Top Five Reasons to Carry a Backup Gun

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 Backup Gun

Do you carry a backup gun?

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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  • Tommy T September 22, 2017, 11:28 pm

    Ever have anyone try to grab your primary? Number one reason for a bug

  • Bob Lee September 22, 2017, 7:54 pm

    I’m not an expert but I play one on the internet….I pack a Shield and an extra mag or a J and a speed strip but always like to have a more substantial piece to fight my way back to…Keep a Glock 17 in the car with 5 mags, night sights and a laser…I think off body backup makes more sense here in Fla. If it’s too much drama you are not going to do it.

  • Capt Bart September 22, 2017, 1:55 pm

    I learned decades ago to protect against 2 failures as it becomes rapidly impossible to cover more failures. First failure is being in a situation where I need a firearm. Second failure is having my primary gun misfire. In condition white I either have a gun on me or within easy reach. In Yellow, Orange, or Red, I have at least two guns. I always have an 11 rd. 9mm in my pocket (except in the shower or asleep – then within 3 feet or less) and either a 1911 in .45 ACP, a Ruger wheel gun in .357 Mag or .45 Colt in a cross-draw holster. I lived because a 1911A1 went bang when my M16 went click due to a poor feed. Funny thing about probability, if it doesn’t happen to me I don’t care about odds and if it does happen to me, the probability is one! If I thought I’d need a gun, I would NOT be there so needing the firearm is always a failure. If I HAD to be at a gunfight I’d bring a long gun and all my friends with long guns. Boston T. Party had it correctly stated when he wrote:
    ” A handgun is merely a weapon used to fight your way back to your rifle – which you shouldn’t have left behind… ”
    Boston T. Party
    Boston’s Gun Bible, pg. 25/1
    I’m 68 years old but I will always intervene to help children, women, and the powerless. My carry weapons mean I stand a chance of surviving the encounter with evil.

    Just my not so humble opinion, of course.

  • Vic vapor September 22, 2017, 12:37 pm

    good article, Administrator.
    Yes to everything in the article.
    By the time I looked at carrying an extra magazine, I could pocket Ruger lcp or north America Arms 22 mag. Then the wife can have a protective device if needed. Or, the weak side can reach one..

  • Russ September 22, 2017, 10:55 am

    I don’t. I think it depends on 1. How much can an average citizen actually carry? BUG+extra ammo+knife+flashlight etc. etc. and 2. The threat level you have to deal with. Fortunately, I choose not to live in a “high threat” environment and I carry a backpack for all my extra gear and keep a gun in the car so I suppose that could be considered a BUG.

  • Mike Davis September 22, 2017, 10:36 am

    I have enough trouble finding a way to carry one gun concealed, let alone two especially in the summer with shorts and a t-shirt.. As for an ankle holster, that works great for the suit or dress slacks wearer, but it just doesn’t work with levis. Just not enough room in the legs and even if there was they are too stiff to pull up in a hurry. Plus, with two 10 round mags, if I run out of ammo I figure I am not putting enough time on the range.

  • Michael Keim September 22, 2017, 9:31 am

    FYI New Mexico doesn’t allow you to carry more than one gun. Check your states regs to be on the safe side.

  • Ron Smith September 22, 2017, 8:51 am

    I carry a BUG for two main reasons. 1) If I every need to leave my primary in my car due to \”restrictions\” of a place of business in am entering, I still have a very concealed back up that is now my primary. 2) If in the unlikely event my primary fails, I have a BUG. I carry the same make, but smaller version of my primary (primary-Sig P229, BUG-Sig P224) this way I can use the P229 mag in the P224.

  • Infidel762x51 September 22, 2017, 7:38 am

    I started carrying a back up gun after the well used model 19 I was issued would no longer fire double action as the ratchet was worn (after only 6 months on the job), and the 2nd one I was issued had a slightly bent ejector rod so I had too be careful not to slam it back too hard or it would stick & I would have too push it back down before I could reload. Years later on the range after we switched to semi-autos others would load our mags inserting random dummy rounds. One clown put 3 dummy rounds in a row in my last mag. After two failures I drew my backup and finished the course. Afterword the chief instructor came over too me and asked what was I going too do now as I was out of ammo. I had fired the 6 in my detective special and that was the end of the string. I pulled two speed strips out of my pocket and he said Oh, and walked away. You can never have too much amo or too many guns.

