Hi! I'm Paul. I'm a husband, father, and professional archaeologist in Tennessee. I'm an avid shooter and advocate for responsible gun ownership and safety. I'm opinionated, but open to different ideas. Feel free to contribute to the discussion, but make it logical and think before you post!

Hi! I'm Paul. I'm a husband, father, and professional archaeologist in Tennessee. I'm an avid shooter and advocate for responsible gun ownership and safety. I'm opinionated, but open to different ideas. Feel free to contribute to the discussion, but make it logical and think before you post!


The word ‘tolerance’ gets thrown around a lot these days.  Often, it is being screamed by someone demanding  someone else be more tolerant of some belief or behavior.  In many cases, I’m not sure the term is being applied properly.  Before we get started, let’s have a look at the definition of the term tolerance, as provided by Merriam-Webster:

tolerance: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own; the act of allowing something.

Obviously, there are other definitions, but this is the one which applies to our discussion here.  Tolerance, in my opinion, includes the ability to accept things with which we might not agree or understand.  Sadly, the term is generally not used this way in current discussion of politics and social issues.  “Tolerance” to many exists only when others agree with and argue for their view of the world, no matter how narrow it might be.  There are many behaviors which I simply don’t understand, but I have come to accept that people that indulge in those behaviors are still good people and have a right to conduct themselves in the way they see fit.  Whether I understand it or not does not matter.  I just have to accept it.  However, I do not have to go out of my way to support the behavior, only the person.  In addition, I was raised to “mind my own knitting”, a Georgia way of saying that I should look to my own house and not worry about what others are doing, as long as they aren’t causing others harm.  One example is homosexuality.  I don’t understand it at all, but I accept that I have many gay friends who are great people.  I want them to be happy and not have to worry about being treated like second-class citizens.  I’m not likely to show up at a Pride parade, but I’m not going to judge anyone based on their choice of partners.  And, simply put, it’s none of my business!

The antithesis of tolerance is intolerance, another term which gets used a great deal these days, usually in conjunction with some political disagreement.  The way it gets used now includes a suggestion of hatred on the part of the person accused of intolerance.  It is important to remember that disagreement does not necessarily imply hate.  It is sad that we have come to a place in our discourse where this simple fact has been forgotten.  I have seen with increasing frequency those who claim to be tolerant being quite intolerant.  This has been going on for many years, but has really become a major issue since the presidential election.  I have said for years that no one is less tolerant than a leftist, and they are showing it to be true.  I can’t understand how anyone could vote for Hillary Clinton.  But I accept that some people felt like she was the better option.  This single fact does not change my opinion of people who I know personally.  If we were friends before the election, your vote isn’t going to change it.

Unfortunately, I have not seen the same level of tolerance from the left.  I should be used to it, since it’s nothing new.  I mean, we’re supposed to tolerate all religions, but Christians can be insulted at will.  We’re supposed to tolerate so-called alternative lifestyles, but anyone who simply supports traditional marriage is attacked and labeled as a bigot or homophobe.  We’re supposed to celebrate people of different cultures, but those of us who are proud of our Southern heritage, warts and all, are labeled as ignorant racists.  Gun owners are called a litany of names.  All of this is perfectly acceptable to so many “tolerant” individuals, because they don’t have to tolerate that with which they do not agree.  As aggravating as this is, it has gotten so much worse since the election.  I have been called everything but brother, only because of the way which I voted.  The pure hatred which spews forth on social media from the left is disturbing.  It is coming from people whom I thought were more mature than that, people who have been outspoken but respectful in the past.  It sent people who were already intolerant right over the edge.

There are many things which we should never tolerate:  racism, sexism, religious persecution, etc.  But attacking people’s intelligence and moral character over their vote is really just shallow and immature.  It smacks of sour grapes.  In closing, I’ll say this: if you’re going to yell and scream about tolerance, you better check yourself and make sure you’re being tolerant.  You don’t have to like it or agree with anyone, but you do have to accept their right to an opinion.  You never know, they might be right.



Taking the Oath

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

This is the oath sworn by people when they become a naturalized citizen of the United States.  If you’ve ever seen one of the ceremonies where they actually recite this oath and become Americans, you know that it is a powerful moment.  The recent controversy over immigration has been on my mind.  I’ve wondered why anyone that goes through so much to get into this country wouldn’t just go ahead and become a citizen.  I’ve been doing some research on that subject, and came across this oath.  I’ve seen it before, but it has been a while, so I read through it again.

