Do You Even Win, Bro?

An interesting comment was left on a gun-related Facebook group I belong to, regarding this photo.

I have acquaintances who still post “They’re Gonna Take Yer Guns!” crap every now and then. It’s not that the sentiment doesn’t concern me – being of around the same age as (redacted), it does and ought to. It’s just that the strident sense of doom seems, well, out-of-touch now that things are bending our way. It’s almost as if many of our number can’t get used to the notion of having a winning cause.

I agree 100%. American gun culture, quite frankly, doesn’t know what winning feels like. We’ve been on defense for so long, since 1934 at the very least, we don’t know what it feels like when quiet, confident and practical armed self defense is as much of our culture as, say, fishing is. Yes, there are cranks who go out and protest fishing, but they’re looked on as cranks, not people who inspire other people to create “Million(-ish) Mom Marches” and such.

We don’t know what it means to be our own first responder, because we’ve abdicated that role to the .gov since the Sullivan Act or thereabouts. We have forgotten what it means to be in charge of our own destiny.

We need to re-learn such things, and quickly.

The NRA As Church.

Growing up inside the evangelical community, I watched as pastor after pastor and ministry after ministry would stumble and fall after they put fundraising ahead of their stated mission to help the helpless and bring peace to a shattered world.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Money, as The Brains once said, changes everything*, and the lure of being more effective at serving the poor / raising awareness / making a difference by having more money on-hand is very, very powerful, and making money raising as your raison d’être is an easy thing to do.

Which is why it doesn’t surprise me that the NRA (or more likely, their ad agency) has decided to turn the Castile case into a recruitment drive for Carry Guard. This is a shame, because it could have been a great tool for the NRA to teach law enforcement efforts how to. deal with armed citizens or for the NRA’s training department (the real one, not the “Gold Standard” one) to help armed citizens learn how to deal with twitchy cops.

And what would have happened if the NRA spent half the money they used on Carry Guard to improve their already-existing training program, a program that seems a little rudderless right now.

Those things would have been much, MUCH more aligned with the NRA’s original purpose, which is to increase the skill, knowledge and safety of America’s gun owners, than hawking a insurance plan would be.

Instead, though, they chose to fundraise, and sometime in the future they will pay the price for this decision.**


* I mean, it’s not like someone once said that the love of money is the root of all evil, or something. Oh, wait.

** Yes, the NRA pays me to write for them, and yes, I make money when people join the NRA using the recruiting link I have on the side over there ->. I support the NRA, and I support the NRA’s mission. I also went to church before, during and after the Jim Bakker/Jerry Falwell/Jimmy Swaggart scandals, because I know the message will go on, no matter how fallible the messenger is.

Something That Can’t Go On Forever, Won’t.

Take a minute to read this great breakdown on the economic realities of firearms training from Karl Rehn.

“…out of a pool of 10-15,000 instructors in the state (Texas), maybe 100 are making 5 figures and less than 10 are making 6 figures, with almost zero deriving their primary full time income from teaching.”

Sobering words.

Follow up question: According to dojos.info, there are over 1,300 martial arts schools in Texas. How many of them are storefront operations and how many are run out of someone’s garage remains to be seen, but when was the last time you drove down the street and saw a strip-mall dojo? A strip-mall dojo (or a dojo in an industrial park) means that school is making enough money to pay the rent, keep the lights on and have some kind of administrative staff on hand to deal with the day-to-day operations of the store.

When was the last time you saw a strip-mall gun school?

Something to think about.

Yet Again, I’m Ahead Of The Retail Curve.

Me, back in 2014:

“Without the in-person transfer of firearms at a licensed FFL dealer mandated by the 1968 Gun Control Act, the local gun store as we know it would not exist today.”

Ammoland, July 7th.

Retail locations are simply becoming showrooms for Internet sales. As a guy with a long history in retail sporting goods years ago, it all makes me seriously sad, and it bodes badly for the health of our currently free society when it comes to the Second Amendment and what that amendment really means for citizen freedom.

Ok, so it makes you sad. Sadness, however, is not a game plan to deal with change. If reality is messing with your business plan, don’t b!tch about reality, change your business plan.

And I disagree about the lack of retail being a bad thing for the Second Amendment. By the author’s own admission, the dramatic drop in the number of FFL’s in the U.S. happened way before the Internet upset the retail apple cart.

And speaking of apples, why is the Apple Store still going strong, when all other retail seems to be failing around them?

They have a fan base. There isn’t a store in the retail gun industry, brick and mortar or not, that has a fan base.

Want customers? Build fans.

