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Sixguns & Sagebrush

What’s Your Hideout Gun?

by Bart Skelton   |  June 27th, 2012 69

This was my dad's Deaf Smith County Sheriff's badge, along with his S&W snubbie. The snubnose has "Charles A. Skelton, *Sheriff*, Deaf Smith County" engraved on the backstrap.

Start talking about what handgun is best for a backup or hideout and chances are a fight will break out. People’s tastes vary tremendously, which accounts for the wide array of great guns on the market today. I’ve carried a number of hideout guns over the years as a lawman, both automatics and revolvers. Some of my favorite firearms are “little” guns, again, both revolvers and autos. But which one is best? It all depends on personal taste, in my opinion.


My first backup gun was a Walther PPK/S .380 automatic which my dad gave me when I graduated from the New Mexico State Police Academy way back when. I generally carried it when working at night. I tucked the little auto in my Sam Brown belt and holster rig inside the belt, in front. Since the NMSP uniform is black, as is the belt and holster, the little black Walther blended in well. It was also comfortable.


As a plain clothes investigator, I’ve carried several snubnose revolver models over the years, including the Colt Detective Special, the Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special .38, and the Smith & Wesson 640 in .357. While the 640 was obviously the most potent of the bunch, my all time favorite is the Chief’s Special, and that’s just personal taste. My Chief’s Special has the hammer bobbed off, a nickel finish and a great trigger job – plus it was my dad’s when he was the Sheriff of Deaf Smith County, Texas.


There are some great hideout guns available today, including a slew of great autos such as the Kimber Solo 9mm. If you’re looking for a good backup gun, don’t discount a good wheelgun, either.

  • browcs

    Hideout guns are (primarily) a Kahr PM9 9mm and (secondary) Kel Tec P3AT (first generation).

  • Wolvie


    First off…a nod and hat tip to your dad. I consider him one of the most important gun writers in history.

    On the topic of hideout/backup guns, I have to say in civilian life, I never had much need or desire for one. However, I did purchase a J-Frame with the thoughts that in the winter, while wearing a lot of layers, having it in my coat pocket would be easier than going for the holster on my hip.

    And for that purpose, I think the small-frame revolver shines.

    I find the revolver (when employed in this manner) is just easier for me to get a good grip the first time, is more resistant to lint and other garbage that magically seems to accumulate in your pockets, is essentially immune to wild temperature changes (some small pistols can have cycling problems if the lube gets real cold) and is easier to use with gloves on (which is a real concern if it's in a winter coat pocket in…well…the winter!).

    There are great pistols out there today and we are certainly lucky to have such a selection (and luckier if we can afford to sample a lot of that selection…). But for me and the very rare times I carry a second/backup/holdout gun (and the specific circumstances concerning those rare times), I find that nothing beats a solid revolver for me.

    • Tracy

      Big dittos on the nod to Skeeter! I miss his columns, but Bart ain't half bad, either.

  • Jack Lundin

    A j frame in .357 is an excellent choice and very concealable.

  • Will Carry

    My model 36 Chief's Special is the fastest pistol I own to draw and fire. I have tested this in front of a mirror with UNLOADED pistols. When I found this out I had to give the revolver a second look. The reason, I think, is that the grip does not have to accommodate a magazine so it fits the hand like a knife handle. It's easy to grab and shoot. A lot of people have a fear of running out of ammo in a pistol fight so the want double stack auto-loaders but if getting the first hit means anything in a gun fight, I'll stick with the model 36.

  • Juan

    I have nothing against the inherent reliability of revolvers, but my CCW is a KelTec PF9 in an ankle holster. It isn't flashy and hasn't gotten any press lately, even in the magazines about CC, but that's fine by me. It's as small as the currently popular 380's, flat, light and has gone 'bang' every time I've shot full-power 9mm loads through it during practice. I'm never concerned with 'printing' and it is totally comfortable (and easily within reach) while driving. Lastly, to quote an authority on the subject, it is also very comforting to have on me, not left behind… because it wasn't comfortable.

