UP GUN HINTS
you ask the average shooting enthusiast for his definition of a
backup gun, he'll likely tell you that it's a small handgun, usually
in a diminutive caliber such as .22, .25, .32 or .380. If he's particularly
well-versed in recent news media hype—and who isn't these
days? -- he also might add that most of the time such guns are used
mostly for illegal purposes and should therefore be banned. In short,
he has confused the so-called "Saturday Night Special"
(SNS), a cheap, poor quality pocket pistol and its intended purpose,
with the true hideaway handgun.
a doubt, some SNS's are also used as backup guns, but to say that
the two are synonymous is untrue. The confusion is compounded by
the fact that backup guns are specifically intended for "social
functions,"—in other words, self-defense applications.
Their express purpose is to save your life on some dark, lonely
street or parking lot when you've lost your primary handgun.
true backup gun is normally a high-quality arm, often in an effective
man-stopping caliber and is not necessarily small. The term "back
up gun" means exactly what it implies -- a gun that can be
concealed, meaning also that the physical size and clothing preferences
of the wearer influence the issue at least as much as the characteristics
of the gun itself. There is nothing that requires a hideaway to
be a pocket pistol or SNS.
pocket pistols are often used in backup gun roles, so are Colt M1911
.45s, 6-1/2 inch barreled S&W N-frame .357s, and so on. If its
owner can effectively and conveniently conceal it, then a backup
gun it is. It's simply a question of what he's willing to do to
accomplish the job. There is also no stipulation that a backup gun
must be chambered for an anemic caliber, although true pocket pistols
do generally fall within this category.
considering that backup guns are intended primarily for an anti-personnel
role, the selection of something more potent isn't a bad idea! Thus,
service handgun calibers like the 9mmP, .38 SPL, .357 magnum, .40
auto, 10mm auto, .41 magnum, .44 SPL and .45 ACP fulfill the need
when we get right down to it, a hideaway handgun is whatever we
wish—as long as we're willing to do whatever we must to conceal
it. It can utilize whatever cartridge we want it to—in fact,
the more potent it is, within reason, of course, the better!
order to make the backup gun more "user friendly," there
are some modifications that, while minor in scope, contribute major
increases in serviceability. For a revolver, round-butting, reducing
the size of or eliminating the hammer spur, narrowing and polishing
the trigger, and "de-horning" frames, rear sights and
cylinder release latches, help greatly. So does lightly chamfering
the chamber-mouths and relieving the left-side stock panel and cylinder
release latch so a speed-loader will clear.
your backup self-loader, the installation of high-visibility, fixed
sights, "de-horning" the grip frame and thumb safety,
a trigger job and "throating" the feedway area are just
the ticket. And the application of a corrosion/wear resistant finish
won't hurt either. My preference is Metalife SS Chromium M, but
hard chrome, electroless nickel, NP-3 and several other industrial
hard finishes have much merit.
selection for a back up can be a ticklish matter, for if your weapon
has a short barrel, traditional JHP bullet performance may leave
much to be desired. Projectile velocities from short tubes are much
lower, thus often precluding reliable bullet expansion. For this
reason, many experts suggest selection of a caliber that isn't dependent
upon bullet upset to function effectively. So, besides increased
muzzle blast and recoil, don't expect too much from your short-barreled
.38 SPL or .357 magnum.
is why I prefer calibers of .40 (10mm) and larger—they're
already large and punch a big hole whether the bullet expands or
not. If so, fine, I'm that much further ahead of the game, but if
not, I haven't placed myself in an unnecessarily critical situation
as a result. However, if you prefer calibers under .40, one alternative
is to use some form of special-purpose ammunition, such as the Glaser
Safety Slug. The Glaser is a long-time favorite of mine, especially
for snubbies, and has much to offer as long as you keep its purpose
and limitations in mind.
gear, too, is important. Remember that if you can't comfortably
carry your backup gun, how well it shoots is irrelevant—because
you will have left it at home! A myriad of holster designs are now
available, so to insure best results, carefully evaluate your needs
and life-style before you buy. I prefer M.D. Labs, Blade-Tek, Gordon
Davis and Milt Sparks because their superior knowledge of self-defense
handguns is reflected in their work.
said this, when all is said and done, training more than anything
else, remains the key to success. And be certain that such training
is geared to your needs. Being an excellent bullseye, PPC or IPSC
shooter means little when you're caught in the middle of a gunfight!
Competitive shooting, while fun and interesting, has no resemblance
whatsoever to actual combat. Thus, any instruction undertaken should
address the real problems inherent to a combat situation and integrate
the law, common sense tactics, and physical technique into an easily
summary, theory alone has little place in a life and death situation,
so be sure that you select the best weapon, ammunition, holster
and spare ammo carrier for your needs. Then, be positive that the
correct modifications are made to them and find the best training
available. Then, and only then, will you have done all you can to
insure that the cards are stacked in your favor when the chips are
down and the bullets start flying. It might take a little time and
effort to efficiently accomplish this goal, but when your life's
on the line and the bullets fly, you'll be glad you did.