I sold my first gun magazine article in 1989. I was 25 years old, a Sergeant in the Army, stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. I talk about this more in-depth in my book The Truth About Handguns, but suffice it to say I always knew I wanted to be a writer, from the time I was a little kid – it just took me until I was 25 to get up the guts to try. Mostly, I think, because it would have hurt too much to fail.
Eventually I figured out that not trying was just failure by omission, so one day, before I could lose my nerve, I sat down and wrote this little 3-page, single-spaced, humorous (at least *I* thought so) article titled “The First Annual Combat Handgun Expert’s Free Dinner and Ceremonial Bash” about what would happen if some of the better-known names among gunwriters all got invited for some free suds and eats. Then I sent it out, one copy apiece, to the four gun magazines I read on a regular basis.
I didn’t know anything. I didn’t understand manuscript format, I didn’t know you’re supposed to double-space, I didn’t know you’re not supposed to do simultaneous submissions. Three of those manuscripts fell into stygian blackness, never again to be seen by the eyes of man. But one of the editors, Jan Libourel at Handguns magazine….bought it.
According to writer’s manuals I have read, and had quoted at me endlessly by wannabe writers of my acquaintance, the average time for an aspiring writer to make their first sale – and I’m talking about the people who are constantly writing, constantly putting it out there – is five years. When I tell hungry young never-published writers that I sold the first thing I ever wrote – not just the first thing I ever submitted, but the first thing I ever wrote – they look at me like I’m some perfect creature with silver hands. What I was, actually, was incredibly lucky.
Jan loved this article. He told me, “I found this absolutely hilarious. It sounds like you know these guys personally. Do you?” My response was, “No, I just based it on the sense I got of their personalities from reading their work over the years.” To which Jan said, “Well, I do know them personally, and let’s just say you’re….pretty close.”
Ironically, this article was never published. Jan always intended to run it, but somehow it just never happened. I might mention, by the way, that when I attended Massad Ayoob’s Judicious Use of Deadly Force class, Mas said to me, “Jan’s been telling about this article you wrote, the one about ‘The First Annual Combat Handgun Expert’s Free Dinner’…it sounds hilarious. You MUST give me a copy of that article.” So I did. Ran it off, put it in the mail a few days later. That’s what we did, in those dear, dead, pre-Internet days. I have had numerous people tell me, over the years, “Hey, Mas showed me this article you wrote, he couldn’t stop talking about how funny it was….” So apparently, Mas Ayoob at least agreed with Jan that this was good stuff.
Eventually I did Jan up a version of this article that actually was double-spaced, so it went a whopping seven pages (albeit barely). The text remained the same, only the spacing changed. And thereafter my hard copy of same sat in my file cabinet for the next 20-plus years, awaiting its eventual appointment with destiny on Self-Defense-Handguns.com. What you’re about to read is a scan of those pages. Now here, for the first time in any sort of real dissemination, 25 years later, is my first-sold, never published gun magazine article.
(And yes, I am well aware there are a few typos in this text. What can I say, you’re getting the raw stuff here.)