Many people may have a difficult time making the daily commitment to carrying a gun. The reasons are many: It’s heavy, it’s inconvenient, you need to modify your wardrobe, someone might see it or maybe you just don’t like guns, which is even the case among many in enforcement.
For those that commit to strap on their piece day in, day out, here are some reasons why you should carry more than one gun:
Modern firearms are incredibly reliable. But they are still mechanical devices, and all mechanical devices have the potential to fail at some point. In semi-autos, magazines go bad or get dirty and won’t feed, springs wear out, parts crack or break. Ammunition can fail, blocking the bore, hanging up as a feed ramp stoppage — we’re looking at you, 1911 peeps — or double feeding for the dreaded Type 3.
Revolvers jam from parts breakage, bent ejector rods or projectiles working loose from recoil and keep the cylinder from rotating. Firing pins snap, and aluminum frames crack at the barrel threads and launch barrels down range.
Crazy things you never thought possible happen on a daily basis, on the training range and on the street, usually at the worst possible time. Some malfunctions can be cleared in seconds by a trained shooter — other malfunctions require tools and a shop to fix or render the gun scrap in some cases. If any of these circumstances arise, the only way to press the fight is to have a spare gun.
Beyond malfunctions, human error often becomes a major factor when things go sideways. Mags or revolver reloads get dumped on the ground, guns get dropped or hit from your hand by bullets and stress takes its toll, both on you and your piece.
S&W J-Frame in a moisture resistant Kydex holster
You may find yourself wrestling with an attacker who is trying to take your gun, especially if you open carry or are a police officer with your sidearm in plain view. Having a backup that can be accessed with your support-side hand can end a disarm attempt before your primary is taken, or it can let you defend yourself if you end up looking down the barrel of your own gun.
Sometimes a backup can be located so that you can discretely access it in situations where drawing your primary would be difficult or draw attention. When seated in a vehicle, it is a simple and unobtrusive draw from an ankle holster. Police officers sitting in their squad cars are sometimes suddenly approached by pedestrians, and civilians can get caught in a road block protest or carjacking attempt. Both will find this method easier and faster than trying to access an appendix rig or behind the hip belt holster.
Good Backup Guns
When choosing a backup gun, keep in mind that if you need it, it means that your larger, easier-to-shoot and higher-capacity gun is out of commission for whatever reason. You will be highly stressed, possibly injured or bloody and suffering from the effects of an adrenaline dump — tunnel vision, impaired fine motor skills. Choosing the smallest, low-capacity backup might not be the best choice.
Another full-size spare the same as your primary
If you carry a Glock 19, another Glock 19 would be an awesome backup. Same feel, same magazines, plenty to hold onto a decent sight radius, same manual of arms — no need to mentally change gears in the middle of drama.
A smaller version of your primary that uses the same ammunition or magazines
If you carry a Glock 17 or 19, having a Glock 26 as a backup makes sense. They have the same manual of arms and can take any spare mags you have for your primary. Sure, they’re going to stick out of the magwell but who cares? By the time you need to draw your backup, everyone within two miles will already know you have a gun.
1911 fan? A 3-inch Officer’s model can fit the bill. Wheelgun nut? If you are issued a 4-inch S&W 64 .38 Special, rock a five-shot J-Frame in the same caliber.
A small, compact hideout gun whose limitations you understand
These are the 6-shot .380 ACPs, the five-shot J-Frame revolvers. Skip the derringers or anything that fits in a belt buckle. Options include:
S&W Shield 9
Ruger SP-101 2 or 3-inch
Kimber Micro .380 or 9
J-Frame revolvers have been popular backup guns for decades, a.k.a. ‘The New York Reload’
Put your backup where you can reach it with your support side hand. This can be on a gun belt opposite your primary, in an under-shirt Velcro ballistic vest holster for cops, in an ankle holster or in a shoulder rig. You won’t need a reload for your backup — it is the reload. If it takes your primary’s ammo, bonus points. Use a purpose-designed holster; just throwing it in the pocket is almost never a good idea.
If you need to carry a gun for personal reasons or because it comes with your job, you should consider also carrying a backup in a concealed carry holster. Like fire extinguishers or tourniquets, a backup gun is one of those things that when you need it, you really need it.
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