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 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
- Top Five Reasons to Carry a Backup Gun
We just posted the top five reasons to carry a backup gun last week. So, this week, let’s jump right to the next obvious topic: which backup gun to choose.
First, a clarification: By “backup gun,” I mean a gun that serves as a backup to your primary gun. Sure, any of the guns listed below could be your primary gun. But, for today’s discussion, I’m regarding them as more ideal as a backup or secondary gun. In other words, these guns, by their very nature and design, are well suited to last-ditch self-defense should your primary gun become unusable or unavailable and there’s simply no other option. I’ve carried all of these guns at one time or another — or still do — and am happy to put them on my list of top five. Yes, they run the gamut of sizes and calibers and each has its strengths and weaknesses, but they’re all reliable shooters and relatively small. I’ll be eager to hear what you think.
1. Smith & Wesson 642
This .38 Special revolver has served law enforcement officers and civilians as a backup gun for a long time and still does. Other five-shot revolvers made by Smith & Wesson or other manufacturers certainly get a nod here as well, but I picked the 642 because it can handle .38 Special +P loads, its aluminum alloy frame makes it lightweight without being too lightweight, it sports a “hammerless” double-action-only trigger press and, with a retail price of $469, it offers a tremendous value to whoever buys one.
Strengths: Utter simplicity — draw and squeeze the trigger to shoot — and a gazillion accessories, such as a sights, grips and holsters in just about every form you can imagine.
Weak Spots: Some think “five to stay alive” just ain’t enough, and reloading quickly takes practice and the use of bulky speedloaders or clumsy speedstrips. And the $469 retail is the highest of these five guns.
2. Ruger LCP
If a revolver is not your thing, you simply can’t go wrong with Ruger’s LCP, a smallish .380 that’s proven itself over the years to be reliable, durable, functional and easy to hide. With a retail price of $259, the LCP is arguably one of the best value pistols out there, and it sacrifices nothing when it comes to being a backup (or primary) gun. With a capacity of 6+1, the most popular concealed carry location for the LCP is in a pocket holster or on an ankle holster.
Strengths: At 9.6 ounces in weight and with a width of .82 inches, it’s tiny and easy to conceal.
Weak Spots: At 9.6 ounces in weight and with a width of .82 inches, it takes some practice to hold, fire and manipulate.
3. Kel-Tec P3AT
If smaller and lighter is better, then the Kel-Tec’s P3AT specs — 8.3 ounces and .77 inches wide — are worth noting. Retailing for $338.18 and sporting many similarities to the Ruger LCP, we’re immediately compelled to compare the two. Micro .380s like these are great backup guns, but what’s your preference? Lower price but slightly larger and heavier? Or higher price but slightly smaller and lighter?
Strengths: With dimensional specs close to the LCP, the P3AT weighs more than an ounce less.
Weak Spots: That slight amount of weight probably doesn’t mean much, practically speaking, but it is less gun behind the recoil of the .380 rounds it fires. And maybe a bit less purchase or grip quality too. Somewhere the law of diminishing returns kicks in.
4. NAA Black Widow
Getting really smallish in caliber and overall gun size, North American Arms’ Black Widow in .22 magnum/.22 long rifle retails for $323. The single-action revolver holds five shots and weighs 8.9 ounces with a length of 5.88 inches and a width of 1 inch. The obvious strength of this gun is that it is T-I-N-Y. But its first weakness is the relative slowness of drawing, cocking and firing a single shot. And then cocking to fire the second shot. And so on. And if you don’t have the larger palm-filling stocks installed, the tiny stocks are really difficult to hang onto. Moreover, if you need to reload, you have to virtually dismantle the gun and remove the cylinder from the frame, empty and reload it, then reassemble it. So, those are the obvious weaknesses, most of which are overcome by its strength concealability.
Strengths: Here is a gun that can virtually disappear on your person — in a pocket, inside the waistband, in a boot, in a hat and so on. There are lots of stocks to choose from and there’s even a laser-aiming system available for it. The gun is exceptionally well made and makes for a great backup gun and maybe the best third gun you can carry.
Weak Spots: Whether you’re drawing, firing or reloading, your speed will most likely suffer with this gun.
5. Beretta Nano
I hesitated to include a single-stack 9mm in this group because those guns are more typically carried as primary guns by civilians. But Beretta’s Nano earned a spot on my top five backup guns for a few reasons: First, it is virtually in the same size category as the Ruger LCP, even though, at 19.8 ounces, the Nano is double the weight of the LCP. But the Nano is a 9mm and the flush-fitting magazine gives you six rounds on board. The Nano also comes with a second magazine holding eight rounds, so that’s 14 rounds of 9mm — in a backup gun.
Strengths: The Nano is reliable and accurate. It’s easy to shoot and its excellent snag-free design makes it a joy to carry. And for all its smallness, it feels great in hand.
Weak Spots: Maybe the $450 retail price? Second highest on this list.
Well, I’m sure my list isn’t your list and I’m sure I passed over some excellent choices for backup guns. But that’s where you come in, so feel free to comment below and let us know your thoughts.
Discover how you can join more than 200,000 responsibly armed Americans who already rely on the USCCA to protect their families, futures and freedoms: USCCA.com/gunsamerica.