So, You Want to Carry a Gun?

If you are reading this, I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s because you have decided you might want to start carrying a gun. So, let’s get a couple of disclaimers out of the way for starters:

I reside in Georgia. Any reference to laws and other legal considerations are done with that reference in mind. Check your local laws and regulations.

I am obviously not an attorney and this does not constitute legal counsel in any way, shape, form or fashion.

I assume no liability whatsoever for any action you or another person takes after reading this article.

Clear? I hope so. Can’t be too careful in today’s world. Which is a nice transition to the topic at hand, carrying a gun. For the purpose of this article, we will primarily be discussing concealed carry, as opposed to open carry, so bear that in mind. When discussing carrying a firearm with someone in person, I usually like to figure out what prompted this decision, as sometimes there may be an underlying issue that needs to be resolved, with the desire to carry a gun being a symptom of that issue. For example, an ex boyfriend stalking a woman. She should be taking legal routes to resolve the stalking, while absolutely getting the means to defend herself should the need arise. I’m not saying getting the permit and firearm is a bad idea at all, but the issue needs to be resolved, whatever the “issue” may be.

Here in the state of Georgia, our firearms laws are fairly relaxed compared to other states across the country. The usual restrictions to firearms ownership still apply, such as felony convictions, domestic abuse, dishonorable discharge, etc. We will be going from the assumption that you are legally allowed to possess a firearm from here on out. What is NOT required, per state law, is any kind of formal training to get a carry permit and carry a firearm. Without delving into the politics surrounding this, suffice it to say I think carrying a gun without at least rudimentary training is a bad idea. You should have a working knowledge of your firearm, basic understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities as a concealed carrier, and practice enough to maintain proficiency with your firearm. We aren’t talking SEAL Team 6 stuff here by any means, and it behooves you and the general public to obtain this knowledge and these skills.

Classes are available to teach you how to shoot. Ranges are available for you to practice and maintain your skills. What is not so easily taught is the mindset that you should have while carrying a gun. That gun is to defend your life, to put it simply. If you were a maintenance tech before you started carrying, you are still a maintenance tech, your job didn’t change. You didn’t somehow become Superman. Yes, there are cases where a concealed carrier used their weapon to save the life of someone else. No, that’s not a bad thing. If your moral compass and your legal rights and responsibilities align in a moment of need for someone else, great. But your primary purpose in carrying a firearm as a civilian is for self defense, not crime fighting, not to get yourself in bad situations just because you have a gun now.

It takes only a minute or two to see a news story about someone being killed or assaulted in a violent crime. There is a criminal element out there that does bad things to good people. Such has been the case for all of human history, and likely will not change in our lifetimes. If these news stories are what prompted you to start down this path, that’s completely understandable but also understand according to National Institute of Justice statistics, violent crime is consistently decreasing. Remember that there is a fine line between fear and prudence. Do not let fear dictate your decision making when it comes to big decisions like carrying a gun.

After discerning your reasons to begin carrying a concealed firearm, the next step is to go to your county courthouse and apply for a permit. While some states allow “Constitutional” or permit-less carry, Georgia requires a permit to carry a firearm on your person. There will be some paperwork you will out, as well as having to obtain fingerprints from the county Sheriff or other local law enforcement agency. There will also be a fee that will need to be paid. This fee can vary from county to county, so check with your county to get accurate pricing. Turnaround times on permits being issued can vary. Mine took about two weeks. That seems to be the average from talking to friends. The Georgia permit is good for 5 years, and if renewed before expiration, is typically less expensive when renewing it. The Georgia permit also will serve as a background check when purchasing a firearm in the state of Georgia. The gun store will simply copy the permit and your driver’s license and file it with your other paperwork from purchasing the gun.