If you stop and think about what a person is actually saying when they take the Oath of Citizenship, you realize how profound a thing it is to become a citizen.  Take a moment to read it and think about what it means.  The very first sentence requires you to renounce any allegiance that you have for a foreign government or leader.  No matter where you were born, where you came from, or what form of government that you lived under, you are saying that you will no longer follow that leader or form of government.  That alone is a powerful statement and a step not to be taken lightly.

But then it goes on to say that you will obey and defend the Constitution, that you will bear arms against our enemies or serve the Armed Forces in a non-combatant role if required, that you will work for the national good if required, and that you will do all of this of your own free will.  Wow.  That is quite a commitment, especially for someone not even born here.  How much love for a place and hope for the future must you have to take this oath?  Seems like quite a bit to me.

In thinking about what this means, I was struck by the fact that so few of our elected leaders live up to what we require of naturalized citizens.  I don’t think that most of them have even read the Constitution, much less are willing to support and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic, or bear true faith and allegiance to it!  Some of them have actually borne arms on behalf of the United States and they are to be commended.  But they are the minority.  Can you imagine any of the self-important performers in Hollywood taking this oath?  How about the faux-intellectual media hacks that tell us what to think every night?  No chance.

Here’s something to ponder: would you take this oath today?  Read it and think about it.  Go line by line and ask yourself if you would do what it asks you to do.  Would you make this commitment, knowing all the benefits and hazards of living in a free society?  Could you do it without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion?  I know that many of you reading this would do it without reservation.  But the sad truth is that far too many native-born American citizens would not. Far too many of us have forgotten what it truly means to be a citizen of the United States.  Thankfully, the naturalized citizen that takes this oath and native-born citizen that believes in what it stands for are what keep this country strong.

Good, but Not Good Enough

In November of last year, in McMinn County, Tennessee, a 13 year old boy was attempting to unload a rifle and accidentally shot and killed his 17 year old sister.  Incidents like this frustrate me terribly because they are 100 percent preventable.  There is no reason that this should ever happen.  As a gun owner and parent, gun safety is something about which I am passionate.  I demand safe gun handling in my house and anywhere else that I go where firearms are being handled.  Its actually very easy to handle modern firearms safely.  Its almost impossible to make one fire without actually pulling the trigger.  And yet we still have accidents.  I think that’s unacceptable.

The good news is that incidents of unintended injuries and deaths caused by firearms is at an all-time low.  According to the 2016 report on firearms related injuries issued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (nssf.org/PDF/research/IIR_InjuryStatistics2016.pdf), the incidence of unintended fatalities involving a firearm have decreased 57 percent over the last 20 years.  In 2013, 586 unintended fatalities out of 136,053 involved a firearm, or 0.4 percent.  Keep in mind that there are approximately 350 MILLION guns in the U.S., but only 586 unintended fatalities involved a firearm.  Only 0.6 percent, or 400, of the 69,500 unintended fatalities that occurred in the home involved a firearm.  The news is also good when it comes to unintended fatalities involving children (14 years of age and under).  In the last 20 years, the incidence of unintended deaths of children involving a child decreased 73 percent.  Only 1.3 percent (50) of the 3,857 unintended fatalities of children involved a firearm.  Almost every other sport is more dangerous than shooting.  A cheerleader is 29 times more likely to be injured than a hunter with a firearm!

Those numbers are undeniable proof that, by and large, gun owners are safely handling and storing their firearms.  Modern firearms are manufactured to be as safe as possible and still be useable.  Training programs provided by the NSSF and the National Rifle Association are working to make people safer.  This is great news, but we can do better.  These numbers should be zero.

The way to accomplish this is training.  Training takes many forms, from formal classes to a parent instructing their child to all of us correcting people that we see at the range doing something unsafe.  Parents, it is incumbent on you to teach your children how to behave around a firearm.  I don’t care if you think guns are inherently evil and should be eradicated from the earth.  If you pretend like they don’t exist and that your child will never be around them, you are drastically increasing their odds of injuring themselves or someone else.  Children are naturally curious and you simply can’t control their environment all the time.  You do have control over your firearms and it is your responsibility to control access to them.  It takes some thought, but there are ways to keep them away from your kids but accessible to you.  The other way to tame that curiosity is to familiarize your kids with firearms.  If you aren’t comfortable doing that or don’t have that knowledge yourself, then find a trusted friend that can.  If you ask me to help you with this process, I will not say no.  At a minimum, your kids must know that they are never to handle a firearm without you present and that they should tell an adult immediately if they find one.