Extra Bonus Idea For Your Consideration: Retail’s rise happened in an era of easy, accessible catalog shopping. Is retail really that vulnerable to online (or offline) catalog shopping, or is its rise and fall due to other issues?

The Power Of Glock Compels You.

I pretty much agree with everything Rich Grassi is talking about here, with one notable exception.

The pocket gun becomes the cross to Dracula. When evil is near the owner imagines pulling it out and showing it to the ‘vampire’. Maybe the villain will flee and then again maybe they won’t.

It’s not just pocket-sized handguns, larger and more costly guns can become gris-gris. If you are carrying a gun that is half-loaded, is loaded with the cheapest ammo you could find and hasn’t been fired or cleaned in over six months that’s not a genuine defensive tool, it’s a good luck charm. If you drop a compact pistol naked into your pocket but have no plan for less-than-lethal force, don’t carry a flashlight or a pocket knife and have no spare ammunition for said gun, it’s a talisman not a fighting tool.

I carry a pocket gun not because I prefer it over something larger, I carry a pocket gun because for four days out of seven, it’s that, or nothing at all.

Something about a .22 on you right now versus a .45 in your truck, or something… Same idea.

Other than that, yeah, I agree with it all, because it’s stuff that I’ve been writing about for a long, long time. People want to FEEL safe, whether they’re actually safe or not, and having a gun around, even it’s not in handy reach, does give a feeling like you’ve done something about your safety, effective or not.

It’s the personal security equivalent of therapeutic moralistic deism that’s become our state religion these past few years. I want to feel good about my chances of getting into the afterlife, without all the baggage (and challenges) that comes with making a moral stand and having to confront our fallibilities, which might make us uncomfortable if we try such things.

Me? I’m more into Bonhoeffer than I am Joel Osteen, because a cause that requires no commitment to change on your part isn’t that much of a cause.

The NRA As Tribe.

If you’ve not read Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” or “The Diamond Age”, you probably should. Both of those books describe a future where the post-Westphalian nation-state is either dead or dying, and the people of Earth have divided themselves up into “Phyles”.

Society in The Diamond Age is dominated by a number of phyles, also sometimes called tribes. Phyles are groups of people often distinguished by shared values, similar ethnic heritage, a common religion, or other cultural similarities. In the extremely globalized future depicted in the novel, these cultural divisions have largely supplanted the system of nation-states that divides the world today.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We are in a new era of personal empowerment, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the printing press was introduced into western culture, and guns are a big part of that personal empowerment. Once you realize that by choosing to arm yourself, you no longer have to hope there will be an armed representative of society nearby when you’ll need one most: You have become your own first responder.

So if we’re sorting ourselves into tribes, why WOULDN’T we sort ourselves into a shared belief in secure self-reliance? And that’s what NRA membership provides for us: It’s a sign that yes, you are one of my people, my tribe. That’s why “Freedom’s clenched fist” is a powerful line. In this new world of identity politics, identifying for personal security is a powerful message indeed.

Shoot Center Is Now Open In Cape Coral

So awhile ago, I wrote,

If I were Going To Open A Gun Store Today

After my time spent marketing two large gun stores, here’s what I do.

  • Make sure it had a gun range. Doesn’t have to be big, 12 lanes, 20 yards maximum. Maximum caliber, 308. Have good air conditioning in it, so people enjoy their time there. Encourage selfies and social media.

  • Emphasize training. Have a competition league on Monday nights.

  • Get a GREAT working relationship with either A Girl And Her Gun or The Well Armed Woman.

Shoot Center in Cape Coral is pretty much what I described.

It’s open, modern and inviting inside, not some cheap strip mall joint with stuffed animal heads on the wall and second-hand office furniture scattered about. It looks like a modern, clean retail store inside (something that is less common in the gun industry than you’d believe).

Retail gun store in fort myers

They’re set up pretty well: The training classroom is big enough to handle two dozen people in a class, a BIG deal when you’re trying to bring in big-name trainers in from out of town, and the store itself has the sort of things that a suburban gun owner might be interested in.

Shoot Center Range

The range itself is the best indoor range in SouthWest Florida (even nicer than my old shop). That range wasn’t really designed well: If you didn’t shell out the $$$ for a luxury membership, all you could do was shoot pistols in a 12 yard range (and dark and cramped 12 yard range at that).

At Shoot Center, the lanes go out to 25 yards, and they’re rated up to .308 caliber. I’m not a fan of shooting rifles indoors, but I’m not a fan of limiting consumer choice, either. One thing I really like about the range at Shoot Center is that the have a hand-washing station set up just outside the range entrance for shooters to clean off the gunpowder and lead residue after a shooting session.

