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Three Reasons NOT To Carry A Back-Up Gun


By Robert Farago via

Over at, B. Gil Horman provides readers with 3 Arguments In Favor of Back-up Guns. BGH reckons you need a backup gun in case “the first gun goes click instead of bang” or “a primary defensive gun is not accessible.” What’s more, “additional guns can be used to arm other responsible adults.” I can’t argue with his logic – except to say that you can also make a good case for carrying around a back-up pair of underwear. And a spare pair of glasses. And an umbrella. It’s a question of comfort, risk analysis and priorities. Here’s why I don’t carry a back-up gun . . .

1. It’s impractical

I carry a gun (Commander-sized 1911 or GLOCK 19), wallet, iPhone 6+, Emerson Wave knife, a set of keys, cased sunglasses and a spare ammunition magazine. On occasion, I’ll also carry a tactical flashlight. To support my load-out I cinch my belt tighter than a hungry boa constrictor (not that boas wear belts). I don’t have a spare pocket, I’m not willing to off-body carry, I won’t wear two holsters and ankle carry is about as comfortable as strapping a squirrel to your leg.

I occasionally carry a Kahr PM9 semi-automatic pistol or a Smith & Wesson 642 revolver – just to cut down on the weight trying to put my pants on the ground, pants on the ground, feeling like a fool with my pants on the ground. While I could schlep one (or both) of these pistols in addition to my everyday carry piece, it’s a lot to carry without rattling, printing and/or chafing. No thanks.

2. It’s unnecessary

One of my favorite gun guru expressions: “If you knew you were going to have a gun fight you’d bring a rifle.” When it comes to defensive gun use (DGU). everything shy of a long gun is a compromise. You can drive yourself nuts trying to find the “perfect” carry kit to minimize that compromise. Which gun, holster and ammunition combo is best for “most” defensive gun uses – given your clothing, size, shape, age, skill level and budget? Good luck with that. Seriously. But keep in mind that . . .

Most defensive gun uses end without a shot fired. The DGUs that include an active ballistic element tend to follow the 3-3-3 rule: three shots, three yards, three seconds. If your DGU conforms to the norm, and chances are it will, any gun will do. If it doesn’t, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll run your gun dry or fail to fire before the incident ends.


If things do go pear-shaped gun-wise in the middle of a DGU, taking the time to switch to a smaller, less accurate and less powerful gun ‘as your situation deteriorates strikes me as a questionable proposition. Why not just slap in another ammunition magazine in your “proper handgun” and have at it? Again. Still.

The most likely reason that a self-defense gun will fail to fire? Magazine failure. Cured by a fresh mag! Most likely reason a self-defense gun will run out of bullets? An empty mag. Cured by a fresh mag! Sure, changing mags under stress is not as easy as drawing another gun but – hang on. Ever tried to pull a gun out of an ankle holster in a hurry? Drawing a second gun from concealment ain’t no walk in the park, either.

Don’t get me wrong: derringers are cute as a button. And it’s better to have a backup gun and not need it than to need a backup gun and not have it. But the odds are lower than a snake’s belly that you’ll ever need a backup gun, so why have it? Especially when you can fix your gun or reload with a fresh magazine with a lot less long-term discomfort. You can also stab your attacker. Or run away. Or hit ’em with a chair. Or something.

3. It’s dangerous

Guns aren’t dangerous. People are dangerous. But people carrying two guns handle their guns twice as much as people with one gun, doubling their chances of doing something stupid with one of them (e.g., forgetting a gun somewhere, having a firearm fall out of a holster).

Beware of the man with two guns? Not quite. But I’d rather face an attacker with a friendly who was really, really good with one gun than quick to get to a second, smaller gun. Sure, it’d be best to have someone by my side who was really, really good with BOTH guns, but I don’t hang with Massad Ayoob and Jerry Miculek as much as I should. Nor am I them.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that carrying two guns can create a false sense of security. Just as one gun is not a magic talisman to ward off violent attack (although it sometimes so is) two guns doesn’t guarantee squat, defensively speaking. If you’re thinking “I can go ahead and shoot my primary weapon dry because I have a secondary firearms that’s good to go,” you’re making a mistake.

In short, a backup gun may be better than no gun, but it might not. In the heat of battle, maybe it’s better to keep your primary gun running or think of something else to do. And lighten up. Your thoughts?

Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About Brandon Curtis | View all posts by Brandon Curtis

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady…

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady 165 gr FTX Critical Defense rounds, and rides comfortably in an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 holster.

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  • BlueSCCY

    Seems legit :)

  • Rickohh

    I carry two guns at all times… two is one, one is none. I do not find it inconvenient at all…they are Springfield XDs .45’s, with two spare magazines. I do not find these reasons to be valid.

    • Kevin Melendez

      Two is one and one is none! Exactly

  • Brian Smith

    when we travel we carry 3 hers in glove box , mine in the console and another in the back under the cargo lid

  • Brian Rungaitis

    I am getting my CHL in the next week or 2 and I plan on dual carry, however I will have my XD Mod.2 in a IWB and my XDS as pocket carry. I generally wear shorts in the summer so an ankle holster is not exactly an option for me.

