What if your carry piece is lost, disabled, or—heaven forbid—in an evidence locker?
What about a replacement primary gun in the event something happens to your trusted sidearm?
Handguns — despite modern engineering and design — can break down. Parts might crack. Sights might fall off. I’ve seen that happen during matches, which are typically conducted on weekends, thus leaving the shooter with a disabled piece at least until Monday, and that may mean he cannot finish the match, and just might mean he has no other operating firearm at all.
We all know that most people consider a “backup” gun to be a smaller piece that you carry as an adjunct to your primary defensive sidearm, and there is nothing wrong with that thinking. But smart shooters are prepared shooters who hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Fortunately, in most cases, the “worst” is a disabled or lost pistol, not one involved in a life-or-death confrontation.
I know competition shooters who always show up at matches with two nearly identical pistols, in case one breaks down. I have done that. If it’s smart for a competitor, why would it be any less intelligent for the average armed citizen to have the same resource available?
Handguns can fall overboard. They just might get stolen. Heaven forbid they ever wind up in an evidence bag as part of a self-defense case, but that is a distinct possibility because they are, after all, defensive tools primarily owned for just such an eventuality.
It is never a bad idea to have a spare handgun, especially the same model “just in case.” The likelihood that an armed private citizen will be in a sustained gunfight is not nearly as great as having something go wrong with your personal carry gun. Having a second gun of the same caliber and design as your primary piece is hardly a crime, and it makes as much sense as having more than one fire extinguisher, of the same brand and with the same controls, in your house and garage.
Practice, of course, is essential with any defensive pistol, but there’s something about the feel of a gun that is equally important, especially if it’s dark and you’re in a lonely place.
If your significant other demands to know what that’s all about, it probably will not register well if you say, “Well, you’ve got more than one pair of shoes!” I know a guy who has three laptop computers that are nearly identical. How many families have more than two cars?
Let’s say for the sake of argument that you are involved in a self-defense situation, and shots are fired. You are not arrested or even taken downtown because investigators believe it to be a justifiable shooting. The police have your gun as part of the chain of evidence, and you have been advised that the crazy meth addict you just plugged in your living room has a mean brother and two cousins who believe in payback. You have yourself and a family to defend. That scenario raises some uncomfortable questions, unless you have a spare defensive handgun.
I own a couple of full-size Model 1911 pistols that are nearly identical. One is a custom job put together by Richard Niemer at Olympic Arms several years ago called the Street Deuce, a handsome two-tone center-puncher that functions with every kind of ammunition I put into it. The other is a two-tone Springfield Armory 1911A1 that is equally reliable and accurate. Both have double-diamond checkered grip panels, beavertail grip safeties and strips of skateboard tape along the front strap. Translation: They have virtually the same feel.
There are other advantages to having two of the same pistols or revolvers for primary defensive carry. They will use the same ammunition and speedloaders, and in the case of a semi-auto, the same spare magazines.
Incidentally, trigger break on both guns is set at 4.5 pounds, not too heavy and not too light, so as to discourage any notion that they have “hair triggers.”
My primary carry piece these days is a Colt Combat Commander, the all-steel version, tricked out with Trijicon tritium three-dot sights, a Wilson Combat beavertail, short trigger and stag grips. It shoots to point of aim at 25 yards so well I can bounce tin cans with it consistently.
I recently took delivery of a lightweight Commander with Ed Brown beavertail grip safety, Trijicon three-dot night sights, short trigger, and I slapped on a spare set of stag grip panels.
The new gun was put together by Tim McCullough, a retired gunsmith pal of mine who did it as something of a “project gun” out of components he acquired over the years and finally decided to tinker with. The finished product is so dead-on accurate, even with 230-grain ball, that it might just take over as my primary defensive pistol because of the weight factor. My original steel Commander then becomes my primary “backup gun.”
Both guns have — you guessed it — a 4.5 pound trigger let-off.
What’s All This About?
Ultimately, it is about personal defense and being instinctively comfortable with the gun on your hip that may find itself in your hand in an emergency. Practice, of course, is essential with any defensive pistol, but there’s something about the feel of a gun that is equally important, especially if it’s dark and you’re in a lonely place.
Call me crazy (without making a habit of it, thank you!), but to me there is an advantage of familiarity at work here. The pistol upon which your life, and the lives of your family or companions, may depend should feel like an old friend, rather than a last minute blind date whose reliability is questionable.
The same principle can be applied, presumably, to people—particularly police detectives—who used to practice the “New York reload” habit of carrying two Colt Detective Specials or a pair of S&W Model 36 Chief Specials. There was nothing involved in that habit beyond five or six fast additional shots. Both revolvers feel the same and operate the same. Under pressure, that tiny tactical advantage made a world of difference in more than one confrontation back in the day of stakeout squads and revolvers.
There are other advantages to having two of the same pistols or revolvers for primary defensive carry. They will use the same ammunition and speedloaders, and in the case of a semi-auto, the same spare magazines. They may be carried in the same holster(s). Most importantly, the controls will be the same on a semi-automatic, where the revolvers will simply function like one another. So, if you have a gun on the fritz, you have a backup firearm of the same type and caliber that can be picked up immediately and meet your needs.
I would never suggest that everyone rush right out and buy duplicate defensive handguns, but this is a rational consideration that armed citizens might explore. It is hardly foolish, and it just might save your day in more ways than one.