Recently I have read a few articles online promoting carrying a backup gun. How it is a better option than learning to reload or perform malfunction clearances.
Sorry to break the bad news, but you are not that good. Carrying two guns means being proficient with both. I see many believe they are proficient, but how do they assess their skills. Have they been through a well-designed training program designed to sustain their good skills and improve on their weak ones? Do they have a consistent training program where they are putting rounds downrange with both their primary and backup? Do they work their integrated combatives to counter an ambush?
One of the issues I had with the article was the assumption the shooter would not have adequate training to perform reloads or correct malfunctions. They commented on a type three malfunction and while they are time consuming the correction is trainable. If I had to look at the allocation of time, money and resources the average shooter has available are they better spent learning core skills? Core skills you ask, yes performing a reload is a core skill. Correcting a malfunction is a core skill. The late Col. Cooper is credited with the Combat Triad; mindset, marksmanship and gun manipulations. I find it odd, gun manipulations would be dismissed so easily.
You will notice how marksmanship is part of the combat triad and for good reason. If you decide to employ your firearm the ability to place rapid and effective hits on target is more than a core skill, it is a critical skill. I find marksmanship is one of the most demanding of the core skills. It alludes many students regardless of their perceived skill level. Students struggle with marksmanship skills for many reason, but a big one is not understanding marksmanship fundamentals. When I say understand, I mean have an intimate knowledge of the “how”. Cognitively you need to have an intimate knowledge of how sight management, trigger management and follow through work. Meeting performance standards is difficult enough with a primary, try it with a backup and you have your work cut out for you.
Add a smaller, maybe even different platform to the equation and it is not likely to expect the same level of performance as you do with a primary. Some will comment they don’t need to be as accurate with their backup. Their justification centers around being used in extremis circumstances and I totally agree. Most self-defense situations are up close and personal. They are for all practical purposes an ambush where you as the victim have little warning. For the ambush to be effective, it needs to happen within proximity of the victim. The close range will mean your immediate action is probably not going to be going to guns. When the opportunity does present itself go with what you know the best, your primary.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Absolutely, carrying a backup gun is a great idea for when your gun breaks. Begging the question, why were you using it in the first place if reliability is a question. What if it disables because it was damaged in the fight? I feel this is more likely to happen than seeing the gun malfunction, especially a type three malfunction. Then again, if you choose a suboptimal primary all bets are off. There is also the strong hand being disabled forcing the shooter to draw their back up from the weak side. While very plausible is it the best use of your resources. Understanding most ambushes occur at close range wouldn’t a fixed blade off your weak side being a faster and better solution for this situation. In my experience, absolutely. Finally, the gun pass. The opportunity may present itself you consider passing the backup gun to a trusted person. That is code for your spouse or significant other. I discouraged passing a live firearm to an unknown. However, passing it to your partner is far more plausible and a good justification for a backup gun.
The bottom line, is a backup gun a good idea? Yes! The real question you need to ask would be is it worth it or are you better off perfecting the combat triad.