carry rotation
Dan Z for TTAG
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By Sal D.

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 simple: maximum familiarity.

A lot of shooters constantly change their carry guns. They have a carry rotation, alternating the gun and method of carry depending on a variety of factors (season, clothing, destination, etc.)

When seeing or shooting a new model, I’ll hear some of them they 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 practice and repetition is how we become accomplished at any given skill. I have found that many reps, as in many dry-fire sessions combined with a lot of rounds down range are required to reach full potential with a given handgun, even (especially?) when you’re an accomplished shooter.

The bottom line: when you switch to a new gun, there’s 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.

To be clear, I am not arguing against ever changing the gun you carry. Most shooters will, at some point, change their carry gun. That’s fine if you do so based on need, or 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 that’s when you carry your full-size SIG pistol 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 a change due to fewer and lighter clothes, maybe that’s when you switch to your J-frame revolver.

That’s a reasonable “rotation” as long as your training takes the change into account. The J-frame and its trigger pull is a very different animal than the SA/DA SIG. You need to train with your pistol of choice 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 platforms serve specific purposes.

Here, however, is the kind of rotation I am adamantly opposed to: “It’s Monday, I’ll strap on my 1911. It’s Tuesday, so I’ll tote my GLOCK. Its Wednesday, I’ll pack my Beretta 92!” They’re choosing which tool that could potentially save their life based on a whim.

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 full proficiency.

Can a good shooter bounce between platforms and still perform reasonably well? Of course. 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 life-saving defensive tool, not a fashion statement. You don’t need to change your handgun like you change your shoes to match outfits, your mood or the phase of the moon..

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 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.

When the adrenaline’s pumping in a life-or-death situation, do you really want to be fumbling for a safety that’s not there? Or fail to disengage a manual safety because yesterday you carried a gun that didn’t have one?

On many occasions I’ve seen people botch the safety or some other control on their handgun in IDPA matches. I’ve seen competitors drop magazines. And that’s with no one shooting back at them. Imagine how much more seriously the wheels would fall off in a defensive gun use.

Granted, switching between guns with substantially the same manual of arms will simplify things. For example, switching between a GLOCK and a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (the model with no thumb safety) isn’t as big a deal as switching between a GLOCK and, say, a 1911. However, there’s still a different trigger, different ergonomics, and potential pitfalls due to a slightly different location of controls.

Why bother all of that? If you’ve been shooting a GLOCK and switch entirely to an M&P because you find that you like and shoot it better, fine. But, carrying one on Monday and the other on Tuesday just for a change of pace? That’s not a sound approach.

There’s a reason the KISS principle works. Minimize the number of guns that you carry and choose them based on need. This will maximize your familiarity with the few weapons you tote.

If you do switch platforms, stick with the new one and be sure to adequately train with it. Remember, your gun isn’t a fashion statement; it’s your lifeline should things go wrong.

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  1. Be wary of overspecialization. That’s how we get folks that can only drive an automatic transmission. You should be able to run any type and make of handgun at least well enough to survive a hostile encounter armed with a weapon that is not yours.

    When training encourages you to forsake all other weapons for the one that you are most proficient with it is no longer training. It’s just another competitive recreational activity.

    • Agreed. You never know what you’re going to have to use in a pinch. Granted, most civilians only own one or two guns, but I was trained to know and be able to use a wide range of guns under any circumstances. On the other hand, my wife was not so she always carries the same Beretta 92 and she is very good with it. Essentially, it boils down to do what works best for you.

    • The author makes some valid points. However, I’ve never had the issues he describes and I’ve deployed various weapons in more high stress situations on the street than I can remember. Never forgot what I was carrying, or how it worked. I’ve also shot hundreds of matches and spent thousands of hours training. So there is that. I was taking one of Bill Rogers classes once. Advanced firearms instructor or officer survival. I forget which. The .45 ACP ammo wouldn’t function in my Colt 1911 that I had recently got back from Robar. (Cheap reloads. It also wouldn’t function in Dale Greene’s Sig P220. R.I.P. Killed in the line of duty.) The wondernines were just coming on line and everyone else was shooting factory ammo. On day two I showed up with the first HK P7M8 I ever owned. Never missed a beat. I later heard that Bill refused to teach anymore classes at the academy unless factory ammo was issued in all calibers.

