Some Thoughts On Choices Of Backup Guns.

History records people who carried two handguns for a variety of reasons. In the days of mounted cavalry big “horse” pistols were carried in scabbards mounted to or attached to the saddle pommel. A second or backup gun came in handy in mounted fights as loading the revolver of the day required some detail and often some time to charge with powder and ball. Some gunmen of the era of the American West carried two guns, Hickok, Hardin, Stoudenmire but mostly these were gunmen or residents of built up towns as a true cowboy working stock had enough stuff to deal with and documents record working cowboys often left their handguns in the chuck wagon rather than having to deal with the handgun, a rope and an ornery steer in thick brush.

Bluntly in cap-and-ball handgun times a second gun was a lot easier and faster than trying to load the empty first handgun. Even with the advent of the cartridge-firing Single Action Army or the break-top S&W loading was still a time consuming process compared to the insertion of the magazine into the well like so many of us do today.

Why a backup? As food for thought the drawing of a second gun may still be quicker than a reload in a fight regardless of the era or the type of gun. The backup gun may be a lifesaver in case of a mechanical failure of the primary gun. In the case of physical “loss” of the primary handgun to a threat a second gun gives the shooter the ability to respond.

Here comes a firestorm: The backup gun must be used by a skilled person who understands the use of the BUG will most likely occur in a high stress application. Proper or normal shooting techniques might be impaired by injury so the skill and application must be applied without a hitch. Try to aquire the best proper grip and the best application of body weight behind the gun especially if you want to use a small auto. I know it’s all the rage to carry a small .380, but you can have it and you’re welcome to it (I’ll get to that in a minute). Since the fight can and could be at short range and many gunfights start out as a fist fight, the chances of you being on the ground are high and if the threat is on top of you, consideration must be given to the fact that barrel-slide-muzzle contact to the threat may cause a failure of the auto pistol to operate correctly. The shooter must remember under duress to clear the muzzle of physical contact.

Personally a revolver is much better for the muzzle contact applications that can occur at short range because the revolver still works—fires—in the muzzle contact mode. You can train up to “hold” the back of an auto pistol so it fires while in physical contact but then as soon as the auto does fire the shooter must cycle the slide to clear the fired case from the chamber, but at least you BUGs have always intrigued me because in my head the thought process is that my big, main, primary buttkicking handgun is empty, broken or stolen… so now I’m going to reach inside my shorts and pull out this popgun? Yeah, yeah, the gun with you is better than the one at home in the safe, but the gig still remains “I was fighting with Ken (so to speak) until everything goes south in a fight I could honestly lose and my response is… I drag out Barbie to fight with?”

So, puppies are cute, yet a BUG should be in reality the biggest gun you own—remember you’re in a dogfight, your first choice of handgun fails—and out comes a poodle? Sorry, I think a BUG should be the biggest gun you can carry. My BUG is a double-action-only 2″ S&W 327 8-shot .357 Magnum with no hammer spur. I also am starting to train up and use the new Springfield XDs in .45 ACP… yes, an auto pistol, but a big-bore gun, in an ankle holster and very reliable in every format I have trained in with the gun to date.

A BUG should be in a place where you can get as much access and the best access to the gun from as many odd places or positions as humanly possible. Ankle holsters are a good choice in my opinion, if I wind up on the ground in a fight, good access and access while sitting in a car with either hand. Offside pocket holsters—yes the gun in a holster in your pocket—not floating around loose. The BUG location will also dictate that you’ll need to train up in offside or opposite-hand shooting—and you should anyways.

History after a fashion will record your problems, and your resolutions. If you do well people will remember, if you do poorly even more people will remember. Your BUG, big, little, carried or not carried, it’s your call, it could also be your life in the balance.
By Clint Smith
Photos By Heidi Smith

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One thought on “BUGS!

  1. Madelyn Thide

    discussing gun issues, the question was proposed how to handle a situaton when youre in a gunfight and you have emptied your pistol … my response “have a second loaded pistol on you”, to which the seasoned gun instructor said “that is called, a New York reload”.


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