me, that’s a very good thing!

    • I’ve had similar experiences to yours, enough so that I’m not overly surprised to find that someone I know is carrying. I think it’s just prudent, at least in many situations, to not overly advertise that you are armed. The take away from all this is that there are a lot more of “us” out there than we might expect. Which is good.

      • I agree that it is prudent not to advertise too much. OTOH, I believe it’s also nice to know who’ll have your back should the excrement hit the ventilation device or to whom you should be ready to provide backup to.

  5. Friend called asking about what 9mm to buy with a $300 budget for home protection. He has two young boys in the house. Do he or his wife have any handgun experience? NO. Did he bother to think about a safe way to store it that also provided access (or if he could afford it)? NO. Did he realize he couldn’t get ammo for the thing if he tried? NO. The list goes on..

    • At work we were talking about the latest price of defense ammo. A young guy jumped in and told us what a good price he’d paid. Turns out he bought FMJ and didn’t know the difference.

      • I have been repeatedly stunned over decades at the number of people I’ve run into who think a bullet is a bullet, if my gun will shoot it, it will be fine. Except not. Because *some* bullets are WAY more expensive than others, how stupid can people be? I would never pay that much when these over here are so much cheaper, all go bang and make holes appear in paper targets.

      • Don’t knock FMJ’s. A whole lot of former enemies, plus “our guys”are no longer with us, having hit with those “ineffective” FMJ rounds.

        • The “knock” was toward the ignorance with which so many people approach this. Sadly, a major concern nowadays is the specter of defending every little decision to a hostile prosecutor. “I didn’t know there was a difference.” is only going to play into their hands. Training, Training, Training…

        • FMJ bullets, even out of a handguns can kill just fine. But killing the attacker is not what lawful defender aims to do. We want to make the attacker stop his attack right now by incapacitating him. (If he dies as a result, it’s an unfortunate side effect.) That and concens about over penetration is why we want those defensive bullets designed differently.

      • There’s a real fine line between excusing ignorance because they’re new to the game vs. they’re just to lazy to learn anything. The former I can easily excuse (we all started somewhere) and will happily educate them, the latter is grounds for a good slap upside the head.

  6. I don’t have a story except a friend bought. S & W revolver. It is 38 😆+ P. He got a surprise from the recoil, I tried to tell him to try one first…..he put it in his closer, never to be seen. Then one other time we fired my M1. He decided on a lighter semi-automatic. The M1 has lower maximum pressures than modern rifles, never saw it again. Try before you buy!

  7. If someone lacks a gun at this point, just getting something functional matters far more than getting the “optimal firearm”.

    If I was “gunless”, an old and cheap, but functional Rossi .38sp revolver, or a beater 12 gauge would look pretty darn good.

    A Glock will serve the Swiss banker just fine. Grab one, and get something fancy down the road.

    Pretty much any gun is vastly superior to no gun.

    • I agree! One of my litmus tests for friendship is if they potential friend owns guns. But I do have a few acquaintances who are likely gun free. Nobody has asked me for anything yet, and the UBC laws in my state would make a transfer difficult, but I have some guns – many of them C&R collectibles – that would fit the bill: Yugo SKS and a can of ammo; Mosin Nagant short barrel and ammo; Argentine licensed 1911. All of these types of guns are quite serviceable and deadly – in fact, they are indeed “Weapons of War.”

      • One of my friends only owns a Rossi 38 revolver, a Mosin, and a single shot .22 rifle. He likes guns, and shooting, and is generally pro 2nd A. He just doesn’t “love guns”, and his wife probably wouldn’t want him spending more on guns.

        Sure, I wish he had an AR15, a 12 gauge, and a couple double stack 9mm pistols. Still, I don’t feel too bad for him. What he owns will work in a pinch.

      • “I agree! One of my litmus tests for friendship is if they potential friend owns guns. But I do have a few acquaintances who are likely gun free.”

        I’m slightly more open-minded. Slightly.

        Not a gun owner but not knee-jerk anti is fine with me. Besides, they are potentially an ally I could convert…

  8. My daughter in law’s parents asked me about advice on buying two pistols and attending CCW classes. I was happy to help them but then this virus came along and they are out of luck. I will be helping them after this virus is a thing of the past. As for my daughter in law she is taken care of due to my son’s firearm, and training in using it, while he is deployed in the USMC.