    • Guest

      You were joking right.
      Here if Florida we had a little INCIDENT you may have heard of.
      George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin with a KelTec PF9…
      At least it goes bang when you need it to…

    • Alan_T

      I don't have a dog in this fight ….. but of course that never stops me opening my big mouth .
      Juan and Guest are BOTH right .
      Juan is correct ….. gun publications pretty much ignore the PF9 for some reason .
      Guest is right in his comment about the George Zimmerman incident ….. but that's coverage is primarily in Florida ( regarding the MAKE of the arm used by Mr . Zimmerman ) , not so much nationally or internationally .
      NOW …….. that I've pissed off both sides ……. fire away ! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      • Juan

        No harm done, Alan_T; I guess all of the other points in my comment (attributes of having a reliable, powerful weapon on one's person) can be deemed irrelevant by some folks in comparison to the large amount of negative press associated to the "little INCIDENT" which Guest pointed out. And yes, Guest; it has gone bang every single time I've needed it to. I'm curious, what is your hide-out gun? That was the topic of this article; wasn't it? Thanks to both of you for expressing your comments.

        • Alan_T

          If it helps , I thought all of your points were relevant Juan .

  • Ken

    I still carry a SS Taurus Mod. 85 that I bought in the 80's. It ain't fancy but it's small, +P rated and works every time.

  • Gary

    I guess you could say, it depends upon the situation. Normally it's a Ruger LC9 with a laser sight. But during warm weather when tank tops and shorts are the uniform of the day or at events where the LC9 would be a bit bulky, I'll slip the little North American Arms Black Widow (.22wmr) into a pocket.

  • Dwaine

    S&W Model 921 .22WMR in a swede leather holster tucked inside the belt SOB.

  • Tracy

    Go J-frames!

    I carry a S&W M&P 360 PD. Scandium frame, XS tritium Big Dot sight, and I swapped out the stock grips for the Crimson Trace LG-405 grips. Great little gun; slip it into a pocket holster, drop it in your front pants pocket, and you don't even know it's there.

    Unlike the stock grips, the rubber overmolding on the CT grips actually makes it possible to fire a full box of +P .38's or .357's in this 12.7 oz. gun without tearing the skin off your palm. (Recoil is not all that heavy, but it is extremely sharp. This little gun really wants to climb out of your hand, especially with .357's.) The external hammer lets you fire single action when desired, and with the laser, it's surprising how accurate that little revolver can be – 4 in. groups at 25 yd.s from a steady rest.

    I bought this gun as a summer carry gun for Houston, TX, but I like it so much it's my go-to carry gun now.

    BTW, I prefer .38 +P's to .357's in this gun. The longer .357's are tough to extract with the short extractor rod, and the muzzle flash is nothing short of spectacular. I figure I'm not giving up too much with the Hornady 110 gr. Critical Defense loads I carry in this gun, and I prefer being able to reload quickly, not to mention still being able to see if I'm firing in the dark.

  • Thom

    When I was first on the job I carried a PPK and later on a SW mod 60 w/bobbed hammer and now that I'm retired I carry a Kelec p32 to backup mine trusty mod-13 3inch

  • antonio

    Kahrs the K9 and CW9!!!!

  • Buffalocowboy

    North American Arms Guardian .380 on my ankle or in an IWB holster when wearing casual attire or shorts.

  • DrEd

    Walther PPK/S 380 usually. My favorite is a 60-year old Beretta Mod 70 in 32 , my first weapon, but only occasionally. It fits my hand like a glove.

  • Ken

    I carry the mini-Glock in .40 S&W so that if my main ccw (Glock 23 or 35 depending on my clothing and time of day) goes down the magazines work in my backup. A dedicated sob carry is an easy conceal even in summer clothes, and can be accessed by both hands.

  • Spook89

    Looking to buy a hideout gun. Looking at the Charter Arms Pitbull in .40 S&W. No moon clips needed. Great backup in case my Springfield XD40 malfunctions (yeah, like that's gonna happen).

    • Bart Skelton

      The Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 Special is a great choice too!

  • Indiana Oak

    Like may of us I remember sneaking a few magazines into study hall when I was a lot younger and reading
    Skeeter's articles! I think he was one among many that piqued my interest in firearms. "All the above" are great choices. Depends on the individual. I utilize a Taurus 85 a lot in an ankle set-up. I also came across
    a SKYY 9mm that I couldn't pass up and I like that as well as a back-up.

  • h87111

    Usually a S&W 642, .38+P. Everywhere legal as my ccw, every day, till bedtime.
    Sometimes my Glock 27.
    On occasion a Taurus PT-145 MilPro.

  • DWP

    Everybody is raving over the new M&P Shield, but for me, it is the Walther PPS in 9mm. Single stack, slimmer than 1" wide, and can carry 8 rounds in the magazine. Has interchangable backstraps (unlike the shield), and the backstrap serves as the "lock," because with the backstrap removed, the gun is inoperable. Better than any "Clinton" key for safety around the kids.

  • dugiboy

    here in the uk , have to manage with a sldege hammer handle under the bed , cant imagine an intruder gunned up however . never read skeeter but always enjoyed your essays .

    • Bart Skelton

      Many thanks, and sorry you're not permitted to properly defend yourself!

  • Hardtarget

    it's old school for me also, airweight bodyguard with a tyler t grip adapter.

  • TacticallySharp

    When primary is either a Flock 19 or 34, backup is a G 26, if primary is my Colt 1911 match customized for CC, the backup is my Numbers Pro Crimson Carry. If running out for a quick run to pickup milk or something I carry a S&W mod 60, 3" with a speed loader.

  • TacticallySharp

    Glock, Kimber – phone love to spell it it's way.

  • sgt yuma

    Well lots of opinions here so let me add mine… for something i know will go bang everytime and no worries about autos jamming or stove piping an ejected round the revolvers get my vote… my personal favorites are the SW 640 357 mag with special grips from eagle grips called the sec service grips ( they are smooth and narrow fake ivory) just have to remember to hang on tight because they are smooth but comfortable to carry and easy against the skin. My favorite tho has to be the SW model 36 chiefs special. Its grips are already small and smooth.. both these guns are only 5 shots but good grief if 5 wont do it what will ? I loved the comment from the guy in the UK about the hanndle under the bed. I truly feel for thos guys over there in countries were no guns allowed..I think i would still find a way to have a gun.. better to have a meeting in court than one at the funeral home for you or your loved ones. I imagine they find a way to get something somehow,,,, GOD Bless America…

    • sgt yuma

      i have to add that the north american arms derringer in 22 long rifle is also good.. you can stick it in your shirt pocket.. just to make you feel better,, at least its something

      • Bart Skelton

        I had one in .22 Mag. Great little revolver.

  • Mick

    Gotta go with a pair of J-frames myself; darn sight faster than speed strips is to just grab the other gun. One M38, one M36 with bobbed hamer. The M38–Airweight Bodyguard– has hammer you can shoot through your coat 'til it's empty. Try that with an auto. At bad-breath distance that buys time to regroup and re-gun.

  • Alan_T

    I have a Kel Tec P 3AT , because it is so small there's not a good reason to not carry it , but I'm more comfortable with my Tauris model 85 Ultra Lite because I KNOW it's going to work every time , especially if it comes down to having to press the barrel against the attacker !

  • Lynn K. Circle

    Laugh all you want, but my primary hideout gun is an NAA Black Widow loaded with Hornady Critical Defense .22WMR ammunition. Yes, it is single action, but I can unload all five shots in less than 30 seconds into a paper plate at 10 yards, shooting as fast as I can. I figure that would change someones's attitude if need be.

  • Carbinecasey

    My carry gun is a Kahr CM 9 or a S&W 638, my back up is a Beretta 21A 25acp. Sometimes if I carry my Glock 26, a NAA 22lr is in my pocket. Something about a small caliber's as a back up I just love…(can we say, MOUSE GUN?)

  • Sam

    I carry a Glock 17 or 22 and a SW 640. If the situation warrants it (and even most dark parking lots do), the 640 is in my support hand inside my coat pocket. It is good sense to practice actually firing out of a coat pocket. This is not as easy as everyone seems to think. There is a BIG difference between your hand back toward your side and pushing the gun out against the pocket where it usually sticks out after the first shot or two. Just get an old coat and practice. You can duct tape it up. Some of you seem to change guns an awfull lot. And not just G17 to G26 etc., but within autos (even with different controls) to revolver and back and forth. I dunno…………seems like it might lead to brain lock under huge adrenaline rushes. The guy with the two revolver snubs might be best. for off duty or civilian carry.

