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How a sane man gets to be a gun nut
    I do not remember when the bug first bit, it seems as if I always had an interest in firearms. I joke with friends that it is the result of too many James Bond Movies when I was a kid. There may be some truth to that. It seems as if guns are always associated with competence, heroics, and resourcefulness. Movie brainwashing aside, I do see firearm ownership as a guarantee of freedom, and self reliance, there are other factors too, but the right to own a gun is a major part of the picture. An armed citizen has the means to be responsible for his own security, and to deal with any threat to it, whether from a four legged creature, or from one that walks on two. Guns are also, frankly, lots of fun. A day out shooting up the woods makes me feel like a little kid, and even a day at the range can be very satisfying, particularly if my scores are good. There is also the matter of the history, and (dare I admit it) the function and purpose of a gun. I have guns which have been in WWII, and one that was in WWI. I have the some of the same models which were used in Viet Nam, Dessert storm, Korea, and just about every conflict fought within this century. It is almost like holding a piece of history in your hands. Then there are the qualities of the guns themselves.
    Guns are fascinating items in their own right. They are finely crafted (at least the ones I own are). They are dangerous, intricate devices. They are expensive, and they have a certain mystique to them. This was the high tech item of maybe a hundred years ago, back when mechanical devices were the cutting edge of engineering. The basic principles of firearms operation have not changed in hundreds of years, and the mechanics of most of the current firearms have not changed in at least the last hundred. Even the specifics of most guns have not changed in fifty years or more. Yet the gun is still thought of as a high tech, or at least a highly functional, item. Handling a well made gun is a pleasure. The good ones are finely balanced, sturdy heavy devices, and are beautifully finished. I have a Walther PPK, and a  Colt Gold Cup which are so finely blued and burnished that they have an almost jewel like quality to them. The same can be said for my Berreta M96, and for a number of my other guns. They are beautiful (though I think that the preferred word, when speaking of guns, is handsome).
    Not knowing exactly when, I also have no idea why I became such an adamant gun enthusiast. Certainly, it was not through any any sort of diffusion. My parents were not interested in firearms. My mother had the dislike of firearms, which is shared by so many of her sex, and my father had no interest whatsoever. There were never any firearms in our household. A couple of my uncles deer hunted, as do many people in Wisconsin, as did a few of my cousins; but I was never involved in any of this. I suppose that it could have been, as I often joke, due to an excessive number of James Bond movies, as well as The Man From Uncle, and the realated television shows and movies which seemed to pervade much of the sixties. I never had much of an interest, at least as a child, in the whole cowboy genre; but had always been fascinated by seeing the heroes, the spies, the soldiers, and the other apparant saviors of the world, fighting the good fight. These people all shared, in addition to their trustworthiness, goodness, and moral uprightness, an ability to protect the innocent, and to put the bad guys in their place. They were, you see, men doing what men have traditionally done. Sometimes this involved the use of their fists, often it involved the use of firearms.
    The first firearm that I can recall seeing, was on the belt of a police officer. This was while growing up on the south side of Milwaukee. I was perhaps 7 years old. Though I had known nothing about guns at the time, the memory is clear enough that, in retrospect, I would guess the particular gun to have been a S&W Model 10, or Model 15 in 38 special. I recall the scene vividly, including most of the details. I had, of course, seen many police officers before, previous to this incident; but this was my first ever close up view of one. He was a beat cop, which was something that we still had here, back in the mid sixties. He had stopped at a police call box (something else that we still had here in the sixties), to report in, or some such thing. I was playing on the sidewalk, and said hello to him, as he passed, which was what children did back then, when a police officer passed. He said hi, and then stopped at the call box, just about even with where I was playing.
    I recall being impressed by the wide leather of the belt, much different from the skinny little belts that my father and I wore. I also recall being impressed by the way that he wore his cartridges in loops on that wide belt, just like a cowboy from television. Then there was the gun itself. Most police officers, in those days, wore their guns in a full flap holster. That is to say, their guns were completely covered. This officer had some sort of speed holster, with an open top, so that you could actually see the top of the gun. It was quite fascinating to me, and I tried to play as unobtrusivly as possible so as not to be sent away.