As for formal classes, I am not for mandatory training.  “Mandatory” requires some form of governmental involvement.  We’ve got plenty of that already.  But I would like to see gun sellers offer free classes on basic gun safety with the sale of every firearm, especially those buying their first gun.  New shooters should seek out a formal class or consult with a friend that has experience with firearms.  Again, if you ask I will help you.

Being safe with firearms comes back to the Four Rules of Gun Safety.  Many of you will know them by heart, but for those that might not be familiar, they are:  1. All guns are always loaded; 2. Never point a gun at anything that you aren’t willing to destroy; 3. Do not touch the trigger until your sites are on target and you are ready to shoot; and 4. Be sure of your target, what is around it, and what is beyond it.

If everyone would follow these four simple rules, there would be no negligent discharges, and therefore, no unintended injuries or deaths involving firearms.  But break just one of these rules, something bad can happen.  Break more than one and it’s almost guaranteed.  Anytime that I hear of a negligent discharge because “the gun went off”, my immediate thought is “bull”!  Guns do not, will not, CAN NOT go off unless the trigger is pressed or there is a major mechanical malfunction.  Given the quality of modern firearms, the latter seldom happens.  People get injured because other people break one or more of those four simple rules.

If you don’t know, I’m a competitive pistol shooter and I carry concealed every day.  I handle a pistol a lot.  I took a training class a few years ago with a Grand Master level shooter.  At the end of a drill, I was preparing to holster my pistol and I forgot that I still had a round in the chamber and I failed to clear it.  We always drop the hammer before we holster, as another layer of safety.  When I pulled the trigger, it went bang, much to the chagrin of my instructor and my embarrassment!  Fortunately, I was obeying the other rules and no one was injured and no damage was done, other than to my nerves.  I tell you this to emphasize that even those of us who handle firearms every day need to be aware of our safety.  It takes one lapse of attention to make a major mistake.

The bottom line is that the shooting sports are some of the safest activities in which you can participate.  But when injuries do occur, they tend to be serious and often involve innocent bystanders.  American gun owners do a great job of keeping themselves and those around them safe.  I’m very proud of that.  But we can do better.  Every single negligent discharge is preventable.  Let’s work to make the number of unintended injuries involving a firearm zero.

You Did This

It has been a while since I last wrote, but I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a while.  After the presidential primaries, I kept asking myself how we came to be in a situation where Hillary and Trump were our major party candidates.  Ever since Trump was elected, I’ve tried to understand how he won.  I honestly did not expect him to win. With the media squarely on her side and not even bothering to pretend otherwise, I thought it was a forgone conclusion. I personally felt like he was the “least terrible” of the choices, but that’s about it.  Now that he has taken office, I’ve seen several conversations discussing why he won.  It’s usually chalked up to Hillary being female, the FBI, Russians, aliens, or any number of other ridiculous excuses.

So what led us to a point where Trump seemed like the better choice?  How could he win a free election when very few people honestly liked him?  Sadly, it comes down to anger; an anger that has been simmering and building over the last 8 years as the social fabric of this country has been torn apart.  What does that mean?  It means that the Obama administration and all of the people that supported him are directly responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump to the office of President.

The so-called Affordable Care Act is a case in point.  There was a completely unnecessary rush to pass that bill that completely ignored alternative ideas that were put forward.  We end up with a giant bill that not one person read prior to having to vote on it.  It got crammed down our throats and now thousands of people that were paying for their own health insurance either can’t afford it or are getting half the benefits for twice the cost.  If you supported that, you did this.

The left lost its collective mind when the president of Chick Fil A stated that he supported traditional marriage. He didn’t say that he hated gay people.  There was no indication at all of any sort of discrimination toward the company’s employees or customers.  But that didn’t matter.  Those that do the most yelling about tolerance once again showed that their rhetoric doesn’t apply to themselves.  Boycotts and demonstrations were held in an effort to damage his company, never mind that the damage would be felt only by his employees.  And don’t forget that many of those employees were getting help paying for college by this hateful company.  But that didn’t matter.  If you were one of those boycotting Chick Fil A, you did this.