      • so … why were you using cheap reloads ?
        i’m afraid i’m going to have to call b.s. on your comment.
        someone making all your claims would not show up with cheap untested ammo.

    • I find men switching between half a dozen different carry guns per month are like women switching between different purses for fun and amusement. Your life saving carry gun should be taken more seriously.

      • Yep all six of them are taken very seriously. They are all shot more than enough to know that they work and are well taken care of.

  2. It is for this exact reason that all my carry firearms have two common features: double-action trigger and no manual safety.

  3. To each his own. I’ll continue to train with and rotate through my 6-10 favorites. The key to familiarity is training and range time.

    • Familiarity means nothing if you are carrying a 1911 and your brain says “Glock” when you start your draw.

      • Again, I never had this problem. Always carried a 1911 on duty except for a few occasions. When I worked Katrina I carried a Glock for logistical reasons. Carried a Galil rather than AR. There are some roads I won’t go down. Carried DA/SA. DA revolvers. Never forgot what I had in my hand.

  4. Well, there’s always the m&p, m&p compact, and m&p shield. I hope the different grip sizes wouldn’t significantly alter my performance. My Pico on the other hand, is an X factor with the mag release on the trigger guard.
    I get the spirit of the article, as I FEEL like you should carry the same gun, in the same place, preferably in the same holster every time you dress and go forth from the bedroom/gun room/tent/bunker. I also FEEL like running as many platforms as possible (ar, ak, bolt, pump, revolver, sa, da, etc) to proficiency is beneficial “just in case” you were forced to run a new platform for whatever reason and proficiency over several platforms will build confidence in your primary platform, or change your primary platform to one that inspires confidence. There’s a reason there’s so many different grip styles, angles, sa, da, striker, dao, on the market. Just because it looks good, or runs good, doesn’t make it yours.

    • “Just because it looks good, or runs good, doesn’t make it yours.”

      So true. I recommend comfort. Not just carry comfort, but one’s ability with a firearm. I own only two that meet that criteria. One friend of mine has carried the same pistol for 23 years and is unlikely to ever switch. Another carries 4 brands and keeps buying/selling to get the right mix.

      Go for what you will carry. If alternating between 50 is what a person needs, do it.

  5. I carried my Walther PPK/S as my CCW. I’ve just recently retired the PPK rather than re-spring it again. It’ll still be taken out and fired, just not a carry gun anymore. The new CCW is a Sig P365. My eyes have aged and sights are difficult to sèe without special glasses. So a lader for the Sig is in thr near future. Plus the night sights on the Sig stand out better than the Walther’s do.

    • I have a Glock 19 and a Glock 43. Both, of course, have the same platform and this is a help to me when it comes to memory. I carry the 43 due to the lighter weight. My memory has suffered with age and carrying the same platform gives me some peace of mind. As one commentator said, “KISS”.

  6. I would suppose that the opinion expressed is just that, an opinion. Some people should stick to the KISS system. Others of us actually have more, and more varied experience. I haven’t shot a 1911 in 4 decades, but I would not have any issue with the manual of arms for it. The “new” point and shoot type of guns are made to enable almost anyone to shoot them without extensive training. If you can’t do that, maybe you should be gun free.
    I also agree with JWM’s comment.

    • I learned KISS in the Army… and no, it wasn’t gay, cuz the lights were on.

      In all seriousness, Keeping It Simple is something I try to live my life by. I don’t have a lot of guns, but what I do have I am confident in my ability to use and maintain.

  7. I carry all of the following: Glock 17/34/45, HK VP9, Walther PPQ, CZ P10F, Beretta APX, Canik TP9SF, Sig P320.FN 509, and Steyr L9/M9. They all are striker fired with no manual safety. I see no issues with this. Draw, point, shoot. This isn’t rocket science. And I do all my dry fire training on a Glock 19 4th Gen because it has the worst trigger when compared to all of the above which makes me better.
    I will say that I typically carry a gun for 4 – 6 months before changing through another in my rotation.