  9. I have two personal stories to share:
    1) a friend, not anti-gun (took him shooting a couple of times, he liked it), but firmly in the “why would I need a gun myself? I don’t hunt, and if I need defense, I’ll call the cops” camp called me to ask to “borrow” a gun – he can’t buy a handgun himself as he doesn’t have a “Pistol Purchase Permit” nor a CCW. I politely declined, for liability reasons, though I offered to provision him with hard-to-find 5.56 ammo was he to buy an AR, or provide help and guidance was he to secure a PPP and attempt to buy a handgun (good luck finding anything below 5K in store !)
    2) I went last week to a doctor appt for a scheduled check-up for an underlying health condition. I like my doctor, we have never discussed guns or politics, but I know he’s firmly, deep into Dem/liberal country. Because I like him, I decided to offer my help and advice should he decide to buy a gun, if he didn’t already own one. To my (not really) surprise, he profusely thanked me and disclosed “I do not own any gun, we had long decided with my wife never to own one, but we’re finding ourselves discussing more and more the wisdom of that decision. If we finally decide to make the jump, I will certainly contact you for advice”.

  10. getting a 38 special revolver for the first time gun buyer is not a bad idea. but having no knowledge is. people need to LEARN about guns. there is nothing wrong with using wadcutters for self defense. and recoil is very moderate. after getting more hand strength he can then use the other loads. give this advice for next time. and a novice would be best served with a revolver since they are likely not going to practice to get proficient with a semi auto. and revolvers still work good. need more firepower, buy two.

    • If they can only afford one gun, a higher capacity one will benefit them the most. A chambered glock 19, can sit in a desk just the same as a revolver, and will fire when needed. A semi-compact semiauto is the best choice for a novice compared to revolver.
      It is easier to use a glock over revolver, and it is not harder to be proficient with a semiauto compared to a revolver. Plus, the revolver takes skill to reload under stress, which makes it a bad choice for a novice, who is buying a gun for home and self defense.

      • It all depends on the person.

        Some people have difficulty racking the slide on an autoloader (elderly, weak, or arthritic). Also, revolvers are very intuitive and simple to operate. Pull trigger and it goes bang. If it doesn’t go bang, pull it again. To see if it is loaded, open the cylinder. There are no safeties to worry about. There is no da/sa trigger like some autoloaders (ie Beretta 92). You can’t limp wrist a revolver (like a weak, elderly, or arthritic person might).

        Sure. Many, probably most, people would be better off with an autoloader. For others, the revolver is a great option.

        If I were to give a handgun to my elderly mother, I think a S&W Model 10 would be perfect. If I gave my middle aged brother a handgun, it would be an autoloader.

        Saying pistols are better is kinda like saying AR15s are better than shotguns. Yes, in many ways they are. On the other hand shotguns also have their perks. They tend to be cheaper, and are far more devastating shot for shot at close range. In the other hand, they kick a lot, are not good for long range, and have lower capacity and rate of fire.

  11. No one has asked me, but I could not accommodate them under California law. It is strictly forbidden to loan firearms–theoretically even at a gun range.
    I have provisioned my kids, but my son ended up in Toronto just before the border closed, and with no access to firearms. On the other hand, my daughter recently moved, and the heaviest of her boxes was full of…ammo. Funny thing, one of her anti-gunner friends moved the box, and although she told him not to open it, his curiosity got the better of him. He opened the box and seeing what it contained, uttered a rather astonished, perhaps even fearful, “Oh.” (Daughter was quite amused.)

  12. “Lack of planning on your part should not constitute an emergency on mine.”

    A little friendly advice is good and neighborly, but they shouldn’t expect you to start handing out firearms like JW’s handing out watchtower pamphlets.

  13. A Fudd buddy of mine asked for some ammo for his .357. I have him 6 rounds.
    Two mental patient liberal family members in a ban heavy blue state asked me to effectively smuggle them some arms. They were extra concerned because of all the great “diversity” around them and the gov letting offenders out. I laughed, told them to keep voting democrat and hung up.

  14. I dont have to “worry” about friends begging loaners. All my friends are people of the gun. Anybody else is just stupid or terribly misinformed.

  15. I’ve been on the front lines against the anti-gun crowd since before GCA-68. I’ve suffered through the abuse and denigration from those on the Left because I’m a 2nd Amendment supporter and gun lover my entire adult life. I’ve been telling people for decades just what would happen when society breaks down. If people think things are bad now, think a moment on what it would be like if the electrical grid went down for several months or even permanently. What’s going on now is a cake walk compared to that. So, I don’t have much sympathy for the idiots who are now running around trying to get their hands on a gun. In truth, I don’t want them to be able to because nothing is more dangerous than a scared newbie with a gun. Actions have consequences and the liberals are now discovering just what their actions have wrought. Sucks to be them.

  16. I have a friend who has several guns but has NEVER shot them. Or cleaned or learned anything. Doesn’t know anything…and our town is going to he!! He’s 69 years old and effectively going deaf. Can’t take him to a range yet because of the plague. After this is all over I’m going to help him and his wife whose birthday is TODAY. Other than him there is no one I’m helping. My old friends have guns. One brother is pro gun. The other is a leftard in Floriduh. And I DON’T advertise I’m a gunowner!

