By Salvatore DeGennaro
I only carry one of two guns: either the ever-popular GLOCK 19, or a Ruger LCR snub nose revolver. Most often it’s the GLOCK 19. When I need deeper concealment that the G19 cannot provide, I pack the Ruger. These are the only two guns that ever reside on my person for defensive use. Why, you may ask, would I limit myself to only two guns in this wide world of ballistic abundance? The answer is quite simple: maximum familiarity . . .
Many shooters constantly change their carry guns. I even hear people talk about their “carry rotation.” Often they will mention five or six different guns they cycle through. Upon shooting a new model of blaster they will say, “Wow, I’m adding this one to my rotation.” I can’t fathom this.
When it comes to training for self-defense with a handgun, we all understand that repetitions are how we become accomplished at any given skill. I have found that many reps, as in many dry-fire sessions combined with many shots fired, are required to reach full potential with a given handgun, even when you’re an accomplished shooter.
The bottom line is, when you switch to a new gun, there is an inherent re-learning process. There are many who will argue against this, and at the risk of ruffling feathers I will say this: those who say they can switch platforms on a daily basis without issue are consistently training at only a casual level, while accomplished shooters tend to stick to a single platform.
Let me clarify: I am not arguing against ever changing guns. Most shooters will, at some point, change their carry gun. That’s fine if you do so based on need, or even want a change just for the sake of it, within reason. Changing guns reasonably would be the decision to switch wholesale to a new platform, at least for a substantial amount of time.
For example, let’s say cold weather months allow you to carry more gun, so you carry your full-size SIG for six months of the year. Of course, I believe in carrying enough gun year-round as bad guys don’t change their level of determination based on the weather. But if summer demands more concealment, maybe you switch to your J-frame revolver.
That’s a reasonable rotation as long as your training takes the change into account. Even if that J-frame isn’t as much fun to shoot, you need to train with it if you’re going to be carrying it. Or let’s say you usually carry your compact autoloader on a daily basis, but when hiking in Grizzly country you strap on your .44 Magnum revolver. Again, perfectly sound carry rotation, as the different platform serves a needed purpose.
Here is the rotation I am eminently opposed to: “It’s Monday, I will wear my 1911. It’s Tuesday, I’ll tote my GLOCK. Its Wednesday, I’ll pack my Baretta 92!” Some people actually do this. Why? Simple: It’s fun to own and use a lot of guns. But, those who deem this acceptable are never reaching a level of true proficiency with their handguns so they don’t see a significant change in performance between these varied platforms.
Can a good shooter bounce between platforms and still perform reasonably well? Yes. However, any experienced shooter knows that you will shoot substantially better with a platform that you have been consistently training with. A handgun is a defensive tool, not a fashion statement. You don’t need to change your handgun like you change your shoes to match different outfits.
The second issue with carry rotation beyond just hampering performance is that it can lead to disaster. This is primarily the case when switching between platforms with different manuals of arms. Going from a handgun with no safety to one with a thumb safety, for instance, is really asking for unnecessary trouble. You may think that you’re experienced enough with both guns to do this seamlessly, but I will again suggest that those who assume that are doing so based on only a low level of training. Casually shooting at bull’s eye targets at the range is not a good determination of this cross-competency. Many who practice this rotation don’t even train with the gun out of the holster or under any sort of induced stress.
On many occasions I’ve seen people botch the safety or some other control on their handgun in IDPA matches. And that’s with no one shooting back. Imagine how the wheels would fall off in a defensive shooting if the pressure of the timer results in fumbling in that kind of situation.
Other things that can happen when shooting under some real pressure go beyond just the manual of arms. I have seen competitors drop their magazines. Imagine how this sort of thing can be aggravated when switching between platforms. Again, most shooters never push themselves to the levels of realizing the possibilities of handling different types of guns under stress. If you want to rotate guns, you need to push yourself to a high level of training and testing with each platform to ensure absolute reliability and shooter compatibility with each gun that you will carry. And if you actually do that, your rotation will drastically reduce, I assure you.
Granted, switching between guns with substantially the same manual of arms, will simplify things. For example, switching between a GLOCK and a Smith and Wesson M&P (the standard model with no thumb safety) isn’t as big a deal as switching between a GLOCK and a 1911. However, there is still a different trigger, different ergonomics, and potential trouble due to a slightly different location of controls.
Why bother doing that? If you’ve been shooting a GLOCK and switch entirely to an M&P because you find that you like it better, fine. But, carrying one on Monday and the other on Tuesday just for a change of pace? Not a sound approach.
There’s a reason the KISS principle works. Minimize the actual number of guns that you carry and choose them based on need. This will maximize your familiarity with your carry weapons. Test your abilities with the gun(s) under induced stress to be sure that unexpected failures don’t occur. If you do switch platforms, stick with it and be sure that you adequately train for the transition. Remember, your gun is not a fashion statement; it’s your lifeline should things go bad.