Sweetheart grips are a piece of history I’d love to see returned to the gun world.
During World War II, soldiers often placed pictures of girlfriends, wives and other loved ones in the grips of their 1911s. The practice sometimes extended to revolvers as well but tended to be limited by the availability of a grip that was see-through enough to serve as a make-shift picture frame. This effort was often accomplished by taking pieces of Lucite from the canopies and windshields of downed airplanes and cutting new grips for their guns. It was all for the purpose of carrying a memory of a beloved on the grip of their gun. Today, you can find modern versions of the grips if you’re so inclined, but they are uncommon.
You might be wondering what sweetheart grips have to do with self-defense. The link is a bit tenuous, but it’s there. Men and women tend to get into firearms for defensive purposes for very different reasons. Guys have a tendency to either see guns as manly items or as necessary tools for defense against threats. Women tend to get into firearms only to protect their children. (Yes, that’s true.) Women also frequently don’t begin shooting—let alone carrying—until after The Bad Thing has already occurred, and that’s a shame.
A Valentine Gift
This Valentine’s Day—any day of the year, really—you can give your other half the gift of self-sufficiency by paying for a defensive handgun class. Other options include force-on-force, pepper spray, Kubotan, and other useful classes taught by known and respected instructors. All too often we hear that one person is in charge of a couple’s or a family’s safety—and let’s be real, it’s usually the man. There are exceptions, but that’s just the way it tends to be. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. In fact, I’ll take this issue a step further and say that it shouldn’t be the case.
Own First Responder
To the person who is going unarmed, I’d say this: You are your own first responder. Your life is your responsibility, and no one is coming to save you. There are numerous options available to become a competent, safe defender. There’s quite literally no reason not to be capable of providing your own self-defense measures.
Circling back to the sweetheart grips, it seems likely that many of those men carried those photos on their guns to remind them why they were serving. They were in real combat, risking—and often sacrificing—their lives for the safety of loved ones back home. However, war is not the same as a stateside day-to-day existence.
Uncertainties of Life
In your daily life, whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re going to face all kinds of uncertainties. It’s impossible to fully control your environment, and you cannot control the when and where of a person who chooses to act criminally. After all, as the late Dr. William Aprill once said, “Your understanding and consent are not required for someone to take your life, kill your loved ones, and destroy all you hold dear.”
A New Normal?
Rather than sweetheart grips (which I think are an awesome piece of history), why can’t we normalize having your sweetheart gripping their own gun?
Instead of teaching our daughters to scream, blow a whistle, or stomp on the instep of an attacker, why not teach them to wield age-appropriate defensive tools? Guns are certainly the greatest equalizer, but there are other legitimate defensive tools.
Someone once told me that the mistake a woman made during an assault wasn’t hitting her assailant; it was that she didn’t know how to throw her elbow or deliver a strike that ended the threat. You see, ineffective slaps and scratches often do nothing more than make the bad guy angry. But you know what’s a stellar equalizer? A gun. And when you can’t take your gun, there’s pepper spray. (To be used correctly, even pepper spray has a technique to it.) There’s even the Persuader, or Kubotan, which is far better than trying to use your keys to defend your life.
It might seem overly simplistic to say that it’s as easy as taking responsibility for your own safety, but it really is that straightforward of an issue. The first step is admitting that it’s truly up to you. The second is creating remedies to that situation. Valentine’s Day tends to be all about chocolate and flowers (at least in the aisles of your local grocery store). But instead, it could also be about self-defense. When you love someone, you don’t want to see them hurt, and you certainly don’t want them raped, maimed, or dead.
If you’re considering the gift of a handgun, just don’t. The only circumstances where you should gift your other half a handgun are when you’re 100% confident that you know the exact model and caliber they want. (Remember, that means what they want, not what you told them they need or should want). Guns are specific to the task and person, which means you must let a person select their own gun. Trigger time with a variety of models helps this process along. If you don’t have any friends with guns to try out, many ranges offer rental options to broaden your—or their—horizons.
Drop the chocolates. Forget the flowers. Book a class like MAG-40 with Massad Ayoob or 250 Pistol at Gunsite Academy. Give the gift that really does keep on giving: The gift of self-defense. And while you’re at it, throw in some ammo and electronic ear pro (because it’s awesome).
Make this the year sweetheart grips come back to the gun world, only instead of pictures in an acrylic grip, it’ll be in the form of your sweetheart kicking ass and taking names at the range or in the dojo.