Concealed Carry & Home Defense

CCW Weekend: Carry A Back-Up-Gun, Spare Ammo Or Both?

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By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

There’s a good reason to carry spare ammunition – magazines fail, you might need more than X number of shots – or possibly a backup gun. A great of police officers carry one, as do a great number of concealed carriers whether it’s a snubby or micro .380 in a pocket or an ancillary pistol in a concealed carry holster away from the dominant carry position.

After all, many a peace officer in the days when revolvers were the issue gun of the day carried their 4-inch Model 10, Colt New Service or Police Positive, Ruger Security Six and so on with a 2-inch snub in the pocket as a backup gun. While many officers would carry speedloaders as a matter of course, resorting to the BUG – as it’s often called – was said to be more common than reloading for many.

In fact, multiple wheelguns was a practice for almost as long as revolvers have been around. Carrying multiple pistols was a standard practice in many cavalry units. Members of Mosby’s Rangers, a Confederate cavalry unit, were known to carry four: two in belt holsters and two more on the saddle or in their riding boots.

Some have taken to calling it carrying spare ammunition with another pistol wrapped around it, which in this era of autoloaders is especially handy when carrying pistols that accept the same magazines such as Glocks, Smith and Wesson M&P double-stack models, etc.

However, packing not only spare ammunition but a spare gun to go with it is cumbersome. That’s a lot of hardware to carry on a regular basis. A magazine or two is a lot more manageable.

So which is better to carry: a backup magazine or a backup gun?

There are actually several layers to the answer.

First, the odds you’ll need your gun – while subject to an economy of scale such as location, time of day, etc. – are low. Since most shootings are concluded with only a few shots fired, the odds you’ll need more than the five shots in the typical snubbie are lower still.  So, on that basis, do you feel like you need to carry a second gun in case you not only have to use your gun, which isn’t very likely, but need more rounds than it carries, which is even rarer?

Some people are content to leave it to chance.

However, let’s say you aren’t. Which is better?

A spare magazine accounts for the propensity of magazines to malfunction, which is the most common cause for a semi-auto to malfunction. It also gives you more rounds. However, speedloaders or speed strips for revolvers aren’t all that speedy, though practiced hands make a big difference.

Carrying a backup gun or “backup magazine wrapped in a gun” also hedges against other firearms failures, such as a faulty recoil spring and so on – unless both guns have faulty magazines. Time isn’t so much the issue when semi-autos are concerned; a backup magazine can be inserted and the slide returned to battery in about the same amount of time as a backup can be drawn, possibly faster with practice. However, a New York reload with a snubnose revolver is certainly faster than reloading with a speedloader.

In the age of mass shootings, a backup gun can also be given to someone else if or when appropriate.

So…each has benefits and drawbacks. A backup gun offers a touch more insurance against failures and in some cases makes additional rounds easier/faster to get down range – but comes at the cost of weight and hassle, for the sake of insuring against some incredibly long odds for the civilian carrier.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit