The Backup Plan

The Backup Plan

It may not be convenient, but a second gun is good insurance.

Some good backup guns include (clockwise from top left) SIG Sauer P238, S&W Model 642 (this one has custom grips and sights), a custom-shop NAA Guardian and Ruger LCP.

Should you carry a backup handgun?

If you are a lawman, the answer is almost universally yes and is either formally taught or has been informally strongly suggested to new officers for decades.


A positive response to this question is not so clear for the legally armed, non-sworn citizen, though. Setting aside the inconvenience of having more "iron" on your person, I've observed a strong undercurrent of the perception that if a non-sworn civilian does this and it becomes known among his contemporaries, he's viewed as, at the least, being a bit over the top with his practice of self-defense.



Also, I believe that if he is discovered to be carrying two guns when he has occasion to interact with a police officer, such as being stopped for speeding, he will definitely be dealt with in other than the usual manner.

I have heard others comment--correctly or not--that carrying two guns could be used against someone in court during a self-defense case, believing it would cause that person to be labeled a Rambo, someone who was just looking for an excuse to shoot someone.


Defending carrying two guns with logical and reasonable arguments fails, I think, regardless of the merits, although there are many. Pointing out that lawmen routinely do so and this practice is regularly taught to non-sworn civilians in well-respected self-defense classes gets countered with, "Well, the police face criminals." But I would ask, "Who do we face? Angels?"


Then there's the tactical argument that a second gun is a quicker reload, particularly if your primary gun is a revolver. Now, I agree, odds are you will not need more rounds than what you have in your gun, but do you want to stand around after the fight with an empty or partially empty gun?

Then this: Any gun, being a mechanical device, can fail regardless of how much attention is paid to its maintenance. And it can catastrophically fail at the most inconvenient times. You also might drop or lose control of your primary gun. "Fumble fingers" is not an uncommon occurrence when in a potentially deadly encounter.

You may also have to arm someone else to help control a threat or threats, perhaps while your attention is distracted by calling and speaking to the 911 operator.

I've had need to arm someone with my backup gun on a few occasions. One such was when a fellow agent was in such a hurry to get to a particular assignment he left with an empty holster. On another occasion, an investigator with me found his holstered gun was empty.

A third time was when I stepped into something bigger than I'd anticipated. A fellow off-duty officer who was with me but was unarmed wanted to help and said if I had a spare gun I could give it to him. (Luckily, I did.)

Despite these reasonable arguments for carrying a second gun, I see advocating doing so to a non-believer as a losing battle, for no one can overcome the reality that a good percentage of society looks on gun ownership, carry and use--particularly for self-defense--as acts more offensive than crime itself.

If you do choose to carry a second gun, I recommend picking one that you or anyone else can fire without any more instruction past "Point and pull the trigger. Repeat until empty." The gun should also be carried so you can use it with either hand. If this is not practical, carry it to favor off-hand use.

I also have to admit that as I've become semi-retired, my world is mostly home office, range, FFL dealer for gun transfers and gossip, as well as quick trips to the store and back. More often than not, these days I'm carrying only an S&W Model 42 five-shot two-inch revolver for the same reasons others do--it's just so convenient.

But I'm getting over it. After all, who would want "It was just so convenient" as his or her epitaph?

Recommended for You

I don't have a distinct recollection of the first time I reloaded a cartridge – it's been a long Ammo

To Cast a Good Bullet

Bart Skelton - June 28, 2012

I don't have a distinct recollection of the first time I reloaded a cartridge – it's been a...

Learn the keys to a successful one-handed draw. Training

Perfecting the One-Handed Draw

Richard Nance - July 02, 2019

Learn the keys to a successful one-handed draw.

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer SKU # 180023) is an easy-racking, soft-shooting pistol. Compact

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 Review

James Tarr - November 06, 2018

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Teaching New Shooters

Teaching New Shooters

Julie Golob of Team Smith & Wesson guest stars, joining Jim and Scott for a discussion of how best to introduce new shooters to the sport.

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

G&A Editor Eric Poole and Viking Tacticals's Kyle Lamb talks about 2 new pistols from SIG Sauer and a Lipsey's Special of the P365.

All About Handgun Ammo

All About Handgun Ammo

Rich and Jim get into the nitty gritty of the FBI ammo protocol, firing into various barriers to illustrate what can happen to a bullet.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most parts in just minutes.
Instead, the curtain-rod engineer with a Accessories

8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods

Dusty Gibson - July 17, 2013

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most...

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase. Accessories

SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades

James Tarr - December 14, 2017

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.

In 1858 Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action, percussion revolver. The unique Revolvers

Remington Timeline: 1858 - Beals Revolver

Handguns Online Staff - September 09, 2016

In 1858 Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action, percussion revolver. The...

See More Stories

More Training

Dry fire training is a great way to keep your skills sharp. Training

Dry Fire Training

Richard Nance - September 18, 2019

Dry fire training is a great way to keep your skills sharp.

The Hard Swing Drill will help you improve your draw speed and target transitions—along with reloading skills and sight picture and trigger control. Training

Hard Swing Drill

Josh Froelich - September 12, 2019

The Hard Swing Drill will help you improve your draw speed and target transitions—along with...

Richard Nance demonstrates training techniques to improve your one-handed shooting skills. Training

Tactical Tip: One-Handed Shooting

Richard Nance - January 12, 2018

Richard Nance demonstrates training techniques to improve your one-handed shooting skills.

See More Training

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×