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By Jeff S.

One label I’ve never embraced — but am willing to own up to now — is that of “gun nut.” It’s been long and winding road getting to this point, though. I grew up male, middle class, and white, rockin’ the suburbs. Never really exposed to guns, and having a mom who enforced an all-out household ban, I just assumed guns weren’t something that were really needed . . .

In high school, my best friend and his father were avid hunters. Killing animals never really appealed to me, though. I can get a burger at McDonald’s for about a dollar. Why would I need to hunt for food, right? I remember having conversations with my friend’s dad about concealed carry. Nothing he said made sense to me at the time. I remember saying something like, “You’re going to pull a gun on a dude? Really?”

As far as I could see then, he was just a right-wing-paranoid-hillbilly-nutter. Actually he’s the physical embodiment of Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation.” Right down to the mustache and the hair he’s the spitting image. While his logic was solid, his presentation wasn’t so much, and I wasn’t ready to hear it back then.

Fast forward to college where I joined a fraternity and hung out with a bunch of dudes, some of whom were so irresponsible, they made Lindsey Lohan look like a model citizen. Some of the worst of them had guns and would wave them around to prove how cool they were. Honestly, these were just white guys rolling around in their tricked out cars, bumping rap music, smoking weed and none of them carried a GPA north of 1.0. Not all of them were like this, but the few who owned guns seemed to be pretty much that way.

With all of that, I cruised through life thinking there really wasn’t a point to owning guns. I had felt safe most of my life and had met some pretty irresponsible gun owners which turned me off to firearms. But while I was in college, I was also gradually becoming more aware of politics, corruption (both in corporations and the government), and the fact that the world is a much more dangerous place than I’d thought (this was post 9/11). At the same time I landed an internship with a company that manufactures rifle scopes.

I didn’t think much of it, and mostly figured it would be an “interesting” experience for me. I almost laughed at the idea of me working with a bunch of gun nuts. But it turned out to be a great experience. Not only did I get some hands-on time as an IT professional, I got to go shooting for the first time in my life.

My first time shooting, I went with a few co-workers. One of them worked in tech support (his job was to talk about firearms all day) and was one of the most knowledgeable and responsible firearm owners I have ever met, He’s also ridiculously fast and accurate with revolvers, but I didn’t learn that until much later.

He taught me the rules of firearm safety, taught me how each firearm functioned. He even explained the history of each firearm as we shot them. My fears were, well, blasted away with each shot (and I shot a lot). All of this was at no cost to me or the rest of the group. Little did I know how generous that was at the time because he didn’t fire a single shot himself that day, yet provided all the firearms and ammunition.

After completing school, I returned to that company and worked there another four and a half years. It was during that time I finally started learning for myself about firearms. I loved the positive experience I had that first time shooting, and each day I was learning more reasons why carrying a firearm might not be such a bad idea.

Eventually I bought my first firearm with guidance from the guys in Tech Support (and partly based on a TTAG review). I bought a Ruger SP101 3″ and to this day it’s one of the firearms I carry most, as it’s so reliable and easy to shoot. The guys in tech support helped me figure out which firearm to buy and where to get holsters and all the necessary tools and safety equipment.

I no longer work for that company as I have since moved on in my career. But my knowledge and interest in firearms continues to grow. I’ve even taken a few first timers shooting myself, trying my best to provide the same safe, positive and fun experience as I had my first time. Now I can proudly say, I’m a gun nut — ahem — I mean a member of the Armed Intelligentsia.

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  1. Great story. I continue to be impressed by the writing ability of the armed intelligentsia at this blog.

  2. “All of this was at no cost to me or the rest of the group. Little did I know how generous that was at the time because he didn’t fire a single shot himself that day, yet provided all the firearms and ammunition.”