    To my young mind, this instantly made this anonymous police officer a hero. He had been polite and seemed rather kindly as he had smiled at me and returned my greeting; but here he was, armed to the teeth as far as I could tell. This had to make him a hero, kind and decent, but capable of handling a tough situation, should one arise. In truth, the gun had probably never been pulled from the holster, except for cleaning and practice; but I imagined that it had been used against murderers, robbers, and other bad men, and perhaps against spies and master criminals as well. Such are the workings of a child's mind, upon the first encounter with something novel.
    The first time I had ever seen a gun fired, was at the house of a friend of my father. He had lived out in the country, in a place that is all subdivisions today. We had been over visiting, and had noticed a gun rack on the wall. In the rack were several rifles, and a shotgun. These were pretty interesting to a young boy; but what was fascinating to me was the pistol which also sat on the rack. This was a German Luger, and I actually recognized it from television. Every boy back then, knew what a Luger was. Towards evening, we all went outside, and my dad's friend pointed the gun up in the air, and fired. I had hoped to see him shoot something, a tree or perhaps a can; but even the shot in the air had made an impression on me. I might have been ten years old.
    By the time I was twelve, I was actively researching firearms, reading about them, and enquiring of adults. I also, with my own money, began to buy the monthly gun magazines, which did not make my parents, particularly my mom, happy. At sixteen, I knew just what I wanted, and had even compiled a list, of sorts, enumerating the collection of firearms that I had deemed desirable for ownership. Though I had never fired, or even held a firearm, I was hooked. An aquantance from school offered, at fifteen or so, to sell me a small .25 automatic. I gave him $50, and he gave me nothing in return, except a lot of stories, and evasion. It was probably just as well. I am not a country boy, had no experience with firearms at the time, and at the age of fifteen would have probably done something stupid, and possibly dangerous. Had he actually presented me with a pistol at fifteen, I may have learned a much harder lesson, at a far greater expense than a mere $50. This was my first real aquantance with the concept of  Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware), though it would be at least another five years, and several gun shows latter, before the lesson would be learned completely.
    My first actual purchase of a firearm was of a Remington single shot 22 rifle, purchsed at a pawn shop, just days after my eighteenth birthday. I got rooked on this one too, though not as badly as on my first purchase attempt. I would have been better off going to a gun shop. The rifle was in good condition; but I paid probably half again what is was worth. I recall my hands practicaly shaking as I got my first firearm home. I then had to go out and purchase ammunition. There are few things in the firearms world cheaper than 22 ammunition. This was a single shot bolt action rifle. As such, it would take just about any type of 22 ammunition. The inscription on the barrel said "22s, 22l, 22lr only", as a warning not to use the 22 magnum. So the gun would take 22 shorts, 22 longs, and 22 long rifles. I purchased 100 rounds of each type. My second purchase was of a Remington 870 pump shotgun, just a few months latter.
    Looking back on the whole thing, I can only say that I was incredably niave. I had never visited a range, and had never actually fired or even handled a gun before. Looking over the little rifle at the pawn shop, before deciding to buy, was the first time I had actually had my hands on a real gun. I knew nothing about them, despite my reading, and had no experience, and no gun saavy friends. I was alone and in the dark in regards to firearms. I did not know where to go and shoot my gun, and after a week ot two could hardly stand it any more. I had to find something to shoot, some sort of target; but what, and where?
    Living in the middle of the city, my first target was an old abandoned car, partially stripped, which was conveniently located in a vacant lot about 100 feet from my bedroom window. I raised my window just an inch or two, and rested the gun barrel on the sill. Taking carefull aim at the trunk of the car, I squeezed the trigger. There was a crack, much higher in pitch than I had expected. I immediatly pulled the gun into the room, and lowered the window, ducking down. I waited several moments. I had expected to hear sirens, or possibly a scream, or people shouting. After all, a gun had just been fired in the middle of a major city; but there was nothing. I slowly raised my head to look at the havoc that I had wrought. Peeking from the lower corner of my closed window, I saw nothing. Had I missed then, or had the gun misfired, despite the crack I had heard? Looking closer, and more carefully I saw it. At first I wasn't certain. There seemed to be a small black spot, almost unoticable. Had it been there before? I couldn't tell, and there was only one way to know for certain. Carefully hiding my awesome tool of wanton destruction, in the closet, and feeling like a murderer returning to the scene of the crime, I went outside to look.
