Back up guns

Getting ready for concealed carry class coming up next month, I get asked what’s the deal with backup guns.

Our definition of a backup gun is a smaller framed firearm that is concealed on our body to backup the primary we are already carrying. If all you are carrying is your backup gun, then it is not a backup, it is your primary. That should seem logically, but apparently some folks get that confused.

The choice to carry a backup gun should be well thought out in advance and practiced regularly. A good place to start is first to figure out where you are going to carry the backup gun as this will narrow down your options pretty quickly.

While there are several different options available, I break them down into weak side, ankle rig and pocket carry. The pocket carry is the least favorite of mine as it requires me to shift away from a different platform, a snub nosed 5-shot revolver. It is a viable option, but the additional training to maintain proficiency puts it very low on my list. That really leaves weak side and the angle rig.

Remember, you are already carrying a primary on your strong side hip. By far the fastest access of the backups is the weak side draw, sometimes referred to as a “New York Reload”. If you cannot get access to your primary or your primary stops working, getting the next blaster into the fight is very fast from the weak side. The ankle rig is a distant second on accessibility, but it is a viable option. I use the ankle rig for not just a backup gun, but also carrying as a primary. Certain formal wear functions make it hard to conceal a firearm in a traditional manner. So, I’ve got lots of practice with this choice, but it still is not as fast as the weak side draw.

In the beginning of the Concealed Carry Tactics class I will usually walk in carrying the three most popular methods for a backup gun. I go through the drawstroke for each so the students can see them in real time. I start off with the primary so they have a good idea of a baseline, then I work the weak side, pocket and finish with the angle rig. A lot of the perceptions sound great on paper or over the internet, but seeing is believing.

One thing folks will sometimes overlook is the “how” regarding shooting the backup gun. For instance, what do you do with your primary? If you are working from your weak side you have two choices, ditch it or hold on to it. I practice each, but I recommend when you are selecting your backup gun take some time to think through this scenario. It is super counter productive to re-holster and draw your backup at the same time. If you carry weak side and decide not to ditch your primary for whatever reason then shooting weak hand only is your go to and a little bit more challenging than what you might think.

This just scratches the surface, but you need to think it all the way through for it to be an effective option for you.

2 thoughts on “Back up guns

  1. RamZar says:

    Good point on practicing the backup. I would expand practice to include full load defensive rounds. Most civilians just practice about 10-20 rounds (if any) with their defensive ammunition and from then on it’s target ammo. The extra kick of the defensive rounds need to be managed. Also, accuracy is much better but at distance your point of aim may change. It does with mine at 25 yards.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      Great point, in our Concealed Carry Tactics class we strongly encourage folks to load their defensive ammunition for the graded evolutions. While it doesn’t really change much, the psychological advantage of shooting the defense ammo is huge. You get some great feedback, more than you thought.

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