How Far You've Come

 Erik Nelson      May 10, 2017 @ 11:19 pm MDT      May 10, 2017 @ 11:19 pm MDT    

I read once that “A man should keep a picture of his first love, first car, and first dog.” I appended to that “And his first gun.”

I bought this Springfield XD︎ in 2010, about two weeks after I got back from Iraq. It’s the first gun I ever bought for myself.

The XD︎ series isn’t without problems. The gun can be easily disabled by jamming the grip safety.  The loaded chamber indicator has a similar failure reputation, the sights are impossible to remove without specialized tools, and there’s no manual safety. Plus, it’s a .45, and I’ve long since moved to 9mm across the board for a carry gun.

But I still have it.

Not because it’s a great gun, and not because it’s worth anything. But because it was my first gun that I learned to CCW with. It represents how far I’ve come as not just a shooter, but as a gunsmith and as someone who carries every day. I learned a lot of lessons with that firearm, and spent a lot of time dry-firing it and learning how to carry it. It was my first gunsmithing project (a Powder River trigger) and my first Cerakote project (when I had a spray booth in my workshop).

Look into your gun safe and find your self-defense gun, if you still have it. A 12-gauge you loaded with #9 birdshot, or a 1911 with GI sights and 7 round magazine? A Glock 23 loaded with Black Talons you bought in 1999?

If you’ve still got that gun, remind yourself how little you knew when you first started out. Remember the questions you asked and the assumptions you made, and the ‘institutional knowledge’ that you overcame during the years. And the next time someone starts popping off in earshot about the ‘vast stopping power of  10mm’ or insists that their nylon holster is ‘good enough’, take a second to remember how strongly you held your opinions, and what it took to change your mind.

And go pop off a few rounds with the old warhorse, just to remind yourself how far you’ve come.

(Originally published at

Erik Nelson
(aka  Erik Nelson)

Erik is a private gunsmith living in Boise and a retired veteran of the US Army (OIF 09-11). He maintains a firearms related blog at, where many of these articles can be found.

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