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Special Guest Columnist Eric ".44 Magnum" Cartridge on -- "Taking Gun Virgins for a Desert Shoot"

My line of work as a producer of advertising, photo shoots and television commercials brings me in contact with people from all over the world. They come to Arizona all winter for our consistent sunshine and great natural beauty. Many of my clients are from New York, California, England, Canada and other places not known for their tolerance of guns and gun owners. The right to keep and bear arms is legendary in the American West but equally alien in less enlightened parts of the world, and often the subject of guns comes up in conversation while we are driving around the state looking at filming (shooting?) locations.

A couple of weeks ago I was working with a New York City-based client on a fashion catalog, and the photographer said, "Eric, what's the deal with guns out here? I hear lots of people have guns in Arizona." I replied, "Of course we do, don't you have guns in New York?" (knowing full well that most New Yorkers of course don't).

He responded that he didn't have a gun. Then he carefully asked if I did.

"Well of course I own guns," I said, feigning surprise at the question.

"How many guns do you have?" he asked, with eyebrows raised, and I nonchalantly told him I had about 30 or so, but I hadn't exactly counted them in a while.

This got everyone's attention, and he followed up with, "Why do you need 30 guns, Eric?" I responded by asking the photographer why he needed 30 shirts in his wardrobe -- "Obviously, I don't want to wear the same gun every day," I responded somewhat sarcastically to his somewhat insulting question.

At this point, the wardrobe stylist (a nice woman from London) asked me if I had any handguns. I replied that of course, I had a half-dozen Glocks like the police carry, several revolvers like the police used to carry, and of course many rifles and even a couple shotguns.

She was amazed at this and correctly pointed out that in England, nobody has been able to own a handgun for as long as she could remember, and only a few old farmers had rifles and shotguns for hunting. She then asked me if it were legal to own all those guns, and I had to laugh. She got a belly laugh in the face at that question. I said, "If it were illegal for me to own all these guns, would I be admitting that to a carload of clients?"

I explained that all my guns were indeed legal, and that anyone except convicted felons and other serious malcontents could own and use firearms and go out shooting in the Arizona desert.

Everyone's ears perked up, so I did what any intelligent pro-rights activist would do -- I asked the obvious question, "Who would like to join me for some shooting out in the desert?"

I told them I could bring a variety of cool guns; I would insist on showing them how to handle them safely since they all but admitted abject ignorance, and we would have a blast shooting at cans in the desert. The gal from London was very interested, and squealed with delight that she had never even held a handgun, much less shot one. When people are availed the opportunity to act like free citizens, and shoot firearms, they accept the offer without hesitation. It's a freedom thing. Some people just don't understand.

In the end, I got four absolute "gun virgins" (three women and one man), none of whom had ever fired a gun before, to join me in the desert for a shoot. It's so regular for free citizens, and so unfathomable for repressed ones. I brought four guns for them try: a Ruger .22 target pistol, a Glock 9mm like police carry, a Smith & Wesson .38/.357 revolver, and a semi-auto AK-style rifle.

When I took the guns out of their cases and we started setting up the tin cans, the questions started flying. "How many bullets does that gun hold?" "Is that the kind of gun the police use?" "Which one is the most powerful?" and the rather obvious question about whether the AK was a "machine gun." Media propaganda had worked its work on these unsuspecting individuals, but it was easily dispelled by, well, simple reality.

I dutifully answered these and a hundred other questions about calibers, hollowpoint bullets, the difference between semi-auto and full-auto weapons, why citizens might need guns for self-defense and why nearly everything about guns they have seen in video (both on the news and in the movies) was completely wrong.

As I explained the safety rules and we began shooting (one shooter at a time, of course, and I stood next to each to ensure safety), I did my best to inspire confidence in them. The firearms I brought were nothing more than common household firearms which any man, woman, or child could handle safely with a modest amount of training.