In 2014, 18 year old Michael Brown assaulted a convenience store clerk in Ferguson, Missouri, and stole a handful of cigarillos.  As he strolled down the middle of a public road, he was stopped by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.  Brown chose to ignore the officer’s instructions, then decided to fight him.  The result was that Officer Wilson had to shoot Brown, who was killed.  As it happens, Brown was black and Wilson was white.  Instead of waiting to find out what actually happened, the media immediately assumed that shooting was racially motivated.  There was no evidence of that being the case, but it made a good story and they went with it.  Their attacks on Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department helped fuel riots that destroyed numerous businesses and led to several nights of violence.  Obama called for the nation “to remember this young man through reflection and understanding” and offered sympathy to his family.  No such sympathy was offered to Officer Wilson, whose life was destroyed because he did his job.  The entire incident was investigated, as it should be, and Wilson was found to have not been at fault.  All of this was just a waste.

Sadly, this scenario would become all too familiar in the months to come.  Every time an officer, who happened to be white, had a violent confrontation with a criminal, who happened to be not white, it was assumed that the officer was a racist pig and vilified immediately.  The media went out of its way to show video out of context to convict the officer in the court of public opinion and this was continuously supported by Obama.  This shameful situation has led directly to the deaths of police officers across the country as militant thugs feel justified in attacking those whose job is to protect them.  Those of you that supported the unrest in Ferguson and Obama’s handling of that mess, you did this.

Gun owners constitute a major block of voters, and tend to actually do just that.  They also tend to be responsible, law-abiding citizens.  But if you actually believe anything that was said about gun owners by the Obama administration and his pets in the media, you’d never know that.  During his administration, he lost no chance to place the blame for any crime committed with a gun squarely on the estimated 44% of Americans that legally own a firearm and never commit a crime with it.  It wasn’t the criminal, terrorist, or maniac.  It wasn’t the deplorable state of mental health care.  It wasn’t activist judges releasing criminals from jail.  No, it was you, the legal gun owner.  The only solution ever discussed by his administration was expanded restrictions on ownership.  And since very few people actually supported those ideas, he tried backdoor attacks in the form of pressuring banks to illegally deny loans to businesses in the gun industry.  His justice department thought it was fine to send guns to Mexican drug lords in some crusade to prove that American gun shops were supplying the guns, which proved to be false and directly resulted in the death of at least one American Border Patrol agent.  If you supported any of this madness, you did this.

In 2009, a US Army officer murdered 14 of his fellow soldiers in cold blood at Fort Hood, Texas.  As he started shooting, he yelled “allahu akbar”, the favorite battle cry of Islamic terrorists everywhere.  It was proven that he had been in contact with Al Queda operatives just prior to his attack.  But Obama declared it to be a case of “work place violence”.  It was only years later that he finally admitted that it was terrorism.  In July 2015, four Marines and one Sailor were murdered in Chattanooga, Tennessee by a young, Islamic devotee of Anwar Awlaki. His attack was obviously carefully planned.  It would be months before the administration would finally admit that, yet again, US citizens had died at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists on US soil.  Now, it is an absolute fact that the vast majority of American Muslims are peaceful citizens.  We all know that.  But there are cases where the worst of their faith have influenced others, convincing them that they are somehow doing something righteous by committing murder.  But the Obama administration was too busy trying to convince us all that terrorism wasn’t happening here, and if there was, it was somehow our fault.  If you think that calling a radical Islamic terrorist a radical Islamic terrorist is somehow intolerant or somehow anyone’s fault but his own, then you did this.

After 8 years of Obama and his cronies, there were a whole lot of us that were tired of it.  We were tired of being made the scapegoat for every bad thing that happened while no attention was paid to those that actually caused the problem.  It was obvious that Clinton promised only 4 more years of the same.  For me personally, I voted for Trump only because I did not think that the best thing for this country was four more years of wedges being driven between us based on race, religion, or economic status.  For some, Trump’s angry rhetoric mirrored their own anger at the situation that we find ourselves in, and I understand that, too.  So how did Trump get elected? If you supported Obama and his administration and their divisive policies, you did it.

Yes, Lydia, there is a Santa Claus

I knew that last year would be our last year for a visit from Santa.  My daughter was 12, and I suspected that she had things figured out.  She had the good sense to keep it to herself, but she knew.  This year, she has made no bones about it, she no longer believes in Santa.  I knew it was coming, but it still makes me a little sad.  Sure, it’s just part of growing up and I’m glad that she is maturing and starting to behave more like an adult.  But they get to believe in the magic of Santa for such a short period of time!  They’ve got their whole lives to be realistic, cynical adults, but only a few years to enjoy the wonder of Santa.

