If your state allows you to carry more than one gun, you may have thought about carrying a second as a backup gun (BUG). After all, don't cops carry backup guns? If they do it, they must have good reasons. Here is my advice on carrying a backup gun and why I think it has more downside than benefits.
Backup Gun Considerations:
Why You May Want to Carry a BUG:
One apparent reason to carry a backup gun is in the event the primary gun becomes completely inoperable. In this scenario, you have two options, use the gun as an impact weapon (bludgeoning) or go to a backup gun.
Handguns that are empty or have suffered a catastrophic failure are fantastic weapons of opportunity. But, of course, impact weapons don't work as well on threats at a distance.
Some use ammo consideration as a reason to carry a spare gun. However, most backup guns will have limited capacity, maybe in the neighborhood of 5 rounds or so. So, in my estimation, you're better off carrying a spare magazine.
The reason is the magazine for your EDC likely has greater capacity than your backup gun. And a magazine change will take far less time than going to a second gun, especially if you holster your empty gun before going to your backup? If you don't holster it, what is the plan, throw it? If that's the case, you may have just provided a great weapon of opportunity to an attacker.
Reasons I Don't Recommend Backup Guns:
First, you have to train with it. Let's be honest; most people are not training enough with their primary everyday carry gun (EDC). The one they carry all the time and rely on using proficiently if the situation dictates. To have proficiency with your firearm and maintain acceptable performance, you must practice and train on a relatively consistent schedule. If you don't, your skills from the epic handgun class you took 2 years ago will break down.
Now add a second gun into the mix. Are you going to train twice as much so you can become proficient with your backup? Probably not. The most likely scenario is that you will occasionally take training time away from the primary gun and use that for the backup.
Training involves not just squeezing the trigger and getting hits but drawing the gun from wherever it is on your body. Some methods of carrying require a lot of practice. Many people put a backup gun in an ankle holster. It seems like an excellent place to hide a small .380 semi-auto handgun. If you wear pants all the time, great if not, you have to find a second place to carry your backup gun, or not carry it at all.
Drawing the gun from different holsters located on other areas of your body requires training and practice. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, most people won't dedicate enough training to their secondary gun or its deployment.
Even if you carry your backup in a shoulder holster, a fanny pack, or a pocket, consistency in a draw stroke is essential and requires routine practice. I also generally dislike all of those carry locations for a primary EDC and a backup.
Let's say you're dedicated to training just as much with your backup as you are with your primary; consider the next point.
The difficulty in retaining the gun is a big reason to stay away from backup guns, in my opinion. As an LEO, I carried a backup gun for some time. I carried it in an ankle holster. After the first knock-down, drag-out fight, where a suspect wanted my gun, I realized I now had to worry about retaining two of them. It wasn't a good feeling, so I decided against a backup gun.
I would recommend to any officer who chose to carry a backup gun to use a holster attached to body armor and was under their uniform shirt like the one in the photo below. For officers, it may make more sense to carry a BUG like this. But, in a typical civilian self-defense context, probably not.
Fights are dynamic, and sometimes the hands of the person your physically struggling with are within reach of your ankle. Even with a retention strap, it's going to be tough to defend against a gun disarm or grab. Additionally, I have seen officers backup guns go flying during foot pursuits and fights.
Now some of you are saying that you don't need to worry about losing guns if you get a good ankle holster. Perhaps, but the unpredictability of fights and an increased possibility that someone else may get a gun from me far outweighs the probability of using a backup gun in a fight.
This link is to a video that documents a few incidents where the suspect accessed the officer's primary firearm during a fight. Now I understand some of this is a training issue, and some a holster issue. However, the fact remains that someone you're fighting may go for your gun if it is accessible, and defending one gun is challenging enough.
Okay, you have an excellent retention holster for your backup gun, and you're determined to train with it just as much as your primary EDC handgun. However, there is still one more thing to consider.
Increased Administrative Handling:
It is 100 percent true that we should always be aware when we are handling firearms. However, it is also 100 percent true that the more times we handle a firearm, the more chances we have for a momentary lapse in safety or concentration.
I know many will comment something like they “have never ever done anything unsafe with a firearm in the 200 years they owned guns.” If you buy 10,000 lottery tickets, you have a greater chance of winning. Of course, it doesn't mean you will win or that someone who purchased one ticket couldn't win. It's all about probability here.
When you carry a second gun, you increase the number of times you put on or take of, load or unload a gun. It is this time most negligent discharges occur.
Do your risk-reward analysis to determine if carrying a backup gun is right for you.