This next section is largely subjective, so bear with me. If you hang around “gun people” at all, you have likely heard the term “carry gun” thrown around. This is because a “carry gun” is something most concealed carriers spend a great deal of time researching and considering before making a decision on. For me, a gun I intend to use for concealed carry has to meet some very important criteria before I would consider carrying it. I need to be able to shoot it well under simulated stress, both accurately and quickly. It needs to be unquestionably reliable and fool proof to operate under stress. Lastly, I need to be able to conceal it fairly easily. In my case, this brought me to the Glock 19 9mm pistol. It just works for me and my needs. It may not for you. The best advice I can give you, the novice carrier looking for a concealed carry gun, is to find a range that will allow you to rent guns and try them out. Tell the range staff that you are in the market for a carry gun, and try several out. Or, if you have a friend that has several guns and you trust, ask them to let you go shooting with them and try some of theirs out to see if you find a potential match. Inevitably, someone will ask if I have some recommendations to start the search with, so here are a few that I personally have carried, and would recommend to someone new to carrying a gun:

  • Glock 19 9mm
  • Smith and Wesson M&P 9c 9mm
  • Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm
  • Glock 26 9mm
  • Glock 30s .45 ACP

Some of you have probably noticed two things: I like Glock and Smith and Wesson, and I like my carry gun chambered in 9mm. Both are true. That’s not to say there aren’t other options out there that may make more sense for your needs and preferences. These are just what I am willing to put my stamp of approval on, based on having actually carried these guns. My reasoning for the 9mm is quite simple: it is cheaper than the other two members of the “big three” self defense calibers, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, delivers enough energy for self defense needs, and is mildly recoiling and easier to shoot more quickly and accurately than other options. Again, these are my personal reasons and based on my experiences.

Once you decide on a firearm to carry, you are going to need a holster to carry it in. This is almost more subjective than the firearm selection portion of the article. Where on your body you carry will largely be determined by your day to day activities and your clothing that you typically wear. Find what works best for you. It’s alright to have more than one holster style for different occasions. Just remember to practice drawing from each holster you have. (With a completely unloaded firearm for practicing!!!!) There are a few features I think it is necessary to have on your concealed carry holster.

  • The trigger guard and trigger should be completely covered by the holster. This lessens the likelihood of negligently discharging the firearm.
  • The holster should hold the firearm securely. This can be accomplished through a tight fit, or a retention device such as a snap, or button release.
  • On leather holsters, make sure that the leather is in good shape and stays well maintained. Over time, leather can become very flimsy and start making its way into the trigger area of firearms upon holstering the gun, resulting in catastrophic consequences. LOOK as you holster your gun to also make sure nothing is being pulled into the holster with the gun, such as a shirt tail, jacket cinch cord, key lanyard, etc.

Ammunition choices for concealed carry are bountiful, to say the least, and we won’t be diving into the various choices available in this article. Hollow point ammunition is the best option for carry, however. This is due to two main reasons, the first being that hollow point rounds are designed to “mushroom” and expand when entering a soft target, thus slowing the bullet down so that its potential to overpenetrate the target and cause unintended damage is greatly reduced. The second is that by expanding, the bullet is effectively delivering more kinetic energy to the target, making it more effective in the application of stopping a violent attacker. I will urge you to YouTube carry ammunition in the caliber you decide on, and make an informed decision based on the results of your research. My carry load is Federal’s HST 124 grain hollow point round. That can serve as a starting point for your research. Don’t get so caught up in which round you want to carry, that you forget to practice. You can have the best ammo available and it not do a bit of good if you can’t hit your target consistently.

I commend your decision to take responsibility for your own safety, and since you’ve made it all the way to this point in the article, taking it seriously enough to do some research before assuming such a responsibility. Remember, you will win 100% of the fights you do not get in. Effective risk mitigation decision making, a confident demeanor, and not making yourself a soft target will go a long way towards lessening the probability of even needing your firearm. Bear in mind that a gun is just one tool in your self defense toolbox. Not every self defense situation will warrant deadly force (even brandishing your firearm unjustly can land you in jail) and it would be beneficial to obtain some quality martial arts or unarmed self defense training as well.