  17. I’m not getting “can you help me buy” so much as “can I borrow one of yours.” Well, I don’t mind giving a little free advice, but asking to borrow one of my guns is pretty much the same as asking to borrow my toothbrush. Ain’t gonna happen.

  18. These are my guns, they can save my life.
    Don’t ask to borrow one and I won’t ask to borrow your wife.

  19. I have always loved the quote from the character Burt from the “Tremors” movies (he’s the guy who is a prepper/gun/explosives/military fanatic). In the movie “Tremors 2,” when he pulls up with the military 6×6 with all sorts of guns and explosives inside, and Earl is like, “Well Burt, you put a whole new shine on the word overkill,” to which Burt responds, “When you need it, and don’t have, ya sing a different tune.”

    • Classic. They mess everything up though and that series got worse with each addition. I think Burt was the only reason anyone watched the second one, and if anyone watched the rest of them, why? lol.

  20. a Glock is a bad choice for a novice who does not want to learn about guns. no external safety, cant see the round in the chamber, and he might shoot himself while re holstering it like the guy in the you tube video. and I don’t want a guy spraying and praying with his glock because he knows he has a lot of rounds in it and figures one of them will get the bad guy. revolvers are not hard to load under stress, you use a speed loader. IN FOR A PENNY is not a novice but someone who leaned about guns and probably practices once in a while. I was not not talking about someone like that. and I guess he really likes Glocks, me I like Sig Sauers.

  21. I got my LTC in the people’s republic of Massachusetts back when Obama was elected prez and I haven’t looked back since. 9mm M&P- all upgrades you can imagine. 1911 45 ACP, 22LR semi rifle, SUPED up Kel Tec sub 2000 running same mags as the M&P. And a CCU that turns my 1911 into a 45 carbine. Basically a semi auto Tommy Gun. Red dots on all. Thousands of rounds training at my private club. Bring it on corona- who cares if ARs are banned in MA. looters on my street will be hurting if (God forbid) it comes to that. Neighbors don’t know how safe they are.

  22. I’m lucky. I live in a neighborhood (zoned as rural residential) where everyone owns multiple firearms and carries on a daily basis. I pity anyone wanting to make trouble in my neighborhood.

    Alas, family is a different story. My anti-gun sister in another state (known for restrictive gun laws) phoned me and asked if I could FedEx her one of my guns and some ammunition.

    I declined, without explanation.

    • Sometimes family just doesn’t mean shit. Sometimes, it’s all that matters. No family is perfect, but I’m right there with you. My brother married a hardcore liberal and long story short, nobody talks to him anymore, not even my parents. Sad really. We could care less about what they support or don’t support, but they seem to think their left leaning philosophies put them at the 2nd seat to the throne and nothing else matters. When that is your political stance, you are either a politician, or an idiot.

  23. I don’t know what’s more dangerous, someone without a gun or a brand spanking new shooter with a gun and little experience… I have a story but I’m not talking….

    • Everyone has a story. Thanks for not sharing. When you started carrying, you were already an expert huh. You know the best leadership never forgets where they started. You’d be wise to remember that philosophy.

  24. Surprisingly, I’ve had no friends coming to me about guns. I suspect it’s because most of them are already armed, and the few hold outs are in a state that hasn’t been nearly as ravaged by covid (we’ve got our shelter in place sure but it’s not full blown, police stopping folks out and about etc) or they just haven’t pod attention to what life can be like under times like these.

    I HAVE, on the other hand, had complete strangers looking to me because of seeking the permit to carry and what route to go from there.

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  26. E2 grips will make any of those big ass Sigs easy for anyone to handle. Point them in that direction – P226 for him, P229 for her.

    Look for the E2 versions (“Enhanced / Elite”) – they have the E2 grips already, plus tritium night sights, front cocking serrations, and an extended beavertail.

  27. I have lent 2 guns and sold 3 so far: only to close friends and family because I feel that I own any misuse of a gun that leaves my custody.

    I have always suggested to newbies to get a da/sa or dao revolver. My explanation is that if you actually had to use a gun, you would have an adrenaline surge, tunnel vision, and be shaking so hard it would be all you could do to point and pull a trigger.

    I do not lend or sell just the gun: I have a pdf of a PowerPoint for new shooters I have refined over the years (converted a few liberals with it… and a trip to the range), I get them a Set of holsters (ccw & home Storage) lockable gun box, target ammo, defense ammo, speed loader or xtra mags. In my presentation I drill home the 4 safety laws over & over & hope I don’t get a call that they shot someone or themselves.

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