Do You Need a Backup Gun?

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I was recently asked about backup guns by a friend who has carried for years. He carries two guns on him all the time, a cut-down .45 ACP 1911 as his main self-defense gun and a .380 caliber Ruger LCP pocket gun as his backup. However, he doesn’t carry spare magazines for either, citing that statistically about 70% of self-defense gunfights are “three rounds in three seconds.”

This contrasts considerably with my own carry plan, which consists of a .45 caliber Springfield XDS, plus two spare magazines, and a tactical knife. I don’t have a backup and don’t consider the knife to be one. Rather, I have the knife for situations where it might not be practical to draw a gun.

While I agree that most self-defense shooting incidents are over quickly, I also recognize the fact that not everyone falls down the first time they are hit. For that matter, if they are on drugs, they may need to be hit several times, before they even realize it. In one particular case I remember from a few years ago, a police officer hit a suspect 19 times before they went down, due to the drugs in their system.

My three magazines give me a total of 20 rounds, including the one in the throat. That’s actually more than my friend, who is only carrying 12 rounds, between his two guns. Mine are also all .45 ACP hollow points, which I feel is a much better round than the .380 ACP.

So, which one of us is right? How about both? How about neither?

The thing is, there is no perfect answer to this question. We’re all making a decision based upon what we think might happen. I’ve chosen .45 ACP as my carry round, because I suspect that any criminal I have to face is going to be on drugs. Considering that this caliber was created for the US Army, just to deal with this specific situation, I feel that I’ve got the best possible round, even if most police forces don’t use it.

Today, most police forces are carrying .40 ACP, which I consider to be an ineffective round. It was designed to be a compromise between the 9mm and the .45 ACP, supposedly providing penetrating power similar to the 9mm and knockdown power similar to the .45. But in making the design compromises that they did, they threw away both benefits to create something that is between them size-wise, but gives up the benefits of either round.

Fortunately, most police departments have come to the conclusion that the .40 ACP isn’t the best thing for their officers to carry and are in the process of changing over to 9mm. That’s a change I’m glad to see is coming.

Many police officers also carry some sort of a backup gun, either in their pants pocket or in an ankle holster. There are two reasons for this:

  • In case they lose or have to give up their primary firearm due to the tactical situation.
  • In case their primary gun breaks in the middle of a shootout.

I’m not going to comment on whether the police officers who do this are right or not, because I’m not a police officer. So I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to pass judgment on their actions. Besides, as far as I’m concerned, if it works for them, that’s all that matters.

My friend cited these two reasons to explain why he carries a backup. While I have to say the same thing about that, as I do for the police, I still don’t see it as applying to me. Maybe I could see it if I was in a post-apocalyptic scenario, where I had to be able to defend myself, but not today. I really can’t see where I would ever have a need for that backup piece.

In making that decision, I realize that I can’t allow myself to be caught facing the wrong way or allow a criminal to get a drop on me. If I ever did, I would have to draw and fire so well, that I put him out of action on my first shot. Otherwise, my chances of survival would be all but eliminated, just like they would be if I ever gave up my gun.

Is there a right answer? No there isn’t. Each of us has to decide what will work for us and practice with that. More than anything, it is that practice which will make whatever decision we ultimately make the right one or the wrong one. And if we decide it’s the wrong one, I hope we’re all man (or woman) enough to change. So, I’ll keep my one gun and my two spare mags. That goes right along with keeping my powder dry and my survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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