    • theBill

      Very good points to consider; I feel 'false' comfort having a Kahr P380 in a jacket pocket, but have never conducted any drills with it. That's probably as good as useless for me. My regular carry is an IWB holster with a 45 XDm in it. This replaced my G-26, and I plan to stick with it. Training with familiar tools is probably what will serve me best. FWIW

  • Mike

    My perferred gun is my old Colt defender(45ACP), but here in TX it gets hot in the summer. So when I have my summer attire on, t-shirt and short, it will be a SIG 380 in my pocket or my hammerless Taurius 38 on on a side holster.

  • OregonMike

    Depending on weather and attire, usually a Kahr 9mm IWB or Sig 380 in my front pocket w/pocket holster. On occasion, a Para Warthog .45.

  • Alan_T

    A lot of people here seem to be confusing the terms " hideout / backup " guns with " concealed carry " guns .
    " Hideout / Backup " denotes either a SMALL gun that can be easily hidden or a SMALL( er ) secondary gun for use in case of primary carry gun's ( open or concealed ) failure .
    People can carry a K or L frame revolver or a full – size 1911 Government …… but they don't really fall into the category of " hideout / backup " guns .

  • Lynn K. Circle

    I also live in Texas. If my pants support it, I'll carry a Polish P63 in 9×18. It's a small gun, but all steel. But if I don't want my pants to sag, it is back to the Black Widow. Of course, If I am going to be out for a while, it's still a .45. A seersucker shirt worn outside the belt covers it, and with shorts that's a comfortable combination.

  • David Bailey

    My newest best friend is a Kimber Solo in CDP dress. The gun carries like a dream, is potent and accurate, as well as reliable. It carries just about anywhere, from belt to pocket, and I'm sure, ankle carry, although I've never cared for that. The extended 8 round magazine helps with the grip frame, as my hands are quite large. Still, the 6 rounder makes for great pocket carry. I also carry a S&W J frame hammerless Weigland conversion that has never failed. Carry one on each side for balance. LOL

    • Alan_T

      I really like the aesthetics of the Solo , I have to keep talking myself out of buying one 'cause I've already spent too much money this year ……..

    • Bart Skelton

      I just had the opportunity to get acquainted with the Solo, and I like it!

      • David Bailey

        Thanks, Bart. Small guns are difficult for me as I wear a size 16 ring, but the Solo works very nicely. I've been really impressed with it.

  • Vincent R. Lupo

    For me in hot Florida, it is usually a Browning mod. 1910/1955 380. Small, very thin, accurate and light! With shorts on, it is a Seecamp 380. However, come cooler days, it is a Kimber Custom Shop Ultra CDP II 45 with Crimson red laser grips.

  • Vincent R. Lupo

    By the way Bart, I am super pleased that you are following your dad's great informative writing tradition! BRAVO!

    • Bart Skelton

      Many thanks, Vincent!

  • Glen

    When it's too hot for a tee shirt under outside shirt, Ruger LCP with a laiser, but normaly since I'm left handed I got a Bersa .45 IWB. Love the fact that everythings on my side of the weapon



  • jeepers creepers

    My shoulder holster handgun is a Ultra lite 44 mag 4 inch. That is good for the four legged or the animals with two legs. My two hideout handguns are J-frame 38's. Speed loads for all. I never carry less then three firearms at a time.

    • Wolvie

      Mental Patient,

      You don't have any legal access to firearms because convicted felons and diagnosed sociopaths are prohibited.

      Much like your stories about 600 yard handgun shooting, 200 yard derringer shooting and being a Marine, where you pretend to carry make believe firearms doesn't count.

      • Alan_T

        Hell Wolvie ……. a macho man like Creepy , I'd have thought he'd carry a brace of sawed – off Browning Auto 5's shoved down his pants !
        Of course that little red cowboy hat he wears with it's deputy's badge on the front of the crown and the whistle on the end of it's stampede stings kindda detracts a bit from Creepy's mucho , macho , machismo image a bit ……. STILL ….. it's better than that beanie with the propeller on top he used wear .

        • Sally G

          LOL@Alan and Wolvie

  • Will Carry

    I am surprised at the number of ankle carriers on this post. I know some LEOs tha ankle carry but very few civilians.