We started on the .22, low power and easy, the right way to start virgins, and I pointed out that I had shot guns of this caliber when I was eight-years-old at summer camp. When we moved up to the 9mm Glock, I explained to everyone that this was my wife's personal gun, and that if she could shoot it, so could any of them. "Your wife's gun? Your wife has a gun?" "Well sure, doesn't she need to be as safe as anyone else?" These people were so snowed under media propaganda it was hard to absorb. The .38 revolver was a hit with the smallest gal there because it had very little recoil. It's heavy.

By the time we got to the AK dusk had descended upon the desert, and all my former "gun virgins" were both excited and confident. One gal expressed some concern that the semi-auto AK would be too powerful for her to handle, so I explained that it was the most popular rifle in the world (even though it wasn't made by U.S. imperialists), and that it was the choice of peasant women and even young boys during the Vietnam War.

I put the sleek, natural wood, beautifully engineered rifle up to my shoulder and blasted off about ten quick shots just to demonstrate how truly cool this gun was. Since it was dusk, you could see a two-foot flame leapt out of the barrel. I could hear the oohs and aahs of my new shooters. All guns have flash. Only nighttime shooters get to enjoy that.

Everyone got a quick turn with the AK before it got too dark, and we packed up the guns and headed back to their elite, civilized, air-conditioned Scottsdale resort (that is, a normal room as most people experience on a trip). As we were packing up, I was showered with heartfelt thank yous and even some hugs from the gals. I could tell that I had given them an experience they would never forget. An experience it was sad they had never had before.

As soon as we got back in the car, one of my clients clicked text messages madly to her father and her brother about her first gun experience. She kept asking me about what guns and calibers we shot so she could be sure to tell all her friends every last detail. How differently the world would look if the "news" didn't hide this reality so.

The gal from London was writing down which guns we shot on the back of one of my business cards so she could tell her friends and family in England later. Everyone asked for some spent brass as souvenirs, and I of course obliged. So typical of new shooters, "Can I have the empty casing?" I did warn them however, to please put the brass in their checked luggage when they returned to New York, as airport Fatherland Security might be concerned about the great dangers an empty shell casing could pose on an airplane. I forgot to tell them to wash their hands to get by the puffers.

Although my clients clearly had a "blast" with their first shooting experience, they didn't have more fun than I did, proudly explaining America's fine tradition of empowering the individual with firearms and standing up to "authorities" who were in reality elitist snobs bent on convincing them they were unworthy underlings.

I had instructed them in the safe and proper use of routine firearms. I was proud of my new students for their open mindedness and confidence in learning that "guns are good!"

Perhaps they will take the seed of this lesson and spread it to their little corners of the universe where the seeds of freedom are so sorely needed. I encourage you to do the same. Invite someone, especially someone fearful or ignorant of the noble and decent values of firearms, to go shoot some holes in some cans.



Good read, and good story. I loved how you started them off right, with a little 22, and slowly worked up to larger/harder hitting/recoiling calibers. Good choice and hopefully the world has 4 more gunnies, or at least 4 less anti-gunnies.

Adam N.


Great article. It's interesting how uneducated people think. Sometimes it's fear from mis-information, other times it's a lack of knowledge.

Sometimes I'll photograph Jeep tours where out of state / country convention attendees are taking a tour of the Arizona desert. I've heard some interesting questions, yet the guests are happy that the "tour guides" have 6 guns strapped to their sides when they are in the "boonies" of AZ.

Thanks for the great story.

Jason S.

I would love to go shooting in the AZ desert, but I'm concerned about the laws and the safety of the location I would find. If anyone knows of some areas that are safe and legal, please email me.


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About the Author

  • Freelance writer Alan Korwin is a founder and past president of the Arizona Book Publishing Association. With his wife Cheryl he operates Bloomfield Press, the largest producer and distributor of gun-law books in the country. Here writing as "The Uninvited Ombudsman," Alan covers the day's stories as they ought to read. Read more.

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