The Gun I Didn't Have - attempted mugging in Washington, DC

The Gun I Didn't Have - attempted mugging in Washington, DC

by Robert M. Engstrom

07/03/2009

I was walking home a few weeks ago when two young men, one with a knife in his hand, blocked the sidewalk and demanded my wallet and camera. I’m accustomed to having a means of defense other than my fist and an umbrella at hand. I’ve been in Washington, D.C. for three months and had almost gotten used to not having a weapon handy. At home in Arizona, I regularly, and legally, carry a concealed pistol and reluctantly left my guns at home and trusted on instincts and awareness to stay out of trouble.

The hoodlum who tried to rob me was unprepared for resistance and expected compliance to his demands because thugs know that the District of Columbia’s firearm laws and security measures punish law-abiding people who might otherwise carry a defensive weapon. My umbrella didn’t survive the confrontation, but I left the scene with my wallet, camera and the punk’s knife, a cheap piece of junk that is now in a storm sewer.

Foolhardiness on my part and a bit of good luck protected me, but there have been a few nightmares of emergency rooms, lacerated livers, and worse since that night. Training, practice and preparation for carrying a concealed firearm helped me recognize the potential threat before the knife appeared, but having my .45 along that night would have eliminated the danger of the physical contact that ensued.

There are many opinions as to which firearm and accessories is the best choice to carry as there are varieties of pistols and holsters on the market. The choice between a revolver or a semiautomatic pistol depends on the activities I expect to engage in, where I am going, and the weather. It’s difficult to conceal a large semiautomatic and extra ammunition during T-shirt and shorts weather. I do not intend to endorse any manufacturer’s products over another. Each person must make those decisions for themselves based on their requirements. I made my decision to carry a gun after seeking advice, handling and shooting a variety of firearms and testing the accessories available. This is what works best for me.

In urban settings I most often carry a Kimber .45-caliber semiautomatic based on Colt’s Combat Commander version of the 1911 model. The pistol fits my hand and has twice the capacity of the Colt’s seven-round clip. Those, and a good price on a used gun, are the reasons I chose the Kimber to replace a Combat Commander I carried for many years. It is a tried and proven caliber the majority of firearms experts and 100 percent of knife-wielding street punks agree is an effective defense weapon. Because of the size and weight of the gun and two additional magazines, I prefer a shoulder holster. A shoulder rig is, for me, easiest to conceal, comfortable, accessible and protects the pistol from wear and tear and snagging in seatbelts or clothes. I chose a Bianchi shoulder holster because of the way it places the gun in a secure position. I carry the gun loaded, cocked and locked, and after a fair amount of practice, I can release the snap on the holster’s strap, draw the weapon and disengage the safety lock with one hand just as quickly as I can from a side holster. When seconds count, the police are minutes away and there is no time to be fumbling with an ill-fitting holster regardless of whether it’s on my hip or under my arm.

My .380 Walther semiauto fits easily into my back pocket in a wallet holster with a spare magazine. It’s a lighter caliber gun that holds only seven rounds, but is accurate and effective at close range. I carry this double-action gun with a full clip, a round chambered and the de-cocker safety on. Access is slower than a belt or shoulder holster, but the gun is out of sight and on my person. Not a gun for engaging in a prolonged firefight with targets outside of 20 feet away, but a reasonable alternative to being unarmed. Besides, if I’ve got more than twenty feet of space between me and trouble, I’ll be exercising my fundamental right to run away.

Both of my semiautomatic pistols are factory stock guns except for the sights. As a concession to aging eyes, I have tritium dot sights installed. They are highly visible in low light and glow in the dark. Laser-dot sights and frame-mounted flashlights are great innovations and if I were actively hunting troublemakers, I’d consider them, but they do have drawbacks. They change a gun’s contours and balance, and how it fits into and comes out of a holster. Gadgets require batteries, extra complications and expenses I don’t need. Worse, lasers and flashlights work both ways. Shine a light source around and the target can see where you are. If I can’t retreat and a gunfight in the dark is unavoidable, I would prefer that the first indication of my location be announced by the muzzle flash of a well-placed shot.

In rural environments, I carry a double-action revolver. Either a.357 snub nose that holds seven rounds, or a Taurus five-shot pistol that chambers either .410 shot shells or.45 long Colt ammunition. Despite the power of these small cannons, they fit my hand and are comfortable to shoot. Ammunition for both guns is readily available, accurate at close range, and will discourage an assailant, human or otherwise. Revolvers are reliable, even after days of being carried around in adverse conditions that a semiauto might not tolerate. Semiautos require regular cleaning and attention, but revolvers loaded with good ammunition fire every time the trigger is squeezed.

I carry a revolver in an external belt holster set up for a cross-body draw. A belt holster is generally recognized as the fastest draw and when out in the boondocks there is less need for the gun to be concealed. I expect any holster to securely contain the pistol, but readily release it for a one-handed draw.

Fanny packs and shoulder bags are convenient for concealing a weapon, but the physical control of a loaded gun is lost if I am separated from the bag for any reason. That is unacceptable unless secure lockers are available. In public places, you might get to chat with some very nice law enforcement people for inquiring about lockers. Be polite when that happens, because those folks, who are generally decent sorts doing a necessary and hazardous job, get shot at more often than the rest of us average people and they are correctly concerned about people carrying guns.

Shooters are aware of the current shortage of ammunition that appears to be the result of the fear of the change that began after November’s elections. Ammo for the .45, .357, .380, and .410 buckshot rounds have, so far, been readily available. I load the pistols I carry with jacketed, hollow point ammunition and I practice with the same ammunition. That way, I know what to expect in terms of accuracy, noise and recoil should I ever have to discharge the gun in self defense.

The most street-wise punk knows it is stupid to bring a knife to a gunfight. I followed the laws, stayed legal, and left my guns at home when I came here. The gun regulations of our nation’s capitol put me face to face with a criminal who ignores the laws. Law enforcement was not there to protect me and the rules I followed stole my right to protect myself. Where’s the justice in that?

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Robert M. Engstrom graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors from the University of Arizona School of Journalism. He was an award-winning reporter, photographer and editor with The Tombstone Epitaph and part owner, political reporter and photography editor for The Casas Adobes Courier in Tucson. He is an intern at HUMAN EVENTS through the National Journalism Center.

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