    • Juan

      Will Carry, I'm a private citizen in an executive position with a lot of office attention; I tried many types of IWB holsters, but they either 'printed' or made my pistol jab me when I sat down. I tried an ankle holster (mine is a Blue Stone) and it just plain worked for me. I literally wear my CCW all day (except where prohibited by law). BTW, common sense has taught me which leg to cross, but I also found that wedging a cut-out piece of black sock around the muzzle helps keep lint and debirs out of the barrel, as well as hide the muzzle from curious onlookers…

  • Alan_T

    Juan ….. Have you ever tried a N82 ( Nate Squared ) IWB holster ? They are VERY comfortable , there is a full shield that conforms to your body between you and you Kel Tec . I use one for 1911's ….. only problem with the original holster ( what I use ) is that fact that it's not easy to reholster once the gun has been drawn , but they have other modles that use a half – kydex holster that stay open . There prices are very good also , here is their web address if you want to check them out :

    • Fred C

      Alan T- thanks for the link. Just found IWB holsters for two handguns I've not been able to fit before.

    • Juan

      great reference, Alan_T; I appreciate the reply – will definitely look them up!

      • Alan_T

        I hope it works out for you Juan .

  • Fred J

    I like the Bond Arms Double barrel derringer in 45Colt/410.

  • Alan_T

    You bet Fred C . Their original holsters can accommodate a lot ( maybe all ? ) handguns . As I said , the original can be hard to re holster , but because they are so comfortable ……… I can live with it !

  • Sam Brookes

    In South Africa the government has managed to rob all it's citizens of back-up or hide-out guns – only allowed to own one gun for self defense. What could I do other than register my .45 ACP for self-defence and lock my Astra .38 special in my safe and wish I could carry it when it's too hot to carry my .45. Count your blessings in the USA!

  • Martin Ullstrup

    I like my Les Baer .45's for primary use. Neither of the aluminum framed has ever failed to feed or fire. Never! For back-up, New York reload or what ever you wish to call it, i carry a Kahr 9mm Covert Auto. The three and a half inch barrel has never been too long for concealment and with its shorter than standard grip length I am and have been happy with it in my Mitch Rosen Pocket holster. . I fill the magazines with 124gr. +P+ Hydroshoks which gives it a much stronger punch than any +P .38's.

    • theBill

      New York reload; that's a good one!

  • Butch

    I find that even in the hot humid weather here on the coast I can wear cargo shorts and a Tee or polo shirt which still leaves a big lattitude for pocket carry. This means that the width and weight of your choice is critical.

    I have carried, in a IWB holster, things like a 1911, HiPower and S&W model 66 more recently it would be a Glock 19 or 23, or a S&W 3913. Currently for pocket carry I prefer a 9mm Kahr P9 or either a S&W Model 38 or Colt Pony Pocketlite (a discontinued lightweight .380 DOA) as distant second or third choices.If I were to buy something else it would probably another Kahr or one of the newer lighter .38's or .380's. depending on what I could find reasonably priced.

    I always use a pocket holster to keep it positioned in the pocket, help break up the outline and it helps keep the lint out as well. It also keeps the trigger covered. On the downside if you carry a lot of things in your pockets it does tie one of them up. If you carry your firearm in your pocket you want to keep it free of other items.

  • Lawman

    Well, I guess I'm the only one here who, when I carry a backup, carry my Ruger SP101 .357. My duty gun is my Colt 1911 .45 ACP. I like the "Old slab sides". My Ruger is sometimes my primary carry gun if I'm wearing it in my belly band holster with a speed loader. Yes it's only a 5 shot but very concealable and comfortable.
    By the way, I too was huge fan of your dad. I still recall the day my Shooting Times magazine arrived, and on the cover it announced the passing of Skeeter. Ruined my day and many days thereafter. It brought back to me the day my dad died. I'm very glad you are carrying on as a gun writer, and doing a very good job of it too.

  • Alan Zed

    Taurus M85 3" barrel, Hogue grips; winter coat pocket, so I can have my hand on it at any time. Warmer weather, a Grendel P11 (anyone remember those?! Think Kel-Tec P3AT) IWB appendix carry.

    Skeltons rule!

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