Carry a Backup Gun? Reasons For & Against

Should you carry a Backup Gun? That is question in today’s short discussion, lets look at a few of the pros and cons of having a backup gun .

Sig P226 and a P229 as a back up gun. Both models can take Lasergrips and both carry well in Galco KingTuk IWB holsters.
Sig P226 and a P229 as a back up gun. Both models can take Lasergrips and both carry well in Galco KingTuk IWB holsters.
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

USA –  -( If you’re going to concealed carry, you may want to consider carrying a backup gun.

For the average person, it may seem like overkill to carry even an extra magazine, let alone a whole other gun besides one’s main carry pistol. Besides, that’s a whole other layer of hassle to deal with when getting ready to get out of the house, not to mention the added weight and possible discomfort of another pistol.

In truth, there’s a good deal of sense in only carrying one gun with one magazine. In the studies of defensive shootings, a great deal of them are concluded with only a few (meaning three or fewer) shots being fired.

On top of that, modern handguns can hold two to three times the number of shots that handguns of previous eras were capable of; the Glock 19, for instance, holds 17 rounds in the magazine – and an extra in the pipe if one desires. That’s three times the number of shots in a snub-nosed revolver, many of which only hold five shots of .38 Special.

There are a great deal of law enforcement officers that carry backup guns, and there is even a special name for drawing two guns called the “New York reload.” However, it only existed because of the limited capacity of revolvers; given the capacity of modern semi-automatic pistols, there is maybe no reason to carry multiple pistols.

That is all true. However, it also true that many defensive and law enforcement shootings took far more rounds to resolve. It isn’t guaranteed that hitting an attacker with a round is going to bring them down; it may take several. It may take an entire magazine. Thus, the “number of rounds” that it will take to end a violent encounter are based on an economy of scale, of sorts; you can’t actually know beforehand. Relying on the idea that it should only be a few is, ultimately, a gamble.

Additionally, the nature of the circumstances of a defensive shooting vary. You could only be encountering a single armed robber or home intruder. You may encounter more than one. You might also encounter a mass shooter in your office building, mall you frequent or other environment. In that situation, you may need more rounds than you’re carrying with just one gun.

Furthermore, what if your main carry gun malfunctions? A gun that cannot shoot is good for little more than a bludgeon or a paperweight. Should that occur, the gun you have will do you no good or worse – may lead to an injury or death at the hands of the assailant. Having a backup can at least give you a “Plan B.

Another consideration is what happens AFTER the shot and how a backup guns plays in.

Galco Ankle Glove Holster backup gun
Galco Ankle Glove Holster L:

There’s a lot of attention paid to what a concealed carrier does up until the moment after a defensive shooting. A lot of concealed carriers believe that if they have to shoot someone in self-defense, that they’ll immediately be presumed to be a hero, feted by the press, lauded by law enforcement, adored by the public and paraded through the streets. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you have to shoot someone, even if it’s completely within the bounds, scope and letter of the law, you may become a villain for doing so. Most elements of the press are hostile to gun rights and indeed, the right to defend one’s self – some elements in the liberal media want everyone disarmed except for the police.

A zealous district attorney’s office may also take umbrage at a citizen “taking the law into their own hands” and providing their own protection from the less than law-abiding among us. Plenty of people have wound up on trial for their lives after shooting in self-defense.

The point is, the legal system can come down on a shooter after the fact. When that happens, the gun you used will probably be confiscated as evidence. In the meantime, you may need another backup gun to protect yourself with, especially if anyone plots retaliation against you for daring to defend yourself while your main carry gun is in custody, or if you never have it returned.

In short, while it may seem overmuch to carry a backup gun or to at least have a back up gun in the safe at home…it’s really not in the least.

About Sam Hoober

Sam Hoober was born and raised in the Inland Northwest, where he lives with his wife and child. He is an avid hunter, fisherman and recreational shooter. His experience exploring the mountains and rivers in Eastern Washington and Western Idaho has given him a unique perspective on concealed carry and gun-related issues.

