The gun I carry daily, the Colt Mustang .380
When my daddy asked me for the first time if I wanted to go out with him to try and bring a guy in, I knew the revolver I’d been drooling over in the Cabela’s catalog — a humongous .44 with a 12″ barrel — would be nestled snugly in my happy palm within the next 3-5 business days.
My daddy was my hero, but he was a shameless opportunist when it came to women. He could talk them into or out of just about anything and usually did. I watched him use his girlfriends as bait and shills and scouts and “back door men” all the time, mainly because they worked for free without complaint just because they wanted to be with him and get in on some excitement.
His favorite tried-and-proven ploy was to park around the corner from wherever he thought his “critter” was holed-up at, and have his girlfriend at the time walk around to the house and knock on the door, saying her car had just conked-out down the road and asking if she could use their telephone. Generally they would invite her in and she could get a good look around and see who was who and what was what, and either report back to him, or draw them outside under the pretense of giving her a ride, where he’d be waiting for them and catch them out in the open by surprise.
So being as how I’m my daddy’s girl and every bit the opportunist in a pinch, I did have that gun in my hand before daddy managed to run down a physical address on this guy — Jimbo was his name — who turned out to be living in this isolated little trailer park out in the boondocks somewhere with some girl he was shacked up with and a newborn baby.
So we get out there and it’s dark — real dark, country dark — and we scope the trailer out and there’s nothing moving… no lights on, not a peep. Daddy stationed me at one of the back corners of the trailer, by a window that looked like it could lead to the master bedroom, where I could see all along the back and cover that end too.
Then he goes around to the front door and starts banging and yelling something I couldn’t quite make out, and the next thing I know the window I’m standing by slides open and this really big head pops out.
And I’m looking at him, and he’s looking at me, and I raised the gun and pointed it squarely at his face, and told him, “Freeze, you’re under arrest.”
And he looked at me and my humongous poor girl’s Ted Buntline hand cannon all over again, and just laughed. “Get that gun out of my face,” he said.
Well, things just kind of slowly ground south from there, and it was about that time I remembered to yell for daddy. He came running, and the three of us — well, him and daddy — hashed it all out, because basically Jimbo steadfastly refused to come out and said if we tried to come in lead would fly and innocent women and children might get slaughtered for their efforts.
So daddy ended up making a deal with Jimbo to remain unmolested until an unrelated court date he was set to attend came up a few days later, so he could work and take care of his new wife and baby, and make his preparations to go away for awhile, whereupon he would turn himself over to daddy with no resistance and daddy said okay.
And we went home empty-handed instead of off to jail with Jimbo, and I remember having a lot of mixed feelings about what had just taken place. I think I was more disappointed than anything, and particularly in my oversized, clunky old Remington New Army Buffalo Model .44.
In fact, I never looked at that gun in the same light again. The lustre had just kind of worn off it right then and there, not two days out of the box. I hate it when that happens.
One of the reasons why I’d wanted that gun so bad was because I just thought it was really beautiful. And I still did and still do. But at least half of the equation had been me thinking that, since I was female after all and on the petite side too, the bigger the better. In fact, I considered if I got a big-enough handgun, whoever I managed to pull it on would just lay right down and roll right over when they saw it coming — problem solved.
You know, I handled that gun okay, but it was a pain from the start. I had to take apart and modify an Uncle Mike’s 14″ Thompson/Center Contender shoulder rig for it because there was nothing on the market that would fit it.
Then I found out the hard way at the end of all that, that getting that gun out of a shoulder holster was very slow, clumsy and awkward, leaving my hand way up over my head and me in an akward position by time the muzzle cleared the sheath.
Then whenever I sat down, the muzzle end of the holster would bottom-out on whatever I was sitting on, and the whole rig would want to ride up and pitch the butt end forward and out of whatever I had on concealing it from view.
I remember attending a professional meeting packing that thing and everyone’s sitting around this big round table and I sit down and this big ol’ hand-cannon just pops right out of my jacket. It was a real annoying habit.
