Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not Really A Gun Guy

Walther P38, Wehrmacht Issue Side Arm, 1944
Alright, I own firearms. A number of them actually, nearly all of them military. Think World War II. Think bolt action.

It has been years since I've gone shooting at a range. Occasionally I get the urge to go shoot, then I look at the price of ammunition. Have I mentioned how frugal I am? The urge then passes. I'm not as young as I used to be. Hell, before I joined the Air Force we'd go shooting just because we could. In those days ammunition was plentiful and cheap. From what I gather that isn't really the case anymore.

The last time I went shooting for pleasure was on Okinawa. The Marines actually had an indoor pistol range where you could lay down a reasonable fee in Yankee dollars and get a .38, a box of wad cutters and paper targets suitable for punching holes in. Best part of the deal? Someone else would clean the weapon when you were done shooting. No doubt a punishment for Marines who went downtown, drank too much and embarrassed the Corps. I don't know, I never asked. I always try to stay on the good side of the Marines.

I used to have to use a firearm in the pursuance of my sworn duties in Germany. As a software guy, my job was deemed to be not really that critical in war time. Truth be told, it wasn't. So we software pukes were given a "war skill."

In NATO that meant guarding the base during exercises and, I'm sure, whenever Ivan decided to try his luck with heading for the English Channel.

Now when I was in Germany, the Soviet Union had already collapsed. Ivan was not deemed to be as much of a threat as during the Cold War. As a fellow sergeant once said, "Hell, station a bunch of guys with wads of cash along the border and have them buy the Russians' equipment from them. No need to shoot at them."

Well, there was a time when you could get a pretty good deal on Soviet equipment before they pulled out of East Germany. Even afterwards you could go to any flea market and get yourself all sorts of Russian gear. No, not AKs, they were sold in bulk to arms dealers.

I knew a guy who knew a guy whose cousin could get you a good deal on T-72s. Ammo not included. Or so I heard.

So as part of my duties before I ascended to the lofty station of Master Sergeant we had to go to the range. It was fun.

We had to qualify with two weapons, the H&K G3 rifle, this fellow...

Heckler & Koch G3 Rifle (Source)

And what the Bundeswehr called the Pistole P1...

Hey, wait a minute... (Source)

Yup, the P1 is the P38, same design only from what my sources tell me, the P38 has a steel frame whereas the postwar P38s and the P1s have an aluminum frame.

Imagine my instructor's surprise when after we returned to base I had my P1 stripped down and was cleaning it before he had showed us how. I told him I had one had home, he said he'd like to see it, I said, "home, home, like back in the US of A."

"Why didn't you bring it with you?" he queried.

I asked, "Aren't swastikas illegal in Germany these days?"

"Ja, ja, natürlich!"

Here's how my P38 is marked...

While the eagle on the pistol doesn't have the swastika, the holster most assuredly does. (And what is a pistol without a holster?)

So that's why I didn't bring it. Also the paperwork was a bit daunting. Less hassle to just leave it at Mom and Dad's place. Besides which, NATO let me shoot the P1! And paid for the ammo!

Which reminds me of a story...

Flying back to Okinawa from Korea on a C-130...

They were painted similar to this in my day.

We're in the MAC* terminal getting ready to do the customs thing. The fellow briefing us asked if there were any among us who felt that life was but a joke** who were carrying firearms in their baggage.

Everyone looked around, as people will do when a group is asked a question, and I noticed that the well-endowed lady captain whom I had noticed earlier was sitting up and raising her hand.

"I have a pair of 38s..."

Before she said another word, it kind of struck her how she had said that.

Amazingly the guy giving the briefing kept a straight face and said...

"Smith & Wesson I presume?"

True story, ya can't make this stuff up, no one would believe you.

So I'm not what you might call a "gun nut." I know how to use them but I view them as a tool. I also have other, non-lethal outside hand-to-hand range tools (think hammers, screwdrivers, drills, etc.) but I don't really get all that excited about them.

It's important to know how to use your tools, and when. But obsess about them?


Besides which, ammo is expensive. I think I mentioned that I was, shall we say, parsimonious.

Yeah, cheap. And lazy.

Those things don't clean themselves ya know.

Though I do sometimes miss the smell of Hoppe's 9. Reminds me of when I was a kid.


A long, long time ago.


* Military Air Command, I forget what it's called now, what's more, I don't care. Yes, there's some spite in that comment. Why do you ask?
** Part of a lyric from All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix of course...


  1. I think you really are a gun guy, but you're just not an ammo guy! I'm not much of one myself, but still a huge fan of the 2nd Amendment. The cost of ammo, and its scarcity seemed to skyrocket during Obama's first term, fear mongering was probably to blame, but I'm not sure why that hasn't changed. The push to ban guns has subsided, but not much has changed- still scarce and expensive.

    1. I like that, "not an ammo guy." I know there are places to get it cheaper but I just don't have that kind of interest in going to the range.

  2. Cool stuff. I have a P-38 (and a K98 Mauser, and a 1903 Springfield, and a M-1 Garand and....well a fair collection of (mostly) WW II firearms. Ammo can be had for a reasonable price from Cheaper than Dirt, Sportsman's Guide and others of that ilk. I signed up for being a Range Safety Officer at my gun club, and that provides incentive to shoot regularly. Besides, you meet really interesting people at the range!!

    1. There's actually a pretty decent gun club locally which a friend of mine has urged me to join.

      But I just don't have the time nor the inclination. Shooting was fun when I was younger, perhaps I grew out of it. Maybe after I retire (again).

  3. You can set up to reload for under $250. Then, assuming about 10 reloads per case, your can shoot for maybe about 50 cents a round for rifle ammo - ball ammo for informal shooting. A bit more if you get good quality hollowpoints for hunting.

    1. If I had the time and the inclination I'd probably go that route Joe. The lack of time is the biggest problem.

      If I made the time to reload my own ammo and go to the range, something else would have to be sacrificed. I'm just not that excited about shooting anymore.

  4. I have firearms for self defense, and I'm cheap. About four times per year I go to a place on the Pawnee Grasslands and practice. Ammo for what I shoot isn't cheap but I use "cowboy" rounds for practice. (Cowboy shooting is a popular activity for some folks). Then I grit my teeth and shoot one load of expensive defensive loads. What is fun is going with my youngest and his wife. I get a kick out of watching them. Hasn't happened since they relocated to South Carolina.

    1. Most interesting. I had no knowledge of "cowboy" rounds. Until today.

  5. "well-endowed lady captain"
    Always important to have the right caliber people in leadership positions!

  6. I am a gun guy... And I spend the money for ammo even today, because I enjoy the range, and shooting with friends. And occasionally getting the chance to shoot those one of a kind/unusual guns folks have brought back from a variety of places... :-)

    1. I knew that, Cajun. I used to be, not so much anymore.

  7. If you're ever in the neighborhood, stop by and I'll let you clean some guns. I got all kinds of Hoppe's.

    Of course I'd expect you to help get 'em dirty to start with... ;)


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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