Knives and Why You NEED One.

I was initially reluctant to carry a pocket knife.  I can’t remember what my reasons for resisting this now indispensable tool were at the time, though I am sure they were unimpeachable.   I am always so right until I am totally wrong.  My knife has become a staple every day carry item for me.  It’s the kind of thing that I feel naked without.  If I forget it at home, I will inevitably spend all day reaching for it, coming away empty-handed and sighing dramatically at my own impotence.  Recently my five year old niece asked me, “Aunt Bec, why do you have that knife in your pocket??”.  To which I replied,  “Sweet Pea, how else am I going to open all of those bullet-proof, Kevlar-wrapped toy and candy packages you are constantly thrusting at me?”.  We had a brief debate about the merits of using one’s teeth is such situations, but my logic won out in the end.  Turns out five year olds have short attention spans.

My first knife was a Kershaw Chill.  I worked at a bakery at the time and it was so convenient to be able to open big bags of flour or huge tubs of fondant without having to track down or wipe off some sharp implement to use.  Then I started leaving the knife in my pocket after work when I was cooking dinner.  I was always finding things that needed to be opened or cut apart or in some other way separated or dislodged.   Soon after I started taking it with me when I went shopping, so if I bought something with a pesky tag or stubborn package I could readily free my purchase.  In short, I quickly realized that it was incredibly useful to carry a knife every day.  And while I’m no expert in knife combat skills, it does give me a modicum of security when I can’t carry my gun that, at the very least, I have a sharp knife if things go sideways.

I have since upgraded to a Kershaw Chive which I love more than I thought I could possibly love a pocket knife.  The Speed-Safe assisted opening device is awesome.  It saves you from having to flick the knife forward to release the blade, potentially in an unsafe direction.  With the Speed-Safe, you can just point the knife in a safe direction and press the auto-release lever and BOOM! Now you are ready for some things.  It’s also a really good weight, just under 2 ounces, substantial without being clumsy, and it’s a nice size for smaller lady hands.  Additionally, I love a well-designed stainless steel gadget.  Really looks like you mean business.

So a couple of quicks points to consider if you are hesitant to carry a knife:

1.) My knife is VERY sharp and I have never cut myself with it, even with the assisted opening feature. That’s actually the benefit of keeping it so sharp–it cuts what you want it to and not what you don’t.

2.) Keeping a knife in my back pocket is in no way uncomfortable or conspicuous in lady clothes.  And it is way easier than trying to conceal a gun.

3.) Most people don’t even notice that I have a knife until I pull it out of my pocket.  Sometimes there is oohing and ahhing about the fact that I am carrying a knife, but most people are pretty cool about it.

4.) My knife has never jumped out of my pocket and stabbed anyone including pets, small children or old ladies.  In fact, it’s quite useful for cutting bits of yarn for my cat to play with, opening crayon boxes for kids and getting that old lady to stop harassing you about raking your leaves.  Kidding! Old ladies are nice.

5.) Even though you probably can’t think of a single thing you’d use a knife for now, you will find a million uses for it once you start carrying it.  Seriously, it will become as indispensable to you as your lip gloss and your smart phone.  One caveat– don’t forget to take your knife out of your pocket before you go to the airport.  Sadly, I have lost a few Swiss Army knives this way.  It is always very frustrating.

In closing, you need a knife.  You just don’t know it yet. But that’s ok, because when you finally get around to getting one and carrying it everyday and it changes the course of your life forever, I won’t even say, “I told you so”.

The Interview Project: Part 2

Wow.  So, you know those weeks where you’re like, “OMG!  I can’t plan for anything.  My life is a chaotic mess!”?  Right.  I’m having one of those weeks.

Luckily, I was able to find some time to talk to another awesome gun woman this week, so it wasn’t an entire loss.  I thought that after last week’s interview with Valerie, it would take a while to find someone else who would be interested in the project and willing to be interviewed.  Not so!  The day I posted the interview, I was contacted by Candice and we got to talking about blogs and guns and such, and it turns out she’s awesome!  And she let me interview her!

