I’ve always had a fascination with guns and I think this stems from all the toy pistols my grandfather bought for me as a little kid. Water guns, cap guns, you name it, if it was carried by Valley Fair or Two Guys discount department stores he’d get it for me . Growing up in Elizabeth, it seems like my friends and I were always playing cops and robbers in and around the garden apartments where we lived. All of us had cap guns that is except for one kid who had a real gun. “Don’t worry my dad took the firing pin out” he said over our ooos and ahhhs. His dad was a criminal/superintendent and was probably responsible for the burglary of our apartment. This however wasn’t my first experience seeing a real gun.

My grandfather had real guns. He owned a dry cleaning store in Newark from the thirties through the Newark riots in the late sixties. I guess he needed the guns for protection although he had his own criminal past.
I would stay with my grandparents often and when he would get home from the store he would take off a small holster and put his gun away. I would watch this ritual with interest always asking lots of questions. It was one gun in particular that caught my fancy. I would always ask him to see it and he showed it to me but never let me touch it. It looked like a cowboy gun and in my mind I had built this gun up to be the most prized possession of all time.

The High Standard Double Nine Revolver as I recently learned its name lived at the top of my grandfathers closet well past his death. When my grandmother started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease my mother removed the gun and put it at the top of her own closet where it remained until her death. I finally was able to touch it after 40 years and although it wasn’t as impressive as I had built it up during those four decades it still held some of that special power that comes from an heirloom.

I needed to fire this 22 caliber rim-fire revolver but I knew I didn’t want it in my house because of my young son. In hindsight because of my curiosity I’m happy my dad didn’t have guns. I needed to get this thing out of New Jersey, a very gun unfriendly state. I wrapped it in a brown paper bag and put it under my seat and drove very cautiously across state lines to an undisclosed location.

My friend’s son taught me to handle a pistol at a small firing range in south Philadelphia. I shot a 45 caliber Glock, a 9mm and a 38 caliber. I learned the rules of the range, the etiquette of fire arms and I was actually a very good shot. To the disbelief of my shooting mates I hit this bulls-eye hand-holding a pistol at 30 yards. Of course I attribute this new-found natural shooting ability to my years of hand-holding a camera very steady at slow shutter speeds. They attributed it to luck. All I know is I had a blast and I got to fire my grandfather’s gun.