Smart.

If you’re tired of baking outdoors in the Florida heat and you want someplace to go shoot that’s as nice (or nicer) than the other stores you walk into, go check out Shoot Center. They’re showing the rest of SWFL how it’s done.

We Need To Talk About Your Flair.

NRA Certs Now Mean NothingThinking even more about the training done by the new NRA Carry Guard program (I’ll eventually stop beating this dead horse, but not today…), what does this mean to Fred, your friendly local CCW instructor, who has gone to all the time and energy to get his NRA Basic Pistol and Personal Protection Inside the Home instructor certifications, (and maybe a few more as well)? He’s gone to NRA school. He’s sipped the NRA Kool-Aid. He’s maybe even drank deep gulps of it, and become a Training Counselor so he (or she) can train others how to be an NRA Instructor.

Then Carry Guard comes out with their “Gold Standard” of firearms training, and there is ZERO mention of NRA training, or training for the armed citizen of any kind at all mentioned in their program. According to Carry Guard, the ONLY way to reach the “Gold Standard” is to be a snake-eating SpecOps type for X number of years.

Gunsite, Massad Ayoob Group, Thunder Ranch, Rogers Shooting School, Rangemaster, any of that? Nope, doesn’t count, it’s SpecOps or nothing, baby. Not even the NRA is good enough to train the trainers in this NRA program.

Look at this from the perspective of Fred The CCW trainer: All his NRA certs just went out the window. The NRA themselves didn’t use their certifications as qualifications for their “Gold Standard”, they went to the SpecOps community instead.

Kinda disheartening, I would think.

Roots Radicals.

Listen to Michael Bane talk about what drove the birth of Gun Culture 2.0.

Learning the rules of gun safety… competition… drawing from a holster… moving with a gun… concealed carry…

We’ve won. Gun Culture 2.0 is now the dominant force inside the gun industry. Personal safety is now the main reason why people buy guns. Now that we’ve won the war, what are we doing to win the peace? What is the gun industry doing to keep the victory going?

What organization is out there doing the things to get people involved in their sport? That podcast is from 2011. In 2011, the iPhone 4 came out. Snapchat didn’t exist, and neither did Facebook Live.

In the past six years, what sport has encouraged growth by changing what they offer new gun owners*? What is the on-ramp to IDPA**? Where is the organization that is will do step up and help people gain enough confidence with their new gun that they a) carry it and b) compete with it?

‘Cause brother, I am looking for it, and it is nowhere to be found.

And yes, the title is yet another musical reference.


* NOT new shooters. There is a difference. Shooters insinuates that they shoot their gun on a regular basis. This is different from a new gun owner who buys a talisman of ballistic self-protection and keeps it unloaded under their bed.

** I will throat-punch the first person who says “Steel Challenge!” or some other sport where you stand still and shoot targets with a custom .22 is the answer to this question. Those sports are how we get people who have a safe full of guns out to the range, not how we get someone who’s just bought a Glock 19 as their first gun.

Moving Beyond The Fear.

From Threepers on the right to the Antifa on the left, there are way, WAY too many people other there right now who are itchin’ for a fight, and if their words and deeds keep escalating, that fight will surely happen.

Maybe it’s because I was sitting on the political sidelines for the Assault Weapons Ban, or maybe it’s my innate Canadian niceness, but fear has never been good at motivating me to do something, especially when it comes to gun-related things.

To quote Clint Smith, I have a gun. Why should I be afraid?

Now, should you be fearful of those who are afraid of you being armed? Yes, and rightly so. Is that the prevailing spirit inside red state America? Nope.

Blue states may vary.

Yes, the radical left is misbehaving. Dangerously so.

However, misbehavior on the other side does not demand misbehavior on our side. If you carry a gun on a consistent basis, you soon learn that de-escalation and avoidance are much better ways to deal with the threat of violence than angry harsh rhetoric and more violence.

Take the actions of the Antifa from the macro-level down to the personal level: If the Antifa were a person and not a movement, how would we handle them? They say they want to stop us, with violence if necessary, and they’ve shown a propensity to use violence in the past. What does all the things we’ve learned about living our lives as armed citizens tell us we should do about them? When do we de-escalate? When do use awareness and avoidance? Should should we use force, and if so, how much, and when?

We need to be very careful about which hill we choose to die on, because once the dogs of war have been let off the leash, it is very, very hard to bring them back.

More thoughts on this at Ricochet.com.