Below is our conversation in which Candice gives us some great advice about concealed carry for women, talks about her experience as an IDPA shooter and reveals how her first trip to the range unfolded..

Rebeccaguns: Tell me a little about yourself..

Candice: I’m currently trying to be a student and looking for a job to pay for my shooting expenses. I’m almost done with my B.S. In Psychology with an eye towards pursuing a Masters in History. The end goal is to be a professor of history. I grew up in Georgia in a Atlanta suburb, but moved out to California for educational and family reasons. I had to move back to Georgia due to economic difficulties. I’m an only child and I have a pet cat. I’m interested in historical board gaming, video games (the Zelda series is my favorite), trail walking, auto racing, and of course recreational shooting.

RG: How did you first become interested in owning/shooting guns? What was the initial appeal?

C:  When I moved to California my partner had some guns but couldn’t shoot them due to the closing of all the local ranges and the various bans making it difficult and not really worth the hassle. When we moved to Georgia we decided to go to a local range and see if it was any better. Boy, was it ever! In short order I fired some pistols and a rifle and was hooked. It was one of the things we could do together and enjoy. It feels as if the gun becomes alive in your hands when you shoot it… like it’s a part of you. The only thing I can really compare it to is driving. There is that sense of man and machine working together and of a danger at the edges of performance which speaks to an instinctive urge in the human condition.

In short, it’s great fun!

RG: It definitely is!  So, did you enjoy going to the gun range right away or did it take you some time to warm up to it?

C:  I didn’t really enjoy the range itself at first. I felt intimidated and a bit frightened at all the noise. I didn’t want mess up and look bad, so there was a lot of performance anxiety. It took me a few trips to get over that. Now I don’t worry about looking bad to others; I worry about not doing my best. The very first trip to the range I shot a .22 Browning Buckmark that was so dirty we had to bump the back of it to get it to go into battery. Boy, was that fun! It was a great pistol to learn some of the basics on. It was also a great experience to clean… NOT! My first experience shooting anything bigger was shooting a Browning Hi-Power with some defensive loads. That wasn’t fun at all, and I thought about quitting shooting right there. Thankfully I didn’t, and learned the “home-brew” I shot was more powerful than just about anything any sensible person would load in 9mm. Let that be a lesson to people wanting to get someone interested in firearms: Don’t have a newbie fire defensive ammo! Get something with less recoil and muzzle flash.

RG:  Amen to that!  Luckily, it seems like you’ve recovered from your first experience, and now enjoy putting some rounds down range.  Have you gotten into any groups or activities related to shooting?

C: I regularly attend a weekly IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) match at my favorite gun store. I got interested in competition when I watched some You Tube videos on improving one’s pistol skills and saw how good the top competitors are. I thought, “Wow! I wish I could do what they do!” I checked out a local IDPA match and met some really nice guys who had a lot of fun running the courses. Once I got my own gun and holster I started showing up for the weekly match. It’s been a real help in improving my skills and making friends. I wouldn’t find the will to keep practicing as much as I do without the need to perform better in a competitive environment.

RG:  What’s the most challenging thing about shooting in your opinion?

C:  In general the most challenging thing about shooting is getting the fundamentals right. By that I mean lining up the sights on the target and pulling the trigger straight back until the gun fires. It sounds simple but it takes a lot of time to master. Often people think there is some magic item that will help them shoot better when they really just need to work on their fundamentals. For me personally, it’s going slow! I love shooting fast, but “you can’t miss fast enough.” I keep reminding myself that if I can be accurate consistently I will get faster. It’s challenging to force myself to slow down, concentrate, and break a shot cleanly without thinking about how fast I can do it.

RG:  Definitely.  And that becomes even more important when you are considering carrying your firearm…

C:  I carry a firearm less frequently than I should. Part of that has to do with my lack of a small firearm like a Walther PPS that is easy to conceal. I carry because there are situations in which I will need to defend myself or others and the best way I can do it is with my pistol. I’ve been in situations which were on the edge of getting violent, and in some bad areas of Atlanta alone at night when I felt completely defenseless. I don’t want to feel that way again.

