The Little Gold Colt: There Are No Accidental Shootings

Thomas Pluck on fear, firearms and the struggle for Manhood.

The Good Men Project
8 min readDec 9, 2019


Photo credit: SensorSpot on iStockPhoto

By Thomas Pluck

There are no accidental shootings.

The more accurate term is “negligent discharge,” which imparts carelessness to the actor holding the gun. Guns kill people, but a gun does not aim itself, load itself, or fire itself. Very rarely does a modern, well-kept firearm malfunction. I was trained from a tender age not to point a firearm at anything I did not want to destroy.

My earliest memory of a firearm is my father firing his gold-plated .25 Colt Jr. in our basement when I was six years old. Hands over my ears. The tiny gun boomed and my heart went hummingbird in my chest. I cherished the shared forbidden moment. Went searching for the spent brass and lead bullet, but they disappeared in the dust and clutter. My parents were in the middle of a divorce, and my father most likely fired a handgun in the house to infuriate my mother, knowing I would tell. He’d bought the little pistol for her. Had it plated with gold as a gift. But she left it behind when we shed his rages and infidelities, and for him, it must have symbolized her spurning.

To me, it would become a treasured bauble. A compact power totem, a justification for deep feelings of resentment and rage that would culminate in the near-manslaughter of a close friend.

My father was the man you would approach at your wedding if a rowdy guest needed to be escorted outside. His hands were strong and calloused from working construction. They could break bricks, something he’d gladly demonstrate during a lull at a summer barbecue. He was not a man who needed a gun, but he owned five that I know of:

The little gold Colt. An Ithaca 12 gauge pump shotgun. The Saturday night special “belly gun” he kept by the door. A plinking rifle he used to execute squirrels and crows outside his suburban garden apartment window, and the nickel-plated, snub-nosed .38 he kept by his bedside, taught me to shoot on, and stuck in his mouth one evening when he decided to leave this world.

When my mother called to tell me what he’d done, I searched our final phone call for meaning. It had been forced. He was out of…



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