Back up guns are a standard piece of equipment for many agencies and officers, yet I still run into officers who don’t understand the need or use for them. Worse, I still talk to administrators who think they are useless or the tools of dirty cops.
In this series of articles, I will attempt to address why officers should carry a back up gun (BUG), what kind of gun to carry, where they can carry that gun, how to train with the BUG and how to approach administration with a policy change to allow the carry of a back up gun while on duty.
Reasons for the Back Up
Everything Fails – Every tool ever made will fail at some point. Poorly made guns fail sooner than well made ones, but even the best made firearm will go down at some point. When it breaks, it may be when you are trying to shoot some SOB who is trying to kill you.
If you do not have a second weapon, and your primary weapon breaks, you’re out of luck. You can clear a malfunction, but can you install a new firing pin during a gun fight? A mainspring? An extractor?
I’ve seen guns from every manufacturer fail. Glocks, SIGs, Smiths…they all will go down at some point. Carry a back up gun in case yours goes down in the middle of a fight.
Primary Gun Loss – If you lose your main gun, you need a second one. Why might you lose your main gun? It could be that you were jumped and were disarmed during a struggle over your duty pistol. Maybe even worse, you walked into a bad situation and were taken hostage.
Something else that can happen is you drop the gun and lose it in the dark. For example, during a traffic stop gunfire breaks out. While trying to back away from the attackers, you fall backward into a ditch and drop your gun in the ditch. Would it be quicker to search around for the lost gun, or instantly draw a back up gun?
The Back Up is Quicker – In some instances, a back up gun might be quicker to access than your duty gun. Consider working during the wintertime. If you had a “hammerless” revolver in your jacket pocket, you could keep one hand in the warm pocket while contacting a suspicious person or making a traffic stop. To the observer, you look relaxed and casual. But, if things go sideways, you can immediately start firing – no draw stroke needed.
The back up gun may also be quicker to draw than to reload your primary gun. This used to be an absolute when the primary gun was a revolver, but its about even now with magazine fed pistols. I think that in most cases, I would rather reload my primary than go to my back up. But, in some cases (like laying on my back, or trapped behind tight cover) it may be quicker or safer to grab the BUG.
Other - There are other reasons to carry a back up gun, and many of them are valid. However, I feel they start to drift down the likelihood scale quite a bit. Regardless, the three I mentioned above should be reasons enough.
Thankfully, officers do not have to use back up guns on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean BUGs are never used. Quite the contrary. There are more than a few officers alive today because they had a back up gun when things went to hell.
California – A California Highway Patrolman is attacked by a man with a hammer during a traffic stop. The officer is beaten nearly unconscious and is laying supine on the ground. The attacker is not done, and as he comes at the officer, the CHP officer is able to pull his backup gun from an ankle holster and permanently stop the vicious attack.
Florida – An officer unwittingly walks into an armed robbery of a restaurant and is disarmed. The two robbers force the officer to his knees where the prepare to execute him. The officer asks for a moment to pray first. As the robbers glance at each other and start laughing, the officer uses the moment to draw his backup gun from his ankle. The officer survives, the robbers do not.
Michigan - A state trooper is overpowered by two men on a traffic stop. They take the trooper’s gun, but did not know he carried a BUG. The trooper was able to draw his back up and capture both subjects, saving his own life in the process.
Georgia – An Atlanta PD officer is overpowered by a larger, stronger suspect. As the suspect gains control of the officer’s duty gun, the officer is able to pull out his back up gun and fatally wound the would-be cop killer.
Texas – A city police officer is fighting a suspect who gains control of the officer’s duty gun. The officer is able to put the duty gun on safe as the suspect takes it away, giving the officer time to draw a back up gun and kill the suspect.
Ohio – A parole violator attempts to take a police officer’s gun from the duty holster during an arrest. The officer believing the suspect gained control of his weapon, drew his back up gun and shot the suspect, ending the attack.
California – Two sheriff’s deputies are attacked by 8-10 gang members. During the struggle, both officers have their primary pistols taken. One of the officers was able to retrieve his back up gun, and killed one of the suspects who was now armed with his partner’s gun.
I could go on with the examples, but I think you get the point. Be sure to also check out the podcast on back up guns.