In Praise Of "Pure
Pleasure Guns"

It’s Less About Goals — And More About Souls

It sure is nice to have an Ammo Factory in the family. In our outfit, that’s my cousin MacKenzie, Uncle John’s son. His reloading room looks like the inner sanctum of a major ammo manufacturer, and he has a passion for turning out better-than-factory fodder. I dropped by one afternoon with a bucket of brass for him to work his magic on. He was stacking hefty paper boxes into a .50-cal can marked “POOTS.” Yeah; I had to ask.

“Oh,” he laughed. “These are light-loaded, soft-shooting .38 Specials for Dad’s Tussey .38; his Pure Pleasure, he calls it …” We GunBums do most of our shooting together — it’s a family-and-friends thing — but everybody knows Uncle John sometimes slides out stealthily for solo range sessions. He doesn’t talk about them; just comes back happy. On that Great Stone Face others might not see “happy,” but we do. His rage-radiation level drops to zero. In the chain-reaction chaos of my recent life I’d almost forgotten about those solo sessions. What is a Tussey .38? Glad you asked.

Harken back to the May/June 2010 issue, folks, and a Guncrank entitled “Tale of a Roamin’ Pony — The Colt That Came Home.” It’s available online in “Digital Versions.” It was the story of a Colt 1911 built by master gunsmith Terry Tussey for Uncle John about 1981, when he was commanding officer of his agency’s SWAT unit; how a decade later it went astray, then 20 years later, was retrieved, refreshed and reborn in secret by Terry, and how that Colt came home. The Tussey .38 tacks a tail on that tale.

The .38 “Extra-Special”

Shortly after Terry crafted the Colt, Uncle John brought in another box. This one contained a special order from S&W: a round-butt 6-shot K-Frame .38 Special with a 3″ heavy barrel. He wanted the entire top machined flat then fitted with a full-length rib with integral target sights. The hammer was to be bobbed and the action slicked; the trigger smoothed and rounded on the edges, plus other enhancements. Finally, all but the rib was industrial hard-chromed and graced with a set of smooth, contoured wood grips. The result was a superb shooting, hefty but eminently packable backup for the Tussey Colt, or, stand-alone wear around the station in a custom hip holster.

For whatever reason, Terry didn’t tell Uncle John he didn’t work on revolvers back then; he’s almost exclusively a pistolsmith, and a great one. (He does selected revolver action jobs and other touches now.) He just did it — and Uncle John loved the result.

But the S&W, like the Tussey Colt, was sold when Uncle John was disability-retired on “half pay and full bills.” You’ve got to understand when Terry works on a gun, he does it for that shooter. And the distinctive Smith was crafted for one man. In 2010, while Terry was refurbishing the Colt 1911, he launched a broad search to locate the original 3″ .38 Special. He couldn’t find it. If you run across such a 3″ Smith bearing Terry’s circa-1981 twin T’s engraved in an oval on the frame, you have an almost unique revolver. I say almost, because when he couldn’t find the original, he re-created it, and as he’d done with the Colt, simply surprised the stuffin’ — and some liquid leakage from the eyes — out of Uncle John with it. Why? Because, he said, it was the right thing to do. Tells you something about Terry Tussey, doesn’t it?

Uncle John has carry-guns, backups and home defense guns. While the Tussey .38 could ably fill such roles, now he shoots it only for the deep, soul-satisfying pleasure of it.

Not A Routine — A Ritual

I nagged him into a demo. As Uncle John explained it, a Pure Pleasure Gun needn’t be a slick tack-driver or even ultra-reliable. It can be a poor and arcane design, perhaps destined from birth for an early trip to the junkyard. The cartridge can be obsolete, the ergonomics awful, but for whatever reason, it appeals to you. The important thing is you delight in it, and can shoot it without expectations of excellence or anything. It may be a cranky, gritty P38; a pitted, unwieldy Enfield No. 2 Mk 1; a Brazilian contract Smith & Wesson 1917 .45 ACP that’s two percent blue and 98 percent dings and gouges. Your “pure pleasure gun” may be your only gun, and this is okay too.

You don’t try for tight groups or fast splits; you don’t think defense scenarios or competition stages. You just “zone-out and zen-in” on the feel, the smell, the push of recoil and lose your goals, your cares, your imagery and ego. Uncle John caught me checking my groups — the Tussey .38 can shoot clover-groups — and waggled a thick finger at me: a warning. That’s not what you’re here for.

It took me a while, but I got it. The overwhelming majority of my shooting is “business” or intensive personal training. Both take real concentration. Sure, I get a certain level of enjoyment out of it, particularly when all goes well and the elements come together. But with pure pleasure shooting, it’s not about the machine; it’s about the mindset. It feels good.

Just think about it — but not too hard. Connor OUT

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