But, I do believe in Santa.  She and I talked about it a little yesterday and I told her that I still believed.  She gave me that sideways look that those of us with young teens know well, so I explained myself.  Sure, there is no fat guy in a red suit flying around in a sleigh and sliding down chimneys.  And yet, Santa is very real.  Santa is the embodiment of the spirit of giving that is such an important part of Christmas.  Santa is the fun of watching the eyes of younger kids sparkle when they talk about him or see him.  He’s the joy of giving gifts which is even greater than receiving them, and helping those who need it.

I love this time of year.  Yeah, it’s hectic and stressful and expensive, but it’s fun and fulfilling, too.  That’s what we try to focus on.  So, yes, I believe in Santa Claus.  I hope she always does, too.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Aunt Lou’s House

I’m fortunate that my job sometimes involves wandering around and exploring places where most people don’t, or won’t, go.  Sometimes that means woods, swamps, or forgotten corners of old farmer’s fields.  But sometimes it means places right out in the open where people have just stopped looking.  Every now and then, these explorations result in finding something interesting; maybe not significant in terms of the legal definition of that term, but important just the same.

Last week, we were heading to an area to survey by crossing over a large clearing where a housing development is being constructed.  In the middle of an area that has been cleared down to the bedrock in places, stood a small farmstead.  The house was very small, just three rooms.  Two of the rooms were part of a frame house that looked to have been built sometime in the early to mid-20th century.  The third room was a hand-hewn log pen that formed the rear of the house.  It was still standing, but in poor condition.  The windows were mostly gone so the elements have begun to take their toll.  There was no sign of indoor plumbing and no fireplace.  A flue marked the location of a wood stove in the corner of one room.  The only thing that we would consider a necessity that we could see was electricity.  The farm buildings around the house were constructed of small logs left in the round and rough-sawn lumber.  All were obviously built by the farmer and showed that ingenuity and adaptability that most farmers seem to possess.  I could tell that they made do with what they had.




Looking around the interior of the house was a little disturbing at first, as the entire floor in all three rooms was covered by what appeared to be trash.  There were some pieces of busted furniture, cans, and jars, but most of it appeared to be paper.  We could see newspapers, magazines, and lots of unidentifiable stuff.  But we could also see envelopes that held letters and cards, coloring book pages, and school work.  Two small school portraits were found on the stove just inside the log pen, one of which was inscribed to “Aunt Lou”.  This house wasn’t just full of trash; it was full of somebody’s memories, full of their history.


I’ve seen this kind of thing before, and I always wonder about the people who lived there and what happened for all of this stuff to get left behind.  Did “Aunt Lou” have to leave her little farmstead to live with relatives or in a facility in her later years?  Did her family move away before she passed?  Did they not have the means to go through it all?  Did they just not care?

I don’t know how this place came to be the way it is and I don’t know what happened to “Aunt Lou” and her family.  I’ll probably never know.  But part of my job is to record this exact kind of place, and it’s a part that I take very seriously.  It’s very easy to say, “eh, it’s just another little farmstead”, write my report, and go on to the next project.  Honestly, that’s just the reality of this business.  But I know that I may be the only person who cares about this place at all.  I may be the last person who looks at it as anything but an obstacle.  This house isn’t a mansion or a plantation house, and as far as I know, no one who you’ve ever heard of lived there.  But it’s a place where someone’s Aunt Lou lived.  It’s a place where tough people worked hard in rough conditions to make a living.  It’s a place where kids were raised and came to visit.  It’s a place like thousands of others in the rural South, but like no other to the people who lived and visited there.  Yeah, it’s important.

By this time next year, there will be beautiful new homes, with manicured lawns and HOA fees where Aunt Lou’s house used to be. I suppose that’s progress.  But somebody out there remembers Aunt Lou’s house, and I’ll make sure that it’s remembered in the historical record, too.


One of my friends (an actual friend, not just a Facebook friend) told me this week that I have nothing to worry about from a Trump president, seeing as how I’m a straight, white male and all.  Basically, I was told that my white privilege would save me.  In a week where I’ve been called many names based on my vote, this is the only one that really made me mad.  One of the concepts so widely pushed by the left that makes me the maddest is that of some sort of privilege based on skin color, gender, or whatever.  I hate it.  It makes me crazy!

