Saturday, January 3, 2009


We’ve taken Breda’s mom shooting a couple of times, and on her own, she took the basic gun handling course at the range we belong to. She really seems to like shooting, and my Ruger Mark II is her current favorite. A couple of weeks ago, a friend from her work, loaned her pair of pistols, and for Christmas, we had the odd reversal of roles of buying ammo for her instead of the other way around.

We got her a box of .32 acp, and took a trip yesterday to Gander Mountain for some .25 acp (you'll just have to stop by Breda's place for the range report on the mystery guns).

Since she's started shooting, I've watched my mother in law do the math on guns. In general, I think for women, guns occupy a different symbolic status than they do for men. There is of course the shooting Zen of grip, breath, front sight, and mindfulness that is universal among gunnies - the physical mastery of a machine, but there is also the realization for women that the gun is a final argument for when someone is trying to make you do something you do not want to do. When they are trying to make you let them rape you, rob you, kill you, there is a tool which says, "Not this time, not me, not mine, I win, you lose." It’s a powerful argument, and men with their greater physical strength don't really have to come to terms with. But for women, a gun truly is an equalizer.

The lady is no wallflower - been married, had kids, lived overseas, weathered good times and bad, and generally made her own way in the world longer than I have, so there is not much I can tell her. I'll give her my opinions if she asks, my advice if she requests, and point out if I think she's about to do something dangerous crazy just like I hope someone would do for me, but beyond that, she doesn't need my permission or approval for anything. Hell, next time I buy a car, I'm bringing her with me to do the negotiations - she's that good.

Is she looking for a gun for around the house? I think she's considering it. If she asks me, I'll say if she is willing to train to reasonable proficiency with it, and has examined her own mind enough to know she would use it if necessary, then yes, I think it’s a good idea.

So we were up at Gander Mountain for the ammo, and under the glass was a Beretta Bobcat. She’s asked me about these, and I’ve given her my opinion pro and con. She knows a .22 pistol is not an optimal choice for self defense, but she liked the little gun. She knows a more powerful round is preferable, but she can handle the recoil of the .22 and is comfortable shooting it, and knows that on a cost per round basis, she can shoot a lot more of it, and a .22 auto works basically the same as every other self-loading pistol, so it’s good training if and when she wants to move up.

The guy behind the counter looked to be in his early twenties, and the first thing he asked is if this is for concealed carry. He made no attempt to find out what she knew or didn’t; assumed her preferences were inconsequential and generally assumed an air of Olympian Authority no one under thirty without a closet full of gold medals should.

"Maybe," answers Breda's mom.

"You don't want that for concealed carry; you want something that will do more damage."

At this point, I thought, but did not say, "Let me load up a mag full of those CCI stingers from that shelf over there and tell me if it hurts when I shoot you with them, sonny boy."

Anyone familiar with gunshops knows what happened next.

Yep, out came the Smith and Wesson Airweight snubby.

“This is what we recommend for concealed carry,” he did not add “ma’am” but I think he thought it.

I like snubbies; I carry one; I practice with it a lot. Breda’s mom has shot it and does not care for it one bit.

She knows she could learn, not that Gander Mountain boy thought to ask, to keep the entire contents of the Beretta, on center mass, at night, in her house, half asleep. She also knows that with a .38 snubby she probably would not be able to do that.

I realize Gander Mountain is in the business of moving sporting goods, and guns are just one part of their equation, but I think they could train their staff to put a little more thought into what they are doing – the life they save could be someone’s mothers.


Laura said...

had a similarly ridiculous encounter with one of the gents behind the long gun counter at Dick's yesterday.

because i asked when they'd be getting a 10/22 back in stock, he assumed i wanted a pink rifle.

'twas all i could do not to snark back at the man. i don't give a frig if he's old enough to be my father - being condescending to a potential customer guarantees i buy nothing from his inventory, current or future.

Sevesteen said...

When we were looking for a carry gun for my wife we had similar issues at one shop. Despite telling the salesman that she was comfortable shooting a subcompact .40, didn't want anything smaller than a 9mm, and didn't like revolvers, all he would voluntarily show her was .38 revolvers and largish .380's.

Weetabix said...

It's hard to get good help for minimum wage. No one's allowed to pay them less - why should they put forth much effort?

West, By God said...

I usually recommend a .38 snubnose revolver too, if I have limited knowledge of the shooter. Most people can handle them, (although few can shoot them really well.) The biggest reason I suggest the .38 is because it is small and more likely to be carried. So if someone is interested in an even smaller gun for CC, even better. You carry a gun much more than you shoot it, so whatever a newbie chooses, it has to be something they'll actually carry.

A lot of people prefer to start small, and work towards bigger guns as they grow more comfortable with carrying the small one. As long as comfort is being catered to, I don't see the problem with recommending small guns. Heck, my first carry gun was a Bersa .380. I loved it, but I outgrew it. I'm glad I started with it though, because it allowed me to get comfortable with carrying.