If you found this article helpful, please, share it with others who you think would benefit from it. Thank you so much for reading. Stay safe, and stay prepared.

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Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan .44 Mag Review

0822181116b2115256845.jpg It’s coming around quickly. Everywhere I turn, I hear avid deer hunters talking about their big plans for this season. I hear backpackers and campers talking about getting out in the woods. Fall is coming, and with it comes the possibility of running into a bear while you hunt, camp in, and explore their environment. Now this is not a scare piece about bear attacks, as they really are rare, and there’s any number of solutions you can use to deter or scare off a bear before it comes down to drawing a firearm. However, the purpose for which this gun was designed IS to be a guide gun. Hence, the name “Alaskan” branded on the barrel.

Ruger Super Redhawk revolvers have always been synonymous with solidly built, powerful, and rugged wheelguns. Found on the hips of ranchers, farmers, and outdoorsmen for decades, this version comes with the features you would expect, just in a much shorter configuration. Ruger’s reasoning for cutting the barrel down to such lengths is that it would make the gun an unobtrusive companion for guides and outdoorsmen. Let’s look at some specs and features:

  • Ruger offers three chamberings for the Alaskan: .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, and the .44 Magnum, which is the model I have
  • Weight of the .44 Magnum is 45 OZ, one ounce heavier than the other two chamberings, per Ruger’s website
  • The barrel is 2.5″ long
  • Fully adjustable rear sight, with a ramp front sight
  • All models of the Alaskan come with the Hogue Tamer Monogrip
  • Stainless steel construction
  • 6 round capacity
  • MSRP is listed as $1,189 for all models

So, most revolver owners and enthusiasts are probably thinking to themselves at this point that the smaller length barrel would significantly decrease muzzle velocity. And they are right, kind of. There IS a decrease in muzzle velocity from a standard 4 or 6 inch barrel, however, American Eagle’s 240 grain semi jacketed hollow point rounds were still leaving the barrel at 1171 feet per second, generating nearly 900 ft/ lbs of muzzle energy. Hard cast “bear loads” from manufacturers such as Buffalo Bore have even more impressive figures due to heavier bullet weights and faster velocities. As a last ditch effort to repel a bear attack, many of the experts in that field have given the Alaskan .44 Magnum their stamp of approval, with the caveat that in brown bear country the .480, or .454 Casull may be the better choice.

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The grip of the Alaskan is what I would describe as very comfortable. The soft rubber with its finger grooves seems to fill my hand nicely. The rubber dot stippling provides gentle, yet sure grip in the hand. The Hogue Tamer Monogrips have a fluid filled bubble where the web between thumb and trigger finger sits, and helps to cushion the recoil found in this short platform. I think that these grips are an excellent pairing for this sized weapon and the chamberings it is offered in.

I initially found it very interesting that Ruger chose to include a rear sight adjustable for windage and elevation on such a short barrelled revolver. Adjustable rear sights are typically not found on short barrelled revolvers, due to the fact that they are typically designed for very close range application. However, with the massive fluctuation in projectile weights, and the propensity for many shooters to handload these cartridges, I think it was a wise decision to add sights that can be tailored for an individual loading, instead of a one size fits all solution. The rear sight has a white “u” outline that I really like, while the front is an all black, serrated ramp. I’m sure some shooters will swap the front sight out for something a little more visible, however, mine works just fine for my needs as is.

