The Perfect Gun
November 9th, 2017

Somewhere in my basement sits the firearm our founding fathers surely had in mind when they drafted the Second Amendment A single-shot, 16-gauge shotgun ideally suited for scaring off a musket-toting redcoat, it was manufactured by the Iver Johnson company about a hundred years ago and was probably bought new by my great-grandfather. When I was a lad, it came out of the closet once year on opening day of the pheasant hunt.

good hunters

Here is a snapshot of the three Menzies brothers, taken around 1950. Chuck and I are holding up dead pheasants while oldest brother Jim is brandishing the Iver Johnson. Jim didn’t shoot the pheasants; Dad did, and since there are four birds, I’m guessing he expended just four shells. One shot is all you need, if you know how to shoot.

When I turned sixteen, the Iver Johnson was handed down to me. Dad had by this time inherited his father’s 12-gauge Winchester pump, but when we flushed a bird on opening day he held his fire, giving me the opportunity to pull the trigger for the first time. I fired; the bird dropped out of the sky, and there was much rejoicing all around.

For many years afterward I eagerly looked forward to opening day of pheasant hunting season, but not because I enjoy killing things. No, the enjoyment came from spending quality time with my father, tramping the crunchy grassy berms that border irrigation ditches and stock ponds in the high desert scrubland of southeastern Utah. And now that my father is gone, I no longer hunt.

I gave away Dad’s Winchester and his Remington .270 deer rifle, but I’ve hung onto the Iver Johnson, mainly because no one has ever expressed any interest in having it. Some years ago the firing pin went missing, and I haven’t bothered to have the gun repaired because it has occurred to me that we’d all be better off if privately owned guns would just stop working after a while. What we need are pistols like the ones used by bad guys in old Westerns that were evidently manufactured not by Colt but by Bic. The bad guy would take his six shots at Roy Rogers—missing him every time, of course—whereupon he’d look at his pistol in disgust and throw it at Roy, missing him still again.

Later, when the bad guy moseys into Buck’s Hardware & Sporting Goods to buy a replacement pistol, he is immediately recognized as the fellow who recently fired six shots at Roy Rogers with his disposable six-shooter.

“Sorry sir, but we only sell guns to people who know how to use them responsibly.”

And even if the seller were to make a mistake and accidentally sell a gun to a bad guy, said gun would soon stop working and thus be rendered less deadly a weapon than, say, a rock or an Aboriginal throwing stick.

-Richard Menzies