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During my heyday of competitive shooting and working undercover, I ran a bit paranoid. And I shot. A lot. I competed. A lot. Every week for years. I was also teaching survival skills and shooting skills at our state police academy. Fortunately, these teachings and feelings carried over to the wife, as our kids were now in grade school. Somewhere in there, she got her concealed carry license. Out of all the guns I (OK, we) had, she settled on a Makarov in 9X18 . . .

On this day, though, she and I were on our way to a funeral for a very good friend, Al Mar of Al Mar Knives. I was in a suit, she was in a black dress. As the situation negated the usual 50-pound purse, all she carried was something called a clutch (it didn’t resemble any clutches I’ve ever installed). So I was the only one carrying a firearm (note to self: buy her a gun that fits a ‘clutch’).

I folded my suit coat over the seat of the car, and off we went. A few miles from home, we stopped at a 7-11 convenience store for something and I left the car running as I went into the store. As I wasn’t wearing my suit coat to cover my GLOCK, I left it jammed, muzzle down, between the seats.

I made my little purchase and went back out to the car. There I found my wife sitting in her seat, facing the driver’s door, two-handed grip on my G17. I’m thinking, WTF?

She was shaking like a pooch pooping peach pits. Tears were welling up. I took the GLOCK from her and asked her what was wrong. She told me that right after I went into the store, a creepy looking guy walked up to the car and opened up the driver’s door. Remember, the car was still running.

He started to get in when she grabbed the GLOCK and pointed it at him. She said he got an “Oh sh!t” look on his face and ran off, closing the door behind him. That’s when I came out, clueless.

I was angry with myself for not paying attention. Based on her description, I had a pretty good idea who it was. (I was a cop in a pretty small town). We drove in a circle for a couple of blocks looking for the guy, but never found him. Since the funeral was pretty important, we left for downtown Portland. In my mind, though, I knew I’d be visiting a certain person in the next couple of days.

As I knew who trained my wife for her concealed handgun permit class (a good friend) I knew his philosophies, his training methods, his rules and standards. I never really had a fear my wife would do the wrong thing. I had also convinced her to be my sparring partner for defensive techniques. So I knew she was tough.


By Tom in Oregon

Still, a few of lessons learned here:

1) Does your significant other know how to operate your guns?
2) Would not having windows tinted have prevented have this? If the dude seen that the car was occupied, would he have he even tried?
3) Situational awareness. The counter at this store oriented you with your back to the lot as you payed. Good for the clerk, bad for the customer. I was stupid for not ‘checking my own six’.
4) Car left running? Unlocked?

Now, looking back, we can laugh. Here’s why. We finally got parked in downtown Portland. As we were walking a few blocks to the ceremony the wife remembered she has the pepper spray on her key chain that I gave her. She decided to give it a test spray to make sure it worked.

Yup, she walked right into the red mist. Tears were a-streaming when we walked into the temple. Mascara had already run from the half hour before. Friends were comforting her. Good. Me? I’m mourning the loss of someone all of us would have been proud to call “friend,” yet stifling a chuckle.

Al would have laughed. Lessons learned.

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  1. OK, buy her something that fits a “clutch” (a small purse without a handle, right, Mina?) But keep that Mak! I would suggest a P-64 (configured similarly to a Mak, but much smaller, also uses 9×18) but the triggers tend to be really stout, as is the recoil.

      • Well, it certainly wouldn’t have the recoil issues, or the carry weight (P-64 is all steel). As I understand it, Bill Jordan considered the .22 mag to be a viable caliber for a BUG, I certainly wouldn’t argue (heck, I’ve carried a .22 LR myself on occasion, I really don’t do the caliber wars myself).

    • Your wife won’t touch your guns? Not a problem.

      Many years ago when I was an ardent fisherman, every time that I fished a particular impound, I’d see a man fishing alongside his wife in their nice bass boat. After many months of passing each other and waving, we finally stopped our boats alongside each other to compare notes.

      I asked him, “how do you manage to get your wife to go fishing with you all the time?”

      In a whisper, he answered, “how do you get yours to stay home?”

    • Mine did, until she learned to clean her own. Then the whole pride-of-ownership thing really took off.

      Now when we’re at the range together she occasionally offers me a chance to shoot hers. And I have to hide the .45 ACP so there’s some left for me…

      Wow, I love this woman! 🙂

    • I’m afraid my wife might know too much about operating my guns, she might use one on ME! The only thing that keeps me from worrying too much about it is, even though she has is quick tempered, she will probably cool down before she figures how to get the safety off! She also has a machete in the garage.