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While I only own the .44 Mag version of the Alaskan, I have shot it’s bigger brother in .454 Casull. Both are certainly worthy of the title of “hand cannon” but the .44 Mag is noticeably tamer to fire. That being said, .44 Magnum out of a 2.5″ barrel is a handful. The muzzle flash is quite bright, and the report is thunderous, in a fun sort of way, since of course I was wearing hearing protection. Recoil is stout. There’s no other way to put it. This likely would not be a first choice for a weekend of target shooting for most of us, but if that floats your boat, go for it. I, admittedly, am a fairly new revolver shooter. However, given the intended purpose of this gun, the barrel length and certainly some recoil anticipation on my end, I feel confident I can shoot this gun accurately enough to stop a charging black bear at close distances. As my target picture below indicates, I shot from an assortment of distances. D/A signifies double action trigger pull firing, where the hammer is completely at rest before firing. S/A signifies single action firing, where I cocked the hammer before each shot.

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So, the bottom line: Should you buy this gun? As always, I would say that depends, Are you an outdoors person, guide, or even just live in bear country? I would say it is worth a look, even if you only strap it on for property maintenance or yard work. As a carry or home defense weapon? I would advise against it. Quite frankly, it’s overpowered for carry and I shudder to think about firing it indoors with no hearing protection.

I thoroughly hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you found it helpful, please share it. Don’t hesitate to drop a comment as well, letting me know what you think!!

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FNH FNX-45 Tactical Review

In the world of the .45 ACP, steel is king. Always was, from the inception of the cartridge, to now. 1911 owners constantly decry striker fired, polymer handguns chambered in the “Lord’s Caliber” partly because of the striker guns’ triggers not stacking up well against a good, crisp 1911 trigger. Magazine capacity is often sacrificed by those opting for a better trigger. But…..what if you could have modern duty weapon capacity, combined with a light single action trigger, and a plethora of other goodies? You can….

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Enter the FNX-45 Tactical, by FNH. This is a full sized, rough and tumble, no holds barred, battle ready handgun. 15+1 round capacity in freedom loving states, 10+1 in commie places. Suppressor ready with a threaded barrel, suppressor height night sights with contrasting yellow dot tritium in the rear, green dot up front. The gun comes in a zippered soft case with 3 beefy 15 round magazines, interchangeable backstraps, an accessory pocket conveniently sized for most common .45 suppressors.

Let’s talk about some specs:

– Weight is 33.3 OZ unloaded. This is not a lightweight carry gun.

– Double action trigger pull is listed as 8.8-12.1 lbs by FNH

– Single action trigger pull is listed as 3.96-5.06 lbs by FNH.

– 6.4″ sight radius

– MSRP on this pistol is listed as $1,349.00

Perhaps the origins of this powerhouse should be explained. In the early 2000’s, the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) began soliciting offerings for their U.S. Joint Combat Pistol program. FNH submitted the FNX’s predecessor, the FNP. Though the program was later gutted, FNH made some tweaks to the FNP and gave us the FNX. It was designed as a handgun to be wielded by our most elite warfighters, and it is helpful to view many features and aspects of the sidearm in that context.

Let’s discuss the most noticeable aspect of the gun: it is huge. This thing takes 15 round, double stack .45ACP magazines. It is a handful, to put it mildly. I have somewhat larger hands, so the grip diameter is not really an issue for me. The pistol does come with some different backstrap pieces, but honestly, this is a double stack .45 ACP… There’s only so much that can be done with it, so I would highly recommend holding one before shelling out the coins.

The grip of the gun has a highly aggressive texture. It feels great and secure in your hand while holding it, however, when firing it, especially once getting past the 50 round mark, I could see a visible imprint of the backstrap on my palm. While not what I would describe as painful, I could see it becoming so if one continued shooting past the 250 round mark without gloves.  See the following photo for “backstrap imprinting.”

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I am not one that would be considered a “sight snob” when it comes to handguns. I very rarely customize my handgun sights from their factory configuration. However, I do appreciate sights that are fast to acquire, crisp, and tritium inserts are always my preference. With the FNX Tactical, you get all three. They are suppressor height so that they will clear the additional height if you mount a suppressor on the readily threaded barrel. The rear tritium inserts are yellow, and the front is green. While not the brightest sights at night, they do provide reference points in low light, or no light situations. All three dots have a white outline that makes them contrast nicely with the black metal posts in daylight. The slide is also pre-cut to accept the red dot sights that are becoming very popular. In the case, you will also find a couple of adapter plates that will fit most of the big name red dots on the market.

