Firearms: Tools Or Objects Of Personal Expression?

Photo from Flickr, courtesy of David Whitewolf

Earlier this week, I was reading a post by Tamara Keel regarding whether people should carry so-called “barbecue guns.” Like a lot of people, I’ve often thought about whether these highly customized and often decorative guns really have a place in personal defense.


To be clear, I have no problem with people owning them and never have. Buy whatever you want and can afford. I really don’t care.

The question is whether people should actually carry these pistols, and I’ve personally gone back and forth on this one.

On the one hand, a carry gun is a tool, an instrument meant to protect you and yours from harm. It’s something that could be taken from you following a shooting, at least for a little while as the authorities sort out the details. After all, your pistol is evidence until you’re cleared of charges. While not exactly disposable, it’s something you shouldn’t be too attached to.

On the other, I like the idea of one’s sidearm being an extension of them and their personality. Not only does it make the pistol unique, but it also seems to create a connection between a person and their pistol.

Keel apparently sees the two sides as well.

I think some of the answer lies in a remark a coworker once made in a gun shop years ago. I had noticed that his long guns tended to be pretty off-the-rack, and that he didn’t spend any time debating whether or not he should Cerakote his AR carbine and, if so, what color. His 1911 that he carried every day, though? That was a different matter. I’ve seen wedding dresses picked out with less forethought and consideration than he put into getting exactly the right shade and texture of grip panels on that gun.

When asked about this, he explained that to him, the long gun was an impersonal thing, the sort of thing that would be issued out from an arms room and could be pretty much exchanged for any other without a hint of sentiment. The sidearm, though? That was personal, especially a private citizen’s CCW gun. That’s something that’s with you all the time, worn close to your body and might be depended upon to save your life. Things don’t get much more personal than that.

This conversation really caused me to change how I look at people’s carry guns and holsters. Just because something isn’t seen in public doesn’t mean that people don’t necessarily want it to look nice, or else Victoria’s Secret and Joe Boxer would have gone out of business long ago. Beauty may only be skin-deep, but well-dressed goes through all the clothing layers.

I’ve gotten a lot less judgy about various color schemes on carry guns, or ornamental grips. When caveman Og first lashed a flint point to a wooden spear, probably the second thing he did was do a little decorative carving on the spear shaft, if only to distinguish his spear from Thag’s spear. If that Tiffany Blue or Flat Dark Earth paint job is what it takes to help you bond with your sidearm, I’m all in favor. If a bit of sharkskin trim makes you more likely to wear that holster, go for it.


She pretty much nails it.

I recently picked up a (Gen 4) Glock 19 because I needed something better suited for concealed carry, and I freaking hate single stacks. Frankly, I like the feel of the 19 in my hand. It points naturally enough and the strange hump that Glock likes to put on their grips actually fits my hand damn well perfectly. Since mine is the Talo variation, it has an AmeriGlo sight set on it, so even the knock on Glock’s sights is irrelevant for me.

But as much as I like the pistol, it’s…well, it’s a Glock. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, more or less.

Sure, there are some highly customized Glocks, but let’s be honest here. Most folks can’t afford that kind of work, and that’s where the metal-framed handguns really shine.

After all, I could snag a set or two of grips for a CZ-75B or a 1911 or a Sig P226 and get some that are fairly unique right off the shelf. I could easily take a stainless steel framed gun, add in some aftermarket grips and create a pistol that is visually stunning and unique. With a Glock or M&P? That’s not really an option.

Now, if you’re someone who views guns as tools and little more, so be it. There’s nothing wrong with that in the least unless you insist on stopping on other people’s guns (literally) because they should view them as tools as well. Then you’re just an ass.


Personally, though, I kind of lament that Glocks and other firearms don’t lend themselves quite to the level of customization on a budget that so many guns of days past seemed to fully embrace.

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