On the other hand, some people (like my wife) prefer a .45ACP from the get-go.

Still, I guess it is a big pet-peeve of mine when gun shop employees think they know everything, and assume you know nothing. Instead of simply asking a few questions, they just whip out that .38 airweight. When I discuss carry with a newbie, I at least ask if they've shot a .38 snubby before suggesting it. A lot of people with minimal shooting experience have shot one (it is a common "first gun"), and hate them.

Mrs Flam said...

in Missouri I couldn't Go in any Store and attempt to buy ammo without someone talking to me as if i were stupid or try and sell me something I didn't want.

In Iowa , no one even tried to sell to me , they just smile when i go in an buy ammo.

It has a real effect on how much I shop. I wont shop where somewhere I am not comfortable.

Unknown said...

The one snub-nose that might be worth considering is the Ruger SP101 in .327 Magnum. (Which also shoots .32)

And while a lot of people exclaim that's not enough power. It's better than a .22LR and far better than nothing.

I often get the same sort of crap at places like Circuit City until they quickly realized I am far more educated on the matters.

(iPhone's are great too, because I can look up and verify a fact right in the store... *lol*)

Anonymous said...

Personal experience with my aged mom is that a snubby revolver has these advantages:
1. Will be carried.
2. Easy manual of arms (she can tell at a glance if it is loaded or not, without doing a press check or pulling a magazine out of the gun).
3. No difficulty loading it (she would have a hard-to-impossible time racking a semiauto's slide).
4. Will be carried (again).

angus lincoln said...

A snubbie isn't necessarily a .38 caliber revolver; Smith and Wesson makes a 10 shot .22lr snubbie,(a bit pricey), and Taurus makes a .22 snubbie as well. Both come in more than one configuration. I like the j-frame snubbies because unlike some of the smaller carry guns, semi-auto or revolvers, such as the NAA Mini Mag revolver, the j-frame looks like a weapon capable of stopping a threat, not just inducing a flesh wound. It's a psychological advantage to the victim. Some of the smaller ccw's may not look like much of a threat deterrent.
A good gun store sales rep should give you choices based on your needs, experience and budget.

Anonymous said...

Well, the tip-up barrel on the Bobcat is useful if she has trouble working the slide. However my main concern with a .22 is reliability.

I have a Taurus 94 (9-shot .22) revolver. If I had to use a .22 that would be my choice. For ammo I would pick Aguila SSS Sniper Subsonic that has a 60 Grain bullet.

Also remember a house gun doesn't need to be a handgun. A 10/22 (with a big mag and a red-dot)or a .410 shotgun may also fit her needs.

Ride Fast said...

I admire your restraint at not totally unloading a verbal blitzkrieg on the stupid poser.

That being said, the mission was to get ammo. Still, too annoying for me to let slide.

You're good people, taking Mom ammo and gun shopping. That's nice.

Anonymous said...

I carry concealed in an IWB holster a full size 1911. I'm lean, so I hide it well under my shirts. And the IWB holster I got is extremely comfortable.

GORDON said...

Aw Hell, Mike...
Here, you've gone and opened that same raw wound again.

I carry (frequently) an S&W Model 317 Airlite--the new Kit Gun.
Load all eight chambers with .22 Quik Shok, and lissen to 'em squeal when it hits 'em (pests, pestilences, etc.)
God, I hate to repeat it here--but I am. The best gun to have in a gun fight is the gun you bring to the gun fight, etc. etc...and it's the gun you've practiced the most with, and feel the most confident with.

See the review on .22 Quik Shok:

Love the stuff--poke it up in Mother-In-Law's mouse gun, and quit worrying.
And tell youthful know-it-alls to stifle.
God, I hate gun counter arrogance.

Great post. Thanks.

phlegmfatale said...

How disappointing.

Sometimes at lunch I'll hop over to Ray's Sporting Goods at Sylvan and Singleton in my dress and heels. That place fairly reeks of testosterone, and it's giddy-making, let me tell you. I've noticed men look surprised a little lady is trotting back to the cases for some .38 and .22LR, but then one of several people I know there will call out my name from across the store. I think even in the gun community we are facing lots of prejudice about roles and gender-based ignunce, and I think Breda somewhere brilliantly stated that what really needs to happen is there needs to be wave after wave of little old ladies and young mothers standing up and saying "I am the face of right-to-carry," and saying so proudly.

Love this post, Mike. You've got the coolest mother in law, and you can see where her daughter gets it!

James R. Rummel said...

Good post.


Farm.Dad said...

great post bud , now ill go back and read the rest of your sweet brides . Thanks for posting tho i dont necessairly agree with you lol .

alath said...

It always seemed to me that goal #1 for a new shooter was to find a gun that is pleasant to shoot and easy to build skills on.

If you can hook them with fun and accomplishment, they'll probably be back and buy 3 or 4 more guns.

