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]

I work for the railroad where crime is more than just a concern. In spite of all this, our jurisdiction strictly forbids the carrying of a gun for ones self-preservation. Being a law‑abiding citizen, I adhere to the law with the hope of nothing ever happening to me.

One of my fellow workers received a very old .38 revolver from his late uncle. He asked if I could maybe clean it up and possibly locate new grips (since the original were cracked). It seems the gun had been in his uncle’s attic for years. Also, he gave me some rather old .38 rounds and asked me to shoot the gun and let him know how it performed. (I think he really just wanted me to figure out how to open it since it was one of those break‑top types!) So I took the gun and ammo and put them in my car.

Because of my work, I spend a lot of time in hotels away from my home. That night I figured I would stop by a local ATM machine to pick up some cash and pay some bills. Once again, since I’m on call 24 hours, I don’t have much choice as to when I can make transactions. It was 1:30 a.m.

The ATM is located just off the main street and during the day is very well traveled. At night however, since all the warehouses and “UPS” are closed, the area sees much less traffic.

I came off the avenue and turned right into the transaction lanes. As I rounded the small curve just before the ATM machine, I thought I saw movement in the trees between the drive‑up lanes and the dark warehouse complex on the other side. Since there are no lights in this area (can you believe this?), I could­n’t look back to verify what I thought I saw, besides I had already rounded the curve and was facing away from the trees. I pulled up to the ATM, dug my wallet out and glanced into the rearview mirror. I guessed my headlights had cre­ated some shadow and that the “slight movement” was caused by rounding the curve. I put my card in and started to press my “PIN” number when my curious eye positively detected movement. I glanced up into the mirror and saw two tall young males running from the tree line towards the back of my car. The faint light under the head pavilion illuminated their figures as they quickly approached my car.

One of the punks appeared to have a hatchet or edged weapon and the other headed to the driver’s side. Doing the only thing I could think of in a split moment’s time, I punched the gas and pulled forward about 20 feet to slightly slow up for the dip that separates the drive‑thru lane from the exit. As I did this the .38 slid forward and I thought to myself, “If I’ve got to, I will.” However, in accelerating away from the ATM my car had stalled. I quickly grabbed the .38 and bag of vintage bullets. Evidently, they saw the car stop and me bend forward to grab something, which probably just did­n’t seem right. As I turned around to see them, they came to a sudden halt. I heard the one say to the other, “Yo, yo, yo, man. “ The other actually called out, “Know what time it is, yo?” I remember saying, “Almost time for you.” Don’t ask me why; it just came out. They turned and bee‑lined back into the tree‑line darkness. I backed up really fast and pulled alongside the ATM where my card was sticking out of the slot in clear view. I grabbed it and headed out to the avenue to phone the police.

I ran the light (nothing coming), and as I pulled up to the gas station’s phone, I realized that I’m not allowed to have a gun in my car unless I’m going to the range. That excuse wouldn’t work here. Besides, the gun’s got to be in one part of the car while the ammo’s in another. I hid the gun under a utility box (now I was feeling like a criminal) and phoned the police.

The police arrived in 5 minutes. My ATM companions could have come and gone many times by then, but ironically, they were still there! I pulled up behind the paddy wagons and two cars, where I explained the ordeal. The wagon driving officer went beyond the trees and questioned the group. I had no idea that there were six to eight people back there.

The officer came over and told me, to my surprise, “Well, we’ve got nothing to charge them with, they didn’t do anything. They didn’t have any weapons on them.” At that I was losing my composure and in return asked him what business did they have being in a pitch dark parking lot, behind a bank at 1:45 a.m. Get ready for this. They told the police that they ordered a pizza. Now the officers were leaving, the last telling me, “Hey, what can we do? They didn’t commit any crimes.”

What this all boiled down to: Had I been caught with the revolver, I would have been treated like a criminal, when the guys who were probably going to make my children fatherless got another go at it. I actually felt like the bad guy, because I had to hide a legitimate weapon (that was only being taken home to clean) before I could call for help.

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