RG:  What kind of gear do you find most useful for carrying?

C:  During the colder months when I first started carrying, I used a belt holster under a jacket. Now that the weather is warm I most often carry in my handbag. I use a large messenger-type bag that unfortunately doesn’t have a dedicated compartment to hold a gun. I’m hoping to find or make something more suitable. I also want to get a small pistol to carry inside the waistband, because carrying off body has a lot of disadvantages. The main one for me is that I tend to be forgetful and sometimes leave my bag unattended. It’s also much slower to access than having a gun on your person. My advice to women who carry concealed is to train with your gun and your method of carry. Do dry fire (unloaded) practice and become proficient with getting the gun out and presenting it to a target. Go to the range and develop your skills. A gun with no skill to use it is almost as bad as having no gun at all. Imagine if you had to use the gun and you hit someone innocent! That’s why you have to practice.

RG:  That’s the truth.  Guns aren’t some kind of good-luck charms.  They’re just tools that are as effective as the person operating them.  Now that we’ve established the need to practice, practice, practice with your firearm, I have to ask: which of your guns is your favorite to shoot?

C:  It’s hard to pick a favorite because I got each gun for a specific purpose. I love my Sig P220 in .22 long rifle because it’s a great trainer that uses inexpensive ammo. I love my Walther PPQ because it has the best trigger of any gun I own and is the most reliable. That’s the gun I carry and use for IDPA. And I love my FNP-45 Tactical I just got because it’s a crazy cool .45 ACP gun with all kinds of neat features. If I had to pick one, it would be the Walther PPQ because it’s 100% reliable, light, has a great trigger, and fires 9mm which is my favorite cartridge.

RG:  Sounds like you’re hitting all the high points.  Is there a piece of gear you’d really like to add to your collection?

C:  Right now I want a Dillon 550B reloading press so I can shoot a lot more!

RG:  Smart and thrifty!  I love the way women approach gun ownership!  Are there any folks who inspire you in the gun community?

C:  I look up to Caleb Giddings because he’s about my age and he became a IDPA 5 Gun Master in a short period of time. I admire Julie Golob since she’s got a great attitude and has won so many competitions. Brian Enos is a really cool guy and his insights into the “zen” of shooting have helped me a lot to work through my difficulties.

RG:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Candice!  Best of luck to you!

C:  Sure! Have fun and stay safe!

If you or someone you know would like to be part of the interview project, let me know!  You can email me at Phlster617@gmail.com or via Facebook at Rebeccaguns.

The Interview Project

This is the first installment in a project that I’ve been wanting to start since I first got into guns.  At the beginning, I found it very hard to make friends in the gun community, mostly because there just weren’t very many other girls to make friends with.  I also struggled with talking to my existing friends and family about guns, as it can be a tricky topic to bring up around non-shooters.  So, I came up with the idea of interviewing other young women who are into guns and shooting, both as a way to broaden popular perception of female gun owners and also, selfishly, as a way for me to get to make more gun-loving lady-friends.  And I finally found someone to interview!

So, this week I’m talking to Valerie who I met at the local range with her lovely husband and her lovely collection of badass guns.   We bonded over a mutual love of cooking, eating and 1911s.  Check out the Sig P238 she’s wearing while making dinner in the photo below.  Yeah, girl.

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RebeccaGuns: Tell me a little about yourself…

Valerie: I am originally from Northern California but I have spent most of my life here on the east coast. I currently live in Philadelphia with my husband and three dogs and I work for a Center City law firm. These days my life outside of work consists of going to school, training for the Broad Street Run, going to the shooting range at least twice a week and most importantly spending time with friends and family. I also have an intense passion for food and try to cook as often as my ridiculous schedule allows me to. Consequently, I have recently discovered Pure Barre, Lithe Method, and Body Logic to counteract the results of my love for cooking.

RG:  How did you first become interested in learning to shoot?

V:  My father used to take me shooting when I was little but I was so young that I can barely remember how old I was when it started. It wasn’t until this time last year that I actually picked up a gun and became serious about learning to shoot.