      Live by the gun, die by the gun!

    • Nope, she doesn’t like slide guns or 12 ga shotguns. She is quite handy with the 357 Ruger GP 100 with the 6″ barrel. She helped pick out the Ruger LCR 38 special, saying it would be “her gun”, until she fired it and realized it had quite a recoil doing +P. But I have gotten her to shoot everything for a few rounds, including the 44 mag Super Blackhawk.

  2. This is my main reason for carrying a back up, regardless of what all detractors say about not needing a back up or being paranoid, it can be used to arm someone else…

    My woman doesn’t carry regularly, if at all.
    So, if for some reason I need to run in the store and leave her and the kids in the truck, I can hand her my backup without disarming myself.

    Backups are a good thing.

    • Someone who calls you paranoid for carrying two guns instead of one needs to stop and think something.

      We carry a gun because we to prepare for events that have very low chances of happening. However, should those events occur, there is a high likelihood of personal injury or death. We carry tools to help us survive and wrest control of the events from the people who perpetrate them.

      So needing a gun is relatively rare. If you need a gun, it is relatively rare that your gun will malfunction or that you will be unable to drive away the threat by yourself.

      That said, there is still a very small chance that your gun will malfunction or you will need to fire in two directions simultaneously or be separated from your primary firearm or any other of a slew of reasons to carry a backup.

      As I like to say when asked why I carry a gun: There is a very slim chance of needing it. “Doesn’t that defeat your whole argument?” Nope. Slim ain’t none.

      • “…or you will need to fire in two directions simultaneously…”

        You might want to take a break from the John Woo movies for a little while, fella…

  3. Seems like the combination of the running engine and the tinted windows created the illusion of any easy target for the scumbag. The Glock forced a change of heart, but there’s a reason the cops recommend turning off the engine, taking the keys and locking the door.

  4. TTAG: thank you for posting these! When I was younger I was shopping and saw an old man pull a gun on a young dude in front of the mall. The young guy just ran off, and the old man just got in his car and calmly drove away. I’ve always wondered what it was that actually happened that day, now I see it is actually a pretty common thing.

    • I have no idea how common it is or isn’t, but it’s a sure thing that statistics like those the FBI compiles don’t account for a substantial number of these sorts of DGUs. Studies that make claims like “you’re 2 zillion times more likely to be killed with your own gun than to stop a bad guy” are necessarily based only on capturable data, often limited to deadly encounters. They can’t account for these sorts of seemingly minor incidents which can prevent a major crime from occurring.

  5. Thanks for the tale. I just traded my carry SIG for a Glock, not bc I like Glocks more, but because my wife, who doesn’t carry, knows the Glock. Glad that incident turned out well.

  6. My wife has her carry permit and knows how to use my weapons. She is still getting used to the notion of carry, but out of habit, we ALWAYS lock the car doors when I have to run inside and she and kids are in the car. I need to start leaving a backup for her. She does like the glock 26 or the sig p225.

    • When I leave my wife in the car at the store, she ALWAYS locks the door. Sometimes, though, I have a hard time getting her to UNLOCK them!

  7. Whenever I leave my car, whether my wife is in it or not, the car gets locked. When I leave my wife in the car, I always tell her to lock the door behind me. She rolls her eyes, but fortunately she does as I ask. We use locks to protect valuable things… My life and the lives of my family are far more valuable than all of my worldly possessions. So I keep my car doors locked when I/we are in the vehicle, and I keep the doors locked when I/we are in the house.

  8. Boy oh boy, that luck favored your wife that day. Whenever i leave my wife in the car, i lock the doors upon exiting i believe ill start keeping my XDM in the car when we travel together. Unfortunatlly as a non US citizen she cant get a CHL in NC, nor can she use another states as a NC resident either.

    • But is the gun in the car “yours” or “hers” if you’re not in the car? What if it’s openly displayed?

      The number of times we’ve switched cars and she accidentally made off with my gun has convinced my wife to just get her CHP.

      • If you mean leaving your gun in the car with her while you get out, I’m pretty sure the “gun in yours, not hers” argument is a non-starter in NC. NC has one of those clauses in the law that you (the CCH holder) have to retain “control” of the firearm at all times…if it’s concealed.

        Open display is another matter. NC is an Open Carry state, but we do also have one of those “intimidate others” type statutes that is way, way too open to interpretation. I’ve never heard of it being applied to a gun in a car, but my very limited “hearing” certainly doesn’t mean it hasn’t been.

