Hawkeye’s First Gun – Part 1, by The Novice

We saw images of looting and burning everywhere. In the midst of chaos, some civic leaders promised to eliminate their police department. Other civic leaders abandoned a portion of their city to anarchists. The world seemed to be going mad.

Some people paid attention. They decided they needed to take steps to protect themselves from the madness. One of these people was my friend, “Hawkeye.” He stopped by my office one day, concerned about what he was seeing in the news. He asked, “Can you help me find a gun for home defense?”

I knew Hawkeye was from a family of gun owners and was most familiar with shotguns. So I expected that he had a shotgun in mind. But he surprised me by indicating that he was looking for a handgun. Hawkeye has three young children at home. He wanted something that he could put in a moderately sized safe and place high on a shelf. He wanted advice on what to buy and how to use it.

I told him that there is an almost infinite variety of choices. I said that all other things being equal, I would probably recommend something in 9mm because it is typically widely available and relatively inexpensive. He gave my heart joy by responding that 9mm would be good, because he wanted to be able to afford to practice a lot. Hawkeye indicated that he was looking for something in the mid to full size range, since it might be easier to control while firing than some of the smaller options.

I told him that I could set up a range day with some mutual friends. This would give him the opportunity to try a variety of different handguns. Then he would have a better sense of what might work well for him. I also said that I would try to get my hands on at least one “entry level” gun, since cost was a concern for him.

Eventually, he settled on a SIG SP2022 (pictured at the top of this article.) But in the interim, we did some shooting with several other guns–including a Rock Island Armory MAPP FS, which is described in detail in this two-part article.

The Search

After talking with Hawkeye, I went to the web site of my favorite FFL to check out what they had on hand. I was shocked. It was as if a swarm of locusts had descended on the store and consumed all of the mid-level handguns.

I next checked Armslist for our area, a couple of larger FFLs, and Gunbroker. I found slim pickings everywhere. Most of the limited number of items that were actually available seemed significantly overpriced.

Then I did a general online search. I was wondering if anyone had something like a Taurus G3 at a reasonable price. I found them to be as scarce as hen’s teeth.

Finally, I went to the Rock Island Armory web site to see if they had anything that might be interesting for my friend. There I found the MAPP FS – 9mm. I was intrigued. I did a general online search, and found that at the time of my search the MAPP was still available from a number of vendors at reasonable prices. I read some reviews, and found them to be positive. So I decided to do some more research.

The Rock Island MAPP FS – 9mm

The MAPP FS is a polymer framed, hammer fired, handgun with a 4.6″ barrel and a 16 round magazine capacity. It is basically a Czech CZ-75 modified and cloned in polymer by Tanfoglio in Italy and assembled in the Philippines. It is identical to the EAA Witness Polymer that has previously been imported to the United States directly from Italy. I did not want to recommend a handgun to my friend without the opportunity to test it for myself. I contacted Rock Island Armory to ask if I could borrow one for testing and evaluation. They were kind enough to agree.

Training Day

While the MAPP was in transit, I invited Hawkeye to come over to the range behind my barn for some preliminary training.

Even though Hawkeye comes from a family of gun owners, I reviewed the basic rules of firearms safety with him: treat every gun as if it is loaded until you have personally checked to make sure it is not, never point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target, and be sure of your target and what it beyond it. I also gave him a printed copy of these rules with commentary for later study.

Then we talked about the safety rules of my range in particular: all guns are to be laid on a table with their chambers open and their barrels pointed in a safe direction until it is your turn on the firing line, only one person is to be active at the firing line at a time, the active person is to wait until they are at the firing line to insert a loaded magazine and chamber a round.

Next we did an overview of the Walther P99 in 9mm, since it was one of the two handguns we would be training with that day. We talked about magazines, how to load them, and how to release them; slides and slide locks; strikers versus hammers; single action and double action; field stripping; decockers, safeties, and retention holsters; sights and how to use them; ammo types; and how to hold a handgun. Finally I had Hawkeye spend some time dry firing the P99.

After that we did an overview of the SW-22 Victory in 22lr, the second of the two handguns we would be training with that day. This primarily consisted of showing Hawkeye ways in which it is different than the P99. Then I invited Hawkeye to load up a magazine for the SW-22, step up to the five yard firing line, insert the magazine, chamber a round, and fire ten rounds at a target. Hawkeye proved to be an excellent natural shot.

After demonstrating his proficiency with the SW-22 through five impressive groups at five yards, I invited Hawkeye to load a P99 magazine with ten rounds, step up to the five yard firing line, and try his hand with 9mm. Hawkeye turned in several respectable groups with the P99 as well.

We then moved back to the ten-yard firing line, and tested both the SW-22 and P99 from there. Hawkeye continued to turn in impressive groups with the SW-22, but as fatigue began to set in and trigger flinch began to develop, his 9 mm groups began to grow larger and more ragged.

Next we practiced shooting a six-inch AR400 steel target from ten yards. Then we moved back to 15 yards, and practiced with paper some more. His 22lr groups remained good, but his 9 mm groups continued to deteriorate.

