Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.
Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:
- Top Five Reasons to Carry a 1911
- Top Five Concealed Carry Handguns
- Top Five Folding Knives
- Top Five Questions People Ask When They Find Out I Carry Concealed
- Top Five Ways to Secure Your Gun at the Office
Carrying a concealed handgun, using it in self-defense, ending a threatening situation…these are activities that professional statisticians and police organizations track and analyze in order to help make officers and private citizens understand the world around them so they can make good decisions when fighting crime, preserving life or ensuring safety.
If you play the statistics game, it’s likely nothing will ever happen to you where you have to use your gun to save lives. But ask any person who’s been involved in a self-defense incident where their life was on the line; they might wave off the statistics and declare, “Well, it happened to me.” And so we have the matter of how to prepare for the possible but unlikely. This notion applies in a myriad of self-defense matters, not the least of which is if you carry a concealed handgun, you’ll have to decide whether to carry a backup gun.
In any event, you should get professional training on how to use a gun for self-defense, understand your state and local laws, and always act safely and wisely. With that, here are my top five reasons to carry a backup gun.
1. In case your primary gun fails
Just like you’ll probably never need to use your primary gun, you’ll probably never need a backup. At some point, this argument devolves into the ridiculous, for the reason we carry any gun is that we want to be prepared for that one highly unlikely instance that you’ll actually need one. And so it stands to reason that since using a gun is a matter of life and death, in the event something fails on your primary gun, you’d better have a backup. No matter how awesome you and your primary gun might be, it’s good to keep in mind that a human-made mechanical device requiring human interaction in order to operate it, can fail. It can fail in dozens of amazing ways. Again, the failures are not likely, but they are possible. Of course, adding a backup gun to your carry regimen introduces a number of additional constraints and responsibilities too. Some questions needing answers include: What backup gun should you carry? Should it be the same caliber as your primary gun? Where on your person will you carry it? It’s up to each person to decide just how prepared he or she needs to be.
2. In case you run out of ammo
If you’re a private citizen carrying a concealed handgun, your mindset should be that you’ll use your gun for self-defense in order to stop a threat or remove yourself from danger. In other words, you’re not looking to be involved in a sustained firefight. Granted, some situations involve multiple attackers and maybe, just maybe, an incident will require you to use all 15 rounds in your Glock 19. But that’s why you carry a reload. And, if you burn through a 15-round reload, you’re possibly going to need something more, assuming the threat is still active. If you’re not carrying a second spare magazine, that’s when you could go for a backup gun. And maybe the capacity and caliber of your backup gun will be enough to end a dangerous situation or help you get to safety. (Primary guns with lower capacities will, of course, dictate more frequent reloads or going for a backup gun.)
3. For greater firepower, because your backup-backup gun is a rifle
Usually, we carry a primary handgun that is a more powerful caliber and maybe higher capacity than what we carry for a backup handgun. But if the situation calls for it — or you’ve experienced Situation 1 or 2 —have a backup-backup gun that’s a rifle. A little research and personal experience will confirm just how capable a rifle, such as an AR-15, is compared to a handgun. If a situation goes down, you’ll want the rifle every time. Now, a rifle isn’t a reasonable concealed carry gun, so we carry handguns. As such, in a self-defense situation, using a handgun can be a means of helping to gain access to your rifle, which will prove a far greater means of applying more firepower to end a threat.
4. In case you need to arm an ally
If we’re listing as many self-defense situations as possible where a backup gun would be helpful, imagine if you could arm an ally in order to gain a tactical advantage. Even with a typically less powerful, lower-capacity backup gun, a second person becomes a second potential defender. Plenty of caveats come to mind with this one, including doing what you can to ensure your ally really is an ally, that this person is safe and capable with a gun, matters of liability and so on.
5. Because drawing a second gun is usually faster than reloading
This is sometimes called a “New York reload” because, in days past, NYPD officers would often go for a second (or even a third) gun to continue a firefight rather than trying to reload. I’ll argue that drawing a second gun might be faster than reloading in theory. In practice, however, it depends on several details, including the location of your second gun. If your second gun is on your belt, available for a fast crossdraw, then it probably is faster than trying to reload. If your second gun is on your ankle…if your second gun is carried, say, in an underarm shirt holster…you get the point. A backup or second gun might not be as fast as a well-carried reload. Plus, if you keep shooting with a reloaded primary gun, you won’t have to adjust to another gun’s feel in hand, sights, weight, etc., all factors that could affect accuracy.
As a private citizen with a concealed pistol license who’s been carrying virtually every day for over 10 years, I’ll admit I’ve never carried a backup gun. But I almost always carry a reload in the form of a spare magazine or speedloader. I might be playing a statistics game, but, in my context, I am comfortable with everything from a five-shot revolver to a 15-round autoloading pistol as my primary and only gun. And that’s because my context for using my gun — should I ever have to — will be primarily in self-defense; to end a threat and escape from danger. But if I did carry a backup gun, it would be in an ankle holster or a jacket pocket, and if I did have to use it, it would be because I’d expended all the rounds available to me in my primary gun.
What’s your take on carrying a backup gun? Do you? How do you carry it? When would you use it?
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