By Timothy Tarkelly
I bought my first pistol for concealed carry earlier this year. I’ve been around firearms my whole life and have hunting weapons and a .22 LR revolver for plinking, but it was only recently that I decided to take the next step and purchase a pistol that’s actually designed for self-defense.
As a newly-married public school teacher, I don’t have a ton of money to throw around, so I made a price-conscious, but reliable choice. Of course, a lot of gun enthusiasts, Facebook trolls, content creators, and even writers for reputable magazines would have me believe that I’ve wasted my money.
When I set out to research my options, I found an insurmountable mass of conflicting information. Whether it was based on brand, price, caliber, or concealability, there is a wide range of competing narratives around what “works” and what doesn’t.
What I found is that for every possible variable, there is a voice out there saying that if you don’t buy exactly what they tell you, you’re simply doing it wrong. This form of gun absolutism in the concealed carry world is antithetical to its goal: educating and arming the public.
That won’t happen if we allow gun culture to remain in the hands of arrogant commentators who have sold out our goals in the pursuit of controversy and clickbait.
Every gun owner has their own personal preferences and needs, and that’s a good thing. We develop them based on our experiences and our aspirations. One may say that a Remington .30-30 is the best deer rifle because all three times they used it they got a deer. Similarly, they may say a slug gun is the best weapon for deer because someone they know and trust uses one to great success.
There is nothing wrong with those approaches. However, it becomes unproductive when we decide that our experiences (and those we may aspire to) are the only ones that count.
Bagging the right game or tearing up a bullseye with your firearm of choice doesn’t give you authority over the experience of others. It’s actually possible for two things to be true. Two (or more) guns can simultaneously be good choices.
Hunting and shooting forums are rife with baseless claims amounting to “your GLOCK can’t be a good gun because my Springfield is the best.” Even more egregious are claims based on financial privilege.
It’s All About The Money
Authority is often unearned. If someone writes a review, he must know what he’s talking about, or so we often subconsciously decide. However, if you read the subtext of various gun reviews you can see the comparisons they’re drawing and where they come from.
The gun-buying audience is diverse. We come from a variety of economic backgrounds, but reviews across the web (and sometimes in reputable gun-related magazines) would have you believe we are all materially wealthy. When looking at a review for a budget-friendly manufacturer, reviewers occasionally disparage what they find, not because it’s objectively bad, but because it’s different from what they’re used to.
The reviewers aren’t actually saying the guns don’t hold up or perform well in their intended use. They’re saying they don’t compare to their high-dollar competition.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to own a Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun. Off the shelf and with no modifications, its MSRP is $1,7200 (actual retail is about $1500). When someone suggests to their reader to “go ahead and spend the extra grand for a gun that will actually work,” they’re telling us a whole lot about their worldview and how they view their readers.
In my entire life, I’ve never had an “extra grand” I could throw down on anything, especially when there’s an effective alternative for much, much cheaper.
This attitude extends beyond the few writers who clearly have a brand-oriented agenda. Brand loyalty makes sense if the brand has met your needs time and time again. But if it’s based on anything else, you’re just giving a company that doesn’t care about you free advertising, and paying a steep price in the process. Regardless, it shouldn’t be used to fuel weaponize one’s preferences.
People don’t realize how much their views are skewed by what they have. Looking at some of the claims gun enthusiasts make regarding brand, price-point, and “effectiveness,” we see a lot of brand absolutism and fanaticism out there.
“If you don’t care enough about your life to spend over $500, don’t even bother.”
I recently read a Reddit discussion about a Smith & Wesson revolver and its Taurus equivalent. My question essentially boiled down to, “Since they’re basically the same, is the S&W worth the extra money?” The learned response I got was, “If you don’t care enough about your life to spend over $500, don’t even bother.”
Is that really what we believe? If we want everyday citizens to be armed and have the ability to defend themselves, do we really want to gatekeep over price? If someone is working hard, has a family at home, and is looking for a way to keep them protected, do we really need to police how much money they’re spending?
If someone buys a Hi-Point JHP 45 to protect their home, is our response going to be that they literally shouldn’t even bother loading it?
That line of thinking seems contradictory to a lot of other pro-gun other talking points people spout. Not to mention, when analyzing data in regards to surviving attackers, the most common factor is having a gun. Period. We all know the old adage; the best gun for defending yourself is the one you have and know how to use. All the red dots in the world will do nothing for you if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at.
When you press the naysayers, you usually find that they have no experience with the weapons they’re so triggered by. If they’ve used them at all, you similarly discover that they didn’t use them properly, didn’t clean them, bought the wrong ammo, etc.
There is an even more likely scenario: they didn’t know how to use it at all. If someone has only ever shot a high end 9mm with a comfy grip and a compensator, they might be overwhelmed by how much one feels a .45 ACP bullet run through a stock polymer pistol.
Finding Your Preferences…And Your Haters
We could sit around all day and debate about how many rounds one needs to be truly “safe.” In fact, I have spent a whole day debating this before on a camping trip as my friends and I spent a weekend shooting each others’ guns at an outdoor range.
When it comes to pistols, I like small guns. I don’t know why. Maybe, it’s because of my childhood obsession with James Bond and his small but notoriously lethal PPK and its tiny, single stack magazine.
My EDC gun is a subcompact pistol: the Taurus G2S. I tried every pistol in its price range and it was the one that fit my hand the best. It was as simple a decision as that. I haven’t had a single feeding issue, and I’m pretty damn accurate with it.
I own a simple IWB holster for it as well. For a hunting trip I’m going on soon, I decided I wanted an OWB holster that would keep the gun covered as I moved through the forest and braved the cold, wet weather. I purchased a Sneaky Pete holster that keeps the gun completely enclosed. I love it, by the way. I honestly might use it for EDC through January and February when I’m fully bundled in my winter coat.
I posted a picture of it on Facebook and got a surprising number of negative reactions. Let me be clear: this was in a Facebook group for Taurus owners, and I still was getting a lot of blowback for my gun (and holster) of choice.
Of all of the negative comments, my favorite is a pair I received from one user. He first said, “What the actual **** is this wannabe holster? I suggest getting a better holster.” That was followed by “And it’s the single stack. Hope you don’t need more than 7 or 8 rounds.” I edited these to improve grammar and remove emojis, but the point remains.
He was hardly an outlier. Go to YouTube and look at “serious” gun content creators talk about minimum round counts for concealed carry. In the same breath, they’ll tell you that the difference between 10 and 12 rounds can be the difference between life and death, but that if you’re not willing to carry more than 8 rounds, you shouldn’t even waste your time carrying a pistol at all.
I realize that my budget-oriented approach may seem strange to a lot of people. When I went to buy a new shotgun, I wanted something that could bag game as well as serve as a home-defense weapon. I am the only person I know who goes squirrel and goose hunting with a Winchester SXP Marine Defender, but I do, and it works.
What’s the point?
Why do we own guns? I thought we were all in this to exercise our rights and defend our lives. It just seems that far too many people are in this for other, less obvious reasons.
Some just want to flex the worth of their toys and feel like they’ve purchased proof that they are, in fact, better than everyone else. We’ve tied too many false notions (many about themselves) to their gun ownership.
It’s not a tool designed to make you feel tough or invincible. It isn’t some form of means to a social end. Perhaps, we should all evaluate what draws us to buying the guns we do and to the online communities and publications that celebrate them.
In the meantime, I’ll proudly carry my single stack pistol in the strangest holster I can find.