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When it comes to controls on this pistol, it really is loaded. (no pun intended) Ambidextrous slide lock/ release levers, ambidextrous magazine release, and ambidextrous safety/ decocker levers are all onboard. These are truly ambidextrous, no swapping required from side to side. I was particularly impressed with the safety and decocker feature. 1911 guys, rejoice. You can carry the FNX Tactical cocked and locked, if you want. You can also chamber a round and safely drop the hammer for a first round double action carry option. One potential issue I identified is that when sliding the safety down, you can inadvertently bypass the fire location and drop the hammer by accidently de-cocking the gun. While not a safety issue, it certainly would alter the mechanics of firing that first round.

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Firing the FNX .45 Tactical is truly fun. The beauty of a truly full sized pistol is that it really soaks up the felt recoil of the .45 ACP cartridge. While the .45 ACP is certainly not even close to the wrist cracking recoil of big bore revolvers, it is still a significant step up from .380’s and 9mm handguns. The accuracy of the pistol is superb, though my target pictures may not do it true justice. The picture below is the result of a mix of grouping attempts at varying distances, in both double and single action, as well as just having fun. I have circled and labeled which was which.

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So, should you go buy an FNX .45 Tactical? I would say it depends on what you plan on doing with it. For concealed carry, I would have to say no. For a “truck gun?” Sure. Home defense? I can certainly see the appeal. As a suppressor host? I can’t really say either way. While not inexpensive by any means, I feel that the FNX certainly comes loaded with features and its performance has been impeccable with a variety of brass, steel, and aluminum cased ammunition of varying projectile weights. For you 1911 guys still bemoaning the “tactical tupperware” of our present day….Catch up. This gun is basically the 1911 evolved.

 

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Glock 19x First Impressions and Review

It’s not often we get to see some of our favorite handgun manufacturers come up with a design to attempt to win a military contract. However, with the recent MHS trials conducted by the U.S. military, we have had just that. Several big names such as Sig Sauer, Glock, Beretta, and FNH all submitted pistols that met the DOD’s request for a handgun that had several requirements. Some of these, such as the Sig, accomplished this through the use of different frames and interchangeable parts. The Glock 19x and 509 by FNH did it all in one gun. If you followed the MHS trials at all, you already know Sig Sauer won the contract with their XM17 submission, though, rumors circulating say that the Glock placed a very close 2nd place. Some even speculate the decision came down to cost. Who knows…

What is even more rare, however, is that we get the chance to buy and hold a (almost) copy of a gun designed from the ground up for the military. Enter the Glock 19x.

The easiest way to describe the pistol is that it has the grip of a Gen 5 Glock 17, with the slide of a Glock 19. Long grip, short slide. Immediately noticeable is the lack of the oft maligned finger grooves that the Gen 4 Glocks had. Further inspection will show that there is now an ambidextrous slide lock/ release lever, factory installed Tritium Glock night sights, a lip at the bottom front of the grip, a beveled muzzle that matches the beveled surface of the frame.

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3 dot steel sights with tritium for low and no light visibility, from the factory.

The 19x is the first pistol in the Glock lineup to come from the factory with a colored slide. Glock states that this coating is impervious to the elements and gives the gun greater durability. While this remains to be seen, the texture is something I find very fulfilling. It is just “grippy” enough that I am able to perform press checks by holding the front of the slide, where there are no serrations.

Magazine capacity comes in at 17 rounds with the flush fitting magazine that the pistol ships with, and 19 rounds with the two magazines fitted with +2 baseplate extensions. A quick note here: The gen 5 magazines with the longer lip on the baseplate will NOT work with the 19x due to the aforementioned “flare” at the bottom of the grip.