  • Willie-O September 22, 2017, 6:07 am

    I am a former LE officer and have been a private security contractor for the last decade. Yes, I carry a back-up gun MOST of the time. Often times this is merely a Beretta .25acp – this will be where the so called “experts” and self-defense gurus will chime in – anemic, under-powered, blah blah blah. I’ve heard it all before. My primary set-up is typically a .45acp or .40S&W and a spare mag or 2, depending on who I’m working for, what I’m protecting and where. My back-up gun is just that, a BACK-UP or more accurately a “get off me” gun. Yes, it’s a weak caliber, but it holds 9….NINE rounds, is virtually undetectable, fits comfortably anywhere and is ridiculously reliable. I carry it, I trust it and that’s really all that matters.

  • Mark N. September 21, 2017, 1:37 am article about five reasons to carry a BUG by a guy who doesn’t carry a BUG (and is comfortable not doing so). Isn’t that a pretty good argument to not bother? I mean, come on, ccw licensees are not cops; not only are they very unlikely to get in an armed confrontation, the odds that this will be a sustained firefight are vanishingly small. Plus, the NY reload was used in a day and age where cops carried five or six round revolvers that took a long time to reload. Today, they all carry fast reloading semi-auto pistols with large capacities. The NY reload is obsolete.
    The vast majority of defensive gun uses are at bad breath distances, and the (reported) average number of shots fired is slightly greater than two rounds. Now lets add to that: what are the odds that your Glock brand Glock or Springfield or pretty much any other plastic fantastic SD firearm will catastrophically fail–and I do not mean a stovepipe? Pretty small. Most failure that you read of are during prolonged training classes where hundreds upon hundreds of rounds are being fired. (I don’t count competitions, since competition guns are a whole ‘nother story.)
    So what are the statistics, how many licensees have been in prolonged gun fights–ever? I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of one. And what about our hypothetical hometown hero with a 15 round mag and a reload running out of ammo? I say that if you can’t finish a firefight with 30 rounds, your problem is not the lack of a back up but a lack of training that no amount of backup ammo or a BUG will cure.
    Simply stated, the odds are heavily stacked against the need of a BUG ever arising, unless one is a cop, gang member, or a member of a criminal cartel that runs in dangerous circles. If you are not one of these, fugeddaboudit!

  • Richard Steven Hack September 20, 2017, 7:01 pm

    Personally I recommend carrying a primary main caliber firearm, a second main caliber firearm preferably of the same make and model as the primary, and a small secondary or main caliber firearm – with a magazine change for EACH. That means six magazines total including the three in the guns. If you’re going to carry a low-capacity semi-auto, this is necessary.

    Forget revolvers unless they have ten round capacity. Even then, the reloads are too slow. Just forget revolvers – they’re only good for sport shooting and hunting. This is the reason the “New York reload” was created back in the day when police officers carried revolvers. The New York Police patrol officer’s guide recommended a second gun because revolvers were too low in capacity and too slow to reload. Today when criminals carry high-capacity 9mm semi-autos, that’s even more true.

    • Jim September 22, 2017, 6:10 am

      Please confirm for me that this is satire.

    • Willie-O September 22, 2017, 6:17 am

      I considered myself prepared, but damn son. I understand the logic and the math, but that is simply too much for the average person to carry as they go about their daily lives. If you can make that work, more (fire)power to you. See what I did there ? FIRE power….3 guns…..6 magazines.

      • jackkade September 22, 2017, 10:14 am

        Excellent, Willie-O …….

    • Big Tom January 20, 2018, 7:03 pm

      You obviously are joking or never been in a shootout. The factual statistics show that most shootings are over in the first 5 seconds with and average of 3 rounds being fired from either side. Standoff shootings are always law enforcement related.

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