Training and Tactics: An Old Friend

Take care of me.

I am getting old and physically worn out, and I need more care and attention than I did 20 years ago. But I have been your friend and constant companion for a long, long time, and not once did I let you down in times of need. So take care of me and I will continue to take care of you, for I am your partner, your brother, your lifelong companion.

I am your pistol.

Respected by some, admired by others, and cursed as an unnecessary evil by yet others, I am your lifeline when the chips are down. The respect I have earned because of my loyalty; the admiration I no longer care about like I did when I was fresh and young, because beauty is but skin deep—held in esteem only by the inexperienced and the shallow. And as for those who proclaim that I am “unnecessary,” it seems strangely oxymoronic that the very same people all seem to have one of my brethren hidden in a bedroom drawer somewhere.

The bottom line is that when somebody cries havoc and lets slip the dogs of war, everybody—to a man—wants to be my friend. When the war dogs are chained and manacled, I’m ignored by all and sundry.

But you have remained faithful to our bond of mutual loyalty since the day you acquired me. And in return I have watched over you, day and night, come hell or high water—and we have both experienced enough of the latter to have formed a long-standing, trusting union. And by rote of this, both of us have become scuffed and worn with the ravages of time. Then again, neither of us is any longer concerned about our outward appearance, because over time we’ve come to realize that a cosmetically worn pistol slide and human facial lines are merely well-traveled roads on the road map of successful battle experience.

Often quoted but rarely practiced by humans, in this case it truly is what’s on the inside that counts. Yes, I was indeed a pretty virgin that long-ago day you proudly bore me out of the gun store like a newlywed carrying his bride over the threshold. And—so I’ve been told—like all newlyweds, we encountered some initial bumps in the road.

Taking the counsel of a mentor to heart, you had my finely sculpted front and rear sights removed and replaced with a more bulbous high-visibility pair. I was not happy. You also had my beautiful, perfectly shaped sharp edges contoured. Again, I was not happy, because these operations necessitated replacing my shiny-blue finish with a dull, matte-black surface. My factory skin-deep beauty was gone forever.

And last but not least, you encouraged the surgeon to enter my innards and operate on my trigger. But what a surgeon he was. You took me to the best of the best, and the decisions you made from day one have paid symbiotic dividends, both in longevity and on the battlefield. Now I am happy.

All through our relationship, you have treated me with respect and never abused me, as I have seen done unto so many of my brethren. You always handled me with care, with that now so-familiar touch. And while I may be a mere mechanical object and have no heart, I do have a soul—so it angers me when I see my fellow pistols maltreated and abused. Then when they don’t function as expected, the pistols are blamed for poor performance, and the operator—if he survives the conflict—maligns and ditches the weapons and acquires replacement guns, only to repeat the cycle of abuse all over again.

These are the same people who wouldn’t dream of going over-mileage on their car’s oil change. But regular maintenance of life-saving equipment they ignore. Go figure.

You, on the other hand, have religiously kept me clean and lubricated. Even on the rare occasions when, under dire circumstances, time constraints didn’t allow for fieldstripping and cleaning, you maintained lubrication. This allowed me to function without straining my inner workings, and for the slide to reciprocate against the receiver as if it were running on ball-bearings. It saved both of our lives.

And when time allowed, you lavished me with care and attention. No rapid back-and-forth strokes with a steel brush for my barrel lands, no dunking in the dishwasher for me. Instead, careful strokes from chamber to muzzle using top-of-the-line brushes, cleaning cloths, and solvent. Similar treatment was accorded my firing pin and extractor channels, followed by a religious visual inspection of all my working parts. You even regularly rubbed down my well-worn exterior to forestall surface rust. For you, this was to achieve reliability. But from my viewpoint, I felt it was only fair to reward you with decades of faithful servitude.

Lubrication was always a priority in your book—hence no galling of slide rails or excessive wear of any other moving parts, even after all this time. And you even read the instructions upon acquiring a new recoil spring, always changing springs as a set—and replacing my weary old springs with those of correct poundage.

No superfluous, non-factory designed parts were ever added after my initial surgery—no guide rods, no recoil buffers, no nuclear glow-in-the-dark devices. And you always fed me the best food available, except for that one box of garbage fodder, which you fed to me to see if I would digest it if, on occasion, that was all there was available—and digest it I did.

And last but not least, I was always fed from a silver platter—the best magazines you could afford, because you knew if ever a pistol had a heart, it would be the magazine.

Yes, we’re both—externally and internally—old, worn, and tired; but we can still outrun the young guns. What a fine, mutually respectful team we have been! And yes, I saw your wandering eye over the years, which I knew would be followed by the acquisition of a newer, later model pistol.

But I accept that, for in my twilight years I know that when you don your daily battle dress, I am always your first choice. In your eyes, next to your dog I will always be regarded as your life companion and best friend, and that is more than enough for me.

Take care of me, and I, your pistol, will always take care of you.

[This column first appeared in the January 2009 issue of S.W.A.T.]

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