Everyone should carry a backup gun, affectionately referred to as a BUG.
When it comes to lifesaving equipment, there is a commonly heard phrase: “Two is one, and one is none.” Mechanical devices tend to fail at the worst possible times. If your life is important enough to carry one gun, why not carry two? A backup gun is a cheap form of life insurance.
The reasons for BUG carry don’t end with the possibility of a mechanical failure of your primary weapon. The fastest reload is often having a second gun. Why mess with fine motor skills and juggling magazines or speed loaders under stress when you have another gun ready to go? Having a backup gun also gives you an alternative carry location that may be more accessible to you if injured, fighting on the ground, or just in an awkward position. It can be difficult to get to an inside the waistband (IWB) holster on the ground or even in a car, but an ankle holster can often be accessed more easily. Finally, a BUG allows you to arm a spouse or friend if necessary. When things are looking bleak, two armed victims look a lot more intimidating than one.
So, I have given you the official party line. These are some of the most cited reasons for carrying a backup. Of course, entire articles have been written on this important topic. The benefits of a backup gun are abundant. But is it really that easy? Is carrying a BUG realistic for all of us? Should you feel tactically inferior if you just can’t wrap your head around carrying two guns every day?
Let’s consider the drawbacks too. First, carrying just one gun every day, everywhere you go, is difficult at times. You already dress around one gun, and you have to bear the extra weight, and ensure the gun is concealed properly at all times. Occasionally, you may also have to secure your gun somewhere before you enter restricted areas. Carrying one more gun just adds to the difficulty and inconvenience. If you have the ability to carry and conceal another firearm, would you be better off carrying something else? Any BUG worth having is going to weigh about a pound or more. Is a second gun keeping you from carrying a flashlight, a knife, or a non-lethal weapon? Let’s face the facts. The odds of needing to use your defensive firearm are already small to start with. Statistically speaking, the odds of needing two guns are very, very small. Realistically, you are probably more likely to need a first aid kit, a tool kit, a cell phone, or a GPS. Perhaps you can carry all these things and a BUG too, but you might need to make some choices.
Finally, there is a certain stigma associated with carrying two guns. The general public, including a large number of law enforcement officers, don’t understand the rationale behind carrying one concealed firearm. These same people surely won’t understand the need to carry two firearms! In their eyes, only spies and secret agents, and maybe on-duty cops, carry backup guns. If it comes out that you are carrying two guns, you are going to look to many people like a paranoid, crazy person.
I know it is not popular in the gun community to even acknowledge this potential problem, but make no mistake that this sentiment is out there. Even spouses and others who are close to you, who can understand carrying one gun, often don’t understand the need to carry two. And, in the event you do have to use your gun, or you otherwise get caught carrying a gun for some reason, the fact that you are carrying two guns—no matter how legal—will draw extra attention from law enforcement. It is funny how carrying two guns changes people’s perceptions about you and your motivations for carrying a gun.
Let me be completely up-front about this. The fact you carry two guns may not have any legal relevance. It may not even be admissible in a criminal or civil case against you. But, the judicial system is filled with decision points in which considerable discretion is exercised, particularly with law enforcement. I personally fear that carrying two guns could, under certain circumstances, make cops or prosecutors less likely to view you as one of the good guys. I am not saying that viewpoint is logical, or makes any sense, but it seems to exist.
Weighing the pros and cons of a BUG is a personal choice. I think that much has to do with where you live and what risks you face. I certainly believe that law enforcement officers and others who intentionally put themselves in harm’s way need to carry a BUG. For civilians who carry concealed, it may be a closer call.
I am certainly not suggesting that you shouldn’t carry a backup gun. In point of fact, you probably should. But, if you choose not to, you are not alone. Like the decision to carry, the decision to carry a BUG is a personal choice that you must make for yourself. Weigh the pros and cons, consider your options and make an informed decision. I will keep my fingers crossed that you never have the need for one gun, no less two!
[ Duane A. Daiker writes extensively on equipment, training, and concealed carry issues from a civilian perspective. He has been writing for CCM since its first issue, and writes regularly for Shooting Illustrated. Duane has been a lifelong shooter and goes about his life as an armed, responsible, and somewhat opinionated citizen. Duane can be contacted at Daiker@ RealWorldCarryGear.com, and welcomes your comments and suggestions for gear reviews. ]