By the end of the session both Hawkeye and I felt that he had gained basic familiarity with the use of a handgun, and was ready to try out the variety of choices that our mutual friends were scheduled to bring for testing the following Saturday.

A few days later I received an email informing me that the MAPP had arrived at my FFL.

Opening the Box

The MAPP arrived in a nice sized case (10.25″X8″X3.5″). I would have preferred for the case to be a half inch thinner to make it easier to slide on and off the shelf in my gun safe. The plastic the case is made from should also be a slightly heavier gauge. It has a tendency to flex slightly in places where it should be stiff. The case contained the handgun in a plastic bag, two magazines (one magazine comes standard, but RIA threw in an extra to help with testing), a foam liner, two cleaning brushes (one nylon and one brass), an inspection certificate, two fired casings, a user’s manual, a safety tag on the trigger guard, and a lock.

The handgun was liberally smeared and splotched with oil.

Why All the Oil?

To say that Rock Island Armory handguns come well oiled would be an understatement.  In the past I have wondered why this is so. I finally had a moment of insight while reading the manual for the MAPP.

The manual states, “When storing the gun for a prolonged period of time, it is necessary to oil it heavily with an acid-free lubricant. The external parts must be coated with an anti-rust oil or grease to prevent moisture causing the parts to rust and malfunction. Before usage, the pistol must be cleaned and wiped dry again as discussed previously.”

I finally took into account the fact that Rock Island Armory handguns are manufactured, warehoused and in many cases marketed in the Philippines. In that hot, humid climate, rust is a much greater threat than it is in my drier and more temperate neck of the woods. It is a minor inconvenience for someone to buy an oily gun. But it would be a major calamity for them to buy one that is rusty.

So I used the supplied brushes along with patches cut from an old t-shirt, kerosene, and CLP to give the gun a good cleaning. It came out looking very nice.

There was a spot of something like white paint on the slide near the muzzle. It took quite a bit of elbow grease to remove it, and even then it.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)


  1. When I first started reading this article (which I do find interesting), the first thing that struck my mind was: where is he going to find a 9mm handgun and the ammo to go with it? Online retailers are almost completely out of 9mm ammo and a 9mm handgun is almost as scarce. Used prices, from either the local FFL or private sales (if legal in your area), are also high too. In fact some people are selling their used handgun for more than the price of a new one.

    Good luck to your friend but I sincerely hope he and others in the same boat are far better prepared the next time (and there WILL be a next) we face similar demand in self-protection products.

    1. Yes, Andy, guns and ammo are really hard to come by right now. Fortunately one of my friends had an extra gun and some ammo that he could sell Hawkeye.

  2. If somebody is willing to put in both the initial time and the ongoing time to train to become reasonably and reliably skilled with a handgun under pressure, then God bless them, but when my friends come up with similar requests, I have steered them hard at a shoulder weapon, especially if they have previous pleasant experience with same. It is hard to get good and stay good with a handgun and most people that do not need to carry on their person (per your friend’s scenario) are much better served by a shotgun or ‘pistol-caliber’ carbine (M1 carbine, M1 clone in 9mm, M92 clone in .357 or other, etc.). If he wants to store out of kids’ hands but handy, hanging in a nearby closet – above the door, usually does the job. Since he’s concerned about kids (his own and possibly others), I would bet heavily that he can shoot much more accurately under pressure with a “cowboy assault rifle” than he can with any handgun, and the M1 carbine was Audie Murphy’s hands-down favorite for clearing houses in WW2. I’ve been trying to get my hands on the new Ruger PC Charger pistol and fit with an arm brace for a similar scenario with a niece, but the last rig I got for a female worker (not throwing any shade on her gender, I’ve been out shot by many, many women) was a lever-action in .357.

  3. An encouraging story of an awakening within your friend. Don’t let the momentum stop.
    My wife bought her first handgun in 2013 when Emperor Hussein began one of his attempts to disarm Americans. She shot a bunch right away, but since then she has shown little interest in shooting, only accompanying me to the range a handful of times.
    This afternoon when I got home from work, she said she had some good news and some bad news for me. The bad news was that she wanted to spend $1700 on homeschooling supplies because she said she wanted to withdraw from public school (that’s bad news somehow?). The good news? “I want you to take me shooting on Saturday!” She is planning activities with our kids this summer that I won’t be along for, and she realized she needs to get back on the horse and shoot enough to feel safe, competent, and confident carrying again.
    Needless to say, I’m not waiting for Saturday and instead am taking a day off work tomorrow to hit the range first thing.
    Sad that it took the coronapocalypse to wake her up again, but it is a great blessing whenever anyone realizes they are the only one who can 100% take care of themselves in this world.

  4. I bought a handsome new RIA 1911 in .45 for about $400 and it was the dirtiest new gun I had ever purchased! It wasn’t just the oil, but the barrel was fouled. I had to use patches and a bore brush over and over again to finally get it clean. I don’t know why; maybe they had to do a bunch of hand fitting and kept test firing it, or maybe it wasn’t really new. It shoots fine, however. Very nice trigger.

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