    I LOVE taking Newbies to the Range, I’ve done this before, load up a bunch of Firearms, ammo, ect Go over Firearm Saftey (I use an Airsoft gun that has a saftey, slide stop, magazine ect)
    Then we go over it all again THEN we pull out the Real Firearms.
    I always let them keep the shell casing from their first shot.
    Also bring fun Targets. Zombie Targets are awesome. Clay Pigeons are neat. Then if you range allows it, bring something fun for them to shoot
    Old Tv’s, Stuffed Animals, Pinatas.

    I caught “The Bug” when I inherited my Wife’s Grandfathers Browning Hi Power.
    I had just moved back to Texas from Boston (where even LOOKING at a gun was bad) watched all the youtube videos, joined some gun forums (and was banned, man I was a punk when I was younger) and then i hit up a local gun shop
    The Gun Store in Cedar Park Tx
    where the owner told me all about Hi Powers, how to clean and field strip, and showed me where a good range was.
    Since then I’ve fired Thousands of Rounds. Bought and sold several firearms (shotguns, Rifles, pistols) gotten my CHL and become an NRA Lifetime member.
    I’ve also learned A TON about American history, just from reading about the 2nd Amendment, our founding fathers, and all that.
    I don’t consider myself a “nut” I just consider myself educated.
    I learned the 2nd isn’t about Duck Hunting
    I’ve learned about people irrational hatred of guns
    I’ve learned History DOES repeat itself (Registration Leads to Confiscation)
    I’ve learned that a Citizen is armed, and if he isn’t he’s a Peasant.
    Also, shooting is fun. It’s a skill, it takes hard work, logic and reasoning to become a good shot

    • I bought my first pistol at The Gun Store, in Cedar Park! Great guys, a little intimidating at first, but they were very helpful and courteous.

    • Honestly, when you were kinda gushing about this guy who took you shooting I thought you were going to conclude the essay by saying that you gay married him.

      • It’s funny how you can read a story about someone being educated on firearm safety by a friend, and the first thing your mind leaps to is “gay marrying.” Not an indictment, just an observation.

  3. honestly my interest in firearms really started around 2008 when i saw changes in government.

    • Same here. Went from 1 old shotgun to 9 rifles and pistols.
      Glad i started in 2009 and didn’t get caught up in this current craziness.

  4. Awesome story! Bringing someone new shooting is a great time. Teach some safety and get one more person interested in shooting.

    I honestly think that the feds don’t want us to have suppressors because if you take away some of the recoil and a lot of the bang, guns would be even more fun to even more people.

  5. I inherited an Iver Johnson .22, a U.S. Revolver .32 (Shorts are a pain to find!), and a Ruger 10/22. Originally, I thought I should get proficient with them if I’m going to keep them. Slippery slope! I still have them, but only the 10/22 sees regular use. I now have a gun for almost any occasion from fun target shooting (Buckmark) to zombie uprising (milled AK) to “barbecue gun” (stainless CZ75) and a few with little purpose, but I’m sure I can rationalize them some way. If I get a PA63 I’ll have everything that fires the 9×18 Makarov… that’s a good reason, right?

  6. It’s nice to know that ever after some not-so-great first experiences
    with firearms you still left your mind open and were rewarded for it.

  7. Nice story Jeff S.! I got hooked on shooting when I was eight and knocking over clay pipes at a Coney Island shooting gallery, but I didn’t become a politically motivated “gun nut” until August 21, 1992.

  8. My moment of revelation came at a shooting range in Florida. I was on a job and we had some time to kill before flying home, so a friend who’s an old gun hand took me shooting. I’m sort of a scatter-brained, absent-minded professor type, but when a loaded gun was put in my hands, I became very focused. I realized that for learning mental discipline, there is nothing like shooting a gun.

    I also learned how hard it is to actually hit anything with a gun. The stance, breathing, concentration, I found it quite compelling. I got so into it, we almost missed our plane.

    I now have a safe full of firearms, shoot at least once a week, and LOVE to bring the newbies to the range. Nothing changes people’s minds about guns like an actual experience with one.