  8. Train, train, train, and train some more with every manual of arms you choose to own is the answer to carrying more than one one manual of arms. It can be done effectively and safely it just requires training with dedication. A revolver and a semiautomatic are not the same manual of arms which would constitute carrying two different manual of arms and training for muscle memory for both.

  9. I have four guns in my carry rotation—a Kahr CM9, a Kahr MK9, a Kahr P9, and a Kahr CW380.

    They all function exactly the same.

  10. I really don’t care what others carry. I’m totally in favor of any law abiding person carrying whatever gun or guns they please. If someone wants to alternate between a NAA mini revolver and a Desert Eagle, I say, go for it.

    While I do agree that it would be advantageous to carry the firearm with which you were most proficient, if a person feels like changing carry guns, it’s their business, not mine.

    FYI: all my carry guns – DA revolvers and semi-autos – are point and shoot – no manual safeties. But that’s my choice.

  11. It all comes down to training and familiarization with your guns…I rotate my carry guns, and I’m quite confident that should they be needed, I’ll be able to successfully deploy them…

    This “article” should be labeled as an “OP-ED” because that’s exactly what it is…

  12. I think the you overstate the case. I agree that a rotation between pistol types on a daily basis is a bad idea but today pistols come in families. Every Glock, Springfield, M&P, FNS, FNX, APX, Sig etc is the same. And of course all 1911s + BHP are the same. You won’t get in trouble when by switching from a G19 to G26 to a G43.

    Most of the year I carry some an EMP as an EDC. I live in the extreme cold so I switch to an APX in the winter. I will either carry an XD subcompact or APX compact when I travel by air or when I need a smaller pistol. And I have a NANO for the golf course and the few times when i need to be sure that no one will notice.

  13. If anyone is looking for a good CCW, I just bought a Sig P365 in FDE and broke it in at the range today. The sights are spot on and it cycled through perfectly right out of the box. I bought the extra 12 round mag and the spring was really stuff. I need to load it full and let it sit a few days to relax the spring.

    • And Sig has just announced a 15 rd mag for the P365 is about to come out (it can already be ordered from Sig). I think $49 is the MSRP.

  14. Some good points and sound logic.

    Most here know i carry an LCP as a primary and may supplement that with an LCR/JFrame or Glock 43.

    Push come to shove, I will most likely grab the LCP first. If danger is more obvious before hysterics start, then I might grab the larger gun.

    I am pretty familiar with all my pistols so picking up a 92 or 1911 would not seem foreign at all. And most revolvers are…..revolvers. And a single action falls to hand like a glove when I pick it up.

    I see lots of folks that get vapor lock on anything that’s not striker/polymer. I have used a variety of arms over the last 45 years or so. Folks that cant pick up most any weapon and make it run need to get out more and maybe make some new friends.

    I might fumble something in a gunfight but it will probably be due to sheer terror and adrenaline and not to a slide mounted safety.


  15. lol author is a hypocrite. He carries a g19 sometimes, sometimes he switches it out for the Ruger. That by definition is a “carry gun rotation”

  16. good, sound advice…I carry a certain pistol all the time, regardless of weather, also mainly due to budgeting…so for me there is no rotation. I do have a couple other pistols, single action, DA/SA revolver, and another semi that I shoot as much as possible. So for me this is not an issue, but I am familiar with all types of firearms and shoot many different ones and train with others as well, just in case.

  17. The author makes good points. I qualified 2 Shields, a sig p229, LC380 and a XD9 as my CCW guns. Other than the Ruger’s long trigger pull, transitioning between them isn’t a prob. I’d like to add my Glock 19, with reduced grip, as a CCW gun, but I keep shooting a little high. So trigger pull and grip angle are factors for me.

