An Editorial by Mark Freburg
(Jan 2, 2014) I've observed something I consider a truism about gungeeks, especially as we get older and belted with experience. Sure this is a generalization, but when it comes to human beings, what isn't?
I find that that we gungeeks tend to fall into one of two categories.
Category A is the guy who believes he knows a LOT about guns, or at least in his field of expertise, and that others should either follow his advice or they're nincompoops. I believe that unfortunately this is too large a category and one we aging gungeeks should strive to avoid. Either that or we will be lonely, perhaps famous and lonely but thought of as pompous asses by others until the day we die. Even now, there are young gungeeks in their 20s and 30s that are developing into just the sort of person who will be a Category A pain in the tush once he gets older and loses patience with everyone.
Surprising to some, a lot of people thought the late Col. Jeff Cooper was a Category A, especially late in life. Fortunately for Cooper, he was surrounded by a loving family and legions of followers who believed he was, in fact, right about darn near everything. They allowed him his "attitude" as a privilege of the elderly. Not everyone carves out such a niche of popularity based on a body of work over a lifetime. Some just end up crusty and crabby and avoided, or in a group of similar Cat A types. If asked in private I could name you a number of well-known older gungeeks in the firearms world who are (or were) pretty much Cat A types, if people knew a little more about them in person--or sometimes just read between the lines. Heck, in previous generations, some made no bones about it, but these days it isn't PC to go around calling everyone an idiot if they don't agree with you. And really, it is no way to win friends, and never has been.
Category B is the fellow who also believes he has learned a LOT about guns, and he is willing to offer advice, but he realizes that all people are not the same, and thus what really and truly works best for one doesn't work best for everyone. He accepts that people are simply not all wired the same. Probably the first time a lot of us come to understand that not all humans are wired the same was when we really gave more than a moment's thought to the opposite sex. (By that I mean women, or men if you are a woman. I know the popular term is "gender," but gender refers to words, not people. "Sex" identifies people, and I won't be PC about words, at least.) At some point in your life you probably came to understand that the opposite sex is wired differently than you are wired. It shouldn't be much of a stretch to understand that it is not just the sexes, it is humans as individuals--and that's the key. We are all individuals, and wired as such.
What's this got to do with gungeeks, and aging? Simply that as we age and reach a certain level of learning, we are going to express opinions, some of us more, some less, depending on our experience and knowledge as well as our proclivity to do that. We are going to have understandings that we will want to pass on to others. The Category B type is going to have transcended the idea that there are pat answers to complex questions that involve firearms choices. Obviously I'm talking about performance here. Let me digress for a moment.
You may know I'm a handgunner, and as one with an interest in history and sociology as well as modern tactics. I read a lot as well as shoot. A lot of my shooting over the years has been with different types of handguns, because I believe the only way to really know and understand them is to achieve a certain level of competence with them that cannot be achieved from reading, by handling, by minimal shooting as you might do with a friend's gun or a rental, and certainly not by listening to "the experts," who so have an agenda that you might as well carry a BS meter and fresh batteries anytime you are around one. To that end, after a few decades, I've got an idea about how different handgun systems perform, and feel comfortable commenting on them as one person offering a responsible opinion. From here I can become a Category A or a Category B type fellow.
I picked up an old book from my library shelf a couple days ago, to review. It's written by a well-known gunsmith who specializes in the M1911 for "serious" use. The fellow has been at it a while and continues in business. This book is about 15 years old. In the first chapter, on selecting guns for use by "serious shooters" (a term I've really come to dislike because it implies a pejorative, though I cannot offer a replacement), the author picks apart every type of handgun action, resulting in the single action auto as the only obvious, sensible choice. He then went on to caliber, picked apart every choice, resulting in choosing the .45ACP as the only obvious, sensible choice. Granted, the book dates from the late 90s, so I'm going to cut him some slack because of the advances we seen in over a dozen years, but let's look at this as it applies to my theory.
First, his comments on handgun types. His arguments were box stock typical as normally offered by the 1911 crowd.
(Note: keep in mind you are reading the comments of a dyed-in-the-wool M1911 lover here! But I no longer attend service at the Church of the Big Hole, because I really have no patience for any denomination that claims "our gun is the only gun," or "our caliber is the only caliber." You go anywhere in the firearms world and this sort of attitude abounds. And it shouldn't. That's Category A thinking.)