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Note the lanyard loop at the rear of the grip and the “toe” at the front. This “toe” prevents the use of Gen5 Glock mags in the 19x

The manual safety required by the DOD is missing on the commercially available variant and has caused some frustration from collectors and owners. However, Glock has not, to my knowledge, ever released a pistol in the U.S. with a manual safety, so this continues that tradition. Also, the 19x will fit most 19 holsters, provided the ambidextrous slide lock will clear. Adding a manual safety would necessitate new holsters for many regular 19 owners.

Also onboard the 19x is the much touted Glock Marksman Barrel. With an improved muzzle crown, traditional land and groove rifling instead of the typical polygonal rifling Glock uses, Glock claims these new barrels can halve the group measurements of traditional polygonal barrels. While I can neither confirm or deny Glock’s statement, I CAN attest that I did, in fact, get tighter groupings with the 19x than my 19 Gen4. Whether it is the barrel, or what I consider other improvements, I cannot say.

As expected with Glock, I experienced zero reliability issues when firing the 19. I found the full sized grip to be a joy to shoot with, and despite having been one of the relative few to like the finger grooves on Gen 4 models, found the groove-less grip very pleasant. The night sights are more precise than the traditional Glock U-dot factory configuration. The Tritium inserts glow brightly at night, and the white circle outlines present a good reference in daylight conditions.

In scouring the internet, it is easy to find any number of gripes about the 19x from Glock owners. Many are upset that Glock went with the long grip/ short slide configuration instead of the short grip/ long slide many have been asking for. The reasoning is that a grip is the hardest part of a gun to conceal, and the slide length being a tad longer will deliver a longer sight radius and increased velocity. From the concealed carry perspective, this makes sense. However, the 19x was not designed for concealed carriers. It was designed first and foremost as a duty sidearm to be carried by the military. As such, per the DOD’s stipulations, it was built to spec.

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The bevel on the muzzle pairs nicely with the bevel on the frame, a nice touch missing on other Gen 5 Glocks. Note the recessed crown of the Glock Marksman Barrel as well.

Some will, no doubt, carry this gun. I may do so myself. It shot well, handles well, and is, in my opinion, a beautiful weapon. From what I have gathered, these guns can be had anywhere in the price range of $629-$750. For what this handgun delivers, and the potential collector value down the road, I consider it a reasonably priced gun.

 

Thank you so much for reading, and for the support. If you haven’t yet, check out my YouTube channel where I offer gun and gear reviews as well as personal protection tips, at https://www.youtube.com/user/countryboy9384

Also, check out our online store for apparel at https://teespring.com/stores/the-hungry-handgunner

19x compared to my Gen 4 19.

 

19x with the extended 17+2 magazine inserted. The gun ships with two of these mags.

 

19x with the standard 17 round magazine, fitting flush. The gun ships with one of these mags.

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One Whole Year

Well, it has come and gone. July 24th. A normal day for so many. A Tuesday this year. A Monday last year. And a date that will forever be burned into my mind as the worst day ever.

It’s now been one whole year and two days since I saw my Dad last. Its been one year and one day since I heard his voice in person, though ive replayed the same voicemail hundreds of times, burning his voice into my memory, tearing up when I hear “Love you” at the end. Its been a whole year since I thought I couldnt go on, would never smile again, and thought life had lost its meaning. I’ve cried probably gallons of tears. I’ve slept all day and stayed up all night several times. But life has gone on.

In this last year, I got married. Our daughter, Haven, was born, her name chosen because that’s what she was and is to us. In this last year, I have had friends lose their dad and come to me seeking answers and help, of which I have none. I have seen the seasons make a full cycle, and I have spent hours by Dad’s grave.

It seems surreal to realize that you have gone a full year without someone you love so dearly, and look up to so much. In many ways, I’ve felt every second of the last year, and in some it feels like yesterday that I said goodbye.