    • Burt Epps

      Make sure you have an xDS that has been serviced or is post recall. You don’t want that weapon in your pocket without that.

      • Drew Schumann

        Or even better, buy a better gun.

      • Brian Rungaitis

        Yeah, it is. I bought it brand new about a month ago.

  • Paul Terrazas

    Before deciding to carry 2 concealed guns, you really should check out your state’s CCW rules. Here in NM you cannot legally carry more than 1 concealed weapon. This reinforces the need to practice, practice, practice, with your primary weapon. Having an additional magazine isn’t a bad idea either.

    • Tim

      If you opt to use a different state’s permit without that restriction, you’re golden. It’s a permit restriction, not a state restriction because is not mentioned in the concealed handgun act. Just an FYI. If you find something contrary, please inform me.

  • Don Barnes

    None of your reasons has any merit to most CCL , its a personal decision, you’re reasons really have not been justified to me. Nothing personal but all this article does is fill up some space on a page.

  • Gary Martin Smith

    I carry only one gun. In my public safety career I’ve worked in law enforcement, corrections and now in armed security. I was never allowed a backup gun by policy and, now, state regulations. Therefore, when i carry concealed i tend not to go with a backup because its not ingrained. At work we’re taught to reload and i can change magazines in the time it takes to go for a backup gun.

  • Bryson Haden

    This article is the absolute most poorly thought out and impractical article I’ve ever read. Get a better holster if your gun is ” falling” out. Maybe something besides your sponsors excuse for a holster. Also one is none and two is one is a long held and proven practice.
    In the LEO world and in private security work the reasons are more numerous than I can name and the private citizen is no different .

    Did you really say it was more dangerous to carry two because you have to handle them more?

    Wow! Have your sponsor start making a decent holster and you’ll begin to see the benefit.

  • Steve Zee

    Every LEO that I’ve ever known has always carried AT LEAST one backup. Your arguments are overruled by their example. Sorry….

  • Whiskey Alpha Zulu

    This author must be trolling…

  • keep it simple

    BU guns make more sense for law enforcement or security personnel who are required or at least urged to detain or arrest potentially combative persons, and whose primary gun is carried exposed -which could be taken away in a hand to hand struggle during a detention or arrest.

    Even if it’s legal to carry in your state, also consider that a concealed BU gun could be used by a prosecutor or other lawyer to paint a picture of the innocent defender as a crazy aggro psycho wannabe cop who was just itchin to shoot somebody. This is also why people shouldn’t carry handloads for defensive use.

    • mikegray24

      Can you point to a single case where a prosecutor successfully argued that reloads were some aggravating circumstance in a defensive shooting?

      And the idea that a BU gun could be argued as something used by someone just itching to shoot someone else is equally silly. Mainly because their primary weapon is already perfect for that.

      • keep it simple

        I dont know of any cases regarding handloaded ammo but i think it was M Ayoob who recommended that no handloads be used and defensive ammo be a common commercial variety. Your own comment seems to confirm that a civilian BU gun is unnecessary. I hear your angst, but jurors and judges and people who don’t know guns but who do have the power over your life in a trial can be silly – recall that the city of San Francisco banned the sale of “scary”
        hollow point ammo – and this ban was recently upheld by a piled higher and deeper court.

  • Dana C. McLendon III

    This is about as bad an article on carrying guns as you will ever read outside of Moms Demand Action’s Facebook page.

  • Ken Simon

    Wow! These arguments to not carry a second firearm are weak. If you don’t want to carry a second firearm, don’t! But the argument to carry a second firearm for many are valid and acceptable reasons. I’ve carried a backup my entire career (30+ years) as a Deputy Sheriff and I don’t believe those weak arguments made here. I once carried a S&W .38 chief on my ankle for years. But only switched to a Glock 22 recently to accommodate the ammunition I carry in my Glock 27 my primary weapon. This was not a difficult transition, the Glock 22 is lighter and lays flatter than the Smith. It also just gave me more ammunition.

  • Legirons

    The author has clearly never been in a shooting, or around a shooting or in the same county as a shooting. Do a search, tell me how many people get shot in their gun or their gun hand. There is no alibi shooting in a shootout, you can’t tap out and go the side. Oh just slap another mag in, what if your 2nd mag has taken a round? It happens, what if your primary weapon has been hit, happens very often. I carry two at all times, both the same operation, usually a glock 22 or 27 and a 42. I carry extra magazines for both. The writer of this article relying on the 3-3-3 is using last century methods in a 21st century world. I’m surprised he doesn’t think carrying an extra speedloader for his revolver isn’t stupid because if you can’t hit your opponent with the first 6 you might as well throw your gun at him, once again failing to take into consideration multiple opponents. This is just a stupid article all the way around, don’t listen to this guy, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • Mike

    I’ve read some bad articles but this one has got to be the worst. I’m not going to waste my time debunking the sad reasons for not carrying a backup firearm. The correct answer is carry as many firearms as you feel comfortable. I’m with the Ted Nugent approach. I carry one on the left OWB, right OWB, pocket 380 backup and another pocket 380 secondary backup. Interchangeable msgs for the OWBs and same for the 380. either your prepared or not. If it was practical is carry my AR15 in addition :) I can’t believe so many people read these shit articles.