On the other hand, if you throw something at them that has an unpleasant recoil sting, and wierd little gutter sights that make it challenging to shoot well even for an experienced shooter, you aren't likely to see that person back.

staghounds said...

I know of a woman who carried the same S&W hammerless for 84 years, the last time into the old folks' home.

Counter Commando would have laughed at it, someone else did. Right before she killed him.

the pawnbroker said...

hey, mike...

you showed great maturity and restraint by not haranguing the squirt; it would have really served no purpose, and he may learn better if he stays behind the counter long enough.

but the episode makes a great case against the big-box stores, and for good gunshops and pawnshops with good guncounters. these shops are manned (or womanned) by people who have learned to shut up and listen to what the customer wants and needs before offering up expertise and recommendations.

the big chains do usually have more inventory of course, and sometimes better prices, too. but that is often at the cost of competent employees. and most good shops will try to meet competitor pricing if asked.

the kid was probably just trying to help/and or show that he absorbed what basic sales training he received regarding what questions to ask and what models to suggest...just like those overanxious young gel-haired salesmen at car dealerships ("what can i do to earn your bidness today?")...they have a little worksheet of what to push at who and what to say to objections, with little time to let the customer be the guide.

go to gander to handle the merchandise, then ask the good guys at the range shop breda has written about to try out (rent) what mom likes, and when she decides, ask them to order just the one she likes best and to meet the big-box price...they, and mom, and the young'un at the counter that you won't have to dress down, will appreciate it.


John B said...

I get bribed by gun shop owners to bring in my fluffy female friends. I can give eyebrow that hurts the being on the receiving end. When I did consulting my ownself, my advice was identical to the worthies on this comments page. The best gun in a fight, is the gun you bring to the fight. I been pushing 7.62X25 Tokarevs and CZ52's, and Makarovs. Mainly for the cheap ammo. Get a threaded barrel and a muzzle brake for the Tokarev caliber, it's all the gun you'll ever want. It's all the gun my one lady friend wanted until I got her a Tokarev, and then got her hooked on Gunbroker.

Anonymous said...

I think the sin committed by the Gunstore Commando that was of greatest offense was OFFERING HIS OPINION. The first and ONLY thing he should have asked is, "Is there anything you'd like to compare it to?" He might have asked, "Would you folks appreciate any help in making your selection?" Otherwise he should SHUT THE HECK UP.

When I ran a store, we had to constantly pound into our staff's heads that THEY WERE NOT THERE TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT THEY THOUGHT. They were there to help people buy what they wanted. If they were asked for advice, then they were free to give it. If not, then shut up. Strange things about gunshops. . . . Frequently your customers know as much as you do. Sometimes more. Occasionally, a LOT more.

I had one newbie counter help try to critique an AR-15A2HBAR, showing off it's strengths and weaknesses, and why his favorite clone was superior and anyone looking at a Colt was dumber than a bag of hair. This might have worked if the customer wasn't the retired Colt Production engineer for the AR line, who was only asking to look at it to see what was current. The rest of the staff (who knew the engineer) were trying very hard not to laugh out loud, and the engineer took it in good humor, asking technical questions one after the other, each more difficult, until the counter guy finally figured out that something was up.

Gunstore Commandos should be Seen But Not Heard. Gunstores that enforce this dictum have much more repeat business, and much happier customers. Just my $.02 worth.


Shell said...

Weetabix said...
It's hard to get good help for minimum wage. No one's allowed to pay them less - why should they put forth much effort?

January 5, 2009 2:47 PM


Because they're being paid to do a job.

How many times have you said or heard someone else say in a job interview, "OK, for that much money I'll give you, say, a 65% effort, and as the pay goes up so will my percentage of effort until I'm paid enough to give 100%."? You never have and you never will.

When you take a job you're told what you're required to do and how much you'll be paid for it. If you said you'd do the job for the amount offered your self-respect ought to require you to honor the agreement.

Anonymous said...


I wasn't condoning that attitude - just acknowledging that it's out there a lot. I should have made up a tongue-in-cheek symbol or something.


Shell said...

Might shouldn't've jumped so hard on that, Weets, but it's been one of my workplace pet peeves for a long time. From being a worker bee having to do someone else's work in order to get the job done because they're "not getting paid enough" - and the boss is too gutless to fire 'em for it - to being the boss and canning people who won't work because they're "not getting paid enough" to do the job they're being paid to do. I loathe people with the attitude.

MNW said...

This reminds me of an old story about Uziel Gal that I've heard from a few people (including one guy who witnessed him do it)

Uziel 'Uzi' Gal retired to Philadelphia so that his daughter could get treated at on of the local hospitals. He used to amuse himself by walking into a shop an chatting up one of the clerks behind the counter. If he saw a Uzi in the rack he'd ask to see it and promptly detail strip it. Depending on the tenor of the employee he would either reassemble it in record time and then introduce him self as the designer or introduce himself and leave a pile of parts on the counter. Apparently he was well know for doing this and it became a kind of passage at some shops.