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COMPROMISING IN THE WORLD OF CONCEALED CARRY
The world is full of trade-offs: those things — as you’ve likely experienced a time or two — that you have to give up in return for other things. The idea is that some things cannot truly coexist; they require what
calls “a balancing of factors all of which are not attainable at the same time.”
Some of these trade-offs are pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things.
If you don’t turn down that third helping of lasagna and garlic bread, for example, you might end up on the couch in what’s commonly known as a “food coma” for the rest of the night.
But maybe you only see your maternal grandmother once a year and have decided that your favorite of her homemade meals is worth a few hours of feeling uncomfortable.
Other trade-offs require a bit more foresight and scrutiny. If you want to live out in the country, for example, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that it’s going to take longer to reach help — or to have help reach you — in an emergency. But maybe that improbable worst-case scenario is something you’re willing to accept in exchange for the view and the sense of peace from your back porch.
Indeed, some of life’s trade-offs are so inconsequential that you probably don’t even think twice about them.
Others are a lot more complicated — even having implications that can mean the difference between life and death.
And so it goes too in the worlds of firearms and self-defense.
If you want a gun that’s small enough to carry in your pocket, for example, it’s probably only going to hold between five and seven rounds. But if you want a gun that can hold 16 rounds, it’s probably going to require a different and perhaps more uncomfortable mode of carry. And there it is: the trade-off.
Size is just one thing you must think about when you’re selecting, training with and carrying a gun that might someday save your life. There’s also caliber, capacity, action type, safeties, sights and more to consider — along with another whole slew of more-personal attributes: how the gun fits in your hands, for instance, or how well you can manage its recoil or how quickly you can get it out of its holster.
When it comes down to it, you have to decide what you are willing to give up in order to get something else.
If you want the added security of a manual safety, it’s going to take you more time to get your gun into action.
If you want to carry your gun in a purse, it’s going to require that you be 100 percent vigilant about where that purse is at all times.
And if you want the confidence of knowing you’re ready to use your firearm as an absolute last resort against an imminent, unavoidable threat of death or great bodily harm, it’s going to require that you make the time to train with that firearm.
Remember, in the world of concealed carry, despite all the choices about which gun to choose and what ammo to feed it and whether to carry it on your belt or in your pocket, two factors matter more than any others:
That you have your gun with you when you need it and that it works when you need it to.
The rest is up to you.
INDEED, SOME OF LIFE’S TRADE-OFFS ARE SO INCONSEQUENTIAL THAT YOU PROBABLY DON’T EVEN THINK TWICE ABOUT THEM. OTHERS ARE A LOT MORE COMPLICATED — EVEN HAVING IMPLICATIONS THAT CAN MEAN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH.
SMALL GUN, BIG MEMORIES
When it comes to “pocket guns,” the conversation really must start with the derringer. The history of the original pocket pistol goes back to about 1852, when Henry Deringer introduced his tiny muzzleloading caplock. About 15,000 of these little single-shot pistols were manufactured, most of them in .41 caliber and with barrels from 1.5 inches to 6 inches — perfect for concealed carry.
We apparently arrived at the generic term “derringer” because of a misspelling in the press following the murder of Abraham Lincoln. John Wilkes Booth used one of Henry Deringer’s pistols to assassinate the president.
The design almost universally identified as a derringer nowadays first appeared in 1866, when Remington manufactured the Model 95. The company made about 150,000 of these double-barrel pistols featuring an exposed hammer and a tip-up barrel. The most common chambering was the .41 Rimfire, which produced a muzzle velocity of only about 425 feet per second. (For reference, that is about half the speed of a .45 ACP round.) Thank goodness the .41 Rimfire fell by the wayside, but the design of the pistol has remained largely unchanged.
That’s the style of gun my father first carried — illegally, I might add — during the riotous era of the mid-1960s in Milwaukee. He toted the gun in a crappy little suede IWB holster. He bought the gun mail-order from Herter’s in Minnesota. It’s a little chrome pistol marked on the sides of the barrels: “Western Derringer cal .357” on the left and “Made in Germany” on the right. The top of the barrels says, “Herter’s Inc. WASECA/
Minnesota” and carries a four-digit serial number. I’m pretty sure he paid less than $20 for the gun.
Recently, I have fired the gun a few times to get a feel for it, but I have never launched full-house .357 Magnum rounds. Maybe I should ... just to see the fireball and feel the recoil once or twice.
I bring out the little pistol every now and then, wipe it down and reminisce. My father bought the gun before I was born.
He would sometimes load it with .357 shotshells and dispatch gophers and chipmunks and then complain about the recoil. Even as a kid, I began to understand that guns that were easy and comfortable to carry could be uncomfortable to shoot.
But there is a reality that comes with this dichotomy: If you need a gun, nothing else will do. The best gun to have in a gunfight is the gun you have with you when the gunfight starts. So even though that little derringer is not perfect, it is better than nothing. And it was all he could afford at the time.
Years later, as a young gun writer, I asked him why he chose that gun and how he intended to use it should the need ever arise. His plan was to use the gun to keep people off his car if he got caught up in violence as he drove to or from work. He said he figured attackers would likely back off if he fired his two shots at the guy closest to the driver’s door. Then he could keep driving to get away from trouble. (Maybe it wasn’t a perfect plan, but at least he had some idea of what he wanted to do.)
He said the gun was cheap and easy to hide. This was important, as there were no concealed carry permits issued in Wisconsin in the 1960s, and it would be nearly 40 years before the courts would declare open carry legal. So keeping the gun out of sight was critical.
I may never carry this little derringer as a defensive tool, but I’ll keep it forever. My kids will likely sell it off after my passing, but until then, I have some great memories and cool stories surrounding this little Western Derringer.
And maybe that’s all I need.