Written By: Glenn Barnes
Have you ever wondered how grown men and women, whom we assume are blessed with a logical and rational mind, grow attached to a cold piece of steel? Steel that has no personality, no life, no soul. A piece of steel that’ s only purpose in life is to create noise, belch smoke from its big-bore mouth, and launch huge projectiles at far away targets. It doesn’t make much sense does it?
Having spent the last twenty years in the retail firearms business, dealing with a capacious variety of customers, I feel I have earned my doctorate in the subtleties of the human mind as concerning sentimentality. Patrons have stepped through the doors with some of the worst imaginable specimens of firearms; on the other hand, some of the finest firearms have also walked through the doors. They all had one thing in common to their keepers; they were priceless. They had history, family history. They belonged to grand-pa, or great grand-pa, or maybe even great, great grand-pa. What does that mean to you? Absolutely nothing. You are not related to them. What does it mean to the owners of these relics? Absolutely everything!
Although it has been done, it’s hard to place a price on sentiment. Customers have waltzed in the shop with a family heirloom tucked under their arm with full intention of selling a piece of their family history to you. You think to yourself; how can they do this? If they don’t appreciate it, why don’ t they present it to another family member who would? The answer is; they need the money. Now. Instead of borrowing the money from someone, or even making a trip to the local pawn-shop, where they could at least redeem it later, they choose to sell. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense to you and I for one reason; we are soft- hearted sentimentalists.
The general public has a hard time picturing in their minds the average gun enthusiast as being sentimental. They picture us as big hairy chested creatures, devoid of any feeling save the most primeval. We know that’ s not true. Several years ago, a young lady accidentally walked into our shop thinking she was a few doors down at a women’s outlet. She was greeted cordially, and she walked around the store, glancing at this or that curiously. She asked a few questions about firearms; how do I buy one, what would be a good choice for me, that kind of thing. We answered her politely and professionally; and before she left she mentioned that we (meaning gun people) were not what she envisioned. She thanked us and left. A few weeks later she was back; making her first of several gun purchases.
So how can we big, hairy chested creatures, devoid of any feeling, save the most primeval, be so sentimental of an inanimate object? I’ll tell you. Because we, as gun-owners, on average, are good, decent people. Decent people have soft hearts, which more often than not, translates into sentimental hearts.
Surely you hold dear to your heart at least one special firearm. One that has been your constant companion, traveled by your side countless miles, and helped keep you and your loved ones safe from harm. Maybe it’ s that six-gun hanging from your bed post, most of the blue worn away from being caressed by calloused hands and waiting patiently in its home of leather for you to take it out again. The stories it could tell if only it could speak.
Maybe it’s that Winchester model 94, 32 special, leaning in the corner by itself, near the fireplace. You remember the one; the one you and your grand-pa carried out Thanksgiving Day, the day you took your first whitetail deer at one hundred twenty five yards, with the first shot. He was so proud of you. You remember being proud because he was. What a day! Boy, you think, if I could just travel back!
Grand-pa may not be with you any longer but his memory lingers on. Every time you glance at that old Winchester standing alone in the corner, it conjures up his memory. You see him sitting at the kitchen table, a briar pipe clenched tightly in his mouth, the pungent tobacco smoke creating a fog around the light above. You see him in your mind, lovingly cleaning that old Winchester, preparing to take you out in the morning. You see it, don’t you?
During a long career in the gun business, countless firearms have passed through my hands. Some have found a home, alas others have found homes elsewhere. There are only two that have a special home deep in my heart. Two that will dwell with me until my time is up, or our Savior comes to take us home.
The first one is very special. It was presented to me by my grandfather when I was a boy. Grand-pa was not a wealthy man. His life was hard. He was familiar with work and hardship and knew it on a first name basis. No one ever gave him anything and he never asked for anything. He was honest and hard-working all his life. In his later years he developed lung cancer and moved in with our family. As I mentioned earlier, grand-pa was not a wealthy man, his sole income was from social security checks.
Christmas was near, so he gave my dad his social security check and asked him to buy me a handgun. Christmas morning rolled around, and children being what they are, I rushed downstairs first thing. Everyone gathered around the tree and passed presents to each other. Grand-pa handed me a box and instructed me to go ahead and open it. Tearing the wrapping paper off quickly, I was thrilled to find a Ruger Single-Six .22 six-gun! Grandpa, sitting in his chair, was as excited as I was.
Many years have passed since that wonderful Christmas morning. Grand-pa is no longer with us, but his memory will live in my heart as long as I live. Countless days were spent afield packing that little six-gun. It has taken numerous small game animals, rode on my hip in its El Paso Californio holster for many miles, as we hiked and camped and hunted all over. It taught me the basic skills of shooting, and has remained a constant friend throughout.
The second firearm that is dear to my heart, was presented to me by my dad. For many years he owned a large firearms store in North Carolina. For all those long years dad carried a handgun for protection as many of us do. His was a little special.
He habitually carried a Browning Hi- Power 9mm that was fully engraved with carved ivory stocks. It was housed in a floral carved holster by Robert L. Hamel. Dad carried this handgun every day until his retirement in 1980. During his days in the gun business, Dad was also a Major with the sheriffs department. The Hi-Power served him well through both occupations.
As I grew older and began a career of my own in firearms, my dad presented me with his handgun. Included with the Hi-Power- were several magazines, the holster and a letter. I will not print what he said in the letter, it usually brings tears to my eyes when I read it, but he told me all about his time spent with the Hi-Power, how it will give you comfort in times of trouble, and always remain a faithful friend.
These two handguns are more than cold impersonal pieces of steel; they are alive, they speak to me about things I love, things that bring comfort to my soul, and make me feel blessed. If sometimes you get to feeling a little sentimental around a piece of steel in your hand, don’ t worry about it, you are in good company!