backup gun

Why You Should Carry A Backup Gun...And Why You Shouldn't

A tidbit of wisdom often given for carrying a pistol for self-defense is that you should carry a primary and a backup gun. One is none and two is one, as the saying goes, which actually has a certain amount of logic to it.

It also doesn't.

As with so many other things relating to carrying a gun, you'll have to figure out for yourself how, what and why you're going to carry what you carry. You'll definitely need a strong gun belt. That said, let's go over the pros and cons of a backup gun.

Why You Might Need A Backup Gun

backup gun

In ages past, it was common for police officers to carry at least one backup gun if not two to three. Heck, it's still common today; often enough they'll have an ankle or pocket gun to go with their service pistol.

What was common in the revolver era was for a uniform officer to have their service gun on the hip and a couple snubbies in the pockets, and possibly one on the ankle as well. A legendary Chicago PD officer, Frank Pape, was known to have his clothes tailored so he could carry two 4-inch revolvers in his pants pockets and two more in his jacket pockets.

This was necessary as reloading a revolver was time-consuming, at least until moonclips and speedloaders made a tactical reload much faster with a revolver. The preferred practice was to just drop it and pull out a new one.

Semi-autos, meanwhile, are known for having a few failure points. Chief among them is the magazine, as well as the recoil spring. (Even the 1911.) Having to clear a malfunction at the wrong time can be problematic, so having a backup gun is beneficial in this instance. Additionally, say you're in an extended firefight and run out of ammunition - a backup gun gives you a few more to fight your way out.

Some people also prefer to carry their spare ammunition inside a second gun.

Alternately, there's an idea out there that a backup gun can be given to someone else in case of a mass shooter or something like that, if there's someone you trust enough to arm in case of such circumstances.

Why Carrying A Backup Gun Might Be More Hassle Than It's Worth

backup gun

All of the above things are true about carrying a backup gun. However, so are a few other things.

First is the nature of civilian defensive shootings. Some people have fantasies about engaging in a shootout with an active shooter or terrorist as if real life is like the movies. While stranger things have happened, odds are that won't be happening.

In real life, most civilians that actually have to shoot in defense of life and limb do so at home against an intruder, in a parking area facing a mugger or in a store or bank confronting an armed robber. The shooting itself happens fast, with the gun usually only coming out in the final seconds and only a few shots being fired.

Why this matters? For one, that means carrying a large supply of ammunition is likely to be of no benefit to the civilian carrying for self protection. Granted, nobody wishes they brought fewer bullets to a fight, but instances where a civilian needed to reload in a self-defense shooting are incredibly rare. Almost nonexistent, in fact; the documented instances where a civilian-involved shooting required a reload can practically be counted on one hand.

In short, the chances you'd even empty your gun, let alone need a second one or a reload, are so remote that you might as well not bother or at least something to that effect.

Additionally, there's the extra hassle of an additional holster, whether that's a second one on the waistband or on the ankle, in a pocket, what have you. At a certain point, you have to ask yourself how much gear you need in order to leave the house in the morning.

Then you have the nature of failures. Again, the most common culprit are magazines and recoil springs. A lot of people upgrade both on a carry gun as a matter of course. Changing both every year and you'll never have to worry about either.

Those carrying a CCW revolver won't have to worry. Failures can occur with revolvers, don't kid yourself, but proven designs of good manufacture are the least likely to. Don't listen the tactical crowd; you aren't undergunned with a snubbie. Five or six rounds of good ammunition, put in the right location, will drop King Kong.

To Backup Gun Or Not To Backup Gun

backup gun

The bullet points - ha! - so to speak, of carrying a backup gun are that guns can fail and sometimes you need more bullets. However, doing so is a pain and - in all likelihood - you aren't going to use very many bullets IF you ever have to use your gun.

Granted, it's different for police. Police officers, in contrast with civilians, DO get into extended shootouts with criminals and do so often enough for multiple magazines for their service pistols and a backup gun to be a best practice for the line of duty. Civilians, however, do not with any frequency whatsoever.

Another consideration is the comfort angle. Every additional bit of gear that you add to your EDC setup is another pound or two you're carrying, more stuff on or about the waistline, more stuff in the pockets and so on. Now, what's definitely known in the concealed carry community is that the less comfortable a gun is to carry, the more likely you are to not carry it. You'll find excuses and stop carrying every day.

The two or three gun carry system that you leave at home does you no good. The single gun you have on you can be used to save your bacon.

Granted, you can find ways to carry a backup gun that isn't necessarily uncomfortable. A person could carry two or three small pistols without much issue. Or you can just suffer and accept it, and there are people who take that approach.

Ultimately, it's all up to you, and there are some good reasons to do so...but plenty, also, to not.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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