I’m going to town this morning. The big town about 50 miles away. This means a costume change. I have a drawer full of presentable blue jeans, a couple of t-shirts and a couple of overshirts I set aside for these occasions. Also the bat-belt accessories get trimmed down.
There’s a ritual to these things. I live in the desert and sometimes don’t see strangers for months at a time. Being naturally an introverted misfit, this has not enhanced my social grace. What I’m trying to say is that I really don’t like to go to town, but now with the glaucoma thing it’s necessary or I’ll gradually go blind. I need the eyedrops, and the only place I can get an affordable discount is at a Wal-Mart. They don’t put Wal-Marts out where I live. So I do what I’ve always done when faced with a task I’d rather shirk: I reduce it to ritual.
Part of the ritual is arming myself. I’d go without pants before I’d go without my gun, but I’m really (really) trying to deflect attention so I’m not going to carry the .44. Ordinarily I’d bring the 1911 just because it’s my second-favorite pistol while still far more concealable than the Taurus*, but when – like today – I’m working up a case of nerves I’ll dust off a little number that’s been on loan from Ian for years.
And it always reminds me of how probabilities and magnitudes affect our choices. Day to day, the probability that I’ll actually need to shoot something is pretty low, but still higher than where you probably live. There’s no social cost to being seen carrying a gun, so there’s no reason not to carry a big gun in a comfortable holster. On the other hand the consequences of not having a gun when a gun is needed are really fairly low. When I shoot a varmint, I’m more often defending the dogs or chickens or just removing an irritant – I’m really in no personal danger. Still, big gun.
In town the chance of needing to shoot some(body) is vanishingly low, though not quite zero. And if I do need to, it’s not going to be just one of those things. It’s going to alter and maybe ruin – maybe end – my life. Also, in town the custom is to go concealed. So, little gun.
Above, my everyday gun – a beater Taurus .44 Special. Puts big slow bullets in things. When used on varmints up to dog-size, resolves issues quickly. Lousy sights, okay trigger, moderate recoil. Weighs a ton.
Below, my ‘go-to-town’ gun – a Hungarian PA-63 in 9mm Mak. Puts small zippy bullets in things. Lousy sights, comically bad trigger, ouchy recoil. Small, slim and light like a feather. This pistol is made to be carried by a person who doesn’t expect to shoot it.
Hence, high impact/low probability – the chance that I will draw this pistol with intent to fire today is so low it barely registers on the list of things worth worrying about. But paradoxically if I do, I’m going to spend the entire time wishing to hell I’d brought a bigger gun.
And now I’m going to town. Later.
*And mind you, this is just my nerves talking. This ain’t NYC we’re going to. I could throw a shirt over the Taurus – or even not – and probably nobody would say a word to me as long as I didn’t pass a “no guns” sign. With the 1911 I regularly do that, and nobody says anything. People here are generally casual about guns, it’s no big deal.