  9. A colleague of mine in Nashville, TN got me into writing westerns and owning guns (connection, maybe?). Both are satisfying on many levels, and someday soon, the former may start financing the latter.

  10. My interest in firearms had kind of smoldered in the background for a long time. I always thought they were neat, but never really thought much about owning one until a few years ago. I decided “You know what, I’ve wanted a gun for a long time, it’s high time I went out and got one” So I did– a Smith & Wesson model 67 revolver. Had a blast with it. A year later I picked up my second gun, a CZ75B. I’m now looking to get a rifle. Want something that’s good out to around 300 yards and is relatively inexpensive to shoot. Any suggestions?

    • Get a Mosin. It’s powerful, indestructible and inexpensive to buy and to shoot.

      It’s also good out to a kilometer and more.

      A word of caution: when you go to sight it in, do not get off-put if it shoots high and to be left. It was sighted for a zero at 300 metres, and with the bayonet in place to the right of the barrel.

      Tune it, adjust it and you’ll have a truly excellent, historic gun – for very little money and just a little labour – of which to be most proud.

      • I own two myself. A 91/30 and the range clearing M44. Great rifles for dirt cheap. They have history behind them and the 7.62x54R packs a punch. I put a red dot on my M44 and will be putting a brass stacker setup on the 91/30 with a scope.

  11. While I’d always appreciated firearms as perhaps the finest example of the art of metalwork, I’d never been drawn toward them per se.

    Oh, I believe in not going unarmed; I’ve a wicked sword cane I made myself and a two shot over/under steel crossbow which hangs loaded on the wall by the front door. An 11″ bolt is at least as off-putting as any bullet, y’know.

    I’d even made up exploding pellets for a .22 air pistol. Those, by the way, are the very embodiment of fun.

    While I did grow up around firearms, as my father had several, he never offered any instruction or introduction, and being in Southern California most of the anecdotes floating about were negative, especially as my burgh was an Heinleinian “abandoned area.”

    In retrospect, I realize that he was quite irresponsible, leaving loaded guns around without properly educating the kiddies, and never spending any range time keeping profficient.

    That all changed a few years ago when I met my first Mosin 91/30. That lovely, historic piece of walnut and steel had stories to tell, and I listened. While the owner wouldn’t part with the beast, I promptly found one o’ my own and the rest is history.

    I’m glad to’ve finally made friends with firearms. They’re good, reliable and honest creatures – even the Ruskies. 😉

    So… I’ve two Masters in engineering disciplines, and my skills don’t hurt any in my becoming better with my li’l helpers. We’ll be ready, if and when.

  12. I bought Smith’s Small Arms Of The World when I was eight. Eight years later I had 2 Colts, 6 Winchesters and a smattering of other brands. I am a self-taught marksman with influance by the US Army.
    Sadly all my firearms were stolen many decades ago and have never been replaced

  13. Got my first handgun just this last Christmas (and day apart) right after wife and I got our CWL. Wife gave me a G26. Had a 20 gauge single shot that her grandpa gave me for a few years before. Kiinda of a late comer but have joined the fold.

  14. Welcome to the country’s largest insane asylum. You’ll be safe here.

    I’ve known a lot of people (my father was one) who believe the fact that badness has never crossed their path – maybe due to revisionism – is proof that nothing ever would. There’s no arguing with someone like that. At least not in matters of personal safety.

    A friend of my daughter’s is absolutely so not-of this-Earth that she’d have a hard time understand that something bad actually DID happen to her. She knows so little about her world that I get exasperated with her a lot. Her vegan, New Age parents are at fault for this state of affairs. They NEVER prepared her for life in the real world. What an awful thing to do to a child!

    However, since she’s never set out to find about the world, THAT’S her own fault.
    It’s not like the world a total secret. Even someone from another planet would adapt faster.

  15. As a newer gun owner, I continue to be impressed by the selflessness and thoughtfulness of every gun owner I have met. They really do represent the backbone of America.

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