Legend speaks of a time in the 1950’s when the town of Toledo, Ohio was awash in weekend violence. A major transportation hub, it would attract laborers looking for temporary work. Paid every Friday, the fights would start on Saturday in the low-rent bars and taverns that catered to the blue collar crowd.
The local police started to refer to the cheap handguns used in these fights as “Saturday night specials“. Inexpensive enough to be purchased at the local hardware stores and sporting goods shops for self protection on payday, only to be discarded if used during an evening of hard drinking.
Most people involved in the shooting sports use the term only as a disparagement. It is shorthand for “worthless junk” in the lexicon. I have yet to hear someone utter the phrase without a sneer on their face, and disgust in their voice.
I have to disagree. Firearms such as these play a very vital role in protecting the most vulnerable members of society.
The vast majority of my students were in extremely distressed economic circumstances. I’d say that they were “dirt poor”, except that they couldn’t afford any of their own dirt. They would use my own personal firearms for the training course, but it was simply impossible for me to actually give any away. They would have to find their own.
Those with extended families would put the word out, and an old heirloom would find its way to them after a few days. Usually a well worn revolver chambered for the .38 Special cartridge, I would clean them up and have the guns checked out by a gunsmith who volunteered his services for the cause. They would look crappy, with most of the blueing worn off and the grips cracked and worn smooth. But they could safely be fired, and they would shoot straight. Considering my students were trying to foil the next violent criminal that targeted them, everything else was unnecessary bling.
What would happen if they didn’t have an extended family, or if none of their relations had an old gun lying about? Then they would have to buy new, and that is where the Saturday night special would come into play.
My students have had great success with Hi Point firearms, a firearms manufacturer which specializes in inexpensive handguns. Although they were sold at a low price, I found them to be safe and reliable weapons. Not only that, but the company now offers a lifetime warranty on repairs. Times have changed since the cops in Toledo were picking guns up from barroom floors.
One of the major complaints I hear concerning Saturday night specials is that they don’t handle heavy use very well. Long before more expensive guns start to suffer from breakages and failures, cheap guns will show signs of wearing out.
All true, and I agree. But my students simply cannot afford to spend money on ammunition and time at the shooting range. Many times they have to choose between buying enough food to keep the kids fed, or paying the electric bill so the lights won’t go out. It might horrify those of us dedicated to armed self defense, but even what we would consider to be a minimum of practice must go by the wayside.
What is required is a reliable gun that can be held against need, sometimes sitting without being fired for years, ready to go in case of an extreme emergency. These fit the bill.