I work in a local gun store. This is a place that offers a wide selection of firearms for a broad audience of gun enthusiasts. If you’ve ever been into a gun store, you know how the pattern goes. You’re looking through a glass panel at a rack of different pistols and a sales associate or clerk comes up and strikes up a conversation.
The point of the conversation is to help steer, educate, and ultimately sell a gun, ammunition, and some accessories to get that customer equipped. But before we get to the cash register, let’s talk about the conversations that are had.
Surprisingly, it’s not the first time buyers that I catch slipping in terms like ‘clip’ into the conversation. I struggle not to wince when I hear a potential customer describe a firearm he’s looking at as an ‘assault pistol’. I’ve had to explain more than once that there is a very big difference between a full metal jacketed round and a jacketed hollow point.
But all of those terms are completely forgivable and easily corrected usually within the space of a single conversation.
You know what gets to me?
It’s not my first time buyer, standing across the counter, talking about his or her first negligent discharge.
For reference, a clip is a device used to hold multiple rounds together so they can be loaded into a magazine. A magazine is a way of storing bullets. Magazines can be fixed or removable.
A moon clip — a way to store bullets for fast reloading of a revolver — is an example of a clip. A moon clip stores the bullets in such a way that they can be quickly loaded into the cylinder of your revolver. When you load rounds into your old Winchester hunting rifle, that’s an example of a fixed magazine. When you put a new magazine into your pistol, that’s a removable magazine.
Every gun that fires more than one bullet per chamber will typically require a fixed or removable magazine.
Got it? Good.
Now, when it comes to the term ‘assault pistol’ or ‘assault rifle’, I have some real sour news to deliver. Just like the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, or a good time with the IRS, there is no such thing as an assault pistol or rifle. It’s a made-up term.
Great. We got those terms out of the way.
Here’s an actual story I encountered from a former customer in the shop. He was an older gentlemen, in his early-70s, and seemed rather glum when he walked in through the door. It was noon time during the weekday, so our shop was empty. I greeted him and he halfheartedly waved back before proceeding over to the 1911 section of the shop.
I see him looking at a Rock Island Armory 1911. It’s an affordable 1911 that has somewhat decent reviews. I walk over.
“See you’re looking at the Rock Island,” I say as I notice that the glass above the counter really needs to be wiped down. “What’s your interest in 1911s?”
“Well, my wife says I need to scale it back a bit. Do they make 1911s with a manual safety?”
Scale it back a bit? That’s a first.
“Manual safety?” I ask.
Sadly, I’m sure they probably do make a 1911 somewhere that has some sort of manual safety but none of the ones we carry at the shop have one.
I look around through the Kimbers, Sig Sauers, and Wilson Combats. I don’t see any of our 1911s with manual safeties. Without wandering back to ask my manager, I decide to inquire a bit deeper.
“Well, the good thing about 1911s is you got your finger as the safety,” I joked.
His face grew pale. I get the foreboding sense that there’s more to this visit than meets the eye.
“I don’t carry with a round in the chamber anymore,” he quickly muttered.
…Anymore? Something’s not right.
“What’s your interest with a manual safety?”
The older gentleman shifted uncomfortably.
“Yanno,” I said, changing the conversation, “there’s a couple really great DA/SAs with decockers. A decocker is a great thing because you can carry with a round in the chamber but keep the hammer in double-action mode.”
“All I’ve ever carried are 1911s,” he interjected. “But my wife won’t let me have one anymore.”
“Why won’t she let you have a 1911?”
“I shot the rug.”
I quickly scan the store to see if anyone else is around to hear this. I look into his cloudy blue eyes and see he’s obviously broken up.
“Why’d you shoot the rug?” I asked, realizing that I can go ahead and likely kiss a sale goodbye but now I’m downright curious.
“My gun went off.”
“Your gun went off?”
“Like went off on its own?”
He nodded again.
“How did the gun go off on its own?”
He rubbed his hands nervously and looked around.
“I been carrying the same Colt .45 for thirty years. When I get ready to go out, I take it and put it in my holster. And for thirty years, same gun, same holster.”
I’ll be damned but I swore I could see his wrinkled eyes mist up.
“So, you took the gun and you put it in the holster and it went off.”
He nodded glumly.
“I was upstairs and my wife was downstairs in the kitchen,” his voice began to stammer. “And I put the gun in my holster and it don’t feel right. It don’t fit. So I pull it back out and slam it back in. That’s when the bullet went. It went through the floorboards and landed downstairs.”
That’s a hell of a way to wake up in the morning.
“I’m guessing your wife wasn’t too pleased to see a hole in the floor boards.”
He chuckled. Good, at least he’s brightening up.
“Let me ask you a question, if you don’t mind. What type of holster were you using?”
“It’s an old leather holster. Fits right on my belt.”
“Did you bring it with you?”
He thinks about it for a second and I’m guessing he does.
“Could you bring it in for me?”
He nods his head and heads out the door. A few moments later the old man returns with his leather holster. It definitely looks like it’s seen its share. An outside the waistband leather holster, it had just a single simple metal clip that held onto the belt. The edges of the leather were worn by sweat and slightly folded in.
Sadly, as a veteran CN staff writer, I had certainly seen my share of what happens when bad holsters meet loaded guns. But I also know that there’s no such thing as an accident.
“So what’ll happen to your Colt?”
“Wife says she’s giving it to our son. Says when I find one with a safety, maybe that’ll be okay.”
I realize, at this point, that I could sell him on any number of guns under the promise that they’re safer. I could sell him on a new holster. Heck, I could even sell him on special bullets. But instead of doing all that, I know what I’m going to do. I reach over by the register and pull out a business card for a local NRA instructor.
“You know what a negligent discharge is?” I ask the man.
“You mean accidental?” He replies warily.
“No such thing as an accident when it comes to firearms,” I reply.
I hand him the card to the instructor. He takes it and looks it over, a little puzzled.
“This guy offers a course twice a month that helps people learn things they didn’t know about guns. He don’t charge a lot and he’ll even let you use a few different guns. I want you to take a course with him and when you’re done, let’s talk about a new holster and maybe a new pistol — if you even need or want it by the time you’re done.”
We exchanged pleasantries and parted company. As much as it hurt to turn away a sale, I could tell he was pretty shaken up by the whole incident. And as much as someone thinks he knows about guns after years and years of using and carrying one, if he doesn’t get why a negligent discharge occurred, then it’s time to figure it out before someone gets hurt… Least of which possibly him if he puts another hole in his wife’s rug.