But I’ve been thinking about it, and honestly, I am privileged in a lot of ways, but not the way that my friend meant.  Here’s what I mean.

I am privileged to have been raised by two loving parents that worked their butts off to provide us with everything we needed and a lot of stuff we just wanted.

I am privileged to have had great educators that were willing to share their knowledge about their subject and life in general.

I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work my butt off to educate myself and pursue a career that I love.

I am privileged to be married to an amazing lady that has supported me always, no matter how stupid the decision!

I am privileged to be the father of a great daughter and have the challenge of raising her to be a decent person.

I am privileged to get to work my butt off in a career that challenges me every day.  I am privileged to have the scars, callouses, bad knees, sore shoulders, and gray hair that go with it.

I have the privilege of having a mortgage, a car payment, and a kid that is going to need braces and will be going to college before I know it.

I am privileged to live in a country where I have the opportunity to do these things.  I am privileged that so many have been willing to sacrifice to protect that opportunity.

None of these things is the result of my skin color or gender.  I had the privilege of putting in the work to capitalize on that opportunity.  Don’t come at me with any ‘white male privilege’ crap.  Because here’s the truth of the matter.  We ALL have that privilege, if you’ll get past the excuses and just take it.

We all lose

I voted this week.  I didn’t want to.  I don’t feel good about it and I’m not proud of it.  I’m one of those 8 out of 10 voters that say they are repulsed by this campaign.  Repulsed by both major party candidates.  I don’t think that either one is qualified to run this country or is deserving of the honor that the office once held.

When you boil it down, I felt trapped.  There is no way that I will ever vote for Hillary Clinton.  I don’t care who she is running against.  I don’t care for what she is running.  I will never, under any circumstance, voluntarily help elect her to any office.  With that said, the alternative this election was nearly as objectionable.  I think, at best, Trump is an actor.  But, when it came time to flip the metaphorical lever, I had to make a choice.  I had to ignore that both individuals are terrible human beings and cast a vote.  I really had no choice other than to vote for Trump.  I’m not happy.  I’m not proud.  I just didn’t feel like I had a better option.

This election has been like no other that I’ve experienced.  I’ve never seen one that was more contentious or made more personal by people on both sides.  So many times, I’ve seen people say something like, “If you vote for Trump/Clinton, then you’re a (insert insult here)”.  I’ve seen this from people that have friends and family that did just that.  I think people need to think about things before they make that kind of a statement.  They need to remember that a vote for a candidate does not necessarily equal support for that candidate.  I have never actually voted for a presidential candidate; always against their opponent.

In spite of my vote for Trump, I am none of the following:

  1. Racist
  2. Sexist
  3. Misogynistic
  4. Xenophobic
  5. Ignorant
  6. Islamophobic
  7. Hateful

If you think that I am any of these things, then we probably aren’t actually friends.  I don’t care who you sleep with, where or if you go to church, what color your skin happens to be, where you’re from, or what your political leanings might be.  If you’re a decent person, we’ll probably get along.  Treat me with respect, and I will reciprocate.   I think most people are that way.  The idea that who you vote for immediately classifies you as some sort of “deplorable” is nonsense.  Friends, we are all smarter than that.  I hope that your love for your family and friends runs deeper than any political allegiance.

I don’t know who will win next week.  I do know that regardless of the outcome, if we let it come between friends and family, we all lose.

What I Carry

When I first started to consider actually carrying a handgun, I began looking at the various models that fit that role.  I knew that I wanted a semi-automatic pistol rather than a revolver.  I love revolvers, but the cylinder creates a lot of bulk for the ammo capacity that it gives you.  I wanted the caliber to be .40 Smith and Wesson (.40 S&W), as 9mm ammunition at the time wasn’t great and I didn’t want the bulk of a .45.  At 6′ 1″ tall and 175 pounds, I’m not a huge guy, so that pretty well meant that full size pistols were not going to work.  Not long before that, Smith and Wesson had released Compact versions of its Military and Police (M&P) series pistols.  They came in the major defensive calibers, including .40 S&W.  The M&P 40c came with a 3.5″ barrel and a 10 round magazine.  Two magazines were included, one with a flat floor plate and one with an extension so your pinky finger had a place to go.  I decided that I liked it and was able to buy one.  It was a great little gun!  It was relatively accurate, easy to shoot, and easy to conceal.  It shot well enough that I actually used it when I started shooting competitively!  I don’t recommend that you do that, but that’s what I had at the time.