I can only hope and pray that I make him proud and be half the dad he was. I hope that in this next year I can be a more emotionally available spouse, son, brother, and grandson. And I hope that peace comes with the next year.

Losing Your Hero and Redefining Everything

Everywhere I look I see calendars… On our fridge, in my locker at work, my phone widget, the break room at the plant. I see the dates change, marching on as inescapable as a rising tide and as ominous as nightfall to a lost hiker in the woods. This isn’t new, but the gut wrenching sensation as July 24th approaches, is. One year sounds both long and short depending on what you are thinking about it in reference to, and it has been both.

Almost one year ago I lost my dad. No long illness prefaced his heartbreaking exit from this world. No movie scene dramatic music playing, no emotional last goodbyes. I was at work, starting my shift, when I received a text from my brother that something was wrong with Dad. My two brothers had met him at his small office in town and had been talking when he apparently collapsed and ordered them to not call an ambulance. I texted back that they needed to call 911 anyway but he convinced them otherwise. A few minutes later, I received another text that they were going to take him to the hospital to get checked out. I let my lead man know that I needed to go and assured him that once we figured out what was going on and got Dad situated, I would be back to finish my shift.

As I walked to my car, my thoughts went nuts. “What if something is REALLY wrong this time?” See, nothing had ever really stopped Dad. That Easter prior, he had wrecked his motorcycle at approximately 70 MPH and walked away with some road rash, a broken rib, and broken wrist. That was it. I watched him bandage stitch worthy cuts with a paper towel and electrical tape growing up. Nothing, and I mean nothing, stopped him. But my thoughts wouldn’t let it alone. I flew down the highway to the neighboring town where the hospital was, in excess of 100 MPH, not caring about cops, I just had to see my Dad.

As I pulled in, I saw Dad’s truck under the drop off awning of the hospital, and a crowd surrounding the truck. I found a parking spot and ran inside as fast as I could, but not fast enough. Dad had suffered a heart attack, the nurse informed my brothers and I, and they were “working on him.” Cool, he had had two of those over 10 years prior, I remembered. No big deal. He had lost weight, kept his blood pressure under control and with the exception of smoking, looked healthy as could be. The minutes rolled by infuriatingly slowly until over an hour went by. My grandparents, my Dad’s parents were there now, along with my wife and two young sons. We were called back to a room and my heart jumped. “He’s ok!” I thought.

I was wrong. The room was empty. No Dad, no gurney. The somber faced doctor informed us that they had done all they could but Dad didn’t make it. I remember vividly the cry of pain that I heard from my grandparents. I remember the room spinning and hitting my knee on the floor and looking angrily skyward. I remember getting up and hugging my two younger brothers while choking back the tears and trying to process what we had just heard. I was 27 years old….Too young to face life without my ever present, wise, caring, and loving father. My wife was pregnant with our third child, he would never meet her. My sons would grow up not knowing one of their grandfathers. My mind would not quit. The implications of losing Dad were too numerous and severe to even process. Who would help me with home improvements on my first house my wife and I just bought? I didn’t know any of that stuff!

My wife begged me to ride back with her, that I didn’t need to be driving. I refused. I needed to be alone. I needed to say “Fuck you” over and over to whoever or whatever deity had just stolen my Dad from me. I still had my radio from work, and in the moment, taking it back and putting my tools away was the most important thing I could do. I had texted my lead and let him know that Dad hadn’t made it. When I walked back into the maintenance shop, the guys told me I needed to go home. There were hugs and “I’ll pray for yous” as I got everything handled. My supervisor told me I had 3 days bereavement that would be paid, but I could take as long as I needed. It was surreal walking back to my car and heading home. Dad couldn’t be gone. It was one of those really bad, detailed dreams you wake up from, it had to be.

