I came to shooting early in life, long before I had any inkling of the pros and cons of concealed handguns. I was born on Fort Benning, in Columbus, Georgia. I am one of three children born to William Temple Keller and Patricia Marie Keller. I have an older brother, Karl, and a younger sister, Karen. As an Army family, we moved around a bit, settling in Clayton, New Mexico, the birthplace of my mother and father, when I was approximately 4 years old. I spent most of my life in Clayton, a small ranching community of 2,254 people located in the Kiowa Grasslands, near the juncture of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. I currently reside in Raleigh, North Carolina where I work as a Project Manager.
I attended public school in Clayton and graduated in May of 1982. I joined the United States Navy shortly thereafter and attended Basic Electricity and Electronics (BE/E) school in Orlando, Florida, ET “A” school in Great Lakes, Illinois and “C” school in Mare Island, California. I was subsequently assigned to the USS Durham, LKA-114, an amphibious cargo assault ship stationed at the 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego, California. Aboard the Durham, I maintained various pieces of electronics equipment including communications security devices. During my stay on the Durham, I received numerous letters of commendation and earned my ESWS (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) designation.
I met and married Cindy Rosefielde in San Diego, California, when I was stationed there. We were married on January 21, 1988 and she is the love of my life. Cindy is a partner in a Raleigh law firm and has worked very hard to establish her career. On February 25, 1996, Cindy gave birth to our son, Samuel (Sam for short). Sam is a great kid who enjoys school and is doing very well. Sam knows more about firearm safety than most adults and was awarded “Junior Shooter of the Year” at a local range for his safety practices.
I was introduced to shooting by my father, an avid shooter and firearms collector who taught us proper firearms handling and safety at a young age. It was standard practice in our family to receive a .22 rifle for our 10th birthday. Growing up in Clayton, exposed us to many opportunities to shoot. There was plenty of open range to shoot on, a town firing range and plenty of ranch lands that offered opportunities.
When I left New Mexico at 18, I left firearms behind and didn’t rediscover them until attending Shipboard Security Engagement Weapons and Tactics (SSEW/SSET) school at the Security Forces Training Division, Weapons Training Department, Fleet Training Center, San Diego. This was a highly specialized school that focused on instruction involving crucial military skills such as anti-terrorist and counter-terrorist situations and tactics, hostage extraction procedures, bomb search, nuclear weapons security, rules of engagement and use of deadly force.
After leaving the Navy, I again left firearms behind and had little to do with them until October of 2001. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center emphasized for me, like many others, the changing world in which we live and the dangers that face all of us. I understood, as most sensible people did, that there was little a handgun could do against something as horrible as using a plane full of people as a bomb, but found myself more concerned with the potential copycat crimes and the rising tide of anti-American sentiment both abroad and within our own borders. I felt it prudent to re-acquaint myself with firearms. I bought a pistol in November of 2001, and have been shooting consistently since. I took a local concealed carry class and applied for my North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permit in December of 2001 and received my Permit on February 11, 2001. Since then, I have been carrying a firearm daily.
To keep my skills current, I shoot weekly and also compete with the North Carolina Police Combat Pistol League as a civilian. I finished my first full year of competition as the current Civilian State Champion for North Carolina in both the Duty Semi-Auto Match and the Semi-Auto Distinguished Match. I enjoy the competitions immensely and most of all, I enjoy the people I compete with.
Shooting is not the only pastime we enjoy. Our entire family plays golf (though not well). Sam and I have been known to race slot cars capable of scale speeds nearing 900 miles per hour. We fish, I hunt and all in all, we try very hard to balance work and life and enjoy the time we spend together as a family.
CCM: Was there a specific incident that caused you to carry a gun?
Kirk: I, like others, was shocked awake by the events of 9/11. I realize, like most other people, that a handgun will have little effect on terrorists hijacking airplanes, but it left me with a feeling of vulnerability that I was altogether uncomfortable with. That feeling of vulnerability came from the realization that I was not doing all I could to see to my family’s safety. I love my family very much and was forced to face the fact that I wasn’t doing everything within my power to protect them, should some unforeseen event threaten their lives, whether it’s a hurricane, flood, fire, burglar or any of hundreds of other possibilities.
