Dr. Will Dabbs wrote an article for one of the FMG Publications about being a Gun Nerd. When I read that article, I realized I was indeed a Gun Nerd according to Will’s definition. I found myself wondering how that came about. My early life was punctuated with guns, but there was no big emphasis on them. If you were a kid in Mississippi, especially one with rural roots, guns were just part of your life. My first was a single-shot, hammer-fired, el cheapo .410 shotgun. It had been my father’s when he was a boy. He gave it to me the summer between my first and second grade school years and taught me to hunt squirrels with it. That was gun number one and I still have it.
Gun number two was acquired when I was eleven and in the fifth grade. Dad gave me his 16-gauge Winchester Model 12 because he rarely hunted and I hunted every chance I got, which was often since my uncles and cousins had bird dogs and hunted throughout the fall to put meat on the table. That gun had actually belonged to my Dad’s Dad. It was given to him as a gift from the men who worked for him when he retired from being the Director of the Mississippi Game & Fish Commission (now the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks).
Guns number three and four were acquired at the end of the summer of my 12th year. The Boy Scout camp where I had worked that year was selling some rifles off to make room for some new donated guns. I bought a Remington 514 .22 rifle for $4 and a Marlin 80 .22 rifle for $2. I still have all those guns, but I never thought of it as building a collection.
Gun five was a High Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver I bought from a Western Auto store when I was 15. I had a lot of fun with that gun but traded it for a stereo set. Later in life when I really was a collector, a friend helped me find a replacement, still in its box with a $54.95 price tag on it, though I paid something like $300 that time.
When my grandfather died I was given his Lefever double barrel 12 gauge shotgun. That became my quail gun. My high school and college job involved training show horses and bird dogs, so I used the Lefever a lot.
I joined the Army and shot their guns and flew their helicopters for a few years. Got married, raised a family, worked a number of jobs and never thought of guns until my sons reached their teenage years and wanted to hunt ducks and doves with their friends. We had two shotguns and two hunting age boys so it worked out.
My career had moved from being a corporate pilot to being a computer guy. As a computer guy I built websites. One of the websites I built was for a sporting goods mail order company whose owner realized the Internet would soon replace mail order. In addition to having a warehouse full of sporting goods, the company had a gun store. You had to go through the gun store to get to the bathrooms and snack bar. On my way through the store one day, a gun in the used gun display caught my eye. It looked like a buntline special but was a Ruger single-action revolver with a price tag of $300. I didn’t know much about gun prices and values, but that gun looked to me like it was worth way more than $300, so I bought it. Pure impulse buy. The salesman asked me if I knew the gun was a .357 Maximum. I didn’t know at the time what a .357 Maximum was, and I didn’t care. He told me I could shoot .357 Magnums or .38 Special in it and that was fine with me. After getting the gun home and doing a little research on it I discovered the gun was the subject of a recall by Ruger because of reported top strap burning. There was no burning on my gun’s top strap. As I researched further, I came to understand the .357 Maximum was developed for long-range steel plate shooting. The backstrap burning came from a few individuals shooting very hot handloads in order to get more performance. I decided then I would mostly shoot .357 Magnums in the gun, which had a 10.5″ barrel. Somewhere down the road a friend helped me cut the barrel down to a more manageable 6″ which was fine with me because I wasn’t going to be shooting steep plates at 1,000 yards.
The next gun was a Winchester Model 1300 shotgun because son number three was ready to hunt with his brothers. So far, I’m just a dad with three sons and with enough shotguns to hunt, two rifles that were never used and a revolver to protect the house.
Things sure changed after that. We were attending a rapidly growing church. The bigger it got, the more I started thinking about the crazy people around who like to shoot up schools and churches. My whole life I’ve known I was a protector, what we now call a sheep dog, though I was not to learn that term until later. I felt I should be armed when in church, or anywhere for that matter, because of all the crazies in the world. My wife and I talked it over and we decided to get our Concealed Handgun Licenses. Number three son decided he wanted to do it with us. After the class we were eating at a Mexican fast food joint when my son said, “Dad, you could teach that CHL class.” We had noticed earlier that the instructor for the class, who taught it in his home, had lots of toys in his garage — toys like a Corvette, a Harley, a big boat, Wave Runners, etc. I did a little math, estimating how many people were going to his class each week and paying him the $100 fee and decided, yes, I could teach that course.
Becoming a certified instructor in Texas involves first being a certified pistol instructor, either from the NRA or from the law enforcement route. With that in your pocket, there was a week long course presented by the Texas Department of Safety instructors which you must complete before becoming certified. I learned a lot in that course and the NRA course. I had to have a gun, so I bought one that was inexpensive, but reported to be good, a Taurus 24/7 DS Pro.
A buddy I knew from work, who was “into guns,” got his instructor rating and the two of us started teaching what was at that time the Texas Concealed Carry Course. We also taught the Texas Hunter Education Course. Business was good, so we rented a facility, hung up a sign and taught classes every weekend. Class attendees asked our opinions about guns so much I decided to get an FFL license. We converted the breakroom in our classroom facility into a small gun store. Before long, revenue from gun sales exceeded revenue from classes. We became a gun store with classes offered as a service.
As a gun store, we had five wholesale suppliers. I kept my regular job but taught classes in the evenings and weekends while my son managed the store. He hired people to help with the store and with instruction. Because I had a salary at my regular job and we had a good source of guns, I started paying myself for the time I spent instructing in guns. That’s when I really became a gun collecting Nerd.
My son and I each built up a good collection of guns, then came the Trump slump. Sales at our place went from a lot, to a little, to nothing. As sales and our ability to purchase inventory dwindled my son and I each put some of our guns into inventory in order to have money to pay our employees. When it became obvious the slump was going to continue for a while and we were out of resources we had to close the store.
Meanwhile, I was hooked on discovering and shooting new guns. The opportunity to continue that habit came about when I pitched an article to Roy Huntington, then editor of American Handgunner magazine, and he bought it. I submitted some more articles and before I knew it, I was a contributor to both American Handgunner and GUNS magazines, along with their special editions. Not only were checks coming in from writing, but many of the guns I was writing about were offered to the writers at a special writer’s price. Some of them a real special price, like free. I still make some money teaching what is now called the Texas License to Carry course since Texas went to an open carry state a few years back. I have sent some of the Test and Evaluation guns back, but not many. I love learning about new guns, shooting and sometimes carrying new guns and building an inheritance for my wife, my three sons and their wives and seven grandchildren. When I’m gone, they may sell them off to provide for mama and if they have to do that, I’m all right with it, but I really hope they can sit around the safes and choose, one for you, one for you, one for you and after they’ve gone around the first time they should be able to do it at least ten more times and if I am able to continue to write and teach for a few years, maybe a lot more than ten times. Being a Gun Nerd is fun. Thanks, Will, for defining it and thanks, Roy, for helping me become a gunwriter Gun Nerd.