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WILTZ: What does one get for a nun at Christmas time?

By Roger Wiltz

Perhaps because I was an educator most of my working life, one of my favorite quotes comes from W.C. Fields. It goes, “Schools ain’t as good as they used to be and they never was.” There’s some truth to it. Back in the early 50s, we memorized Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, The

Preamble to our Constitution, and worked square root with a pencil and paper. We labored at penmanship. Learning grammar and how to write well wasn’t an option. Homework normally took two to three hours. I thank the nuns at St. Margaret’s for what they deemed important.

With regard to these School Sisters of Notre Dame, Christmas gifts posed a problem. What did one give a nun for Christmas? Tough question.

My gifts to my grade school teachers always included a model airplane or ship. Young Roger was addicted to model building. A good airplane kit cost 25 cents, and cutting out pieces of balsa wood with an Exacto knife, gluing sticks together, and steaming fine tissue paper over a wing or fuselage at the kitchen stove whiled away many hours. Today’s kids with their Lego blocks don’t know what they’re missing.

Dad said I needed to go further with my gift. Actually, he was right. What would a nun do with a model plane? Hang it from the ceiling of wherever nuns slept? Though Dad never drank, he came up with the solution. I’d give my teachers a bottle of fine brandy gift-wrapped in a yuletide box. From the beginning I was leery of the idea. I couldn’t imagine a nun downing a shot of Christmas cheer.

“Trust me on this one,” Dad said.

I always received the nicest, hand-written thank-you notes. It mentioned how thoughtful the gift was. Few people could imagine how good it felt, after coming into the convent on an icy-cold day, to warm the soul with a snifter of apricot or blackberry brandy. I’ll bet it did…..but I’ll also bet that the “good feeling” related to facing 50 characters like me all day.

Handgun help wanted

If you watch the History Channel, you have probably seen the commercial for They talk about the general public’s rapidly growing interest in owning a handgun for self-protection or recreation, and how many “would be” customers know little about what gun to buy and what ammo to use. Thinking that’s thoughts on the matter compared to my personal thoughts might make for good column material, I went to on our computer. Well, I didn’t get any advice. What I did get was an advertisement for buying a DVD.

Talk about a disappointment. I wasn’t going to send the handgun people any money, but I still believed the topic had merit. So let’s talk about buying a handgun. Though I know my firearms, right now I wish I had a roomful of handgun enthusiasts to help me on this one. I’ll keep this discussion quite basic. If you are an expert, pass your opinion on to me for future reference.

Other than a limited number of single-shot handguns that don’t belong in this discussion, handguns are either revolvers or semi-automatics.

Both are very popular, and both are well suited for defense or target shooting.

The semi-automatic loads by sliding a clip or magazine into the handle. A round is inserted into the barrel’s chamber by pulling back the slide and releasing it. The gun is now capable of firing a round every time the trigger is pulled. Depending on the caliber, make, and model, the semi-automatic is capable of firing 8-19 rounds without reloading. Ammo capacity is a big plus for the semi-auto. Reloading can be done speedily with a second clip/magazine. Popular semi-autos are made by Colt, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and Glock to name a few.

The revolver loads by swinging the cylinder out to the side of the frame and inserting a round into every port, generally six. A single-action revolver is fired by manually cocking the hammer and then pulling the trigger. Double-action revolvers can be manually cocked like a single-action, or fired by squeezing the trigger which mechanically cocks the hammer. One can quickly reload a revolver by using a speed loader that inserts a round into every port at the same time. Quality revolvers are made by Colt, Ruger, Rossi and Smith & Wesson.

If the handgun is primarily for self-defense, I’d recommend a barrel length no longer than 6 inches. For target shooting, I’d go a minimum of 6 inches.

Now the choice — revolver or semi-automatic? For the novice, I’d recommend a revolver as a first handgun. It is less complicated. One can also tell by looking at the gun whether it is ready fire, and whether it is loaded. I’d also recommend a gun in .38 Special caliber. This same revolver handgun is probably capable of firing the more powerful .357 Magnum cartridges.

For a semi-automatic handgun, go with 9mm or .40 S&W caliber. If these calibers are too heavy to be comfortable, go with a .32 or even a .22 rimfire. It is better than nothing when you need it. Become totally familiar with your new pistol. Be able to load and unload in the dark. If you don’t know anyone who will help you get started, give me a call. I might add that the Corps of Engineers have put in a wonderful new pistol range at Pickstown.

In closing, I’m going to borrow the final paragraph of this year’s Wiltz Christmas letter. Our lives, “A Tale of Two Cities” with frequent trips back and forth from South Dakota to Wisconsin, keep Betsy and I happily busy. In a world of secularism and liberal thinking, we find our faith in God more important than ever. May faith and belief in Him guide you into the New Year.

See you next week with some “I hope” resolutions.