The 1911 is not the ne plus ultra for every handgunner. Fact is, I think it is the best thing since women's hemlines climbed above the ankle, and fact is, it probably truly is a great choice for the largest percentage of shooters. So what am I saying in the first sentence in this paragraph? What I am saying is that not everyone is suited for the 1911. Not everyone will take to the safety system, not everyone will do their best with the trigger, superb as -I- believe it to be. I have spent years with the Smith & Wesson and the SIG-SAUER traditional double-action autos, the Glock pistols, and even the double action revolvers from S&W and Ruger (and to an extent, Colt). I also have close friends who are true masters with those pistols I mention. Based on my personal experience and having watched my friends shoot over the years, I know--I have empirical evidence--that these types of handguns are not the poor choices the author of the aforementioned book makes them out to be! And depending on one's training, and on one's dedication to practice, one of them may be a better choice than an 1911 for some people. People are not all wired the same. We covered that, right?
Oh, this next bit is rich, and I have to share it. This is one of the standard excuses we gun savvy "experts" like to use, and I admit to using it myself, although I don't believe it quite so blatantly, leaving myself so open to challenge, and never in a published book. (On the other hand I've never been published, so good on him--I'm just a poser writing on an Internet forum.) Again, this isn't a current book, so perhaps this argument has gotten sillier since this book was published? One can hope. He counters the self-presented argument that a DA revolver is good choice for the untrained handgunner to use due to its simplicity of operation, then shreds it by saying that an untrained handgunner has no business carrying a gun. Well d'uh. You hear this a lot in certain circles (primarily from males from 25 to 45 sporting goatees and shaved heads, generally dressed in logo'd black polo shirts and khaki cargoes with tactical boots. They will have a kydex-holstered Glock or or possibly a SIG, depending on their camp.) They like to say that shooting 1000 rounds a week is "about average" for "serious shooters." Over time I've realized the inanity of this argument. Obviously, it's true on its face. But a better argument if we must use that one is not the "untrained" person, but the moderately trained person.
The truly untrained person should not have a gun--but rarely does. What is way more common is the moderately trained person, as well as the trained who may have experienced very good training in fact, but never kept up by doing any personal practice. These people exist everywhere we turn, and must be accounted for. While we might like all handgunners to be ninjas like ourselves, they are not, and will not ever be. You will never solve the problems of the real world by pretending they don't exist. However, if you do choose to train up the untrained or poorly trained, one shooter at a time, good on ya. Spread the wealth of your experience. But even the Clint Smiths of the world must realize that not every shooter goes home and continues to shoot 1000 rounds a week. If we were all police tactical team members with the department buying our ammunition, heck yeah! But I fear even that has changed a bit in this budget conscious world.
One result of the great expansion of concealed carry in this country is that more and more people who are most assuredly not gungeeks are carrying guns. We all should do everything we can to get them trained up, but we should have the tools in our "bag of advice" to help them out when we realize that they are, again, not headed for that gungeek black belt that you and I are, of course, both wearing. Bottom line, if you decide that you are now Gungeek to the Stars, it seems to me that you probably ought to realize that while it might be nice if everyone you encountered wanted to become just like you, and thus was the perfect candidate for your approach to guns and shooting, and, in this case, tactical doctrine even...but in reality, it isn't so. I think a real Category B type (wondered if I was getting back to that, didn't you?) is going to process that and accept it.
On the other hand, if you think you are going to change the world, because YOU, or your little group has all the answers, you might be a Category A type. And when we listen to, or read, these folks words, I think it's something to keep in mind. There is every likelihood you can learn something from those who've gone before you and learned "it" already--likely from someone who went before them, of course. But just because they say it, and even if they make their points eloquently, doesn't mean they are always right. Try things for yourself. If you are a real gungeek, the most important aspect of your gungeekiness is shooting. As opposed to having someone else tell you how it is.
I believe that reading and studying and collecting and stuff is important and fun and useful, but if guns are strictly an academic exercise, you don't really have the gungeek gene. You can probably stand up in some lecture hall or write scholarly books about Japanese Matchlocks from 1458 to 1547, but you're not a gungeek.
And when you've learned a few things, pass them on when asked. And accept that others have learned a few things on the way as well. And realize that you might have some different ideas, and both might be right. Back when I was a kid someone said "different strokes for different folks," and it made sense. It makes sense now. I think that makes me a Category B type, as far as my little sociology observation is concerned.