Meeting A Gun Sensei in California Gold Country

One of the fun and/or frustrating aspects of doing truly open-ended research — that is, data collection and analysis that does not have a predetermined correct answer — is you never know what you are going to discover along the way. A recent expedition to California is a case in point.

I traveled to the foothills of central California, gold country just outside the south gate of Yosemite National Park, to interview one of the individuals involved in an effort to develop a standardized concealed carry curriculum there. I was surprised to be joined in the interview by an older Japanese gentleman, Ichiro Nagata.

Mr. Ichiro Nagata with my wife, Sandy
Mr. Ichiro Nagata with my wife, Sandy

After completing my main interview, I asked Mr. Nagata to talk about his life with guns. He had alot to say — more than I can cover here. The brief version is that he was born in Japan in 1943 and therefore raised during the period of civilian disarmament there. A photographer by profession, Nagata eventually moved to Portland, Oregon and then to San Francisco in the early 1970s, where he bought his first gun. An American citizen now, he has cultivated his interest in and knowledge about firearms over the past 40+ years living in the United States.

Among other things, Nagata is an accomplished competition shooter. The month before our visit, Nagata competed at the NRA Action Pistol National Championship — aka Bianchi Cup — and finished a very respectable 60th overall — just behind Dave Sevigny and just ahead of Rob Leatham (who were shooting in the production division). Nagata finished 53rd among open division shooters, and 3rd in the grand senior age division.

During our visit, Nagata showed us part of the range of MNP Tactical that is set up to practice the specific stages of the Bianchi Cup. This includes a full-scale, full-speed replica of the daunting “mover”:

Madera California Visit June 2015 (9)

The day we visited, another part of the range was set up as a stage of the West Coast Steel Championships, held annually in Piru, California. (The event was known as the Steel Challenge “World Speed Shooting Championship” until 2012 when the United States Practical Shooting Association, which bought the event in 2007, moved it to Frostproof, Florida and subsequently to St. George, Utah.)

Nagata and some fellow competitors had been practicing for the event the day before.

Madera California Visit June 2015 (4)

Even more so than competition shooting, Nagata is interested in the martial arts — with a distinct emphasis on “real” fighting as opposed to the more ritualistic and artistic styles sometimes associated with the martial arts. This, naturally, translates into his view of guns — with the gun being seen as a sort of extension of the hand/fist.

He has applied this interest to concealed carry by developing a means of “off body” carry that allows him to carry a larger firearm when he dresses for warmer weather. The TACLLET tactical wallet was produced and marketed by Tuff Products, though I can’t seem to find it online anymore. (If someone knows how I can get one in left-handed, let me know!)

Madera California Visit June 2015 (13)

Madera California Visit June 2015 (14)

Nagata appears in a promotional video for the TACLLET by Tuff Products:

Many in the gun culture know or are at least aware of Nagata from his photography. His work has appeared in a number of gun magazines over the years, as well as on many websites more recently, including Wayne Novak’s Devel Collection on the Novack Sights page. He is also the principal photographer for Surefire Combat Tactics magazine, for which he shot the cover below.

Madera California Visit June 2015 (26)

Ichiro Nagata is many things – a gentleman, tactician, shooter, sensei. It was a surprise and pleasure to meet him in the course of my research.

Madera California Visit June 2015 (21)

More on concealed carry in California later, by the way.


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