In the meantime, Ruger released its LCP, a tiny little .380 pocket pistol that started the current craze for little bitty guns.  I thought that it made a lot of sense, especially since I had discovered that concealed carry was more work than I thought it would be.  It seemed like a great idea to have a smaller pistol that I could just stick in my pocket if I didn’t want to deal with the bigger gun.  And it filled that role nicely.  But with its size came issues.  It was very hard to shoot and impossible to shoot well due to its short barrel, light weight, and incredibly long trigger pull.  I get it, you don’t want a sensitive trigger on a pocket gun, but this was ridiculous.  The .380 ACP round is pretty marginal as a defensive round, but it produces recoil all out of proportion to its size.  That, combined with the pistol, meant that I hated shooting the thing and didn’t practice with it.  I ended up selling it.

So, fast forward to last year.  The Action Pistol group at my club does a big match every year as a benefit for Toys for Tots.  Part of your entry fee is a toy that goes to this very worthwhile program.  Its a lot of fun and we always have a great turn out.  The prize table is also pretty impressive.  I wasn’t too concerned with the prize table last year as I had a terrible match.  I had some ammo issues on one stage and messed up some others on my own, so I wasn’t expecting much.  The way we do the prizes, however, worked to my advantage.  The final scores are divided into thirds; Gold, Silver, and Bronze, with Gold being the top third, etc.  The top finisher in each third gets to pick from the prize table first, that way everyone has a shot at a great prize.  Just by blind luck, I was the top Silver and won a gun!  I could not believe it!  I honestly thought they were yanking my chain, but it was true.

The gun was a Walther PPQ M2 in 9mm.  My first thought was that I could sell it for enough to buy the AR-15 that I was coveting at that time.  But then I picked it up.  I was immediately struck by the ergonomics of this gun!  The grip was very comfortable and angled in a way that lends itself to getting on target quickly.  I liked the way it pointed and the balance was correct.  None of that top heavy feel from which many polymer guns suffer.  Then I tried the trigger.  Wow! Light, but not too light for a defensive weapon, crisp, no creep or grit, and an extremely short, tactile reset.  Yeah, it had the makings of a real shooter!  I decided to keep it and sell my M&P, which ultimately funded the AR, but that’s a post for another time.

The new Walther in the box. It came with 2 magazines, a magazine loading tool, 3 interchangeable backstraps, an empty chamber flag, and a lock, all in a plastic case.

The PPQ M2 is the second version of Walther’s PPQ.  The original had the weird European magazine release lever at the base of the trigger guard.  The M2 has a button on the grip behind the trigger guard like God and John Moses Browing intended it to be!  Otherwise, the controls are very familiar to anyone that has every fired a polymer striker-fired pistol.  The barrel is 4 inches long and it holds 15 rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.  It isn’t a small gun, but it isn’t a full size service pistol either.  There isn’t a lot of wasted metal or polymer on this gun, so it isn’t difficult to conceal most of the time.  It compares in size to the Glock 19, which is a very popular carry gun.  I think it strikes the perfect balance of capacity, concealability, and shootability.  Click here if you’d like to see the specs on the PPQ M2 or any of Walther’s other offerings.  http://www.waltherarms.com/handguns/ppq/ppq-m2/

At the range, I really started to like it!  The first group that I shot out of it impressed me.  From a rest at 10 ft it put 5 rounds into just under an inch!  I’ll take that anytime out of a 4 inch barrel with factory ammo.  The group was  centered to the left, but that’s pretty typical for me.  A quick adjustment to the rear site and it put round 6 dead center, as you can see.  It showed a definite preference for the factory 115 grain bullets over my 147 grain handloads.  I’m not sure what the issue is, but it may just prefer the lighter bullet.  Either way, it is more than capable of putting the bullet where you want it at any normal defensive range.  walther-group

As for ammunition, the 9mm cartridge has come a long way over the past few years.  In the past, the 9mm was not known for its accuracy or its ability to stop bad guys quickly.  A quick trip to your local gun store will clearly demonstrate how much that has changed!  There are dozens of good, accurate, 9mm loads out there now, made with bullets that will ensure that your assailant leaves you alone from now on.  My personal favorite and what I keep in the Walther is Hornady’s Critical Defense round.  Hornady is really on top of the ammunition world right now, and this round is one of their best.  It is made with a 115 grain FTX bullet that has a polymer insert where the hollowpoint cavity is usually located.  This helps produce consistent expansion of the bullet at a wide range of velocities and through barriers, such as heavy clothing.  The recoil is very mild and the round is accurate.  I’ve never had a failure to feed with this load, although I’ve never had a failure to feed with any ammo in the Walther!

