Concealed Carry: Should You Carry a Back-Up Gun? Part 1

A sweet backup gun! This Colt Pocket Nine is the size of a Walther PPK 380 and considerably lighter, yet it just put five rounds of Winchester SXT full-power 9mm into approximately two inches at 25 yards. Sadly discontinued, it is worth haunting gun shops to find second-hand.

A sweet backup gun! This Colt Pocket Nine is the size of a Walther PPK 380 and considerably lighter, yet it just put five rounds of Winchester SXT full-power 9mm into approximately two inches at 25 yards. Sadly discontinued, it is worth haunting gun shops to find second-hand.

The primary gun may malfunction. In the South recently, a police officer died with a jammed pistol in his hand. Witnesses said he was struggling with his choked semiautomatic when his opponent, a criminal armed with two double action revolvers, shot him to death. The officer’s pistol, a popular brand famous for its reliability, had jammed part way through its 15-round magazine. The quick drawing and firing of a second weapon might have saved the officer’s life.

The primary gun may be struck by an opponent’s bullet and rendered inoperable. This scenario is not so far-fetched as it may sound. Law enforcement training in this country was profoundly affected by a 1986 gun battle on the edge of Miami where two FBI agents were killed and five more wounded by two heavily armed criminals who were ultimately killed at the scene.

Two of the seven agents who returned fire resorted to their backup handguns during that firefight, and the agent who put the final, fatal bullets into the criminals did so with his Smith & Wesson revolver after his Remington shotgun ran out of ammo. (Bad guys also resort to backup guns. One of the two cop-killers in that encounter fired rounds from a stolen Mini-14 Ruger rifle, his own Dan Wesson 357 Magnum revolver, and his partner in crime’s S&W 357 before he was finally killed.)

In that encounter, one agent’s Smith & Wesson 9mm auto pistol was struck by a 223 bullet and rendered inoperable. That particular agent did not carry a backup gun, and was helpless to defend himself when the suspect with the Mini-14 walked up on him and shot him to death. Twenty years later, in April of 2006, the same phenomenon was observed in a Seattle gunfight. A city cop’s Glock 22 service pistol put a 40-caliber bullet into the cylinder face of a criminal’s Colt

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Officer’s Model Match 38 Special, rendering it inoperable. In that instance, the criminal fortunately did not have a second gun, and was neutralized by police fire.

The primary gun may not be as readily accessible as the backup. In New York some years ago, an off duty cop in winter was carrying his primary handgun under two coats, and his backup Colt Detective Special snub-nose 38 in his overcoat pocket.

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Set upon by two armed robbers, he knew he would not be able to dig under his clothing and draw his duty weapon before being shot by the drawn gun held to his head. On the pretext of reaching for a wallet in his overcoat pocket, he got his hand on his backup Colt, then slapped the gunman’s pistol aside with his free hand as he drew and fired. His bullet went through the gunman’s brain, killing him instantly; the accomplice fled, and was later taken into custody. The officer was uninjured, saved by his backup handgun.

In the Carolinas, a man with a hidden weapon approached a parked police car and opened fire at the officer through the driver’s window, wounding him. Seat-belted in place, the officer was unable to reach the service handgun locked in a security holster at his hip, but was able to access the Colt Agent backup gun strapped to his ankle. He drew from the ankle holster and returned fire, neutralizing his assailant.

He survived his wound and returned to full duty, saved by his backup gun.

The primary gun can arm only one good person at a time. With a backup gun, the user can arm a second competent “good guy or gal” who did not bring their own firearm to the emergency. In California, a police officer facing a complex problem involving armed suspects was offered assistance by a private citizen he knew to be trustworthy with firearms, but who was not licensed to be armed. He “deputized” the citizen, arming the man with the Smith & Wesson Chiefs Special snub-nose 38 the officer carried in an ankle holster. The situation came to a satisfactory conclusion.

In New York, two detectives had a reporter along in their unmarked car when they had occasion to go after a particularly dangerous armed robber they had been seeking. Knowing the reporter to be an ex-cop, one detective handed him his backup gun, a Colt Detective Special. When they made the confrontation, the suspect was facing three drawn guns. His own choice of weapons was a sawed-off double barrel shotgun. Few criminals are too stupid to realize that they can’t possibly neutralize three armed good guys with a two-shot weapon without being shot himself. This one chose to surrender without violence or bloodshed, and served a long term in prison.

We’ve just seen no fewer than seven very good reasons why a person who has a need to carry a gun might see a need to carry two of them. Any one of those situations could face an armed citizen or a police officer on any given day.

This article is an excerpt from Massad Ayoob’s Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry. Click here to get your copy.


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Gun Digest Book of Concealed CarryThe Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry

The Gun Digest Book of Combat Handgunnery

Effective Handgun Defense, A Comprehensive Guide to Concealed Carry

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2 thoughts on “Concealed Carry: Should You Carry a Back-Up Gun? Part 1

  1. kjatexaskjatexas

    I started carrying a backup while working as a Texas Personal Protection Officer. Carry a second weapon then became a habit when carrying on my concealed carry license. Unfortunately, the state of Texas does not allow its uniformed commissioned security officers to carry a second concealed backup weapon. I think that is a needed change to the law here. Either they should be allowed to do so under the level three security officer license, or our legislature should pass legislation allowing uniformed security officers to carry a second concealed weapon if they also have a CCL.

  2. nfalawyer

    This is pretty much a common sense recommendation. Guns are mechanical devices susceptible to malfunction, loss to an assailant or a host of other misfortunes, including the cited example of “running dry” (less of a problem with a semi-automatic, but it could happen if you don’t have enough spare magazines or they are not readily accessible). Rather than fussing with a malfunctioning or empty primary firearm (assuming you cannot clear the problem immediately or execute a rapid reload), it may be easier to simply draw your BUG and address the threat. As a civilian, I usually carry a Kahr PM9 in 9mm as a back-up to a Model 1911 primary in .45 ACP. Some folks I know carry Glocks in identical calibers so they can share at least the full-size magazines.

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