Hoober is also a contributing editor for Bigfoot Gun Belts, where he writes about concealed carry, open carry, gun safety, and gun belt-related topics. He also writes a popular biweekly column for the Daily Caller for their Guns and Gear section, called CCW Weekend, where he dives deeper into concealed carry tips and tricks.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’m in a wheelchair everywhere I go. If I have to defend myself, I’ll probably be shooting at an upwards angle and don’t have to worry much about overpenetration, unless my assailant has Kareem Abdul Jabar standing behind him. So I carry the absolutely most powerful load I can find. I don’t want to double tap, I want the assailant to depart this world on the first shot. It’s not like I can run away or wrestle with an angry wounded adam-henry, I get one chance to save my skin and that’s all. If you knew you might only have… Read more »

Raymond Miller

I am not talking about light loads, what I mean is not super magnum loads as it is my belief that at close range they aren’t needed. I’m sorry if I left that impression. You can have a very potent load and not use magnum loads.


I can definitely see your point. You are in a situation where you need to end the confrontation as fast as possible. But what you say makes good sense for anyone. I have no interest in giving anyone a second at me because the first shot didn’t stop them.


My EDC is a G21 with a PF9 as a BUG, both with an extra mag. My Glock has never once failed under any conditions in all the years I’ve had it and shot it weekly, but there is always a first time. And what if i take a round in my right arm and drop it? I don’t want to be scrambling around looking for it, so i carry the BUG on my left side and practice shooting it one handed with my left hand.

I just like to feel like I have options.

Raymond Miller

I am a firm believer in having a back up when ever possible. This of coarse can depend on the clothing you wear or the weather. When I do carry a back up it is most always of the same caliber as my primary piece. That way I don’t have to remember what pocket I put which caliber in. I always shoot my loads in both guns to make sure everything will work as desired. Also I do not load my carry loads at max. Reason being, if I need to defend myself it will be up close and personal,… Read more »


I carry two guns often. Not always, but often. I also have several guns that can be carried, that is, many guns in carry rotation. Some people say to only carry one gun (the old beware of the man with one gun, he probably knows how to use it…). I have, through shooting many different types of competitive shooting disciplines, have become proficient with many different types and actions of handguns. If the police take two of my carry guns (and they really should only take the gun used), I have several that will fill the need going forward.

JR Bailey

This was an excellent article!! The author ask some very important questions, and then posits what happens after the shooting stops. Financially speaking, I can’t afford on two guns, because I can’t afford to buy two guns. I’m a CZ 85 and CZ 97 fan, but can’t afford to buy either right now, so I’m carrying a Kel-Tec single stack with 2 extra mags. Relating to the carrying of extra mags, specifically relating to double stack mags, have any of the fine folks commenting on this article bothered to take note of the news of late, ie, the continued mob… Read more »


“An extra one in the pipe”? Shouldn’t there be one there always?


Always ! ! !!


I keep my 1911 locked,cocked and ready to rock


“..some elements in the liberal media want everyone disarmed except for the police.: would read more accurately if it said “including the police.”. Many today carry single stack semi-autos so a couple of spare mags in a cellphone case on your belt are easy to carry, easy to access, and no one notices.


So, after you shoot the bad guy, the cops are only going to confiscate the gun used and not the backup? I’m betting they will confiscate both guns which means you best have a 3rd and 4th gun stashed at home or elsewhere. Since the odds of having to use your concealed weapon are very, very small, maybe you don’t need a backup unless your primary gun is unreliable – in which case, why are you carrying it?

Anonymous Patriot

There is no gun on the market that has a 100% reliability rating……there is not a single one that can say “This gun will NEVER fail to operate.”. No matter how well you take care of it, no matter how good it is manufactured……..there is always something that can go wrong. When your life is on the line it doesn’t matter how unlikely a failure is, when it happens it happens. When I leave the house I have my primary semi-auto carry with 12+1, two spare 12 round magazines and a 6 round backup pocket revolver. Is it overkill? Well,… Read more »

Wild Bill

Reliability rating?! Who does these reliability ratings that you write of, AP? I have subscriptions to Gun Tests, Consumer Reports, Guns and Ammo, Guns, Rifle, and American Rifleman but I have not run across these reliability ratings.

Robert Sweeney

If you have a point, take your hat off so we can see it.

Wild Bill

I am not trying to make a point or make some a sconce comment. I am trying to find out about some testing, rating, communicating organization that I have not heard of before this. So… I am not sure how to respond.

Brian Moon

A Glock 19 magazine holds 15 rounds. The 17 round mag is the standard Glock 17 magazine although they do fit in a Glock 19 (or a 26).