1. First, establish your bona fides.
I’ve shot guns. I’ve enjoyed shooting guns. Had a pump-action BB gun when I was a kid: twelve progressively stiffer pumps with the plastic stock that levered in and out under the cold metal barrel and you were ready to go. Coke cans stacked in rough pyramids in the chicken barn would tremble at my approach, let me tell you. —It wasn’t till I got to 4-H camp and had a chance to shoot some bolt-action .22s that I figured out I was shooting weird: I’m right-handed, but left-eyed, so I set the butt against my left shoulder, peered through the sight with my left eye, wrapped my left finger around the trigger—and had to awkwardly reach over and across with my right hand to work the bolt to eject the old cartridge and load a fresh bullet. (They didn’t have a left-handed bolt-action .22, and anyway, I wasn’t really left-handed.)
(Three gun match)
Scenario—About 10:30PM you are dressing in your bedroom just after stepping from the shower. Suddenly you hear your daughter scream from the direction of the living room. You grab your home defense weapon and head in that direction. As you come on the scene you see your daughter on the floor, a stranger on top of her, knife to her throat and tearing at her clothes. Proceed as necessary.
Procedure—Start with back to wall three feet from corner with weapon in hand. At signal jump to corner, engage your daughter’s attacker, then accomplice who’s [sic] in foyer. Hit plate to stop clock. Run twice each with pistol, shotgun, rifle. Eighteen rounds minimum. Roll dice to determine which order you will use the three weapons.
Paladin Score—Combine all six times for score. Five second penalty for hits on daughter. Five second penalty for not attempting to use cover.
We have some gun magazines in the house; useful for photo-reference and technobabble. The little ditty above is a sidebar exercise from the “Tactics” column in the March 2000 number of Combat Handguns. One Rick Miller. Here’s a full column that he wrote. “When I am not at home, my wife has standing instructions to stay in the bedroom in the event of an intruder.” —Can I just say that me an’ the Spouse have not devised a game plan to cover an intruder in the house? Have not even given it a moment’s thought? Beyond the usual what was that noise oh it was the cat?
There’s a third-page vertical ad next to the “Home Defense (Three gun match)” sidebar exercise. It’s for the Quik2see magazine-mounted flashlight system, and it’s got a picture of a grimly determined man holding a Quik2see-equipped handgun in a nice-enough cup-and-saucer, while a woman cligs to him, fearful, behind and a little to one side. From the lighting and the placement of the night-table lamp, it’s evident they’ve just sat bolt upright in bed. What was that noise?
Ideally, everyone should congregate in the master bedroom or other safe place, where the defense weapon is stored. If that is not possible, the children should be instructed ahead of time to lock themselves in their bedrooms in case of emergency, while you sort the situation out, and your spouse calls the police.
(Oh, to be sure: you could find similarly unselfconscious descents into ghastly self-parody inside of five minutes with any particular magazine from the other side, wherever you might locate that other side to be; that’s not the point. What else are bad writers and advertisements for? —I’m still trying to get past the five second penalty you take if you hit your hypothetical daughter with a hypothetical hunk of metal a notch under a centimeter across traveling at about 350 hypothetical meters per second.)
3. Bona fide.
Our second German shepherd was named Duchess. (Full American Kennel Club name: Duchess Eilonwy. Our first was Indigo. Our third? Schtanzi, after Mozart’s wife.) She had a bad habit of catching bees in her mouth, and once she teamed up with a neighbor’s dog and ran down all but one of our geese, which was a bad, bad thing, but me and my sister and brother hated the geese, so we didn’t mind so much. We always had the plan of paying a stud for a litter of German shepherds at some point, so she was never fixed, and when she was in heat stray boys and otherwise respectable male workin’ dogs would slip the leash and be seen loping through the garden, sniffing up the front porch. “Scare ’em off,” Dad would say. He’d hand me the BB gun. “I’m serious.”
I came home from school one day to find Duchess standing hindquarters-to-hindquarters with a liver-colored stray. She was whining and pulling against him and he, the poor dumb sonofabitch, was pulling against her, and neither of them was going anywhere but in circles in the driveway. I yelled, I waved my hands, I threw gravel. I kicked him. I kicked a goddamn dog. I had no idea what copulatory lock was. All I knew was he was hurting Duchess and I wanted him to stop.
Five minutes later, maybe ten, he fell out of her with an anticlimactic plop and headed for the woods, his tail between his legs, his head down. We let Duchess into the house and made much fuss over her. There were no puppies. —Six months or so passed, and here came the liver-colored stray again, sniffing at the front porch, skulking about the garden. I went out and yelled at him. Waved my hands. “Go on! Get out! Get the hell out! Don’t come back!” Threw a rock. He scooted away, slowed down, circling, started edging back. Guilty look on his face: dude, I know, it’s wrong, but come on, cut a fella some slack?
I went and got the BB gun.
The first shot caught him by surprise. He yelped and spooked. I’d aimed at his backside and stung him, and as he started to trot down the driveway I went walking after him, pumping up the gun, and stung him again. And again. And again.
Our driveway was a little over a mile long.
Just past the second cattle grate he lay down in the ditch and I stood over him, crying, and shot him over and over again, watching the little welts appear on his belly, his haunches. His flopped-over ear was swollen. I’d hit it without realizing on the way down. “Get out!” I was yelling. “Get the hell out of here! Leave us alone!” Could I hit his tail? Yes, yes I could. He wasn’t even looking at me, wasn’t looking at anything at all. Just lay there in the ditch, in the dust, shivering.
I stopped before I ran out of BBs.
“Get out!” I said, and I turned and ran back to the house.
We never saw him again. There wasn’t any blood in the ditch when we went to school the next morning; then, there hadn’t been much blood at all in the first place. I didn’t shoot the BB gun much after that. We lived right on the Ohio River, across from an Indiana state park, and every autumn weekend you could hear the rifles popping like occasional firecrackers.
“What a wonder is a gun,” sings Charlie Guiteau. “What a versatile invention! First of all, if you’ve a gun—”
“—everybody pays attention!”
5. And then.
“Why do I recommend two pistols in the night stand?” says our friend Rick Miller.
It is simple. If you must search the house, the second weapon is for your spouse to use. If you confront the intruder and you lose, the rest of the family won’t be defenseless. It is a good idea to make the second gun of similar type and caliber to the first, to avoid confusion in time of stress.
I haven’t shot a gun since I was, what, fourteen? I’ve held a pistol since then, and it’s true, what they tell you: it’s colder and a lot heavier than you expect. I have no intention of ever buying a gun, or of ever having one in the house. One of these days, though, I probably will make it out to a shooting range. Just to see.
Every gun nut I’ve ever known, which, granted, isn’t many, has every one of them been a nut about safety and maintenance. Not a one of them ever had a home invasion drill, that I know of. Or standing orders for their spouses in the event of a bump in the night. None of them had guns in order to feel safer.
A week ago, maybe fifteen minutes after I got off the bus, Michael Egan got up from where he’d been sitting on the sidewalk and went up to Vincent Stemle as he was getting off a bus. They got into an argument about something. Prescription pills, somebody said. Spaynging, somebody else said, but that was on Fox, and who believes them? —Egan started slapping Stemle. Knocked his hat off. His glasses. Stemle pulled a .357 and shot Egan three times, then turned and ran.
Did he say go away? Get out of here? Leave me alone?
“He almost thought everybody had something out for him,” [Willie] Spakes said.
Commenting is closed for this article.