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Number 903, December 18, 2016

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The Gift That Keeps On Giving
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

I don’t believe I’ve ever recommended Christmas gifts to my readers before, and given the massive number of hapless morons currently running down the nation’s streets, holding their heads in their hands and doing imitations of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” because Donald Trump <gasp!> has been elected President, this advice is clearly not for everyone.

That being said (and gotten out of the way) I think I nave found a gift that qualifies as part of Adam Smith’s concept of the “Invisible Hand”, the idea that, when you do your best to help yourself (and you family, I might add), you help the culture, the country, around you at the same time.

I have been a professional gun guy. And my science fiction novels may be the gunniest in the genre. I have owned a gun shop, a ballistics laboratory, and spent some time as a police reservist. A lot of people ask me questions about firearms and self-defense, often to validate decisions they have already made, but sometimes sincerely, to help them decide what weapon is the best for them in terms of the type and design, and the caliber of ammunition they use. I did this for a living for a good number of years, and I’m accustomed to telling them to find the biggest (most powerful and largest-caliber) weapon they can comfortably handle, and that, in general, adequate self-defense begins with a four, as in .40, .41, .44, and .45.

I don’t retract a bit of that, but recently, I’ve observed something else happening. Women, given a wide-enough range of choices, or left to themselves in a gun-shop with a smart and helpful clerk, prefer something that won’t hurt their hand when it goes off, and that they can handle comfortably in every other sense. They tend to like small revolvers that shoot .38 Special, and that’s a lot better than nothing, when the crunch comes, but the low number of cartridges they carry, and the openness of their design (inviting lint, debris, gum wrappers, and paperclips into the works) are definite negatives.

.380 ACP

.380 ACP pistol cartrdige. FMJ bullet. Manufacturer: Sellier & Bellot (from Wikipedia)

That’s why, this year, I’m recommending almost any semi-automatic pistol that shoots .380 Auto, the tiny cartridge that started World War I. There are dozens of them to choose from, and they get smaller and lighter—handier—every year. They carry at least a couple of cartridges more than the average revolver, and, for me, they’re easier to shoot straight. This is not meant to be an exhaustive catalog, but a guide to get your shopping started. I have owned quite a few .380 pistols, and this is what I can tell you about them:

Star pistol

Star .380 ACP pocket pistol (from

For decades, I have kept a Star “Starfire” handy which I traded for sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. At the time, it was the smallest, lightest .380 available. Many a feebler .25 and .32 was bigger and heavier. Today, it’s still among the best that way, but it’s unavailable, thanks, I think, to the EU or the UN. But if you want a very close equivalent, there is the wonderful SIG P-238, a marvel of good engineering and great beauty. My wife has one with a titanium nitride finish that is an incredibly lovely work of art.

Sig Sauer P-238

Sig Sauer P-238 (from

Walther PP

Walther PP (from Wikipedia)

I had a Walther PP .380 for years, which I very foolishly sold. By today’s standards it was large, heavy, and low-capacity, but I liked its elegant looks. It shot straight and it fed and fired every single time. I knew thast gun, inside and out. If I ran across its little brother, the Walther PPK in ,380, especially with a blue finish, I’d have to exercise every ounce of my character not to grab it up.

CZ 83

CZ-83 (from Wikipedia)

At the other end of some kind of spectrum, there is the CZ-83, a Czech military pistol now being phased out in favor of some damn 9mm. It’s the size of a Walther, but holds a dozen rounds of ammunition. In a compact sort of way, it’s a formidable weapon—except that the one I got (with two spare magazines) doesn’t work worth a damn! This was going to be my fishing gun. I’m sending it to possibly the world’s foremost expert on this size of pistol, so we’ll see …

Beretta 1934

Beretta M1934 (from

Flashing even further back in time, I think I’ve decided to acquire a Beretta M1934. This is the World War II-vintage sidearm that the heroine of my vampire stories, Surica Fieraru, carries; it is also the first centerfire pistol I ever shot. It’s a bit heavy, but it’s simple, rugged, and reliable.

Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless

Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless (from Wikipedia)

I hate to sound like a broken record, but look up the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless in Wikipedia. I had one, over thirty years ago, and I still regret selling it (I had bills to pay). If Colt (or someone) were to start manufacturing these again at a decent price, they could easily compete with the most modern offerings. Hear that, industry, or do I have to start YELLING?

Glock 42

Glock 42 (from

Last on this list, but far from least, there is the semi-new Glock 42. I like Glocks very much and have a number of them, I was extremely tempted by this one, But in the end, I decided to stick with my old friend the Star (which I long ago nicknamed “Estrellita”—I have a .40 caliber Star “Firestar” I call “Estrella”) The small Star holds the same number of rounds as the Glock and fits my hand perfectly. We’ve gone a lot of miles together. But absent that, this Glock is the gun I recommend most highly.

There are a lot of other .380 pistols out there to choose from, even one revolver, I believe, for yourself, your spouse-like object, or your grown kids. Not only will he or she walk safer through the sometimes savage streets of our cities (my understanding is that the incoming Trump Administration will try to make this easier to do), but his or her armed presence will make everyone around him or her safer. That’s the Invisible Hand at work.

In fact, this is what started me thinking about .380. Sure, It’s not 10mm or .45 It’s not even .40 or .357. But lately I’ve realized that if every woman in America carried a small, effective pistol in her purse, and if every man carried one in his pocket, street crime would evaporate, and terrorists would go home blubbering that we’re unfair.

Our kids could walk to school again, go to the movies by themselves, and play on the playground after hours.

And wouldn’t that be a Merry Christmas present?

L. Neil Smith

Publisher and Senior Columnist L. Neil Smith is the author of over thirty books, mostly science fiction novels, L. Neil Smith has been a libertarian activist since 1962. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE "Free Radical Book Store" The preceding essays were originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. Use them to fight the continuing war against tyranny.

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