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I’m a big proponent of the “better to have a gun and not need it” school of self-defense. Of course, I also live in the real world of practicality, legality, and just plain old everyday hassles. So my carry options tend to opt toward simple and easy, and I don’t carry everyday. Why? Because it’s a hassle. I do feel like I should carry more often, but I don’t. My carry days are limited to travel, going into known bad places, and when carting large sums of cash. In other words, not very often.

An acquaintance of mine went over the deep end into personal security, way back. He had a car gun, a primary carry gun, a backup carry gun, multiple mags for both, a combat knife, mace, and one of those little batons. I still don’t know how he carried all of it, except to say there are now things I know about his underwear/thunderwear choices that I’d rather not know. Not a good visual image.

So where’s the middle ground? I equate carrying with insurance. I write a check to Geico every month to limit my loss when the SHTF. But I’ve maxed my deductibles to lower my monthly, all the same. So too my carry choices have quite a bit of compromise built in. Which brings us to backup guns.

The concept is that when your primary piece goes “click” instead of “bang”, you have a second option. But if it’s hard to carry one gun, it’s exponentially harder to carry two. Why would you do that? I guess more to the point, what would you need to consider in the choice of a second gun?

Gun style – pistol or revolver? You might want the same style as your primary, to simplify training and practice. You might want the opposite, to give more carry choices. I’d recommend the same style, knowing that I’d violate that advice myself.

Size and caliber – the normal mindset is that your backup gun is smaller than the primary. No sense carrying two full sized guns. So, mouse gun. We’ve discussed that before. But here it might make sense. Of course, the smaller size is limited if you wisely insist on the same caliber (say, 9 mm). If you carry two calibers, that’s two different sets of ammo to worry about. I’d probable choose a second caliber, only to make my backup as mousy as possible for easier carry.

Carry position – really depends on your primary. I use inside the waistband, strong side hip. I’d rather not have a second gun on my belt, so that leaves ankle carry. Which I’ve never been comfortable with. It helps if the primary’s in a shoulder holster. But I rarely wear a jacket. I also have something that fits easily in my pocket, but that gets uncomfortably close to my other “gun,” if you know what I mean.

Draw – dependent on the carry position. You want to really focus on your draw with the primary gun, so you’re going to spend less time on the backup. Which brings up another point. I’d like to see my family every so often. After working 50 to 60 hours a week, taking care of home chores, there is very little family time left. And I’m reluctant to spend it at the range learning a second carry gun.

Which takes us back to the original concept. What happens when your primary goes “click”? If you got time to bend over, hike up your pants leg, and pull out a second gun, then maybe you have time to tap-rack-bang the primary. If fact, your first response should be tap-rack-bang. Or in my case (.38 snub), I just pull the trigger again and index the next round. I guess there’s a scenario where your primary gun is taken from you, in which case I’d be dead. But once again, I rarely ever go into harm’s way.

Safely and responsibly carrying one gun is enough of a hassle without adding a second to the mix. Training to be able to draw and fire, under pressure, accurately, quickly, is best accomplished with just one gun. If you’re worried about gun reliability, do you really want to magnify that times two? Instead, spend your limited range time on one gun, one carry, and then spend some quality time with the family.

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  1. For cops , a backup gun only makes sense. and that it is small is of little consequence because the scenarios where they may be used. if youre'e using it , you've been disarmed, so the assaliant is very close. for CCW holders, that scenario is extreamly remote. If you have a very reliable primary , then there are almost no scenarios where a backup would be needed. besides, if the primary fails, the chances of tgetting the backup out during a fight are probably very small.

    • An old thread, but here’s my take on why I like my bug:

      1. If the bad guy gets the drop on you somehow and takes your primary, or you drop your primary, he likely won’t check you for a backup.

      2. If the SHTF and someone else is with me, I can always give them the BUG to help me.

      3. Yes, your primary should be reliable and well cared for. But we’ve ALL seen reliable, well cared for weapons fail. Yes, it is rare and unlikely, but for most people who carry, needing their gun AT ALL is unlikely as well.

      4. In some positions, like sitting at a desk or table with my leg crossed, I can actually draw from my ankle more quickly and less noticeably than I can from my IWB holster. I’m right handed, carry on the inside of my left ankle, and have always crossed my left leg onto my right knee. I never cross my legs the other way, so my gun is always handy without me even thinking about it.

  2. This is part of the reason that I prefer true double action to striker fired guns like the Glock. OTOH, Glock reliability is legendary, so I would think that as long as you don't skimp on the ammo and maintenance then the chances of a failure of any kind are vanishingly small. Don't forget to clean and lube the magazine!

    Of course there's always the revolver option.

  3. If I didn't think my primary was reliable, it wouldn't be worth carrying. Time to upgrade. Not that I can carry. Damn Illinois.


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