Now, if you’re thinking, “This all sounds like fun, but what does it have to do with me?” you should know that Crimson Trace put this nighttime competition together to highlight how effective its laser products are for self-defense. They help you shoot fast and accurately, even in a dark house or alley. Sales of guns, especially handguns, are still breaking records, and a lot of these sales are to first-time buyers. Crimson Trace’s lasers are ideal for them, because with a laser sight you don’t have to line up front and rear sights. As you’ve no doubt seen in the movies, where the red dot goes, bullets can follow.
As I navigate the range in the dark, I bump into Lew Danielson, founder and chairman of the board of Crimson Trace. He says, “People are having fun tonight. Look at all those red dots on targets.”
“Fun, yes, but there’s also something wonderfully intimidating about a red dot,” I say.
Lew’s bearded face breaks into his characteristic grin. He founded Crimson Trace with a group of engineers and toolmakers 17 years ago. They now have 150 employees and manufacture all their products in America. He’s proud of that. He’s even prouder of the e-mails and letters that come from everyday people who say they used a firearm equipped with a laser to “talk” a would-be criminal into vacating the area. Lew says, “One thing I like about a laser on a self-defense gun is that when some thug sees a red dot on his body, he tends to run. He knows what can come next.”
I stop at another station, where people are taking turns navigating a plywood maze of rooms, shooting paper-target “bad guys” first with an AR-15 and then by pulling their semi-automatic handguns.
Yeah, I hope some NSA drone is circling above, sending images right into the Oval Office. I hope President Obama has close-ups and audio, too. If he saw only from a distance, he might think he needed armed drones here. But viewing the scene in closeup, he would see these people from all over America and hear them talking about everyday American things. He might even start wondering, if only privately, what another “assault-weapons” ban would do to the rights of law-abiding people. Then maybe he could turn his mind to finding out why places like Chicago have the murder rates they do.
He might even wonder why, as Chicago earned the gruesome distinction of having the highest murder rate in the U.S. in 2012, the city also had the lowest prosecution rate for gun crimes. The facts are right there in government records. Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data-gathering and research organization run by Syracuse University, found that out of 90 federal jurisdictions, Chicago ranked last in 2012 for prosecuting bad guys with guns. David Burnham, co-director of TRAC, said, “On a per-capita basis Chicago ranks dead last for prosecuting gun crimes.”
Maybe President Obama should also do a fact-finding mission and ask his Special Forces what they think.
Greg Stube is a former Special Forces sergeant who fought in Afghanistan. He was almost pronounced dead on the battlefield after he risked his life to save an Afghani soldier. I ask him if civilian gun ownership helps prepare citizen soldiers. Stube replies, “In my experience, a lot of training time in the Special Forces is used to teach those who don’t have gun experience. To put it plainly: The Special Forces are in the business of creating country boys.”
Stube is now retired from the U.S. Army and works for Nightforce Optics. He continues, “I’ve toured the Smith & Wesson plant in Springfield, Massachusetts. I saw firearms headed for law enforcement and for the civilian market coming off the same lines. This is how America has always worked. It’s how it should and must work. I saw again and again in training and on the battlefield that soldiers who grew up hunting and shooting recreationally are better soldiers. If our free citizens are barred from using firearms similar to those used by the military, then we won’t be as prepared as a nation.
“Also, my experience in war taught me,” adds Stube, “that law-abiding people shouldn’t be put in a position where they’re potentially less armed than those who might prey on them.”
Steve Adelmann, a retired Special Operations officer and owner of Citizen Arms, agrees with Stube. “America’s firearms culture helps the military and law enforcement,” he says. “When I trained new snipers for my team, I always found the best shooters had been raised with a gun in hand.
“I’ve also seen a difference in the abilities of other armed forces,” says Adelmann. “I’ve trained with and fought alongside allied soldiers from many nations. Soldiers from firearms-friendly places like Israel and Scandinavian countries acquit themselves very well with a wide variety of arms. Conversely, soldiers from nations with severe gun restrictions like England and Australia are far less familiar with firearms and generally don’t have the same comfort levels as Americans. They’re very good with the weapons they are issued, but the battlefield requires enough flexibility to adapt quickly to a wide variety of firearm types.”
Adelmann now builds custom AR-15s for private citizens. He asks all his customers what they intend to do with their modern sporting rifle. “Ninety percent of them list hunting and home defense as their first two reasons for ownership,” he says. “ARs are supremely accurate hunting rifles and utilitarian home-defense firearms. If they’re banned, we’ll lose an effective tool for the citizen, and military and law-enforcement entities will suffer down the road. Also, many advances in firearm technology come from the civilian market, especially competition shooting. If manufacturers can no longer sell ARs to citizens, much of that innovation will grind to a halt.”
Crimson Trace, for example, began by making lasers for the civilian market. It grew, and over time the military noticed. Crimson Trace now has military contracts and a pile of letters from veterans of Iraq and elsewhere thanking the company for saving their lives.
Farther down the range I find Chris Cerino. He is a cop. He was runner-up in the first season of the History Channel’s show Top Shot. He is now in a series called Top Shot All-Stars, showcasing a shoot-off among Top Shot alumni. He jokes, “It’s running now and I’m still in it. I might just win.” Of course he knows the outcome, but he can’t tell. I ask about AR-15s and ask if, as a cop, he sees them as a problem on the streets.
“Not in my experience. Statistically, these people don’t commit crimes,” he says as he glances around at the competitors in the Midnight 3-Gun match. Then he adds, “An armed citizenry is a safe and free citizenry. That’s what our armed forces fight for and, as a police officer, that is what I uphold.”
— Frank Miniter is the author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Manhood.