  18. I suggest guns in “rotation” should all function the same. Don’t have one with a manual safety and one without.

  19. If you’re basically familiar with the gun then outside the competition world I don’t think it matters.

    For defense you’re generally trying to hit a man sized target from a distance you can legally justify without LEO creds. You’re not running a course as fast as possible with the best accuracy.

    Shoot someone three times in the chest during a gas station robbery and I highly doubt you’ll hear “Damn dude, nice shot group and .01 faster on the timer too!”.

  20. Meh. It’s an issue, but not a huge one for most people… particularly if you don’t mess around with different conditions of carry.

  21. I find it amusing that many here conflate mental familiarity (i.e. understanding how something works conceptually) with the deeply myelinated process that one only builds and maintains through regular, extensive practice – a process that truly enables not having to think at all about how something works when using it under pressure.

    Anyone with a decent brain and passing familiarity to a certain type of gun could probably operate it given the time to think about it, but in a defensive encounter you really want all of your thinking to revolve around solving the problem. Having to break focus to remind yourself what you are carrying today and how it may differ from yesterday’s carry is just not a recipe for success IMO.

    Now… what really gets me laughing out loud are those who seriously talk of battlefield pickups…

      • In CA the CHP lost 4 men in a single shooting incident. I think it was in the 70s. An unarmed civilian got one of the fallen officers duty revolvers and engaged the bad guys until he ran out of ammo and had to retreat.

        More than one post right here on TTAG has told of a ‘victim’ getting the gun away from the bad guy.

        ‘Battlefield’ pickups can and do happen.

        • I think that was the beginning of the move from dump pouches to speed loaders.

  22. A good soldier should be able to pick up any weapon and be able to use it. Especially tlocks, they are all pretty much the same, and 1911’s also. After 50 years of carrying, all I need do is feel the gun, and I know just about everything there is to know about it.

  23. I have 6 guns in my rotation.
    I switch them out after months at a time.
    All are mostly the same size and function.
    So in my case. Familiarity is a plus.
    4 are Officers size 1911s. 2 are Sigs. P238, or P938
    Different calibers. Function the same. Mostly.
    So wheres the issue???

    • With my BlueStone vest I can have six guns on me…….

      ….slows me down a little …..but I dont have to reload much.

  24. Switching carry guns makes no sense unless you’re going to hunt the kind of game that can eat you. For general use, one gun in one position is the most effective, especially in a very dramatic situation. As an example, I was once chasing a guy and he spun around reaching under his jacket like he had a weapon. The look on his face as my right hand swept under my sports coat was, as they say, priceless, but he came up empty and I did too even though my J-frame was halfway out of its holster. He never saw what kind of gun I had and neither did the 50 or so bystanders. That was all the result of the same gun in the same place every time and a great deal of practice. The hardest part was the mental practice of the gun halfway out but no further. If he came up heavy he would have been shot. Because I was a civilian I anticipated every situation I could think of and when almost impossible to physically practice I mentally ran through such situations hundreds of times.

      • Agreed! If not law enforcement and the would be assailant is running away, why chase them? Did he have a child that wasn’t his? Did he steal your only groceries? Or was this a who has the bigger dick? Had you shot the guy not having a good reason to give chase you would probably be in jail for going looking for a fight and shooting someone that you could have let run away. Sometimes having the bigger dick gets you more trouble than you want.

    • And if “he had come up heavy” – you would have been behind the 8 ball and most likely been shot.

      Action beats reaction and he would have his gun out.

      • Agreed! Being in a situation that is already threatening means not waiting for the bad guy to meet equal force but for my level of force to always be one above his. Bad guy starts reaching I’m coming up full draw. Bad guy has the option then to stop or get shot.

        • Yeah. Hesitation is the enemy. Why i have a little more sympathy seeing someone draw and fire in the heat of a confrontation.

          If it’s me and I think they are on the attack….I’m shooting. Sure hope I never have to.

  25. I like to shoot plenty of different firearms. Getting familiar with a new pistol or rifle is my idea of big-time fun. But I admit that EDC rotation is limited to two pistols: Bersa Thunder Combat for warm weather clothes and CZ-82 for cold weather carry. I’ve trained extensively with both, built up muscle memory and know them by touch. I’d probably be OK to expand that rotation, but only after significant training time with any new addition. The last thing I want is to wind up in a defensive situation where I have to think about how my firearm works – I’d rather be thinking about exiting or resolving the situation.