And everyone around the table just fell silent and stared. It was a real awkward moment. And I had to hear about it later, too: “We don’t do that here.”
I actually sold that gun not long afterwards, it turning out to be one of those things that was better wished-for than had. Although everyone including me agreed it was really an impressive piece.
My first handgun, the Remington New Army Buffalo Model in .44 caliber
So some time went by before my daddy couldn’t scrape up another willing victim for either bait or a “back-door man”, and I got tapped once again for the privilege.
I do not remember this guy’s name. But my daddy stuck an el-cheapo Lorcin .380 in my hand as we were heading over there and said, “Here, try this.”
I remember for a cheap gun it felt good in my hand and was a good size to carry around and I liked the way it looked too, and I started growing attached to it almost right away.
And we get over there, and we scope the place out, and this time it’s broad daylight. And daddy parks me by a door at one end of the house, where I could see along the back and cover that end too, and says, “If he pops out this door, you know what to do.”
Then he goes around to the front door and starts banging and yelling and sure enough, here comes this guy popping out of that door just like a Jack-in-the-box.
The difference this time, though, was now he’s outside with me, toe-to-toe, it’s not just his head popping out of a window I’m looking at.
So I took a step back to get well out of arm’s reach and brought up the little .380, aiming it at his chest.
And as soon as I did, his hands flew up in the air like they were spring-loaded, and he starts begging and groveling for me not to shoot him. He’s got a wife and kids to look out for, all this and that.
So I yelled for daddy and he came running and I held the gun on this guy while daddy put the cuffs on him. And we took him to jail and I remember daddy stopping at the store along the way and buying him a beer, while he told us about the ambulance business and how bad it was because no one ever wanted to pay their bill. He said they all do it, they think the ambulance ride should be free, but it isn’t… you gotta pay for it.
But having these two initial experiences to rub together allowed me to actually form some solid conclusions about drawing-down on strangers, and I quickly decided that no gun was probably big enough to intimidate some of them, but for the average Joe: pick a gun, any gun, because any gun will do.
In fact, I once saved my own life with an unloaded derringer, just running a straight-up bluff. It was the only thing I had on me at the time. But it worked like a charm, just the sight of it, to stand-down multiple attackers I have no doubt in my mind would have probably gang-raped me and beaten me to death. They were out for blood. But I walked away that day without a scratch, all thanks to an unloaded gun no bigger than a pack of cigarettes.
Nobody wanted to die that day, it seems.
So you know, I’ve carried my share of guns around, and fooled with a whole lot of others, and I like the .380 because it’s not too little and not too big, it fits in my hand like it was custom-tailored just for it, it’ll pack away just about anywhere conveniently — in a waistband, pocket or purse — and all the experts agree it makes a perfectly adecuate man-stopper.
I’ve run I don’t know how many rounds of different types through several different .380s and shooting at a variety of targets at this point, and I’d have to say I’ve grown a lot of respect for the caliber and it’s real-life capabilities. To anyone in doubt I would say this: “Let me shoot you with one, and we’ll see what you have to say then.” Not a good idea? I thought so…
I typically wear jeans and a loose-fitting blouse, and carry mine tucked in my waistband behind my back. And I’ve found it’s this very size pistol that rides best there: anything bigger is just too clunky and too cumbersome, and anything smaller I have a hard time retaining where I want it and getting it out quickly whenever I need it.
Hollow points are a must with this caliber if you want confidence in its stopping power, and you should save your money and get the highest-quality specimen you can afford, do not try and get by cheap. This is one machine you pray you never have to use, but need to function flawlessly and dependably if and when you do.
It kills me that the same person who would gladly pay $500,000 for brain surgery would balk at spending $500 on a high-quality pistol. When your very life is on the line, what’s the difference? And with the $500 pistol, you may even successfully avoid the brain surgery altogether, thus sticking $499,500 straight in your pocket and probably a year’s worth of migraines too. Now that’s what I call savings!