Two equals one and one equals none, so goes the Navy SEAL adage about redundancy in equipment. A second gun concealed on your person can be a lifesaver.
For years the BUG (Back-up Gun) has held a vital role in officer safety, but with the high-capacity pistols most officers now carry, the practice has fallen out of favor. It is as tactically sound today as it was years ago, and we'll examine why.
Dateline--Tampa, Florida, June 2008: Jorge Bello arrives at the home of his estranged wife, armed with a handgun. Bello sneaks into the home through the garage and shoots his wife, a male, and another female victim as they sit on the rear porch. Subsequent to the shooting, Bello's pick-up truck is stopped by two deputies. Bello immediately opens fire, hitting both officers. One of the wounded deputies takes cover in a ditch, but Bello attacks the officer, attempting to disarm him in what the local media report as a "life and death struggle." Fortunately, the deputy was able to thwart Bello's attack, and another deputy shot Bello in the head, killing him.
Officers that are disarmed are frequently murdered by their own weapon. What if Bello had disarmed the officer?
Reasons to Carry a BUG
The primary reasons to carry a back-up are:
I suppose that since man has carried a handgun, he has had to deal with these issues. From the days of flintlocks, when pirates would carry multiple handguns on cords around their necks while raiding ships, to Civil War troops on horseback who carried multiple revolvers, to Old West lawmen who carried a brace of Colts, up to police personnel of the past and current century, armed with six-shot revolvers, who carried a five-shooter in a pocket; in all that time, a second or back-up handgun has been a sound tactical decision. Of course, black powder revolvers were vastly less reliable than today's modern ammunition and semi-auto pistols, but the motivations to carry a BUG are still omnipresent. Yes, I know that you are hyper-aware of your environment and no one is going to get the drop on you. Yes, I know that modern holsters have reduced gun takeaways. Yes, you have trained in handgun retention techniques. Yes, you wear your vest on every shift and carry a knife clipped to your pocket or waistline as well. I know all of that, but I also know that at any moment you can be attacked and disarmed of your handgun in a fight for your life! I also know that a concealed back-up gun is a better life-saving instrument than a knife or shaking a fist at your assailant in defiance.
What to Carry
From a training and performance standpoint, carrying a smaller frame version of your duty pistol makes the most sense. Carry a Glock 17 or 19, and the smaller model 26 makes sense. Carry a Sig P220 as your duty pistol, and you could carry the smaller P220 Compact as back-up. If you carry the Smith and Wesson MP .40 caliber full-size pistol for uniformed duty, why not carry the Compact .40 from Smith as a BUG?
By and large I would not recommend sub-calibers like .22s or .25s as back-up guns. If you're reaching for a BUG, you're in dire straits and these "mouse guns" are better than throwing rocks, but do not have the proven stopping power of larger calibers. Try to stay with .38 Special or above. Although the wheel gun has fallen out of favor with today's street centurions, five shot revolvers from Smith, Colt, Taurus or other reputable manufacturers have a lot going for them. For instance, the Scandium Airweight models from S&W can be carried unobtrusively in a front trouser pocket.
Where to Carry
We've already mentioned pocket carry. I would not carry the revolver loose in your pocket, however. Holsters from Uncle Mike's, Safariland, Bianchi, DeSantis and others are specifically designed to carry the pistol secure in the pocket, in a position for proper draw. It is up to you to decide if the back-up piece should be carried in the gun side front pocket or support side.
Ankle holsters and holsters designed to secure to your boot are an option. I've never been fond of this type of carry, based on practical experience. In Ohio where I work, the winters can expose these pistols and revolvers to snow, road salt and slush. In addition, you can always tell the officers with ankle holsters during foot chases. They usually have to hop on one foot every once in a while to pull the holster up to keep from losing it. That said, there are secure designs in ankle holsters to provide this option should you so choose. One of the best is made by Renegade Holsters, their Model 500 Cozy Partner.
A number of years ago lawman Jim Horan designed a leather holster that would allow an officer to carry a back-up revolver or pistol concealed by their uniform shirts under their support arm. The body armor straps thread through the outside of the holster to position the BUG in a vertical shoulder holster position. When I carried a large frame Smith 9mm pistol on duty, I carried my back-up model 3913 in this holster, as did my partner. To my knowledge, no one on the street ever noticed. When I started carrying a Glock 19 as my duty piece, I got a nylon version of the Horan Hide-out holster from Uncle Mike's--once again, very comfortable, secure and concealed. The draw from this rig can be accomplished with either hand and requires the uniform shirt be unzipped to facilitate access to the BUG. In the advent your gun hand is injured, the support hand draw is performed with what is known as a "cavalry draw."
I should mention that the BUG is not limited to uniformed personnel. Many detectives and other plainclothes personnel carry smaller capacity pistols and fewer magazines. Why not add a BUG to your wardrobe?
Practice with Your BUG
In the excellent training tape Psyche of Survival produced by the ATF years ago, one of the officers in the tape recounts his shootout and mentions that he had a back-up gun on his person and could have used it during the shooting. The problem was that he had not trained to draw his BUG under actual conditions. Such was not the case when an Alabama deputy was taken to the ground and disarmed of his duty pistol a few years ago. The incident, which was captured on his dashboard camera, shows the attack and disarming. Fortunately the deputy carried a small back-up pistol in a cuff case on his duty belt. After the suspect disarmed him and raised the pistol, which was taken out of battery in the struggle, the deputy drew his back-up piece, shot and killed his assailant.
The difference in performance is the training that went into learning to draw the BUG and deliver fight-stopping accurate fire with it. You should practice drawing the piece with either hand. Whether you carry in the pants pocket, in an ankle holster or vest holster, practice the draw while in full uniform so that you get the muscle memory (motor program) that can be reverted to under stress. That means practice and more practice to get your body and brain prepared for the act.
Most of us wouldn't dream of driving out of town without a spare tire. Mr. Murphy would certainly appear to ensure that we had a flat in the worst part of the town. BUGs are like spare tires--I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Warriors from the Scottish Highlands to Japan's Samurai carried smaller knives to supplement their battle swords. There was a reason then and there is a reason now for back-up weapons. So when things are really bad don't ever give up--BUG 'em.
Renegade Ankle Holsters are available from:
Renegade Holster and Leather Co.