I grew up in the South where, if you wanted to fend off a prowler, you fired a rifle into the air and went back to sleep. Now I live in LA where, if you use a rifle, you’re likely speeding down the freeway with cops chasing you and a news chopper overhead.
That made me curious about buying a gun here. I consulted with a friend, a retired FBI special agent who teaches firearm safety. ‘What will you be using the gun for?’ he asked. ‘Self-defense,’ I replied. ‘Then the .45 Sig Sauer is the best,’ he advised. ‘But the problem with that gun is confidence. People are intimidated by its recoil, muzzle flash and noise. Shooting it often becomes spray and pray.’ He suggested I go meet a man called Lance Thomas for insight.
‘The .45 Sig Sauer is the best gun to have in a gunfight,’ Thomas concurred. I believed him. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he faced off against 11 armed gunmen in four separate gunfights. Thomas shot six of them and killed five. He became known as ‘the urban gunfighter’ and appears in Paul Kirchner’s 2001 book The Deadliest Men: The World’s Deadliest Combatants Throughout the Ages, alongside Geronimo, Andrew Jackson and Wild Bill Hickok.
Thomas owned a watch store and back then jewelers in LA were plagued with armed robbery. ‘It was not if, but when, I was going to get robbed,’ he recalled. He arranged an assortment of pistols under the counter for the fateful day. He’d never been to a shooting range or fired any of them. Nor did he know if they would actually fire.
In the first attack, a gunman aimed at Thomas’s face. He responded as planned, pulling a gun from under the counter and shooting his attacker, who survived and went to prison. Later, two brothers came into his shop and threatened him at gunpoint. Thomas shot them both. My FBI friend visited him after those incidents and suggested Thomas get rid of most of his guns, adopt the .45 and practice using it. ‘You want a weapon that will absolutely incapacitate the person you’re defending yourself against,’ he advised.
I was surprised to find a kinship in Lance Thomas. But, like me, he wasn’t comfortable with guns. He wasn’t a hunter. In fact, he recalled his one experience shooting a bird with remorse. And he would much prefer to go after poachers than big game.
‘My self-defense started when I was alone and had a gun pointed at me,’ Thomas said. ‘It wasn’t an issue of robbing me or the watches. Those robbers were seeking to negotiate my life. My life is not negotiable.’
He told me I should have a gun I’m comfortable with and learn how to operate it. ‘Any man with any strength should go to a .45,’ he said — it has a large capacity, excellent sight radius, exceptional accuracy and reliability, and a high incapacitation factor.
I decided then and there that my favorite gun is the gun that will save my life.