  26. I don’t get this rotating your gun stuff either. I mean, you rotate your socks, that’s a given. But your self defense carry gun?

    Nope, not following that idea at al.

    I have two guns I routinely carry. The pocket gun and the belt gun. The pocket gun is the always there gun. The belt gun is for when I can openly carry, in which case I also have the pocket gun. Either the concealed gun or both, that’s my rule, for me, your rules may be different.

    But for fuck sake rotate your socks will ya!?

    Bunch of heathens ….

    • Rotating guns is must if you have only two and one is used for ankle carry. Gotta let it air out. Can you imagine the stench build up from sweat soaked socks and shoes/boots that will migrate to the firearm if not given a breather?😂

  27. I agree completely! I live in the northern climes where summer can be real hot, meaning I carry my G43 in a Sticky in my cargo shorts right front pocket to the point it becomes part of me or I forget it’s even there(With a spare mag or two in the other pocket in a mag Sticky for balance out. I even have the industrial velcro Sticky traveler(with a retention strap) stuck to my car’s console that I just pull the whole rig(gun & Sticky) out and stick in that. From car to pants, boom boom boom done in 3 seconds and vice versa. In the winter, I do the same with my G32(Ziggy) except I use a Berne CC winter coat. I practice with both much and it’s very easy to discern between the two. I keep it simple so not to be stupid.

  28. I run the CZ P07 and the Walther PPQ M2. Both are equipped with TLR7s, both are carried at the 12:30, and have the same capacity/ammo ( as an added bonus, the CZ P-07 will take damn near any magazine, to include the PPQ mags).

    Now, some folks would argue a DA/SA and a Striker are an odd combo, but I train with both quite often. If you can master a double-single, you can shoot damn near anything..and the fundamentals don’t change.

    I do switch my edc out, but I keep consistency see where it matters.

    • Sounds like a win win to me. They stay in business for me to buy more guns. No problems with that!

  29. The same old Meat Cleaver for me. However I am thinking of switching to some of those new fangled plastic flyswatters. I’m just not seeing the Bigfoot size spiders much anymore, and a flyswatter is a lot lighter.

  30. This is what sold me on Glock handguns, I can carry a sub compact G26 at night, a G17 during the day and a full sized G20 when hiking with the same manual of arms.

  31. In a 23 year Military/LEO career (and counting), I’ve went thru three departments and went from Beretta 92F to SIG 226 to Beretta 92G to M&P .40 to SIG 229 .40 to Glock 17 and every time I’ve switched my qual scores remained 98-100…and that doesn’t even count the personally owned handguns I carry off duty which is predominantly Glocks…”inherent re-learning process?” Fundamentals remain the same no matter what gun you put in my hand…

  32. People should do with what they are comfortable and competent with and quit worrying so much what others might be doing and believe that they may have the same limitations that they do.

    As crazy as it sounds I once drove a front wheel drive car with manual transmission, rear wheel drive car with automatic transmission, and motorcycle all on my lunch break and survived without incident. Only twice did try to activate the clutch with my left hand while driving the front wheel drive car with manual transmission.

  33. Dude – just because you can’t do something does not mean lots of others are not able to do just that

    get over yourself

  34. Though there is general merit to the Authors premise, he doesn’t follow it wholly himself with the G19 pistol to Ruger LCR revolver swap out. I needn’t list the differences. Obviously knowing two guns intimately is easier than five.

    Same context is also contrary to common smaller CC firearms carried daily and the “swap” to the advantages of a full size “house gun” which may or may not be mfg/configuration/caliber similar and no doubt many home defense shotguns/rifles could fall into high stress, life and death situations equal to the immediacy of an event while carrying concealed.

    It would indeed be foolish to CC a firearm you are not proficient with but “swapping out” in and of itself is not a issue. To each, his/her own responsibilities.


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