Carrying a handgun for me is only part of a larger effort I have made in the past few years to ensure my family’s safety. I’ve also become a Red Cross certified First Responder. I have become involved with my community’s police force and support them through a volunteer program. I will be attending CERT training later this month. I spend as much time as possible working with disaster preparedness so I am better prepared to help myself and others in the case of an emergency. I pay far more attention to making sure my family is safe in whatever they’re doing. My concealed handgun is just one segment of a much larger effort to preserve my family’s safety.
CCM: Have you ever had to use your firearm in a defensive situation?
Kirk: I’m glad to say that I’ve never once had to present a weapon to protect myself or my family. There have been many incidents in the course of my life where I became concerned for my safety, but thankfully, none has ever escalated to that point where I felt the need to use a firearm in my defense. Situational awareness has saved my bacon more than once. My wife, however, was a victim of a road rage incident, which prompted her to pursue her concealed Handgun Permit, but that’s another story.
CCM: What training methods do you employ? Do you have any recommendations?
Kirk: I spend a lot of time dry firing and practicing presentation of the handgun from cover. Dry firing will help your trigger control immensely and probably the single most important aspect of utilizing a concealed handgun for your defense is to effectively get the handgun out and on target as smoothly as possible. Other than that, I go to a local range once or twice a week and spend most of my range time working on accuracy and shot timing between 7 and 25 yards, with both strong and weak hands. Practice presenting and practice often.
There’s no substitute for getting to the range and spending time practicing with your chosen handgun. You need to practice enough so that you’ll not only become proficient with your handgun, but more familiar and comfortable with its manual of arms. That comfort level is going to be critical if you ever have to use your handgun defensively. Focus on one-shot drills where you present the handgun from cover and fire one shot on target until you can do this smoothly and consistently. When the movement becomes ingrained in muscle memory, you’ve made good strides. Speed will come with practice. Beyond that, work on sight alignment and accuracy as much as possible.
CCM: How long have you carried a concealed weapon?
Kirk: I’ve been carrying a concealed handgun in one form or another continuously since February of 2002.
CCM: What weapons do you carry?
Kirk: When I first started carrying, I carried an HK USP .45 compact. Issues with a gritty trigger and exposure to different handgun platforms led me to the three handguns that I now carry under varying circumstances. My primary carry is a Smith & Wesson SW1911 in .45 ACP. I also carry a SigSauer P220 ST in .45 ACP and on those occasions when either of these is too large to conceal effectively, I carry a Smith & Wesson 340PD in .357 Magnum. The 1911 platform is my favorite and is the most natural for me in point and function and has become my default carry handgun. I compete with the SigSauer P series pistols, so I’m very familiar with their manual of arms and comfortable with one on my hip. The S&W 340PD is a small five shot revolver that is very concealable and drops easily into a pocket. All three have been tested and proven and have had zero failures.
CCM: What type of ammunition do you carry?
Kirk: For the two .45s, I carry Hornady 45 ACP 200 GR Hollow Point/XTP. For the .357, I carry Hornady 357 MAG 158 GR Hollow Point/XTP. I’ve tested each load for the respective handguns to make sure that they function perfectly with this ammunition.
CCM: What concealment holsters do you use?
Kirk: For common everyday carry, I use the Wild Bills Concealment Fusion Paddle. It’s a strong, well-made straight drop holster that allows easy on and easy off and stands up to the abuses of daily carry. For competition and for concealed carry when a paddle does not provide sufficient rigidity, I use Mitch Rosen’s 5JR and 5JR EXP holsters with an FBI rake. None are better made and they serve me very well. I’m a big fan of both manufacturers.
CCM: What do you do for a living?
Kirk: I am a project manager for a data protection firm in Cary, North Carolina. I manage the firm’s technology, service and hardware implementations.
CCM: Do you have any advice for our readers?
Kirk: Practice with your handgun as much as possible. If you’re new to shooting and uncomfortable with your handgun, take a class. There are literally thousands of companies out there that deal with nothing other than familiarization and utilization of firearms and, with minimal effort, you can find one that fits your needs, budget and time frame. Make sure the course you take is designed to develop a solid foundation of shooting skills covering the following topics:
• Safety • Fundamentals of shooting • Draw • Malfunctions • Speed shooting • Multiple shoots • Multiple targets • Shooting positions • Shooting on the move • Shooting moving targets • Shooting behind cover
Don’t let naysayers around you sway you with the doom and gloom you’ll inevitably hear about the pitfalls of gun ownership. Be firm in your commitment to your safety and take pride in what you’re doing. It’s a solid step forward and it’s a lot of fun to boot.