I’ve recently read a few articles promoting the backup gun (BUG). The authors concluded that a backup gun is a better option than learning to reload and perform malfunction clearances. I beg to differ.
Sorry to break the bad news, but you’re not good enough to carry two guns. To do so effectively, you have to be proficient with both. In concert. Have you been through a training program putting rounds downrange with both your primary and your backup? Did you master integrated combatives to counter an ambush?
One of the issues I have with pro-BUG articles: the assumption the “average” shooter can’t have adequate training to perform timely, efficient reloads or correct malfunctions with their primary handgun. (One author highlighted a type three malfunction, commonly called a double feed. The necessary correction is time consuming, but doable and trainable.)
Considering the allocation of time, money and resources the average shooter has available, I believe they’re better off learning core skills rather than trying to master the art of switching — and running — two separate [presumably different] handguns.
Reload and malfunction clearance are core skills. The late Col. Cooper is credited with the Combat Triad: mindset, marksmanship and gun manipulations. I find it odd that gun manipulation would be dismissed so easily.
You will notice that marksmanship is part of the combat triad — and for good reason. If you decide to employ your firearm the ability to place rapid and effective hits on target is more than a core skill, it is a critical skill.
Marksmanship is one of the most demanding of the core skills. Students struggle with marksmanship skills for many reasons. You need an intimate knowledge of how sight management, trigger management and follow-through. Meeting performance standards is difficult enough with a primary. Try it with a smaller backup gun . . .
Some gun guys say they don’t need to be as accurate with their backup. It’s for use when the battle for survival gets up-close-and-personal.
Most self-defense situations are up-close-and-personal, right from the start. They are, for all practical purposes, an ambush. Whether your immediate reaction is to evade, escape, perform some form of hands-on combative or go for your gun, you’re not going to have much time to choose.
When the ballistic opportunity does present itself, you need to go with what you know the best: your primary firearm. Do you need a secondary? Chances are you won’t. And if you do, chances are you’d spend just as much time fishing it out as you would performing a reload.
Carrying a backup gun is a great idea — if your primary gun breaks/malfunctions. Begging the question: why are you carrying an unreliable firearm? That said, your primary gun may become damaged in a fight. (A fight-damaged gun is more likely than a malfunction, especially a type three malfunction).
By the same token, there’s also the possibility that your strong hand may become disabled. If you carry your backup gun on your weak side . . . Then again, as most ambushes occur at close range, a fixed blade carried off your weak side would be a faster and better solution for this situation.
Finally, the gun pass.
I discouraged passing a second live firearm to an unknown person in a violent or potentially violent conflict. Passing it to your partner is far more plausible and a good justification for a backup gun. Then again, why isn’t your partner carrying their own gun?
Bottom line: a backup gun is not a horrible idea. Learning how to use your primary firearm effectively and efficiently — including presentation, marksmanship, reloading and malfunction clearance — is a better use of your time and money.
Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.