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.
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.