Have you ever done something so irrational that you can’t for the life of you figure out why you decided to abandon your good sense? I do things like that all the time. Sometimes, I even try to rationalize an indefensible decision, but that often makes the second-guessing even worse. Do that too often, and you will begin to question your own sanity.
So it was the other day when a local federally licensed firearms dealer, with whom I have a pretty close relationship, called me to let me know that a package had arrived for me and that I should come in to fill out the transfer paperwork and go through yet another background check. The little box was sitting open on the counter when I arrived. The gun dealer looked at me and shook his head in disapproval. “What on earth made you buy this?” he asked.
“Funny story,” I said as I snatched up the little derringer and flipped the locking lever to make sure the pistol was unloaded. “For some reason I just had to have it. You get something in your head and, well, why wait and think about things and maybe talk yourself out of it?”
He shook his head again. I filled out the required state and federal forms, promising I am not now, nor have I ever been, a bad person. As he called the DOJ background check hotline, I fondly caressed the little gun and read the words rolled on the side of the barrels: “Model D 38, Caliber: .38 Sp.” A few minutes later, I headed home with my new, used derringer. It’s a two-shooter small enough to fit in the palm of my hand.
Truth be told, there is another derringer in the Michalowski gun safe. My father bought it in 1966 from Herter’s, the mail-order sporting goods retailer. I’m pretty sure the gun set him back about $16. It was apparently delivered right to my dad’s mailbox on Lake Drive. It’s a gleaming, nickel-plated gun chambered in .357 Magnum. It rests in a worn leather holster with a shiny spring-steel belt clip.
My dad carried that gun, albeit illegally, during the summer of 1967 when race riots and unrest engulfed Milwaukee. When I asked him about it years later, he said, “I wanted a little gun no one would see, and I figured I would only use it to get someone off my car if I wound up in the middle of a protest.”
I don’t know how good his planning and training were, but a derringer is certainly easy to hide and will work as a close-range tool for helping a person get some distance. Other than that, the guns are impractical. They provide just two shots and are difficult and slow to reload. The sights are rudimentary at best, though I have been able to score hits on the light switch on the wall across my office by using Laser-Ammo. A derringer is really a last-ditch, close-quarters pistol that will, when needed, encourage a much larger and stronger opponent to get off of you. It would not be my first choice in a fight, but I would certainly reach for it as a last resort.
But, yeah, I don’t know why I bought it. Maybe someday I will tell my sons about ordering a derringer online.
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