I’m a professional sports photographer specializing in coverage of college basketball, and from late November to early March, there’s not a weekend where I’m not on a campus. Carry restrictions on the colleges campuses I work are very clear and very consistent from school to school—leave your sidearm off campus. So, my Heckler & Koch stays locked in the trunk of my car in the parking lot I’m assigned to—off campus.

It’s not unusual at the conclusion of a game I’m shooting (no pun) for a fan to make his way down to the court to talk to me. Including remotely mounted cameras around the arena, I breakdown and then pack up to five different camera/lens setups. A lot of expensive equipment, a lot of cases, and a huge monetary investment laid neatly across the corner of a basketball court for anyone to see.
A man approached me last winter after a game curious not about lens choice or lighting techniques I use to make basketball photos (the usual conversation) but how much my equipment cost. How much was this camera worth, what could I get if I sold that lens, is this thing expensive, how much did I pay for that, and on and on. I played it very coy, gave him extremely vague answers and quickly he left, albeit a little irritated. “Whatever,” I thought.

With my game images transmitted and gear packed, I made it to my car and then the short drive to a local hotel where I was staying not far from this college town. It was about 9:00 p.m. or so when I began the unenviable yet necessary task of unloading photo cases from the car’s trunk to my hotel room. I popped the trunk, and the first thing I did was clip my HK in its holster on my right hip. I’m embarrassed to say I did this more for not wanting to forget it and less with the mindset of protecting myself. I got about three cases out and a car pulled up right to the corner of my driver’s side bumper—blocking me in perfectly. I looked from around the trunk lid and saw the exact same guy from about two hours ago in the arena with all the money questions. At first I was politely surprised, like he wanted to talk photography and we happened to be staying in the same hotel …wrong!

This time, Mr. “How Much Does That Cost” was with two other guys—one who stayed back, the other at his side. I remember his face—very serious, worried almost. This wasn’t about basketball photography anymore. My fixation on his face was broken by something he had clenched in his hand. It was a long, black flashlight, but it wasn’t turned on and he was holding it at the very end of the shaft. I don’t remember which of the three then talked because I kept looking at that flashlight, but I heard the words, “Don’t be stupid, dude.” I took a step back and went for my right hip. I know there are those out there who prefer very slim, very compact carry guns but there’s one thing about a HK P30—it doesn’t take long to find.

I unholstered and moved my hands into a low-ready position. At this point I know I should have said something, but I just stood there squared off with the closest guy. I raised the gun up a little more from low ready so there was no mistaking what I had in my had. One of the guys said, “F*** this!” and they all scrambled back into the SUV. The driver barely backed up enough to clear my bumper as he sped off, and I remember only seeing one silhouette in the passenger compartment—like the other two were ducking.

I may not have done everything perfectly as my concealed carry instructor taught me, but I’m positive those guys weren’t going to just let me stand there as they robbed me. I wake up everyday thankful I have the right and ability to protect myself with my handgun.

Editor’s Note: Combat Handguns pays $100 for each “It Happened To Me!” letter that we print. Send yours to Combat Handguns, 1115 Broadway, New York, NY 10010. Attention: “It Happened To Me!” or e-mail to [email protected]

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