        I remember back in the 90’s driving around Raleigh with a handgun openly displayed. You can imagine the looks I got at red lights. Never got stopped, though.

    • NC doesn’t allow non-citizen legal residents to obtain permits? That sounds like a lawsuit to me–an equal protection violation. Just because a person is not a US citizen does not mean that he/she is immune to criminal mischief. Legal residence should be the only qualification.

      • OOps! Can we back up just a little? You said, rightly, that “Just because a person is not a US citizen does not mean that he/she is immune to criminal mischief.” How does “legal residence” differ? Why should “legal residence” be any barrier for a human being to defend themselves?

        The fact that a person is under 21 (or 18, or whatever), has once looked crosseyed at a member of the opposite sex, smoked a weed… or any of the thousand and one “qualifications” being imposed obviously provide zero immunity to criminal (free lance and official) mischief.

        How does “legal residence” stand out as an exception? 🙂

        • With that logic, any criminal from South America, whose records aren’t in our system, could buy a gun. That’s no bueno.

          • I see, and so if this person is a criminal he/she couldn’t possibly get a gun and harm people anyway… the records and registrations and “laws” make it impossible for a criminal to get a gun, right? And you don’t care that he/she might NOT be a criminal, but might be attacked and need to defend themselves… he’s only a “South American,” after all… not really one of “us” – right? Only good “Americans” and those some people approve may defend themselves, eh?

            No, every human being has the inalienable right to defend their lives, by whatever means is necessary. Their birthplace has nothing to do with it.

    • If she is a legal permanent resident alien with a bona fide residence in your state, disbarring her is illegal. If she is here on a visa, such as a student, temporary worker, tourist etc., then she isn’t eligible.

      Some states still have blanket alien firearms prohibitions on their books. Such prohibitions are incompatible with Equal Protection and the Second Amendment.

      The SAF and the ACLU — yes, the ACLU — have brought several cases where legal resident aliens were disbarred, and IIRC haven’t lost one yet.

  9. Did find the guy a couple days later. Nothing I could do though, as no crime was committed.
    The wife locks the car now. All the time.

  10. Always train the wife. If she gets POed at you and shoots you, you want to eliminate the “Accidental” defense.

    • Well, that is a sad sentiment. If it is ever a concern that one day your wife might shoot you, then you Sir, chose poorly.

      • I bought my ex-gf a gun and taught her to shoot. The crazy ex-gf. Dumbest move I ever made. Actually, it was just one in a whole series of dumb moves.

        Love is blind. And sometimes it’s stupid, too.

        • I taught my Ex how to shoot and got her a 5-shot stainless .38 Taurus snubby. She left and took the gun.

  11. True story, happened last year.

    Took the wife’s car to the convenience store one night cuz it was already warmed up, she had just gotten home.

    Parked at the store, went in, got my stuff and left.

    Hopped in the car and to my puzzlememt couldn’t get the key in the ignition. WTF?

    Then I noticed the car seemed messier than it should be. Again, wtf?

    Looked out the window to my left and lo and behold, there was the car I had actually driven to the store, looking darn near, but not quite identical to the one I was sitting in.

    Holy crap! ‘I’m trying to steal someone elses car’ suddenly hit me. I quickly got out, removed my groceries and stood there trying to determine if anyone was frantically calling 911.

    After a minute or two I decided no harm no foul, got in ‘my’ car and left.

    Glad the OPs wife wasn’t sitting in the passenger seat. 🙂

    • Oposite situation
      Years ago a house guest needed to borrow a car and asked my mom. My mother gave her the keys, she went out and got in my dad’s car and drove away.
      Sure enough, both sets matched.

    • I don’t understand the question.

      She doesn’t “leave me in the car”, I let her out. Then I sit behind the wheel (where I always sit) and smoke my pipe.

  12. my hubby and i experienced a similar situation when we were at a gas station/convenience store this past summer. luckily, he was armed and right next to our car. i, unfortunately, was not. lesson learned.

  13. I keep a SP101 .357 in my glove box for snakes, coyotes and criminals. I mostly carry my XDS .45 and a bodyguard .380 for backup. my wife is a good shot and when we go somewhere I do not worry to much about her being in the pickup when I step out that .357 mag is quite a deterrent.

  14. LOL…never leave your car running with the door unlocked. I’ve seen much worse. Recently I was at a local grocery and a young woman was parked next to a cash station(no drive through) with her door open,engine running AND ear buds on. I yelled at her(loudly). Never noticed me at all. I could have easily jumped in her SUV or kidnapped her or who knows what. Duh indeed.