Night brought no sleep that night. My tossing and turning kept waking my wife up, who was trying everything she could think of to try and comfort me. She needed sleep. Our boys needed at least one parent functional the next morning, and she WAS pregnant after all. I got up and moved to our sitting room recliner and the thought hit me: pictures! They were all I had left!!! I got on Facebook as though they would delete Dad’s account and all pictures of him within the hour. I saved EVERYTHING that had Dad in it. Sitting in the chair, exhausted, I would doze off, then wake up sobbing. Anger, crushing sadness, anger, crushing sadness, a laugh at a good memory, then back to anger and sadness. Was I losing my mind? How could I go from sobbing to laughing to clenched fists and back again?

I scoured the internet for advice. But every article or blog post I came across referenced a father dying at old age or from a lengthy illness. Mine was 52. It was a Monday. It was sudden. Had NOBODY gone through this before? Could nobody give me a 5 step plan to continuing life and being ok? Where were the goddamn answers?? (Hint: there aren’t any, really) I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. The next day, there were phone calls, condolence texts to answer, and checking on my little brothers and my mom. Checking in with my dad’s sisters and parents. Trying to be strong, and some sort of comfort for everyone, though I was clinging to sanity by a razor thin thread. Stetson, my oldest child, was 2. He kept wondering what was wrong with Daddy, as I would spontaneously erupt into body racking sobs at the thought that the one person that could get me through this was the person we just lost.

Mom called. Her, my brothers, and I needed to meet with the funeral home and start planning. Planning a funeral? May as well ask me to design a teleportation device. I had no clue, STILL have no clue how I got through that. Nobody wanted to make a decision on anything, we all just looked at each other at each question the funeral director asked, not wanting to step on toes, or hurt anyone’s remaining feelings. I still hadn’t eaten, hadn’t slept more than a few minutes. We did it though. We planned a ceremony and burial that we believe Dad would be proud of. He had no will. We winged it, but it went smoothly.

The day of the funeral. The internet said it would bring closure, but it didn’t. The funeral mass at the Catholic church in town did nothing for me. I was (am still) furious at God, or whoever is up there. The burial itself did nothing for me. Just drove home that point that Dad was gone. Six feet of soil now covered my father, my hero, and my closest friend. The one man with all the answers could give me none.

Fast forward to the days, weeks, and months since. I still cry. Hell, I’m crying now. I cried this morning, and last night. I’ll cry tomorrow too probably. But I’m grateful that I had such a close relationship with Dad for those 27 and a half years that it DOES hurt this bad. I’m grateful that he was in my life, when so many of my friends never knew their father, or he was abusive, etc. Every time I swing a hammer, turn a wrench, listen to classic rock, I feel him with me. When I mow my lawn with one of my kids on my lap, I remember that he had done the same with me. When I shoot his guns, or look through pictures, the memories flood me of time spent shooting, camping, talking, and driving. He left me with so many good memories that I can one day share with my own children.

If you are reading this and you have gone through something similar, know that you aren’t alone. If you, like I was, are scouring the internet in the hopes that you’ll find answers to your pain and grief, you won’t. At least not quick ones. All I can tell you is take time for you. Don’t get so caught up trying to be strong for everyone else that you neglect yourself. I’m just now learning this. Cry. Cry whenever and wherever you feel that you need to. Pull off the highway if your eyes get too blurry. Let it out. Keeping that bottled up will do nothing but hurt you worse. It’s cliche, but try to think positive. Don’t dwell on the “what ifs,” focus on the good memories. If a particular missed opportunity to say or do something really tugs at you, speak to your loved one, say you’re sorry and move on. Make sure to learn from it and prevent those emotions with your loved ones still living. Don’t measure your grief “journey” by other people’s standards and experiences. Seriously, don’t. Only you will know how best to navigate the complicated waves of often conflicting emotions you will feel. Get a tattoo if you think it will help. Grow out, or cut your hair. Dye it. Change your clothing style. Take a trip. Just try to stay away from destructive things like drinking or drug use.

I hope this helps at least one person.