RG:  Did you enjoy going to the gun range right away or did it take you some time to warm up to it?

V:  Because of my upbringing, I took to shooting quite naturally despite years of not even touching guns. My husband and I talked about buying a gun for home defense for quite some time, and I was a little nervous about the idea of it. Once we finally decided to purchase one, any reservations I may have had vanished the moment I held one again (I still think I sound like a depraved lunatic when I try to describe the feeling I get from gun shopping).

RG:  What do you see as the challenges women face in successfully incorporating themselves into the gun world?

V:  Unfortunately, someone along the way decided that shooting was a “man thing” and it caught on. I personally think it is pure nonsense, but I still encounter people (men) at gun shows and shooting ranges that choose to perpetuate this outdated viewpoint. There is also the challenge of living in a city where the majority of the population is anti-gun. At one point, when I was younger and more susceptible to societal pressures, I was against owning a gun because I was going along with what I thought was “right” rather than being true to myself. Over time I have grown to accept that people are going to judge me no matter what I do. Furthermore, I am always going to face opposition from both the sexist old men at gun shows as well as my gun hating friends. The best I can do is to respect everyone’s right to have their own opinion and hope that people have the decency to do the same for me.

RG:  How many guns do you currently have in your collection?

V:  At this time, I have three handguns that are mine (not my husband’s): a Sig 1911 compact stainless (.45), a Sig SP2022 (.40 S&W), and a Ruger LCP that has become the stepchild of our collection because I only carry it when I can’t carry the p238 or my 1911. We collectively have six handguns, an AR and a Remington 870. I love to shoot all of them.

My favorite gun is my beloved 1911. The officer sized frame fits my hand perfectly and so far it’s been pretty reliable. It’s accurate and just plain fun to shoot. The 4.25” barrel doesn’t allow me to carry regularly, but I make it work whenever I can because it is the gun I with which I am most comfortable and proficient.

RG:  What is at the top of your gun wish list right now?

V:  Lately, I have been shopping around for a rifle. I don’t have a great deal of experience with them so I am not sure exactly what to look for. I don’t hunt, nor do I care to – I simply want it for target practice and expand my skill set.

RG:  Do you find that having an interest in firearms impacts or informs any other part of your life?

V: If anything, it has given me a heightened sense of awareness in terms of my personal safety and surroundings. In my opinion, owning and carrying a gun comes with the added responsibilities of understanding the fundamentals of gun safety and maintaining a certain level of proficiency.

RG:  Do you concealed carry on a regular basis?

V:  Whether or not I carry depends on where I happen to go that day since there are certain places that I am not legally permitted to do so. When I do, I use whatever works. It helps to have a collection of holsters. I especially like my custom kydex holsters (PHLster). I avoid using my purse because it is not attached to me. If I ever use a bag, it is a bag that is specifically meant for concealed carry; it is on me at all times and either attached in some way or slung across my body so as not to be easily taken by the local purse-snatchers that are so common in my neighborhood. I recently ordered the Tactical Messenger Bag (Fox Tactical) to use while walking around the city or walking the dogs at night.

RG:  What are your favorite firearms-related resources on the web?

V: There are a lot of great resources out there for people interested in guns. The most important research any potential gun-owner can do is to study the firearms code for their state of residence (Uniform Firearms Act for PA residents:http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/18/00.061..HTM). Also, check your city’s code for statutes related to firearms.

In terms of resources specifically geared toward women, I have spent time on cornered-cat.com, girlsguidetoguns.com, and rebeccaguns of course! I am always looking for more to add to the list.

RG:  If you had a time machine and could visit any time, and shoot any gun with anyone, where would you go and what would you do?

V:  I always had an interest in the individual stories of female Red Army sharpshooters from WWII, especially Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

RG:  That’s awesome!  Thank you so much for your time, Valerie!

I hope you guys enjoyed reading about Valerie and her experiences in the gun world.  If you or a lady you know is interested in being interviewed, or you have some suggestions for the interview project, please comment below or email me at phlster617@gmail.com.