    Pretending a nonchalance that I certainly did not feel, I slowly walked up the parking lot, to the little wild area back behind the guard rail. This had become a sort of a mini dump. The abandoned car sat back there, along with bottles, discarded appliances, and assorted garbage and junk. Slowly meandering up the guard rail, I shot a quick glance over to the car. A smile crept across my face. The dark spot in the center of the trunk was a hole, just smaller than the tip of my little finger. I had hit the trunk of a car from 100 feet away; what a marksman! Had I hit the broadside of a barn from the same distance, probably no less dificult, I could not have been more pleased. I had actually shot something with a gun!
    This first experience, I have to admit, was pretty stupid. It is not something that I am proud of, and I only include it to demonstrate how little I knew about firearms, firearm safety, and the possible consequences of improper firearm use. Had there been, as there often is today, a derilect, or some other person sleeping in that abandoned car, I may very well have killed a man. Fortunatly, luck was with with me, since experience, and wisdom obviously were not.
    My first pistol was a Colt Police Positive, which is a medium framed .38 revolver. I bought this gun from a friend of mine, and wish I still had it. I was ninteen at the time, which is actually too young for a pistol purchase. I suppose one or both of us could have gotten into trouble over the matter; but niether of us really gave it any thought at the time. The Police positive is a medium framed revolver, based upon the same D frame as that used for the Colt Detective Special. This was a marvelous little gun with a great trigger, and good accuracy. At ninteen, and tweny, I was too young to legally buy pistol ammunition; but found this to be little problem. The little Police Positive came with 100 rounds of 38 special ammunition to get me started. I also now had friends who handloaded, and werre happy to provide me with ammunition for the cost of materials.
     My first Auto pistol was a S&W M59 (this one bought when I was twenty one, and legally eligable to buy), which was quite a gun in it's day (this was back in the late seventies). My first actual rifle was a Winchester Model 94 lever action, in 30-30. The winchester had a peep site and a few other additions, and I immediately went out and added a ten shot magazine to the 870. Within a year I had a pretty healthy collection of guns, and went to the range regularly. I was lucky enough to meet up with a group of gun enthusiasts at my place of employment, and was soon shooting in pistol leagues. Those were great days, and I learned a lot about shooting and gun handling, and about the lore, and lure of firearms. Among true gun enthusiasts there is an almost religious fervor about safety, self reliance, and responsibility. I suppose this should come as no surprise, since in the absence of any of these qualities, a dangerous article like a gun could do great harm.
   I was fortunate enough to meet a man who was a factory trained gunsmith as well as a state pistol and rifle champion. We liked each other, and he sort of took me under his wing. He was about thirty years older than I, and his hands eyes, and reflexes were not what they had once been, but he was still the best shot I have ever seen. His gun knowledge was encyclopedic, and, most important of all, he had good common sense (not so common these days). He was a home firearms dealer, which is something I attempted years latter without success. He also loaded his own ammunition, and even cast his own bullets, something which seemed almost magical to me back then. It has been about thirty years since those days, and I now find myself beginning to take on the role of mentor. It is now me who is asked to look at, fix, or give advice about guns. I now reload, and have a whole book full of loads I have worked up, or have come to like. I load up ammunition for my friends and for myself as an economy, and for the pleasure of doing it. This must just be the natural order of things, but it is strange to see myself slowly taking on the role of this man that I used to know and respect.
    I am now a confirmed gun nut, with all of the knowledge, experience, opinion, and lore which seems to define the breed. I can not say when this happened, when I turned from a person with an interest in guns, into a full blown enthusiast. It may be my FFL which did it to me, or perhaps my reloading press, or maybe it was after the purchase of my first dozen guns, or the thousandth time I went to the range. whatever the cause, I am hooked good. Freedom, responsibility, self reliance, and accountability, these are the burdens which good people gladly take on, and the rights which good people demand. These are also the burdens, and rights which the self serving, the lazy, and the parisitical elements of society have no interest in. Fortunately this means that most of these people will have no real interest in firearms, and I will not be seeing them at the range or out in the woods. It is a shame that these people do not make themselves equally scarce in the city streets, the voting booth, and public office.