    • Maybe you should have locked the car and closed the door… Bet she wouldn’t do that again.

  15. My wife carries a PK380 and trains the safty operation on her gun.
    But that is why I like her to have on her bed side my fullsize S&W without a safety and if she needed my nightstand gun it is an XD40. Both just grab and pull the trigger like the Glock. At home the S&W is 16+1 and the XD is 12+1 She shoots all three at the range so it should be just point and click (bang).
    I don’t want to think of all the safety types and I don’t want her to either.

  16. You guy’s have got it all wrong!
    Your supposed to get your wife to go in the store, not the other way around!

  17. My Spouse can operate my guns, though not instinctively and she will be slower to the presentation of an operable firearm than I. That said, she will shoot when the need comes and she knows that the firearm is her best bet at defense and so will stay at whatever gun she has until she gets it running.

    She also trains with me at empty hand skills and is actually good. Her double leg take downs are apt to plant anyone who doesn’t have grappling experience up to about 250lbs and it’s her favorite gambit, drop low, charge and take the legs then roll out for a getaway while the target is stunned.

    I actually give her a higher likelihood of a takedown than a DGU since she doesn’t carry, but given a gun, I have every confidence she’d use it in extremis.

  18. Good story with a happy ending.

    My wife is familiar with my Glocks. She doesn’t have much shooting experience, so it helps to keep things simple. I’m still working on getting her a CCW. She’s a great wife, but not a great tactician. Oh, well.

  19. Good story, and some important lessons.

    On a tangent note, that’s pretty awesome that you knew Al Mar.

  20. I retired from a 30 year career in Southern California as a upper manager in a large police dept. I taught firearms laws in the police academy, attained a “master class” rating within our agencies difficult “Col Cooper” based firearms training and for a short period of time, was an instructor at Front Sight Firearms (a moon lighting position). I also compete in three gun matches (a rarity among law enforcement officers).

    I carried all the time.

    One December while , my wife had borrowed an extension cord from a neighbor for Christmas decorations. While off duty, we were driving from a wedding to a wedding reception across town and she spotted a K-Mart store (Parole Mart) in a bad part of town. She asked if we could stop in and purchase a replacement cord and I hesitated. I explained my concern about this store and she said “but it’s right there”, so I pulled in.
    I was wearing a suit with coat, concealing a Para Ordinance P-14 .45 cal 1911 style semi auto with two spare mags (I was a Det Sgt in Robbery Homicide at the time and duly paranoid).
    All went smoothly until the checkout line, where we heard a scream at the front door. Turns out a career criminal, let out of our local correctional facility due to Fed Cap (the population reached a level where mandatory release kicked in) was making a “non-interest capital withdrawal” from store inventory by concealing same under his clothing along with a box cutter.
    A female store security officer took exception to his clumsy attempt and tried to stop him just outside the front door. The miscreant used his box cutter and went to work, cutting the female security officer about the face and neck so badly (narrowly missing her carotid artery) she needed over 200 stitches to close the wounds.
    Upon hearing the blood curdling screams, I pushed my wife down behind the check stand counter along with the female clerk and ran toward the door. Others were applying towels and cloth to the bleeding clerk, so I gave chase.
    I was able to overtake the bandit in the parking lot and kicked his back running foot across his forward foot resulting in a face plant in the parking lot for him.
    We were immediately surrounded by female members of his “support group” (a common inner city tactic to intimidate apprehension).
    I had drawn my firearm, placed the barrel inside his mouth and release the safety due to the horrendous injury he inflicted upon the security officer. I would have been well within my agencies shooting policy if I had pulled the trigger as he was still armed with the box cutter.
    He realized the danger he was in and froze as per my request. He did not know who I was . He also heard and felt the safety come off the firearm.
    His support group then began yelling their threats of creating upon my person great bodily harm when I mentioned that any unintentional giggling of my person may result in the discharge of the firearm, currently residing within the mouth of their provider.
    I did not try to cuff him due to the fact that I was also keeping his support group under close scrutiny.
    I used my cell phone and called our communications center on a “insider” phone number. I asked the dispatcher if she recognized my voice and she said “yes” (I did not feel comfortable giving my name out loud in the current environment).
    I told her what was going on, that I was surrounded by “hostiles” who may or may not try to rescue their cohort and gave my location. She said “got it” and I immediately heard sirens of the cavalry coming to my aid.
    The store clerk survived (after 7 surgeries – the last two plastic surgery) to repair her face and neck.
    The offender was sentenced to 8 years for robbery with great bodily injury.
    My wife became a believer in my shopping intuition.

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