That’s what I carry and why.  I’d love to hear from you about your weapon of choice!  Next time, we’ll talk about how I carry.

Thanks for reading!

Why I Carry

I’m tired of writing about the sad state of politics, so I’m going to shift gears a little, if you’ll indulge me.  Most people that know me well know that I carry a concealed handgun most of the time.  The number of people who are getting their permit to carry is on the rise as more states remember that we live in a free nation.  With that in mind, I thought I’d do a series of blogs about my experiences as a permitted concealed carrier.  We’ll talk about why I carry, what I carry, and how I carry it.  I hope you’ll respond in kind so we can all learn something.  Please keep in mind that I am no sort of professional when it comes to concealed carry or firearms in general, so everything presented here is my opinion based on many years of shooting and carrying handguns.

I decided in 2007 to get my concealed carry permit.  In Tennessee, you are required to take an 8 hour class that consists of 4 hours of classroom instruction and 4 hours of range time.  You are required to pass an exam in the classroom and on the range.  I took the course at the Loudon County Sheriff’s office from a SWAT officer who was very serious about his job.  My class was made up of men and women with very different levels of experience with firearms.  The lady sitting next to me had a revolver that she had been given.  I had to show her how it operated, including how to open the cylinder!  The class was very well done, touching on most of the questions that I had coming in.  The range session was pretty easy since I had experience with handguns already.  Needless to say, I passed both exams.

With my class done, I got my fingerprints sent to the state and submitted my application and fee for a concealed carry permit late in 2007.  Honestly, it was a while before I carried after I got the permit.  It is an unnerving experience until you get used to it.  I felt like the gun was standing out a foot and that everybody around me was looking at it.  After a while, I realized that no one was paying any attention to me.  The gun became part of my daily routine, part of my wardrobe.  I’ve learned to dress to effectively hide it and have improved my rig over the years so that its more comfortable.  Now, I feel awkward without it, kind of like when you forget your wristwatch and keep looking at your arm.

So, why go through all of that? Why incur the expense and put up with the discomfort and inconvenience?  There isn’t a simple answer to those questions, and I think everyone that carries probably has different reasons.  The most obvious reason is simply for safety.  We all carry to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  In my case, its not so much about my safety as it is that of my wife and daughter.  They mean everything to me and I will do whatever I have to do to keep them safe.  Obviously, we avoid places and situations where trouble is more likely to occur, but trouble has a way of sneaking up on you when and where you least expect it.  Part of my job as a husband and father is to be ready if it does.

That leads me to another reason that I chose to carry, a sense of responsibility.  I am responsible for my own safety, as well as that of my girls.  I have nothing but respect for law enforcement and I am more than willing to let those brave men and women deal with the evil that lurks in the world.  Unfortunately, though, when seconds count, the police are minutes away.  That’s not criticism in any way, just the truth.  They can’t be everywhere all the time and I personally don’t want them to be.  That leaves me.  At another level, I feel responsible as a citizen to be available if trouble comes calling on someone around me.  I made the decision to get training and to make myself proficient in the use of my weapon.  I feel like I almost owe it to society to be prepared.  I’m not Matt Dillon and I’m not out looking for trouble in which to involve myself. I hope I never fire a round other than at the range.  But I am going to be prepared.

One question that I’ve been asked is could you actually take a human life?  My answer is yes.  I don’t answer that way lightly or without considerable thought.  If the choice was between the bad guy and either of my girls getting hurt, then there is no question.  I know having to shoot somone comes with a heavy emotional toll, regardless of the circumstances. I sincerely hope that never happens.  But, here’s the bottom line; I could live with shooting someone that was trying to hurt me, my girls, or someone else.  I could not live with it if one of them got hurt because I couldn’t prevent it.  That’s the real reason.

Next time I’ll tell you about my current carry gun, how I came to own it, and why I love it!