The column this week is going to be a little prickly for some folks. I’m probably going to get some letters. I might get a nastygram or two on Facebook. I expect it. Some of you are going to love the column and some of you are going to hate it. In today’s climate, I certainly expect more of the latter than the former.
If you don’t like this column, but generally like my others, come back next week for more of the usual.
If this column offends you, I don’t apologize because I am writing about objects that, on their own, are machines. Simple machines. No more and no less.
I am writing about certain objects I have collected through the years and I use frequently. I am writing about classic pieces of Americana that were functional generations ago and are just as functional now.
I am writing about walnut polished to a high gloss and steel buffed to a brilliant sheen. I am writing about form and function. I am writing about something that has been woven into the fabric of this country since it was a cluster of colonies.
I’m writing about guns.
Those of you who are going to stop reading because of guns, I ask you to not to disengage so quickly. I ask you to take a few moments and read this column as you would if I were writing about my daughters or my cat or my fight with the foil lid of a yogurt cup. I wish that you’d take a moment and read the column objectively.
I don’t imagine I will change the minds of people who don’t want their minds changed. I am not going to shove the Second Amendment down your throat. I will not bore you with statistics or buzzwords or the catchy phrases the pro-and anti-gun folks like to throw around.
This is not about politics. This is not about violence. This is about one man and his collection. It says in my tagline that I am a gun collector, so this should not come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with this columnist.
Are any of you still here? Good. I thought you would be. Thanks for still reading. I know this is a touchy topic in today’s world and I hope I can put a positive and nostalgic spin on something that has been a social and topical minefield of late.
I developed an interest in guns a child. When we were kids, we played as cowboys or cops with our cap guns, running the streets of our neighborhood pretending to be the heroes we saw on television and in movies. Early on, it was mostly boys, but when “Policewoman” and “Charlie’s Angels” hit the airwaves in the 1970s, the girls were playing alongside us very soon. We played as both good guys and bad guys, giving each of us a chance to be a hero or a villain.
It wasn’t so much as who got “killed” because we would just get back up after losing a battle with an opponent, dust ourselves off and keep playing. The important thing was we were together, outside, spending time and staying out of trouble. Our guns kept us from doing bad things. We weren’t stealing from the corner candy store or vandalizing anything because we were too busy playing with our friends. And our guns.
I think I always knew I would own guns as an adult. I grew up in Maryland where, as I grew older, guns became harder to obtain, even as a law-abiding citizen. I obeyed the law, followed the procedures and began to purchase guns.
I learned all I could about them. I knew what they could do. I practiced safety almost to a fault. I took them apart and put them back together again and learned what each part did and why. I met like-minded folks, men and women, who told me that since I knew so much about my guns, it was time to learn how to use them.
I was taught how to shoot for accuracy and precision. I did not hunt, so it wasn’t about killing. I had no interest in becoming an assassin, so it wasn’t about violence. Precision, accuracy and personal discipline.
As I became better, I became better. Yes, I know that is redundant, so I will explain. As I became more accurate with a gun, I became more confident. Not in the way you are thinking, so erase that thought right now. I don’t mean “I have a gun, so that makes me invincible.” I mean the gun community allowed me to meet many different people from many different walks of life. I met men and women and entire families who shared the same passion I did.
Everyone was, well, normal. There were doctors and accountants, schoolteachers and clergy. We all shared the same sport and we all were equal. There was no black or white, even though there were many races included. There was no male or female, just a team coming together to share a sport. There was no economic divide. Rich and poor welcomed each other and shared knowledge.
I have collected many over the last few years. Some have cost more than others. Some I have gotten in trades or as gifts.
I have a few favorites. I carry a gun most days, a Colt Combat Commander, .45 ACP semiautomatic pistol. I know it very well and am very accurate with it.
I do not carry a gun to feel superior to any man or woman. I carry a gun because I hold my life and the lives of those near to me in very high regard. Human life is precious and we all deserve a chance to defend it if it is threatened.
When I carry my gun, I go about my business as I would if I did not have a gun. If I go to the supermarket to buy apples, I’m buying apples. My goal is to buy apples and not go broke buying apples. The presence of the pistol on my hip is merely incidental. I also have a few shotguns, but I don’t think they would be welcome when I’m buying apples. They are long and bulky and kinda get in the way sometimes.
I collect Remington shotguns. I have a few and the newest one I have is from 1970. It’s as old as I am and, most days, works better than I do.
My oldest is also a Remington and it’s from 1933. It’s a Remington Model 11 semiautomatic shotgun. It’s quite a machine. When I shoulder it, it’s long and heavy and possessing more than 80 years of history.
Four generations of shotgunners are with me when I pull the trigger and the firing pin hits the primer, which ignites the powder and pushes a fistful of tiny pellets down the 28-inch barrel. The shotgun is designed for the barrel to recoil backward into the receiver, pushing the spent shell out and scooping a fresh one from the magazine. The steel on steel makes a satisfying ka-chunk as the barrel goes back into position for the next shot.
It is a perfect meld of man and machine — or woman and machine in the example of my daughter who has a similar shotgun, the Browning Light Twelve.
For those who stayed with the column this week, thanks for reading. For those who did not, the folks who did will sum it up for you.
If ever you are out at the range on a Sunday afternoon and see me out there with the old guns, come on over. Most days I have a thermos of coffee with me and I’d be glad to share. If you happened to bring along some crullers, I wouldn’t refuse one.
We can sit there for a while and shoot the breeze. That way, I’m sure we’d both hit the bullseye.
Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.
Columnist Joe Weaver holds a 1933 Remington Model 11 12-gauge shotgun.