  • Ken Cook

    I drop a Seecamp .32acp in my pocket. It’s there if I need it and no more inconvenient than a handful of quarters in my pocket. Hurts nothing, might save my life some day, why not?

  • Aaron Smith

    One word will negate most of your argument…. Suspenders.

  • Chris Lee

    I want to play as well.

    First off I only carry one gun and a reload. Sometimes that gun is a Glock 26 in 9mm and sometimes that gun is a Glock 42 in .380. While some would argue that either is too small or lacks capacity, I feel that I am adequately armed for daily life with either gun. As to what dictates the gun for the day, style of dress and do I want carry the extra weight.

    Now for the good parts.

    Anyone who argues that “LEO does it and so should I” is crazy. LEO also carries pepper spray, handcuffs, zip ties, taser, baton, radio, 2 or more spare mags, body armor and then some. Do you load yourself down with that every day to venture into the cold world? No. So if you claim that LEO carries 2 guns, so should I, then you need to carry the rest of their load out too.

    Here’s the truth; LEOs are trained and paid to go towards the threat and deal with it. You as a responsibly armed citizen are to do your best to escape and evade ANY situation that may require you to deploy your weapon, that is your absolute last choice. You tried to de-escalate, you tried to get away, you did everything a reasonable person would do to NOT shoot someone. Anything less is going to land you in trouble.

    Bottom line, if you want to pull the LEO card, then you better carry the entire load out, not just the extra gun.

    To the guy that says he carries two combat pistols and 2 BU .380s. Really? What do you expect to find yourself involved in? That’s more than LEO even expects to find themselves involved in. We’re not walking the streets of Iraq here. We still have rule-of-law in America last time I checked and while that rule is become more and more tried by the day, do you really need FOUR guns? An anti-gun DA is going to rip you to pieces because even I think you are looking for trouble and I absolutely support your right to carry whatever you want.

    Here’s the deal, 99% of our daily lives will not involved a DGU. For some of us the margin is even less than that. It’s more important to hone your situational awareness, practice your draw technique, learn your local laws and become proficient with your primary weapon than it is to worry about carrying more than one gun.

    Finally it’s personal choice. Carrying is a choice, how many guns you carry is a choice, what caliber you carry is a choice, LIFE IS ABOUT CHOICES! No one is always right and no one is always wrong. You want to carry more than one, that’s fine, but don’t all the author names or brag that you carry more than someone else. By the way, does anyone in the house drive an Abrams tank to work? Now that’d be prepared.

  • ab

    None of the arguments hold water in my opinion. I’ll still carry my LCP as a backup – always. And I don’t handle them out of the holster as the norm as I use holsters with which I can take them off or out of my pocket without removing from the holster. No worries here.

  • Jason Somers

    You people watched training day too many times, lol. I carry a P01 and one other mag. That’s 29 rounds, if you need more than that, go to the range and get a good lawyer. Most officers will never fire their guns in the line of duty, you won’t either, chill out. You don’t need 47 guns, 13 mags per gun, a light/laser, light saber, etc. Your not batman, one is none, two is one, karate chop suey, hiya. I’ve got a saying too, Keep it simple stupid! Your not a Navy seal, marine force recon, or an army cook. You idiots give us a bad name. Go back to playing Mario or whatever it is you do. One gun, one mag, pocket knife (an actual folding knife, not some sword from cold steel) and the other crap. Make me wanna bang my head on the wall.

  • Will

    You sound like a new, inexperienced concealed carry practitioner. Guns and hands are often hit with rounds during a confrontation. A backup LCP 380 in an ankle holster may save the day. It weighs nothing and with a proper ankle holster will ride comfortably all day. Always carry a flashlight!!!!!


    Thoughts? You are a moron.

  • Daniel Nimrod Harder

    Case in point. While in North Tulsa getting my new tires from an establishment I wouldn’t have picked because of the locality and criminal element usually associated with said area I was set upon by two adversaries.
    Because I had bought my truck from a local dealer who insisted I go to this particular tire dealer or he wouldn’t pay for the new tires I had no other choice.
    Having two guns actually saved their lives and mine. One tried to flank me while the other tried gaining my attention. Their intent was to rob me. Had I had only one gun they would have gotten brave enough to rush me when I took my weapon and trained it on the other.
    It should be noted that they had been busy smoking meth in the van I parked next to upon my arrival and were not thinking clearly. Had they been thinking clearly they would have vacated post haste once firearms were presented however they stuck around and kept trying to rob me until the owner came to help. The police responded 45 minutes later. So no, your point is invalid.