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The ins and outs of handguns and concealed carry

Handguns and the ammunition to feed them may currently be the hottest selling goods in America. It's not just a "man" thing. Women are serious buyers. Though self-defense is a factor, recreational shooting is very popular. Handgun hunting is grow...

Handguns and the ammunition to feed them may currently be the hottest selling goods in America. It's not just a "man" thing. Women are serious buyers. Though self-defense is a factor, recreational shooting is very popular. Handgun hunting is growing in popularity, and many handguns are being purchased by people who fear that they may not be able to buy one in the future. If Hillary Clinton wins the coming November election, or if the Democrats regain control of the Senate, gun owners will be in for a Second Amendment battle, as gun control is a major part of the Clinton agenda.

Because I occasionally write about firearms, I am sometimes asked to recommend a handgun. I am not very knowledgeable about handguns, especially semi-automatics. So along with my thoughts, I would suggest seeking advice from the sales people at Cabela's or Leader in Mitchell, Dakota Archery in Yankton, or Gary's in Sioux Falls or Winner. Local police might also be an excellent source.

I'll limit my personal advice to the following. Buy a handgun that fits or feels comfortable in your hand. For the novice handgun owner, I would recommend a revolver as it is easier to load and unload. It is also easier to determine if a revolver is loaded. Whether a semi-auto or a revolver is chosen, one must be comfortable shooting the weapon. In revolver calibers, the .357 and .44 magnums can be intimidating. Keep in mind that the more moderate .38 and .44 Special rounds may be fired in the magnum pistols. For semi-autos, consider a .380 or 9 millimeter.

I did meet a professional once, a man who packs a gun for a living, and I can tell you about his choice in handguns.

I was on jury duty at the old federal courthouse in Sioux Falls. It was a big drug trial, and we were guarded and escorted by FBI agents and U.S. Marshals. Though the judge had made it clear that we were to talk with no one, including each other, about the trial, I felt I might talk with a marshal escort without violating the judge's orders, so long as it wasn't about the trial. Side by side, we were walking across Phillips Avenue on our way to Minerva's for lunch. Dressed impeccably in a dark suit, the marshal was tall and athletic looking.

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"I am not going to say anything about the trial. Are you armed?" I asked.

"Yes!" was the marshal's answer.

"With what?" I inquired.

"A Glock," responded the marshal.

"Is a Glock required, or may you carry what you wish?" I questioned.

"I'm permitted to carry any arm I can qualify with," answered the marshal.

"Just how good are you with that Glock?" I dared to ask.

"I'd have three people on the floor before you knew what was happening," quipped the confident lawman.

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Was I glad that this guy was covering my back? Wow!

So what's a Glock? A Glock is a semi-automatic handgun that was first made in Austria in 1983. In 2004 Glock opened a production facility in Smyrna, Georgia, where they manufactured the gun's polymer frames. The barrel, slide, and springs are made of steel. The other parts are polymer. A typical Glock weighs about a pound and a half. Ten-shot magazines are typical and the gun's simplicity makes it virtually jam proof. The Glock is a very popular sidearm worldwide. If you are shopping for a handgun, a Glock is worth looking at.

I once owned a Glock. I was at the Mitchell Friends of NRA fundraiser, and a Glock NRA commemorative pistol was being auctioned off. The auctioneer was having a hard time getting an opening bid, and I decided to get things going. I wound up buying the gun. Fortunately a good friend just had to have it. I later learned that only 725 of that pistol were made. I probably should have kept it.

Arguably, the greatest handgun ever made is Colt's Model 1911 semi-automatic in .45 A.C.P. caliber. It was our nation's military sidearm through both world wars, and is more popular today than it was a hundred years ago. A Model 1911 is the only semi-automatic handgun I own. I have a number of revolvers, and of all the handguns I own, I am most accurate with the 1911. The 1911 is a formidable man-stopper, but if you are looking for a recreational arm, I wouldn't recommend a Model 1911 ... at least in .45 A.C.P. I think it's a wee bit intimidating.

While I am not an advocate of carrying a concealed weapon, at least in South Dakota where most of us live, I probably would "carry" if I still lived in Chicago. I do believe we should have ready access to a firearm in our homes. It should be safely stored and out of reach of children. Today, small wall safes are made that instantly "recognize" one's fingerprint. One can have a pistol in his hand right now! I also subscribe to the adage, "Better to have a gun and never need it than to need one and not have it."

Today's topic is not one that pertains to a small minority. As of April 30, 91,136 South Dakota citizens had concealed carry permits! How many more South Dakotans haven't bothered to obtain a permit? After all, one doesn't need a permit to openly carry a handgun.

With this in mind, I'll conclude today's column by listing those states that will recognize and honor a South Dakota permit to carry a concealed weapon. It's called reciprocity. Those states in alphabetical order are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. I have to wonder about Minnesota and Nebraska. What's their problem?

See you next week.

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